Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but what does it mean?

This is a photo of Evo Morales Ayma, the president of Bolivia, presenting the medal he had created, named after the "martyred" leftist Jesuit Luis Espinal, the cold war-era Marxist Liberation Theologian who designed this crucifix, composed of a crucifix mounted on a Communist hammer and sickle.

Some maintain that the Bolivian president placed the Holy Father in a difficult position by this gift.

Others, like Antonio Socci, suggest that this was hardly the case, since the ceremonies were arranged beforehand so that the 'gift' could hardly have been a surprise; that Morales, as a significant head of state, did not have the attitude of a 'provoker', but rather was an admirer of Bergoglio; and, as in this photo, Bergoglio "smiled courteously at the explanation of the symbols and wore that obscene representation round his neck."

Socci reports yet another 'gift' from Morales: when Bergoglio came down from the aircraft’s stairway, Morales placed round his neck a traditional 'chuspa' - the container for coca-leaves which is used in Andean countries - and that news from the Bolivian government already had caused quite a stir by reporting that the Pope intended to chew on some coca-leaves when he arrived in Bolivia.

The site “Dagospia”, which has a flair for trash, rightly commented: “The only things missing were a Che Guevara T-Shirt and one of Bob Marley’s bongos,” says Socci - and then asks: "Is it not devastating to degrade the figure of the Pope to this extent?"

For the record, Rorate notes that Pope Francis has personally stated that he was not offended by Hammer-and-Sickle "crucifix", and explicitly acknowledged the Marxism of its Jesuit originator -- and praised him.

According to Socci, "Bergoglio’s trip to South America helps us understand, why, precisely in that once very Catholic continent, the Church over the last decades is in freefall, with a statistical collapse of membership which has no equal in the world. Where priests and bishops are syndicates and demagogues, people feel no attraction for the faith. If the discourses of the ecclesiastics resemble those of Evo Morales – why continue going to church? It is for this reason, that the religious question and the attraction for the supernatural is conveyed through other forms of religiosity and many, many people are abandoning the Catholic Church."

Rorate calls this image "the defining image" of Pope Francis' pontificate, although others may be inclined to point out numerous other candidates as well (the Holy Father addressing Kenneth Copeland's Protestant Pentecostal congregation comes to mind).


Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

The rhetorical question - Is the Pope Catholic ? has lost its salt.

JM said...

It takes a whole lot to kill the enthusiasm of a convert. But this pope is certainly making the effort.

At this point I would say that he does not deserve the benefit of the doubt as much as he deserves to be ignored. It is very difficult not to have contempt for the voice of Pope Francis. Platforms and credibility can be squandered, as the Catholic leadership has done summersaults demonstrating.

All the professors and columnists chiming in now to explain how to faithfully understand Pope Francis, etc ... have fun at your 'Theology on Tap'-like outings where you talk to yourselves in self-assured tones while normal, faithful Catholics feel more and more alienated. All that matters is that we reassure ourselves over the Holy Spirit's blessing us with this 'Papa.' Or something like that, I guess. I now feel like I have very little in common with the new ultamontanists.

Robert Allen said...

Ok here's where I have to part company with some of my traditionalist brethren. I pray that the HF becomes more concerned with liturgical abuse; it is surely the cause of much of the evil and injustice in the world. But Protestantism cum Capitalism is the underlying cause of such abuse. (What cinched it for me is learning that there were Protestant 'observer's' at V2.) Thus, I wholeheartedly concur with that 'critical' aspect of Marxism that calls for an end to usury, exploitation and oppression, seeing them as the driving forces behind that heresy, a la Belloc's the Servile State. Of course, I would vehemently deny that Atheistic State Socialism is the preferable alternative here. More like Belloc's 'Distributivism.' Thank you PP for giving us the opportunity to weigh in on this controversy. RFGA, Ph.D.

Charles said...


I agree that it's quite likely those sorts of "social justice" sentiments are what the HF had in mind, sentiments likely shared by Morales; and I agree that a Chester-Belloc distributist could share in those sentiments.

HOW-freakin'-EVER, do those sentiments justify purloining THE most sacred symbol of our faith and profaning it by superimposing it on THE most iniquitous symbol associated with Stalinist purges, the Soviet Gulags, and the slaughter of so many millions more than Hitler gassed in his death camps that one can't even imagine the number?

How many people seeing this image, do you think, think of Chester-Belloc's distributism? How many? And can you imagine Chesterton or Belloc, had they lived to see the day and known everything that we know of what transpired during and since the Bolshevik Revolution being happy with such an image? Can you imagine Thomas Storck, Stratford Caldecott, Christopher Ferrara, or Dale Ahlquist happy?

Anonymous said...

"Catholic Social Teaching..." Wonderful.

I see that Ignatius Press is readying its successor to the YouCat series which dumbed down and popularized the CCC.

The Catechism itself is routinely waived off as too lengthy and intense, and yet now we are adding to the faithfuls' required comprehension and assent a huge block of extended thinking that at most points comes nowhere near close to the status of official doctrine. Distributionism may be pragmatically insightful but if Catholics are to enshrine it, we might as well be Mormons quoting form their Prophet John Taylor's old "Government of God." Let me excuse myself from the project as at minimal unenthused. People are challenged to give full assent to even the Creed, and now we want to make sure we are all on board with 'Building a Civilization of Love' and other such Pie and the Sky scenarios, even if our history teaches us extreme faithfulness usually ends in suffering and our theology teaches us you cannot build Heaven on Earth. Even as we insist we are New Testament people the Book of Revelation remains hardly touched on terrain, probably because in it judgement reigns intense and there are very much bad guys. Maybe it is the downside of an institutionalized and highly successful religion, but it very much seems like the Popes are enamored with playing politics and social engineering as much as bonafide preaching. When I read Pope Francis going on and on and on in plane interview he sounds little like a Vicar of Christ and a lot like a 'wise Latina' judge. I don't need a Church telling me the same think my government does. And I don't need a Pope explaining away protest art the merges a cross with a communist logo, and more than I appreciate a president explaining away the merging of the White House and the gay flag.

On the other hand, I'll quote Thomas Massaro on was talking about Catholic apologist Frank Sheed:

Like Michael Williams and Dorothy Day, [Sheed] had Socialist credentials as the Son of a militant Marxist. Though theologically conservative... [He] insisted that the church's social action should be as thoroughgoing as that of the Communists, and far more compassionate. “Short of that,” [Sheed] said, “it didn't matter how theoretically superior the church might be; the search for justice would simply pass it by, or trample it down.” Even if Sheed's Communism and Man argued that “Christianity provided a way to harness suffering for good, while Communism remained susceptible to a de-vitalizing social melancholia rooted in the fact that the perfect world promised by its evangelizers would always remain elusive.”

A bit of a buzzkill when he have so much government muscle doing so much good.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Dr. Allen. Amen.

"Culture Wars" has been in the lead of attacking that evil axis for a very long time and a Mr. David Wemhoff has been particularly astute in describing how the Catholic Church has fallen hook,line, and sinker, for the Americanism of Murray, Luce, CD Jackson, etc, (They intentionally targeted Europe, Italy, and the Papacy) and he, Wemhoff, will soon have his history of all of that empire-building published in what will be a must read book, John Courtney Murray, Time/Life, and the American Proposition.

"Culture Wars" has long featured the writings of Dr Rupert Ederer, Catholic Economist, who spent his life translating into English the great German Economist, Heinrich Pesch, whose work was the basis for the early social encyclicals and whose name amongst American Catholics is about as popular as gangstas wearing a beanie with a propeller.

A good primer for those interested is, Ethics and the National Economy by the great, Fr. Pesch, but with a priest like Fr. Z, trumpeting the work of the Acton Institute, and with the, sadly, success of the economic's book by Mr Thomas Woods, Manchester Liberalism rules the day and usury (state sponsored theft of labor) does its evil effectively, robbing Peter to pay Saul.

Has any Bishop in the USCCB ever read Fr Heinrich Pesch?

Robert Allen said...

The thing is Charles, when I see the H&S I do not think of purges and gulags but of honest, hard-working people condemned to a life of misery by those who 'bind heavy and insupportable burdens, and lay them on men's shoulders; but with a finger of their own they will not move them.' Matthew 23:4 I think of my neighbors here in Redford MI, eking out a living because their capitalist masters eliminated 80% of the nearby decent paying jobs they once held. I think of so-called adjunct college instructors denied tenure and the academic freedom and job security that go with it because of those same oppressors' imposition of a 'competitive business model' in academia (of all places). I'm sure that the Jesuit priest who created the symbol in question was not endorsing Stalinism. Why must it have that connotation in your mind, rather than signifying the HMC's preferential option for the poor. Better yet, why can't you trust the HF's judgment in this matter? RFGA, Ph.D.

Pertinacious Papist said...

Hello Dr. Allen,

I'm afraid that I must demur from your view of the hammer and sickle. I have no doubt that the connotations that the image has for you is what the art of "socialist realism" intends to convey: images of muscular workers, the hammer for industry, the sickle for agrarian commune workers, smilingly harvesting sheaves of grain. Like this, or this (the Chinese were good at this too).

I know you say that you would "vehemently deny that Atheistic State Socialism"; and I believe you. Though there is much that is right in the Marxist critique of capitalism (like its condemnation of usury and grinding oppression), however, there is also much that is flawed -- not only in its alternative, but in its critique (for example, it's labor theory of value, its materialist assumptions, its confusion of psychological with flawed economic premises in its notion of 'alienation of labor', its prediction of inevitable revolution in nations with highly-developed industrial infrastructures, etc., as you may (or may not) agree.

The important thing to be clear about so that people do not misunderstand, IMHO, is the balance struck by Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum (1891) between his criticisms of both capitalism and socialism, as well as the fact that the Catholic alternative is not simply a synthesis of rival ideologies. I think the title of the 2008 distributist work edited by Tobias J. Lanz, et al., Beyond Capitalism and Socialism strikes the right note. As the writes illustrate quite well, the distributist critique of capitalism is not identical to the socialist critique, and the re-distribution it calls for, as Fr. Vincent McNabb's earlier efforts in England illustrate, are organically developed rather than state-imposed.

My parents were Protestant missionaries in China before the Maoist revolution. I was born in Chengdu in Suchaun as the city was being "liberated" by Maoist troops. My parents remember the hundreds marched to the public parks where they were summarily executed, efficiently, one bullet to the back of the head. A book, "We Tried to Stay," was written about their efforts to stay on under the Marxist administration (they eventually were made to leave, one of their team imprisoned, and went to Japan where I grew up). Many years later when my parents returned to China in the 1980s, they noted that the extreme discrepancies of wealth and poverty were no longer in evidence. Everyone had, at least, a bicycle, a refrigerator, and a radio. My mother's comment, however, was: "I hope people don't forget that these accomplishments were achieved at the cost of rivers and rivers of human blood."

Lenin's conclusion about the Paris Commune's failure, you may recall, before he rode the train back from Zurich to St. Petersburg to mastermind the Bulshevik Revolution, was: They didn't kill enough people. My friend, the now ailing Dale Vree, former editor of New Oxford Review, moved to East Germany in search of "authentic communism," after despairing of the New Left in the U.S. (see his book, From Berkeley to East Berlin and Back). After some years there, disillusioned in any prospect of seeing "the common good" genuinely served by a Marxist state, he returned to the U.S., discovered Christ, became an Anglican, then eventually converted to Catholicism. The New Oxford Review as you may know was always known in those days for being socially "left" and theologically "right."

Pertinacious Papist said...

Dr. Allen:


I agree with you about distributism. I don't see it, as many Catholics do (like Tom Woods, Jeffrey Tucker, and others) as a quirky late 19th-century and early 20th-century agrarian movement, as important as various agrarian movements were in those days. I see it simply as living out our lives faithfully as Catholics in the political-economy of our nations -- in other words, as the attempt to re-introduce morality into the public square and market place.

One could go on, but I think of Chesterton's lovely quip: "The trouble with Capitalism is not enough capitalists." Precisely.

Mark Citadel said...

Bolivian Catholicism has always been a hotbed of heresy, first with the native paganism and then with Leninism. This display was grotesque.