You can take a cleric out the Marxist South American Liberation Theology – and make him a Pope in Rome, for example – but you can’t take the Marxist South American Liberation Theology out of a cleric. On the occasion of the recent World Meeting of Popular Movements in Modesto, California, Pope Francis goes full SJW (by the way, so you get your nomenclature right: popular movements – socialist, good; populist movements – not quite socialist, bad). First we have the obligatory attack on capitalism:

A few months ago in Rome, we talked at the third World Meeting of Popular Movements about walls and fear, about bridges and love. Without wanting to repeat myself, these issues do challenge our deepest values.

We know that none of these ills began yesterday. For some time, the crisis of the prevailing paradigm has confronted us. I am speaking of a system that causes enormous suffering to the human family, simultaneously assaulting people’s dignity and our Common Home in order to sustain the invisible tyranny of money that only guarantees the privileges of a few. “In our time humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history.”

Or, as someone has once said: “a spectre is haunting Europe…” Followed by the attack on populism (remember: bad):

The system’s gangrene cannot be whitewashed forever because sooner or later the stench becomes too strong; and when it can no longer be denied, the same power that spawned this state of affairs sets about manipulating fear, insecurity, quarrels, and even people’s justified indignation, in order to shift the responsibility for all these ills onto a “non-neighbor”. I am not speaking of anyone in particular, I am speaking of a social and political process that flourishes in many parts of the world and poses a grave danger for humanity.

I’m not speaking of anyone in particular, but I’m speaking about Trump and all the other populists. Followed by the applause for popular movements (remember: good):

I know that 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…

And finished with the obligatory “nothing to see here”:

No people is criminal and no religion is terrorist. Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist. They do not exist. No people is criminal or drug-trafficking or violent. “The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence yet, without equal opportunities, the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and will eventually explode.” There are fundamentalist and violent individuals in all peoples and religions—and with intolerant generalizations they become stronger because they feed on hate and xenophobia. By confronting terror with love, we work for peace.

Staring from the end, let me make a few points, both as a right-winger (neither popular nor populist) and as a bad Catholic:

1.I certainly understand the Pope’s desire not to stigmatise any particular religion as inherently violent, and leaving aside the actual question whether some religions are more inherently violent than others by virtue of their teachings or the interpretation thereof, but Francis is playing senseless semantics. There is nothing wrong, either in logic or morality, in pointing out that some terrorism is carried out by people motivated by certain interpretations of their religion. This does not necessarily mean that the religion itself is violent, or that all its followers are violent, but to deny that some are is as stupid and wrong-headed as to say that all are. Violence clearly can be religiously motivated. For example, it would be idiotic to say that the Crusades (and again putting aside the arguments about their historic rights and wrongs) were examples of organised violence motivated – not exclusively, but in large part – by Christianity as interpreted by people of faith during the Middle Ages. You might think this interpretation was incorrect and most people would indeed not interpret Christianity that way today, but it does not change the facts of history. Ditto with contemporary terrorism, Muslim or otherwise.

2.The Pope once again adopts the Marxist interpretation of history, where people are exclusively motivated by economic factors. This sort of thinking has been so discredited over the past century and a half one wonders how can it possibly still survive, and yet it does. That in this case it not only survives but is propagated by a major religious figure is doubly troubling – because economism denies the possibility of genuine religious beliefs and motivations. The logical end point of this thinking is that religion truly is the opiate of the masses. Maybe Francis wants to talk himself out of his job, or maybe he knows not what he’s doing (in which case, Lord forgive him), but either is worrying. And by the way, there is near to zero evidence that Islamist terrorism is motivated by economic factors – in fact, it is completely disinterested in economic matters.

3.Sister Mother Earth? It could be a bad translation, but this comes pretty close to Gaia worship. As Andrew Bolt remarked, “Pope Francis makes a speech claiming that Islamic terrorism does not exist but catastrophic man-made warming does. Did this confused cleric get his message exactly the wrong way around?”

4.The Pope can attack capitalism as much as he likes, and sure, capitalism like any other human creation is far from perfect, but it takes both historical and moral blindness to attack it from a socialist point of view, since socialism in practice, as opposed to nice sounding theory, has proved itself a monumental failure wherever it has been practiced around the world, something that Saint John Paul II, no neo-liberal by any stretch of imagination, understood only too well.

5. Francis once again whips out the Parable of the Good Samaritan as some sort of a magic universal super-weapon against both the capitalism as well as the anti-immigration populism. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “I like to quote myself, it spices up the conversation”, but in this case I can only repeat what I have written already around Christmastime last year:

Christianity is a personal ethic and not a political prescription like, for example, Islam. It recognises the division between the church and the state, the City of God and the City of Man; between God and Caesar, furthermore acknowledging that human, unlike divine, institutions will always be imperfect. The call to love, compassion, and charity are calls on an individual; you cannot subcontract these sentiments to the state to exercise them on your behalf, and even more so you cannot use the state to force others to love their neighbour. It was the Good Samaritan, not the Good Samaritan Government or a Compulsory Samaritan Insurance Levy for Traveller Assistance.

Amen, even if I only say so myself.