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Francis is a Pope of the Christian Democrat Left

The Pope provides food for thought to all who in this country identify all religion with the political right

By on Friday, 15 November 2013

Francis: A Christian Democrat of the Left (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Francis: A Christian Democrat of the Left (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

The relations between Church and State have a different flavour in Italy, for a variety of reasons. One is historical. The Pope has just been to see the President of the Italian Republic, a state visit that involved a trip of roughly a mile and a half via blue Ford Focus, but a state visit nevertheless: in calling on the President, he travelled through a city that was once the domain of his predecessors, and entered a palace that had once been the chief papal residence. Until 1870, the Popes lived in the Quirinale, and most conclaves took place there. The palace has a long wing, which was built specially to accommodate voting Cardinals. From 1870 until 1946, the Quirinale was the residence of the kings of Italy; since then it has been the official seat of the Italian Presidents. So, it has seen a lot of history, and much change.

Italy, Italians love to say, is un paese stabilmente instabile, that is, an stably unstable country. Always on the brink of collapse, yet never quite falling apart, it changes all the time, but some things, the really important things, never change. Mr Napolitano, Italy’s 88-year-old President, is a symbol of continuity, and indeed of change as well. A former Communist, he is now seen as a moderating and stable influence – an odd fate for a former revolutionary.

State visits, particularly in places where people love to give speeches, often have a significance that is hard to detect through the verbiage. This paper has an account here of what the Pope said. and there is also a fuller and lavishly illustrated account of the trip here, in Italian.

The leftist and anticlerical La Repubblica reports that the Pope’s speech focused on the economic crisis and the question of unemployment. Though the Church and State have different spheres, he said, they share many concerns, and the answers they find may be convergent. The Pope then went on to speak of the family and the necessity of strengthening family bonds, the implication being, perhaps that in time of economic hardship, the family provides an essential safety net.

The Pope also made a reference to the history and symbolism of the Quirinal without saying what these were. Let me spell it out: here we have an Italian Pope (he made explicit reference to the origins of his family in Italy) essentially expressing the key positions of the Christian Democrat Left, to a former Communist, whose party was of course allied to the Christian Democrats at a crucial period in Italian history. Moreover a Pope was doing this in a secularised papal palace that was forcibly removed from Blessed Pius IX by a canon shot being applied to its gateway back in 1870.

Alcide de Gasperi, Italy’s best post-War Prime Minister, was the one who set out the position of the Christian Democracy that he founded: a party of the centre looking towards the left. There are other ways too, I admit, of characterising the big-state and big-spending DC, which eventually lost power to none other than Silvio Berlusconi, a self-identified Thatcherite. But that is where the Pope is coming from, which is interesting. And it provides food for thought to all who in this country identify all religion with the political right, and see Church and State at loggerheads for evermore.

  • john hickey

    I would hope that Francis is neither left nor right, but trying to be in step with Jesus. My impression is that whilst he is obviously aware of “the Papal role” he intends to concentrate on being a very out-going Bishop of Rome. Hopefully the bishops of the world will start to shift. . . uncomfortably at first, and then, with practice and imitation, with more ease. Example is always the best sermon.

  • Bangersandmash

    The Christian Democrats went centre left in post WWII Italy as part of a USA-backed NATO strategy to draw as many potential voters as possible away from the PCI, the Italian communist party. Once that strategy was no longer needed – following the collapse of the Soviet Union – the Christian Democrat Party imploded and Forza Italia, a fully-fledged Thatcherite capitalist party, under Berlusconi, replaced it.

  • Bangersandmash

    A mild form of Liberation Theology is clearly an influence on Francis’ approach to the role of the Church: a priority focus on the poor and the marginalized in an unjust and exploitative capitalist world, with emphasis placed on practical aid to help and sustain the poor and to encourage greater social justice in all nations.

    His focus is therefore ‘this worldly’ rather than directed at this or that version of the next life. As a Jesuit no doubt Francis would also justify this approach as entirely in harmony with the traditional Jesuit view of this world as immanent with the spirit of God ‘in all things’. Indeed it was this very approach that gave rise to Liberation Theology in South America in the first place.

  • john hickey

    You’ve sold all your possessions and given the proceed to the poor , as a preliminary step in following Jesus in comforting lepers and suchlike then?
    Easy was it?

  • Julian Lord

    This right versus left politicisation of Pope Francis appears not to belong to the personal Catholicity of the Holy Father, in the Graces and Charisms that he appears to have received for his work of evangelisation.

    It’s all just wishful thinking, suggesting more about the views of its author than those of his subject.

    Pope Francis is, and has been, a fierce opponent of the false so-called “liberation” theology.

  • nar

    I see that Pope Francis has make everybody nervous in the English world while the Spanish world is more happy with him and there is less controversy. For us it is difficult to understand what is the fuss since this Pope is the product of the Catholic-Lationamerican culture that is contrary to liberalism because its anti-Catholicisms and social viewpoints, and the Liberation Theology for its Marxist viewpoint. Yet the Catholic-Lationamerican is sensitive to the suffering and the exploration of the poor and the abuses of the elites. This do not fit with the left/right classification that is so popular in the English world. If you want to force a classification you can say that he is a moderate/liberal in economic maters and a social conservative. But again, it would be only a caricature of his believes. He is Catholic.

  • john hickey

    Vaya con dios, me amigo

  • nat

    Gracias, I must add that in the last century Argentine has been abused buy the right and the left. It is the only country (i believe) that went from being developed to underdeveloped.

  • john hickey

    De nada, All nations have disastrous histories, and the survivors forget who got absorbed and who were wiped out. Power and strength to protect the family and the clan and the tribe ( and the ideology) did a lot of damage. Christ came to show us how to take it on the chin. . . and still not be destroyed. . . to absorb the conquerors with love. Fr Jerzy Popielusko said in one of his powerful homilies on Truth, that true charity was always distinguished by self-sacrifice. It would seem that in the modern world many people think that opportunities for humility have become scarce.
    When the poor man who has nothing, gives up the nothing he has to follow Christ, no one notices. When the rich young man gives up everything to follow Christ. . . the world does take notice. The problem is contained in the original parable.
    best wishes

  • Cestius

    I’m not sure that Catholics fit comfortably into political left and right categories – I know I find myself in conflict with the right wing because of Catholic social teaching on worker’s rights etc., and I find myself in conflict with the left-wing over issues like abortion and homosexual “marriage”. I feel that it reflects the inadequacies of our present political parties and the way they define themselves.

  • nar

    I agree

  • Bangersandmash

    Did I say, anywhere in my comment, that I approved of the Pope’s approach?? You presumptuous, arrogant little misfit.

  • Bangersandmash

    “It would seem that in the modern world many people think that opportunities for humility have become scarce.”

    That clearly includes yourself.

  • john hickey

    Is that the Holy Spirit ?

  • Bangersandmash

    Clearly you have gone off your rocker. Good luck with that.

  • john hickey

    I’m very proud of being humble, bangers. But I’m sure you could improve me..Are you running an inexpensiveon-line course?

  • john hickey

    Ahh! Just teasing bangers. Wipe the froth of your jaw and chill out. I’m sure we could have a good laugh together. What’s wrong with being cheerful? Actually I mean no offense. It’s just that I don’t think omniscience is common. Surely in any encounter we can add petal to petal and find the full flower of truth and harmony? Peace on earth to men of goodwill.

  • NatOns

    Ditto; and it is dangerous to try and box them in in that manner – not least a pope .. consider the life of Pope Pius IX.

  • $74497298

    “I’m not sure that Catholics fit comfortably into political left and right categories”

    But who does?
    Often the main party leaders don’t.

  • $74497298

    “Francis is a Pope of the Christian Democrat Left”

    Agreed. I think that is very plain.

  • James M

    He can also justify the “preferential option for the poor” from the NT – especially from the example and teaching of Jesus Himself. It’s a very good thing that this emphasis is being made explicit. The POFTP is one of the really good things in the Church since V2 – JP2 has a lot to say about it; & “Populorum Progressio” (1967) is an application of it.

    As for LT, the SCDF’s 1984 “Instruction On Certain Aspects Of The “Theology Of Liberation”” discriminates between those elements of LT that are not accord with the Faith, and those that are; LT is not condemned in its entirety:

    This complements it:

  • Bangersandmash


  • Agnus

    I think we should be clear about correct Church teaching here. Anybody, whether they call themselves “Catholic” or not, who supports abortion and homosexual “Marriage” is likely to suffer a similar fate to the one discussed in the video I link below.

    Dr Castanon, Phd, a former atheist, not only discusses his evaluation of a Eucharistic Miracle in this talk, (It is incredible! Moving, Concrete proof of the Real Presence of Christ in the Consecrated Host) – he also describes a testimony given by a former “pro-choice” advocate, who “died” momentarily after being struck by lightning. Fortunately, she was shown Mercy and now travels bearing testimony to her complete conversion.

  • Agnus

    I think to get to Heaven, it’s neither “left” or “right” It’s straight ahead along the narrow pathway. That is TRUE Catholic Teaching. The Magesterium and Sacred Tradition is ALL we are advised to follow.

    There are some handy “sign-posts” on this video.

  • Agnus

    The “Spanish World” does not appear to have obeyed Pope Benedict’s request that the entire world alter the words of Consecration from the incorrect “Todos” to “Muchos” Whilst in Spain it is clear that every single Parish within a radius of 100km is totally unconcerned about the fact that they are acting in total disobedience to a Papal Request. A request he made, as far as I can see, as far back as 2006. It was stated that it was imperative that the “erroneous” words of Consecration be retranslated as a matter of urgency to adhere more faithfully to the Original Latin liturgical texts.

    Fr Hesse, a well educated Expert in Canon-Law points out the perils of the incorrect translation on this video. It is very informative, he explains just why it is SO vitally important to remain obedient to the Traditions of the Holy Church of God.

  • Agnus

    ” trying to be in step with Jesus”

    I take it you mean staying faithful to the Sacred Magesterium and Traditions of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church?

    Douay-Rheims Bible
    But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the House of God, – which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15

  • Agnus

    Is this a quote from a modernist translation of the life of St Francis of Assisi?

  • john hickey

    Hello Agnus, I suppose I was thinking of the Beatitudes and being a servant of the servants of God, seeing Christ in his most distressing disguises. . . even on the web. Bit hard carrying a library around when washing feet you know., though a keen student may perhaps manage to read a paragraph or two whilst drying between the toes. Learning by heart is surely different to learning by rote. God bless, John

  • nar

    The Spanish speaking wold is larger and more diverse than Spain.

  • Patrick Gray

    Let me spell it out: here we have an Italian Pope (he made explicit
    reference to the origins of his family in Italy) essentially expressing
    the key positions of the Christian Democrat Left, to a former Communist,
    whose party was of course allied to the Christian Democrats at a
    crucial period in Italian history. Moreover a Pope was doing this in a
    secularised papal palace that was forcibly removed from Blessed Pius IX
    by a canon shot being applied to its gateway back in 1870.

    Indeed. We have treason and apostasy as the Hierarchy of the conciliar Church openly banquet with and abet heresy and humanism. The noble stand of Pius IX has been betrayed by his craven, Modernist, compromising, probably Marxist and practically heretical successor, who is hobnobbing with Bolsheviks (and; in Italy, practically certainly Freemasons), pagans and apostates when he’s not playing the buffoon for the cameras of the international press.

  • john hickey

    Hello Agnus, No, It was a direct question, hence the question marks on the end. Peace on earth to men of goodwill, (Quote from the angels)

  • john hickey

    Hello Patrick, I once heard an interesting story about St Ignatius of Loyala who was asked his opinion of a piece by Erasmus. I believe it concerned the meaning of the Pater Noster. Ignatius read it, but his only recorded comment was; “It seems to lack charity.”

  • licjjs

    The Pope’s interview in ‘La Reppublica’ has now been removed from the Vatican website.

  • Jcar

    Hold on. Who were her first. The Christans or the so called democrats? Which of these two is the newcomer? We’re does democrat get off tagging Catholics? Please explain how does the steward of a two thousand year old organization not inherently by that very fact a conservative? Those that call the Pope a liberal are either ignorant about the church or they will never have a kind word anyway.

  • SPQRatae

    Christian Democracy is a movement of the cente right, not centre left. Perhaps some Brits have difficulty seeing that because Britain only has Conservatives, which I would say are ‘solid’ right, certainly not ‘centre’ right. I’m sure de Gasperi, Adenauer, Schuman, Kohl and other great Christian Democrats would be rather startled to be described as ‘left-wing’….

  • Dave

    Thank God for that.

  • Jcar

    I guess Mother Theresa was a flaming liberal as well. She also championed the causes of the poor. The truth is that what Francis is doing does not fit in either the conservative or liberal definition. How can he? He leads an organization with traditions that are two thousand years old. You have nothing to compare him to except other Popes. I heard Conservative Baptist Christians call him liberal. These good people think the Pope is the Anti Christ. How can a thinking person accept that position from a person that believes that from the start? It’s like ignoring the big elephant that just stepped into your living room.

  • Eddy LeRoque

    I find Conservative or liberal and anyh other label annoying

    26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

    0But now there are many members, but one body.21And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary;…

    James 3:10

    What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives,that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

    James 4

    In Christ now meet both East and West,
    In Him meet North and South;
    All Christly souls are one in Him
    Throughout the whole wide earth.