What might Pope Francis say in Philadelphia?
As a conservative Catholic educated under the Jesuits and living in Philadelphia, I am more than a little curious as to what the theme of this pope will be upon his arrival in the U.S. I believe that a huge number of Catholic Americans are also curious, and many with marked trepidation.
Only 35 years ago, in 1979, another pope came to Philadelphia and began an alliance with a decidedly anti-communist president, culminating in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now, in 2015, we have the seeming opposite: a leftist pope and a leftist president, a seemingly unholy aligning in the heavens.
Let's begin with a consideration of what should be the themes of this visit. This pontiff presides over a church whose current members throughout the Mideast, central Asia, and Africa are being persecuted and outright slaughtered in ever increasing numbers. Might that be a theme? This pope arrives in a country that has been eviscerated by an over 30-year scandal where his co-hierarchicals have turned a blind eye to pedophiles and suffered the financial collapse of the American church and a decimation of its members. Might that be a theme? Francis arrives in a country whose government leadership (replete with his co-religionists) has just rejected the federal defunding of a domestic Nazi-esque organization engaged in the sale of unborn body parts. Might that be a theme (oh, it would have been for John Paul II!)?
To end the suspense, let me say probably not. Think of "the trend is your friend," meaning that this pope will likely make one of four themes his centerpiece: 1) the evils of capitalism (aka American business); 2) the dire nature of global warming (aka American pollution); 3) the horrors of class and social inequity (in the presence of the world's largest, most successful, and most vibrant middle class); the injustice of Pax Americana (the need for American demilitarization and withdrawal, you know, to help the budding emergence of Islamic grass roots movements like ISIS, Chinese manifest destiny in the Far East, and fledgling Peoples' Nirvanas like Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia).
If I am correct and the flag that this pope raises on American shores is one of the four latter themes – themes I might add that his host, Barack, will jump to salute – the world (and especially the American Catholic world) is about to experience some heartrending psychosis. For the Bob Casey, Juniors and Andrew Cuomos and Nancy Pelosis of our Republic who will applaud while shouting, "See, see," I would add a consideration: popes can be wrong, friends, and sometimes, epically so.
This pontiff must have a love of persecution, for that awaits his global flock in spades once the fruits of the harvest of his policies and pronouncements are visited on his faithful. His holiness would do well to consider that absent the United States of America, either Nazis or Soviet communists would have driven his church into a hole that would make the catacombs seem palatial. That should be a theme, but sadly, it won't be.