Pope Francis has been making quite a name for himself. In November, he presented an 84-page apostolic exhortation, in which he bemoaned the corruption of "unfettered Capitalism," and decried our social inequality as a symptom of greed and an unhealthy control of markets and money.
Since then, the Pope has received a lot of attention, some positive and some negative, for his views. Some labeled him a Marxist, others deified him for his commitment to the ending of inequality.
I'm not Catholic, and don't plan to be, but if I could, I would shake the hand of the Pope and thank him for these views. More than any other major figure in recent history, I feel Pope Francis has an understanding of the issues that face our world, and a commitment to changing them.
While the Pope does not have a hand in the matters of state, his position on things like Capitalism and social issues can have a huge impact. In Michael Moore's film Capitalism: A Love Story, Moore interviews several religous figures, one of them a Catholic priest, who all agree that Capitalism is a form of evil. They propound that it pushes a love of money and material wealth that is completely contradictory to Christian doctrine.
This has been one of the most interesting relationships I've seen, between free-market Capitalists and the religious Right. They both subscribe to conservative politics, but come at it from completely different viewpoints. If you were to look at their core values, you'd think that they should be diametrically opposed. Yet, somehow, they come together over in a strange way to form a kind of double-base for Republican politicians.
The purest expression of this has been religious leaders advocating for deregulation and other conservative views that seem to fly in the face of Christian morals. Cutting things like food stamps and other programs that help the poor might seem un-Christian, but these Christian Conservatives have somehow married the idea to their self-described religious convictions. I still can't quite figure out how they've done that...
The point is, this Pope seems to have a very practical head on his shoulders, and has decided to take a stand on some of these institutional issues that have plagued us for so long. I hope he is able to make some progress in these areas over time.