Mr. Vulcan (check my new Blog Nicknames page) saw the white smoke on the Vatican Cam, and called me over. A new Pope for the Roman Catholic Church had been chosen. We watched the live stream on Al Jazeera news.
As most of the world now knows, Pope Francis I, the Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina was elected. The first Pope ever from Latin America.
I became a Catholic at 31. My husband Picasso and I were living in Chicago, and were asked to be godparents. We figured that if we were going to truly walk the talk with this process, then we should both do the whole nine yards. After months of catechism classes, I was baptized, received my first communion, and got confirmed all on the same day-Holy Saturday. Picasso got up to speed as well with what was formally missing in his life as a lapsed Catholic.
My husband was deported back to Mexico two weeks after that Holy Saturday. I had a lot of long talks with God. It was the first, but not the last time that I grappled with my faith.
I learned about liberation theology in Mexico, with my life as a Catholic still ringing through me with its newness. I realized that Picasso and I had been practicing liberation theology with the priests at our church in Chicago. Good people like my friend A Tall Drink of Water introduced me to the principles, along with some radical nuns who were great teachers as well. In the quick and dirty version, I like to say that liberation theology uses the Bible as a tool or guide for practicing social justice.
Among his many positions that I deeply disagree with, the new Pope most definitely does not identify with or practice liberation theology. If anything, he made it a priority to distance himself from it when he was first starting out on his path as a priest. However, he is touted as a “champion of the poor.”
Apparently, he lived quite humbly in Argentina. The mainstream media is already making the rounds with the fact that as a Cardinal in Buenos Aires, Pope Francis I took public transportation regularly with the masses.
I believe that there is a powerful difference between charity versus social justice. Pope Francis I practices charity.
The Catholic Archbishop Óscar Romero y Galdámez of El Salvador practiced social justice. The Catholic Bishop Sergio Méndez Arceo of Cuernavaca, Mexico practiced social justice.
And both Romero and Méndez practiced social justice through the lens of liberation theology.
Considering liberation theology’s origins in Latin America, it’s extremely sad to me that Pope Francis I is propped up as Latin America’s pride and joy for today’s Catholics. He is certainly not bringing me any pride or joy today. I’d rather re-read and listen to the words of two men who did much more than just ride the subway with the common people:
“I will not tire of declaring that if we really want an effective end to violence we must remove the violence that lies at the root of all violence: structural violence, social injustice, exclusion of citizens from the management of the country, repression. All this is what constitutes the primal cause, from which the rest flows naturally.” – Archbishop Oscar Romero
“Violent revolutions led by the common people can be at times in history absolutely and totally justified and lawful, because revolution, seen through the lens of renewal, is to complete what is unfinished or what can be perfected.” – Bishop Sergio Méndez speaking about Father Camilo Torres Restrepo of Columbia