But American liberals and conservatives alike might be discomfited by the pope’s criticism of “the individualism of our postmodern and globalized era,” since each side defends its own favorite forms of individualism. Francis mourns “a vacuum left by secularist rationalism,” not a phrase that will sit well with all on the left.
And in light of the obsessive shopping on Cyber Monday and Black Friday, here is a pope who paints consumerism in the darkest of hues. “We are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase,” he writes. “In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”
Yet this critic of our age refuses to be gloomy, scolding “querulous and disillusioned pessimists,” whom he labels “sourpusses.” I like a pope who takes a stand against sourpusses.
Francis makes many liberals swoon, even though he is not, in a conventional sense, a liberal. He also has split American conservatives between those trying to hold fast to him and those who believe he is, from their perspective, up to something dangerous.
All sides realize where the energy of Francis’s pontificate lies. He’s not the first pope to denounce our unjust economic system. Pope John Paul II regularly decried“imperialistic monopoly” and “luxurious egoism.” Pope Benedict XVI condemned “corruption and illegality” in “the conduct of the economic and political class in rich countries” while speaking approvingly of “the redistribution of wealth.”