The Pope of Hope & Our Democracy

| January 6, 2015 | 0 Comments

In my first column of the New Year, I address two themes – the Pope and the state of our democracy. They are not inherently related, beyond the fact that some of what His Holiness has said applies to issues in America.

I don’t think it’s a small thing when a Methodist, as I am, decides that Pope Francis, the Supreme Pontiff of the Holy See, deserves so lofty a title as “The Pope of Hope.” But the gentle Argentinian is worthy, because, even in his short reign, that is who he has become and what he represents to the world.

Pope Francis is the first Jesuit and the first from the Americas to be pope.

Pope Francis is the first Jesuit and the first from the Americas to be Pope.

During the dark days of the military junta in Argentina, was he, as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and later Cardinal Bergoglio, by his silence, complicit in the evil the junta carried out? I do not know the answer to that. Neither do you. What we know is what we’ve been told and what we’ve been told depends upon who is doing the telling.

Therefore, I accept him as he is, a Pope different than many of his predecessors, not least the fact he comes from a continent other than Europe; a Pontiff, who, by his humility and openness, inspires millions of Catholics the world over – and not just Catholics, but men and women of all faiths, even those who find Christianity nonsensical

As Francis has said, “Since many of you do not belong to the Catholic Church and others are non-believers, from the bottom of my heart I give this silent blessing to each and every one of you, respecting the conscience of each one of you but knowing that each one of you is a child of God.”

Pope Francis has also said on the obligations of those who govern, “Every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path?’ If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good.”

Is it conceivable he will change the Church’s position on married priests, women clergy, and gays? Clearly arch-conservatives within the church’s hierarchy fear those possibilities, but I expect it to happen.

But only in due course, as the Pope has said, “I am always wary of decisions made hastily. I am always wary of the first decision, that is, the first thing that comes to my mind if I have to make a decision. This is usually the wrong thing. I have to wait and assess, looking deep into myself, taking the necessary time.”

On war and its consequences, Francis has said, “Even today we raise our hand against our brother…We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves as if it were normal we continue to sow destruction, pain, death. Violence and war lead only to death.”

His Holiness is fully aware that the ever widening abyss between rich and poor threatens us all, as he has warned, “Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities.”

In choosing the words of Pope Francis for my first column of the New Year, I could not have made a better choice – for his words are uplifting and ennobling.

Suffice it to say, I find Jorge Mario Bergoglio an extraordinary person, whose elevation to the Papacy may have saved the Church of Rome from irrelevancy and decay; but whose coming to the seat of St. Peter benefits greatly the Catholic Church – and thereby the world beyond.

The Perilous State of American Democracy

I wrote here in November on the corruption of our politics by Wall Street and money and what we must do to redeem our democracy.

That column resulted in numerous responses, which caught my attention, given that normally these monthly contributions – this is the 110th column – occasion no response; it’s rather like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and expecting an echo.

I’m okay with this, as obviously I must be, given that this column is a charitable act, which I do less for readers (sorry) than for the discipline of my mind and thinking, and, no less obvious, the need to be heard (that’s probably self-evident).

But I promised those who wrote in response to November and asked what might we do going forward to save the state of sorry ass democracy, to revisit the issue.

To do that I went back and reread my 3,294 word magnum opus on declaring for president (Presidio Sentinel, April 1, 2006).

Among other things I proposed the following:

A national health plan for all Americans (requiring no new plan, as in Obamacare, but an extension of Medicare); a cap on drug prices and drug company profits; a doubling of the minimum wage (I was slightly ahead of the national debate on this); a Social Security and Medicare means test; an end to the War on Drugs, the most colossal and expensive “policy” failure in U.S. history (taking that money and investing it in drug rehabilitation); an executive pay cap, not performance but bonus based (no more multi-million dollar payouts to failed corporate CEOs; sorry, Carly Fiorina); a new, simplified, and equitable tax code (for instance, renters receiving the same tax break as home owners); free day-care for the children of single working moms and dads; an end to government subsidies for corporate farm holdings; no Federal taxes for anyone earning less than $30,000 a year; funding mass transit equal to 25 percent of the Defense Department’s budget; four weeks of mandated vacation time for all public workers, and no retirement before 70, including police and fire (and no public employee paid more in retirement than while working).

In addition, the public funding of all Federal elections (implementing the plan I outlined in November); changing the election cycle for the House of Representatives from two to four years (seriously, members of the House running every two years is idiocy); an election period for both House and Senate not to exceed 90 days (primary and general election, ending two-years campaigns); free radio and television time for political commercials (television, especially, will hate this, since campaigns are their biggest profit makers); a law requiring all citizens to vote or pay a stiff fine (as required in Australia and Switzerland); Federal elections as a national holiday, with the closing of all commercial enterprises, save for emergency services).

And, finally, two-year national conscription for all 18-year old Americans, whether military or by public works through the reenactment of the WPA (see Franklin Roosevelt’s administration).

I will end with the same quote I used at the outset of my presidential campaign:

When life itself sees lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Too much sanity may be madness, and maddest of all is to see life as it is and not as it should be. – Miguel Cervantes Saavedra

George Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader. He may be reached at,

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