Pope Francis Calls for Broad Front Against Tyranny and Savage Capitalism (1/2)
PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.
On January 20th, the day Donald Trump was inaugurated as president, Pope Francis gave an interview to the Spanish newspaper, El Pais. He was asked what he thought of the coming Trump Presidency. Well, his first reaction was, well, let’s wait and see, “I don’t like to get ahead of myself.” But later in the interview he’s asked what he thinks of the rise of right-wing populism? And the answer — he essentially compares Trump and the rise of the European far right — to the rise of Hitler. He said, Hitler didn’t steal power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people.
Now joining us, to discuss Pope Francis, and what some people call his progressive political activism is Matthew Fox. He’s the author of over two dozen books, including, “Letters to Pope Francis, The Pope’s War and Occupy Spirituality” He’s a former Catholic priest who was first stopped from teaching liberation theology, and creation spirituality, by Cardinal Ratzinger, then expelled from the Dominican Order, to which he had belonged for 34 years. He currently serves as an Episcopal priest.
And Matthew, remind me where are you coming from today? What city are you in?
MATTHEW FOX: I’m in Oakland, and I’m in my home, and my dog is getting on TV here, a little.
PAUL JAY: Now, the last time we talked was, more or less, the day the Pope was elected, or not long afterwards. And I would say you and I were kind of dubious about what kind of Pope he would be. He had a history in Argentina that was not considered by many to be one of, not only not standing up to the Argentinian dictatorship, but perhaps cooperating in some ways, with an arrest of some progressive priests, and some others. He seemed to have some connections to some right-wing church organizations, something close to Opus Dei. But he’s not turned out that way, one thinks.
So, first of all, before we get into what he said about Trump, what do you make about the kind of pope he’s become?
MATTHEW FOX: Well, I think you’re right, that he kind of learned something from his previous mistakes, which I think is always a good thing in a leader. And I think of Bobby Kennedy, for example, who began very right, and became much more progressive. And in effect, I think he apologized, and even repented, for not having the courage, is how he put it. He was very young as a Jesuit provincial, when the Argentinian junta took over. So, he was pretty naive about it all.
But, you’re right; his position was not particularly praiseworthy. But I think there’s no question that since then, he’s learned a lot from liberation theology. He’s had the founder of liberation theology, Gustavo Gutiérrez, come to the Vatican several times for dinner, for example, and that’s a pretty good sign. He’s going to be canonizing Archbishop Romero who, of course was murdered in El Salvador by the military.
So, there’s no question which side of the fence he’s on now. And, of course, this has riled a lot of extreme right-wing Catholics who were very well received during the previous two papacies, that of Benedict XVI and John Paul II. So, that’s 34 years of extreme right-wing conservatism. And there’s no question that he has moved on from that, and there’s a tremendous backlash, of course. I’d say that Cardinal Burke is the leader of that backlash at this particular moment in history.
PAUL JAY: Cardinal Burke, the American, has just got exiled to Guam, if I understand it correctly. He was leading a charge against the Pope, and the Pope seems to have figured out a way to get rid of him.
MATTHEW FOX: Well, first, yeah, he was head of the tribunal, Vatican tribunal. Which is really the Supreme Court in the Vatican, he was head of it, and Pope Francis fired him and made him Chaplain to the Knights of Malta, which is a thousand-year old, rather obscure order. And so, that was really exiling him.
And then all that blew up just two months ago, where the head of the Knights of Malta, was deposed by the Pope because he, himself, had deposed one of the knights who had spoken up on behalf of wearing condoms in a time of AIDS, or something like that. And Burke, the Chaplain, teamed up with the head of the Knights of Malta, called the Grand Master, and told him to fight the Pope on this and everything. The Pope instead fired the Grand Master, and fired Burke from being Chaplain.
PAUL JAY: I think it was over, there were sex workers in Myanmar, and he had said that it was okay for them to use condoms.
MATTHEW FOX: There you go.
PAUL JAY: And to insist on condoms, and that started this controversy.
MATTHEW FOX: That started it all. And Burke is so right-wing, that he actually said that gay couples and Catholic married couples who are divorced, who go to communion, are equivalent to murderers. That’s what this Burke said. He used to be Cardinal in St. Louis.
PAUL JAY: We’re going to get into the struggle within the church in part two of our interview. But I’d like to pursue a little further. The extent of his political, I would even call it activism, in the sense that he’s being so forthright, first of all in his critique of capitalism and the god of money, and I’m going to read some quotes about that soon. But what do you make of this quote where he doesn’t come right out and say Trump is a Hitler, but, boy, he comes close.
MATTHEW FOX: He certainly does. And I think it’s right on, frankly. And I’ve often talked to people about how Hitler, you know, didn’t start as a dictator. He was elected. Now, what’s interesting is, only 26% of the German population voted for Hitler. But it was one of those elections where not a lot of people showed up, and Hitler won. And then from there, of course we know how that developed.
And remember too, that Pope Francis’s family fled fascism in Italy, in the late ’30s, that’s how they ended up in Argentina. So, his family itself is at least sensitive to the whole fascist moment in history, away back in the ’30s. So, he’s speaking from his own family experience too. That’s why they fled Italy in the first place, was to escape fascism.
PAUL JAY: Well, on Friday, the Pope spoke to a meeting of popular movements in California, is the way it’s described in the press release.
And here’s a quote from the message he sent to this meeting. In the Pope’s message he says, “The direction taken beyond this historic turning point, the ways in which the worsening crisis gets resolved, will depend on people’s involvement and participation and largely on yourselves, the popular movements. Sooner or later, the moral blindness of this indifference comes to light, like when a mirage dissipates, the wounds are there, they are a reality. The unemployment is real, the violence is real, the corruption is real, the identity crisis is real, the gutting of democracies is real. I know you have committed yourselves to fight for social justice, to defend our sister Mother Earth, and to stand alongside migrants. I want to reaffirm your choice,” he wrote.
This is the Pope coming out and telling the people that have joined mass protests in the streets of the United States, and around the world, that he affirms their decision to be in the streets. That he believes in this popular movement, this popular resistance. You put that together with the previous interview, with this alluding to Trump in the same paragraph as Hitler… I mean, essentially calling for a broad mass front against tyranny, the gutting of democracy, and without saying the words, this new Trump administration.
MATTHEW FOX: Absolutely. I mean, what could be clearer than that? I must say, I’m fully on the page with him. I think that the street movements are a really important part of holding the administration’s feet to the fire. And, of course, getting the media involved at that level, instead of the dark role they played, frankly, I think in glossing over so much that went on during Trump’s campaign.
It’s not just about Trump. I see that the media has been very complicit, when the President of CBS can say, “I know that Trump is bad for the country, but he’s good for our bottom line.” Well, that’s exactly what the Pope means by savage capitalism, and that’s a phrase he uses often. To me, that’s a statement of treason, it really is. I don’t care what corporation you’re head of, if you’re willing to sacrifice the country for your bottom-line, where are one’s values?
So yeah, I think that the Pope is right on, in calling people forward. And I think we’re at that moment in history where people have to get into the streets, and the media has to wake up. We all have to wake up. Young people have to get away from their addictions to the social media, and realize that this is serious business, politics and life itself. And we’ve got to stand up and be counted.
PAUL JAY: Much of the savage capitalism language the Pope used, he used during the Obama administration. This wasn’t, as you say, just directed at Trump. This is sort of the more recent development in the course of this.
Here’s another quote from Pope Francis. “The economic system that has the god of money at its center, that sometimes acts with the brutality of the robbers in the parable, inflicts injuries, that to a criminal degree, have remained neglected. Globalized society frequently looks the other way, with the pretense of innocence, under the guise of what is politically correct, or ideologically fashionable. One looks at those who suffer, without touching them.”
He’s really talking about hyper-capitalism, some people call it neo-liberalism, this very much was the ideology of corporate democrats. This wasn’t just Trump, although it’s clear the way he’s talking, that Trump presents an even, perhaps greater danger.
MATTHEW FOX: No, you’re absolutely right and that’s my point, that for 30 years we’ve had the killing of unions, and the exacerbation of salaries for the one percent, and, of course, the buying of legislators in both the Republican and Democratic fold. So, the god of money has really prevailed, absolutely. And that’s why I think that Trump is really the result of decades of savage capitalism. And it’s left a crater that he is now filling.
And after all, look at the people who really voted for him, the rust belt populations. The people who were so ruined by NAFTA and by the collapse of the industrial work in America. And so, they kind of operated out of their angst and their frustration and, as you say, that happened under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
So yeah, I don’t give the Democrats good grades in any of this either, and that’s what I liked about Bernie Sanders, neither did he. And I think he was telling the truth, like Pope Francis is, that we can do much better than this, and both parties have to get out from underneath the cloud of the oligarchy that’s taken over.
PAUL JAY: How much does the Pope’s words permeate down to the pulpits across the country? How much does what he says influencing Catholic public opinion?
MATTHEW FOX: Well, to be honest, I don’t think that much. A lot of the left-wing Catholics have left the church, because there were 34 years, as I alluded to, of two previous popes who were very much on the other side of the political fence. And they were very fierce about attacking. I mean, I was silenced and expelled, but I’m only one of 109 theologians silenced, expelled, some of them died of heart attacks and all the rest, by the previous two Popes.
So, there’s not been room in the Catholic Church, for 34 years, for genuine alternative political or theological positioning, that’s a long time, that’s several generations really. So, many Catholics have already voted with their feet, and of course, the young people have too. And then the priestly pedophilia thing that blew up, that, of course turned off a couple of generations right there. You know, last year the entire New York Diocese was shutting a hundred churches, and that’s just the beginning, this year they’re shutting more of them. So, this is because people aren’t there anymore.
So, I think that Pope Francis’s audience isn’t so much the Catholics; I think it’s the larger world. Kind of like the Dalai Lama. I think people are yearning for some moral honesty, and courage. And I think that this is what Pope Francis is delivering. Now, we’ll be getting into this other topic shortly, I guess, but, internally, I don’t see really that he can accomplish an awful lot in the church as such.
I think the church structure has to die, it is dying, before Christianity can simplify its message, and then that the real teachings of Jesus, about justice and love and forgiveness and all the paraphernalia. I say Christianity doesn’t need to carry basilicas on its back, a backpack will do.
PAUL JAY: Okay. In the next section of our interview with Matthew, we’re going to talk about the struggle within the church. Please join us for part two of our interview with Matthew Fox on The Real News Network.
Steve Bannon Allies with Catholic Theo-Fascism Against Pope Francis (2/2)
But as I said in part one — and you really should watch part one before you watch part two, it’ll make more sense — but this Pope, more or less, compared Trump’s election to the rise of Hitler, and the rise of the far right in Europe. Has called the entire capital system, as we know it today, as one worshipping the god of money and ruining the Earth.
And this has let loose a big fight within the Catholic Church, or a continuation of a fight, except this time the Pope seems to be on the liberation theology side of the barricades.
Now joining us to talk about all this is Matthew Fox. He’s the author of over two dozen books, including, “Letters to Pope Francis, The Pope’s War and Occupy Spirituality.” He’s a former Catholic priest. He was first stopped from teaching liberation theology and creation spirituality, by Cardinal Ratzinger. Then he was expelled from the Dominican Order, to which he had belonged for 34 years. He’s now an Episcopal Church priest. Thanks for joining us again, Matthew.
MATTHEW FOX: Yes, Paul. Good to be with you.
PAUL JAY: So, as I said in the first episode, we expected a more conservative Pope, based on what we knew of his history. Do you think the cardinals who voted for the Pope, do you think they were expecting a more conservative Pope? Is the whole church a little surprised of what he’s become?
MATTHEW FOX: Definitely. I think there’s a certain buyer’s remorse, among some of the more conservative cardinals. I think, on the other hand, the few progressive are quite pleased. And then, now of course, Pope Francis is trying to create some more progressive appointments. For example in America, the Bishop of Chicago, he named a cardinal, and a new bishop he appointed.
And then in Newark they just appointed a pretty forward-looking fellow as cardinal of Newark.
And interesting enough, he’s not made the Archbishop of Los Angeles, which is a huge diocese, a cardinal at all, which is very unusual. But that fellow is young, and he’s Opus Dei. And I don’t think, as long as Pope Francis is around, that Opus Dei bishops are going to be made cardinals in the United States, or anywhere.
PAUL JAY: And for those who don’t know, Opus Dei is a very right-wing sector, trend, within the church.
MATTHEW FOX: Yeah, it’s a religious order founded by a Spanish fascist priest in the 1930s, Escriva. And, yeah, it’s extremely secret, and it’s extremely fascist, explicitly fascist. They worked with Franco; they were on his cabinet, in fact, Opus Dei, lay people.
But under Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI, Opus Dei really came into its own, and they banished, if you will, the liberation theology cardinals in South America, for example, and reinstated them with Opus Dei bishops and cardinals. So, it’s a huge shift that happened in that time.
PAUL JAY: But was the Pope playing a bit of a game, in the sense that, not letting the other cardinals know the kind of politics that he was going to espouse? ‘Cause it seems like, you know, kind of a 180, in some ways.
MATTHEW FOX: Well, actually he was a runner-up in the previous election, the election of Cardinal Ratzinger and — who became Benedict the XVI. So, he was in the running even back then. But remember, too, he’s the first third-world Pope. And this is one reason why I think he has this very clear, and explicit understanding of the opprobrium of savage capitalism, his phrase, because he’s felt it, being in the third world.
And I think he’s lived long enough to have diagnosed, and analyzed, what’s really going on. I think that’s one reason he speaks with such passion, about the fallout of trickle-down economics, for example, which he’s very fierce against, and Wall Street in general. So yeah, I think it comes from his experience as a third-worlder.
PAUL JAY: Now you yourself, were the target of what you said in a previous interview, was something like akin to an inquisition within the church, targeting liberation theology priests and running them out of the church, as you were, yourself, by Ratzinger. Has that stopped under this Pope? Has that inquisition been closed down?
MATTHEW FOX: Yes, it has effectively stopped. Yeah, he’s not doing that. They still have a fellow, a German cardinal in charge — another German cardinal — in charge of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, which used to be called The Sacred Congregation of the Holy Inquisition. But this fellow is definitely tempered by the present Pope. And the present Pope talks about, “Let’s hear from all sides,” when he held this congress a year or so ago, about family and all this, he was real explicit about, “Let’s hear everybody.”
And he’s definitely inclusive, and this is one reason a lot of the right-wing forces in the church — and among the cardinals — are up in arms. A good example is this Cardinal Burke, who has a big influence in the Trump administration. Because none other than Stephen Bannon, who, as we know, has an office right next to Trump there in the White House, he and Cardinal Burke have a thing going.
Because they met a few years ago, and Bannon really liked Cardinal Burke, and vice versa and, of course, they both like power. So, it’s scary. One author who studied it, has called it theofascism. He said, “Previously we’ve had theoconservatives in the White House under Bush and all this, but now we have Theofascism in the White House.”
PAUL JAY: Okay, go back to Burke. Now, when the Pope had this session on the family, Burke and some other cardinals, I believe, actually signed a letter publicly disagreeing with the Pope, which seems a bit much–
MATTHEW FOX: And demanding that he retract it…
PAUL JAY: …given that the Pope is supposed to be never wrong.
MATTHEW FOX: Well, this Pope does not invoke infallibility, thank God. But, you’re right, it was very unusual, four Popes said that he has to retract this–
MATTHEW FOX: Yes, four cardinals. Excuse me, yeah. And they went public with this, which again, is very, very unusual. But he kind of sloughs it off and he just says, “Let’s hear from everybody”. And he’s not backing down from what he’s written.
PAUL JAY: Well, he’s actually; he’s gotten rid of Burke, right? He sent him to Guam, and took away his big job, and he’s willing to fight these guys.
MATTHEW FOX: That’s right. First he sent him to the Knights of Malta, as a chaplain. He took him away from being head of the Tribunal of Justice, and the Supreme Court really, and that was a tremendous demotion. I didn’t even know about him sending him off to Guam. That’s pretty…
PAUL JAY: I think that just happened in the last day or two.
MATTHEW FOX: No kidding, that’s amazing, that’s a long way away…
PAUL JAY: But he sent him there to adjudicate some kind of sexual abuse case, where he has to hear evidence and things. But, the way the newspaper, the article playing it, is essentially; it’s a kind of exile to get…
MATTHEW FOX: …A one-way ticket. He gave him a one-way ticket, uh?
PAUL JAY: I’m not quite sure, but it might have been. So, what message does that send?
MATTHEW FOX: I feel for the people of Guam. I feel for the people in Guam, but that is a pretty interesting solution… What’s that now?
PAUL JAY: Yeah. So, how big a deal is Burke? What message does that send within the church, and how seriously organized is the right, to try to oppose Pope Francis? And what can they do against him? I mean, they can’t get rid of him.
MATTHEW FOX: Uh, no, but of course they’re all praying for an early death. And, of course, his health is not the best. And he’s not a young man. And a lot of these Opus Dei cardinals, and Archbishops, that were put in by the previous two popes are young people. Like here in San Francisco, the Archbishop is in his fifties, I think. He’s Opus Dei. And then the Archbishop in Los Angeles is Opus Dei, and he’s also young.
So, these guys are going live longer than Pope Francis. So, it’s going to be very interesting what happens after Pope Francis dies. He’s trying to appoint new cardinals more in his mindset, but it’s kind of a slow process.
But, there’s no question, I mean, if Burke is on the phone and e-mail with Stephen Bannon, which he is, then clearly the right-wing has a lot of power, even in the circumstances, not directly given the Pope’s world view, but certainly indirectly. Then, of course, a lot of money, a lot of right-wing money, follows the Opus Dei movement in the Catholic Church, and people like Cardinal Burke.
And Burke is really the lightning rod to attract all the extreme right-wing forces; he’s kind of risen to that status. Probably because Pope Francis was so explicit about demoting him, and now sending him to Guam, I just think that’s really interesting news.
PAUL JAY: And talk but the Pope’s health. How serious are his afflictions? In one of his interviews — I think it’s that same interview with the Spanish newspaper — he’s asked about corruption, and he says, “Well, corruption is pervasive, but it’s not just now, it’s been like that even our church.”
And he mentions the Borgias, and then he particularly mentions the daughter of Borgia, who he says was known for her poison. I mean poison and the Vatican are not strangers to each other.
MATTHEW FOX: No, they aren’t. No not at all. And yeah, from the day he was elected, I think, I was certainly advising people to have a good taster to check his food out. Well, John Paul I, the Pope before John Paul II, who lasted only a month, all the evidence is that he was murdered, and that would have been in the early 1970s. So, this is recent history, this is not just new history.
And John Paul I definitely represented the progressive awareness of Pope John the 23rd, who called the Second Vatican Council, and yet he was young and very healthy and very vigorous. And he gave a talk, the day before he died; he gave a talk as God as mother, and not just father. And he also gave a talk on his committing to reform the Vatican Bank.
Within 24 hours he was dead. And there’s been a serious investigation by an English detective of that, he wrote a book called, “In God’s Name.” And he concludes that definitely it was a murder, and definitely it had some inside help from some of the cardinals, participated in that demise–
PAUL JAY: The Pope that follows that death had fairly close relations with the CIA.
MATTHEW FOX: Very close relations, I was told by a CIA agent, that he was their man in Poland for 25 years, when he was Bishop and Archbishop. So, he was groomed. And I have all the facts on this in my book, “The Pope’s War”, that after Reagan was sworn in, within two months, there was a gathering of the NSA people in Santa Fe, and there, one question was, “How can we destroy the liberation theology in Latin America?” And they concluded, “We can’t destroy it, but we can split the church.”
And so, they went after Pope John Paul II. Jim Casey, the head of CIA, who’s a very right-wing Catholic. He went to the Vatican 29 times personally, with satchels full of cash to give to J.P. II, for solidarity, and in exchange J.P. II would go after liberation theologians, and base communities in South America.
PAUL JAY: Solidarity being the very pro-Vatican trade union in Poland, that led… help lead to the fall of the communist — whatever you want to call it –regime in Poland…
MATTHEW FOX: That’s right. One priest in Latin America told me that John Paul II murdered at least 10,000 people in Latin America, because of his policies on behalf of the CIA. To destroy base communities, base community leaders, and the liberation theology. That’s what this very sober priest told me.
PAUL JAY: So, in terms of global politics, in the previous interview, you compared him to the Dalai Lama. How significant do you think the Pope’s voice is in pushing back in this rise of the right, how much does it influence broad public opinion?
MATTHEW FOX: Well, it’s interesting how little of it gets into our news, in America.
PAUL JAY: Now! You know, for a while he was all over the news, and now the more progressive he is, the less we hear of him.
MATTHEW FOX: Exactly, is that a surprise? But, yeah, I think that — and then too, the left in America tends to be so secular, in the sense of anti-religious, and I think it’s a big mistake, you know? Because, look at the red and blue states. The red states are kind of into religion, so we should be confronting bad, and hypocritical Christianity.
For example, I’ve just written a public letter to Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan carries his Catholicism on his sleeve, but he contradicts everything that the Pope is for. For example, the whole issue of global warming, and caring for the earth. He completely ignores that. He completely ignores the whole bit about the one percent, and the god of money, and the savage capitalism the Pope is talking about.
So, I think it’s time for us to really get proactive, with the hypocrisy of all these so-called Christian politicians who are running things. And so, I think the left is really dumb, if it thinks that you can change America without addressing religious concerns.
There’s good religion and bad religion, and Pope Francis represents traditions of justice, which is the prophetic tradition of Judaism, and really the healthy tradition in Islam, and the rest.
So this, I really think is one of the left’s biggest mistakes in American, is thinking that you can change people without a sense of spirituality. And what it does, it leaves open the whole arena, to the crackpot Christians. And there are a lot of them, as we know. And it’s ridiculous. And, of course the media’s in on this. As you say, they’re not letting us know what Pope Francis is saying, and I think they should.
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