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Pope Francis reminds me of Gorbachev

General Audience with Pope FrancisSome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Pope Francis – Washington Post

Pope Francis is beginning to remind me of Mikhail Gorbachev. the same noble intention to open up a very old, very secret, very bureaucratic, very vertical organization, and make it more transparent (Glasnost) and reform it (Perestroika).

When Gorbachev touched his organization it disintegrated like a termite-ridden, antique chest of drawers and everyone, everywhere thought it was wonderful … except the people that lived in it. Everyone, everywhere loves Gorbachev except the Russians, who hate and despise him. Francis will be fortunate indeed to escape the same fate as Gorby’s

I don’t think the Church’s fussvolk, the ones who really live there: the sour old ladies that take communion every day, the Opus Dei bankers, the Paul Ryans, the Antonin Scalias, the Pat Buchanans and the Rick Santorums are going to be very enthusiastic about Francis’ intentions … it will those of us on the outside, lapsed and otherwise, that will be applauding the most.

Now His Holiness in his own efforts toward Glasnost and Perestroika has hired the world renowned auditing firm of Ernst &Young to lift up all the rocks in the Vatican and see what scurries out from under them after centuries in the dark, and (literally) God only knows what they will find.

It can be said greatly in the Pope’s favor and without any irony intended, that only someone with a truly deep faith in divine grace and the mysterious power of the Holy Spirit would take such chances.

And shifting the paradigm a bit, the Church reminds me a lot of Kodak, another rich, near monopoly, which was bankrupted by a disruptive technology that they could neither absorb nor defeat. In the Church’s case I don’t think it will ever be able to adapt itself to the new role of women in developed societies: working, educated, with their own money and in control of their own bodies.

The contradictions abound. For example,  if the Church is really serious about the gravity of abortion, which I think they are, perhaps they should consider making the ingestion of the birth control pill a sacrament, as it is probably the only effective form of preventing the “murder” of fetuses. That such a tradeoff seems absurd is just an example of the mental sclerosis that Francis will be confronting in his Perestroika.

Like Gorbachev, I find Pope Francis admirable for the truth he speaks and I hope he does not have to live Gorbachev’s tragedy of watching those truths destroy the very thing that he loves the most.

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David Seaton

David Seaton