On new year's eve, I wrote that the super-rich elites who are the handlers of the Republican party and of U.S. Catholic bishops allied with the GOP who are in the pocket of these elites are terrified of and angry about Pope Francis's socioeconomic teaching, and will be intent to do anything at all to undercut this teaching in 2014. My commentary linked to a Raw Story report about how one very wealthy U.S. Catholic, Ken Langone of Home Depot, has issued an implicit threat to Pope Francis: Langone has informed Cardinal Timothy Dolan (note: link opens to CNBC news video), outgoing president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, that wealthy donors may withhold funding for Catholic projects if the pope doesn't lighten up on his critique of the immorality of the exploitation of the have nots by the haves.
One of the themes being pushed by the super-rich handlers of the GOP and of not a few U.S. bishops (and by the centrist cheerleaders for said interest groups): the pope doesn't understand the difference between American and Argentinian capitalism. American capitalists are, well, good capitalists. They give. It's unfair to fetter them and harass them about little matters like distributive justice, when their accomplishments--their incredible largesse to the poor--are so self-evident. Niggling criticisms only impede their hard work to generate wealth that they intend to give to the poor or to see that the poor get as it trickles down from their huge coffers to the tiny coffers beneath them.
It's interesting to me that Andrew Sullivan, who tends to lean in a pro-GOP economic direction that I find utterly irreconcilable with my values as a Catholic, is not buying this argument. Not in the least. As he notes, it's factually incorrect, since the economic situations of Argentina and America are eerily alike, particularly when it comes to distribution of wealth and glaring inequity between the super-rich and everyone else.
Sullivan also notes that the Catholic right in the U.S. has been taken in by a belief in American exceptionalism that is simply not easy to graft onto a Catholic worldview: idolization of wealth coalesces with idolization of country among many American Catholics of the right, and both forms of idolatry are rightly denounced by Catholic teaching. Sullivan summarizes his argument on this point as follows:
But right now, it seems to me that the Catholic right is simply wrong. Their American exceptionalism has morphed from a thoroughly admirable national pride at America’s achievements to a fixed and rigid idolization of a single country along with an idolization of wealth. Both, to put it mildly, are heresies. And perhaps the biggest impact of the new Pope on American politics will be more forthrightly denying the denialist, ideological right any Catholic crutch to peddle their snake-oil with.
I agree. And I very much hope that Andrew Sullivan is correct when he predicts that the biggest impact of the pope on American politics will be to snatch away the Catholic crutch that neocons have tried to use for far too long now--with the blessing of Cardinal Dolan and his allies in the USCCB--to peddle their snake-oil with. It's high time that the noxious game these folks have been playing--with the blessing of Cardinal Dolan and his allies in the USCCB--be exposed for what it is: an attempt to subjugate Catholic values to American capitalist cultural norms that cannot be reconciled with Catholic socioeconomic teaching and the gospels.