Prior to the conclave that elected Pope Francis, more than a few Catholics nurtured hopes for a pope who is a culture warrior — someone to enter the fray over “conservative” issues like gay marriage, sexual promiscuity, and contraception.
Those who are looking for a culture warrior (I’d suggest it to be a woefully narrow and inadequate concept of a pope) may have found momentary hope the other day, if they heard or read the address that Francis delivered to representatives of other churches, ecclesial communities, and religions. In his comments, he identified an issue that he views as “one of the most dangerous threats of our times.”
I’ll bet that phrase caught the attention of many and perhaps had them imagining the battles ahead to be relished. But they were surely disappointed quickly, because the grave threat to which the Pope pointed is not generally one of those that they have in mind as a target. (Gay marriage? Contraception? Government health care mandates?)
For the sake on context, I offer the full paragraph of the statement (bold/italics mine):
The Catholic Church is aware of the importance of the promotion of friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions – this I wish to repeat this: the promotion of friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions – this is attested evident also in the valuable work undertaken by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The Church is equally aware of the responsibility that each of us bring towards our world, and to the whole of creation, that we must love and protect. And we can do a lot for the good of the less fortunate, for those who are weak and suffering, to promote justice, to promote reconciliation, to build peace.. But above all, we must keep alive in our world the thirst for the absolute, and must not allow the vision of the human person with a single dimension to prevail, according to which man is reduced to what he produces and to what he consumes: this is one [of the] most dangerous threats of our times.
Reducing ourselves to what we produce and consume. Now that’s a vision that permeates American culture. We call it capitalism. And since it’s eating away at our souls, perhaps those who long for a culture warrior are on the right track after all.
Somehow I just don’t think that’s the battle they have in mind, though! But it sure would be interesting to see, not least of all because I think that who lines up on which side of things would be rather different than the arrangements we see in many of the other culture wars (and intra-ecclesial wars) that are currently being fought.