The world press is in high gear for Pope Francis's visit to Cuba and the United States this week. Recently, the Pope has stirred up a stew mixing world poverty, the evils of capitalism and global warming into an elaborate narrative that is likely to keep journalists awake for weeks to come.
Pope Francis visits former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro at Castro's home in Havana, Cuba, on September 20, 2015. (Image source: BBC video screenshot)
As the first ever Pope to address a joint session of Congress, he is expected to take some shots at the structural evils of free market capitalism and the unequal distribution of wealth. As early as 2013, when he penned his Apostolic Exhortation, in which he laid out his broad vision for the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has been clarifying his positions on these topics.
With the subsequent release of his controversial encyclical on global warming in June, he established two pressing themes that will likely monopolize his coming visit.
Climate change is expected to be the focus of his address to the UN General Assembly on September 25, as he kicks off the 2015 UN Summit on Sustainable Development and its seventeen-point utopian agenda for the entire planet, packaged in a thinly disguised reboot of Agenda 21. According to IPS news:
"Judging by his recent public pronouncements – including on reproductive health, biodiversity, the creation of a Palestinian state, the political legitimacy of Cuba and now climate change – Pope Francis may upstage more than 150 world leaders when he addresses the United Nations, come September... The Pope will most likely be the headline-grabber, particularly if he continues to be as outspoken as he has been so far."
Along the way, he has managed to stun even many Catholics with pronouncements about issues that they think should be none of his business.
When the Pope's recent encyclical on global warming was first leaked to the press in June, it stirred protests that the Pope should confine his expertise to religious matters:
"Former US senator and Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, for instance, is a devout Catholic who has said he loves the pope, but has also called global warming a "hoax" and the research underlying findings of climate change 'junk science'.
"In a recent interview, Santorum advised Francis to 'leave science to the scientists' and focus instead on theology and morality. The suggestion was that the pontiff, who studied chemistry as a student, has no business pronouncing on something that exceeds his competence."
As the Pope declared war on global warming, he emphasized his continuing opposition to capitalism, materialism, selfishness and other "human factors," which he asserts are the foundational causes of the imminent destruction of the planet's ecosystem.
Writing in the Apostolic Exhortation and the Encyclical on Global Warming, the Pope justified his view that the temperature of the planet is economic and political, and it also undergirds religious concerns -- especially since the results of global warming are likely to affect the poor disproportionately.
His public denunciations of free market capitalism started in earnest with the recent papal visit to South America, where, to cheering crowds, he made some passionate statements about poverty and economics.
Speaking to grassroots organizers, Pope Francis declared his own personal war on capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, greed and materialism. According to CNN:
Pope Francis delivered a fiery denunciation of modern capitalism on Thursday night, calling the "unfettered pursuit of money" the "dung of the devil" and accusing world leaders of "cowardice" for refusing to defend the earth from exploitation.
Speaking to grassroots organizers in Bolivia, the Pope urged the poor and disenfranchised to rise up against "new colonialism," including corporations, loan agencies, free trade treaties, austerity measures, and "the monopolizing of the communications media.
Fox News reported that in one of his South American speeches, the Pope admonished business, government and trade union leaders, charging them with "idolatrous" and materialistic ways. CNN quotes him at one gathering saying to a group of business leaders, politicians, labor union leaders and other civil society groups on a Saturday evening: "I ask them not to yield to an economic model which is idolatrous, which needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit."
Some high-profile commentators such as Rush Limbaugh think they smell a Marxist clothed in white papal robes, who dreams of redistributing the world's wealth.
Pope Francis insists that he has little interest in Marxism and that his political advocacy against materialism, capitalism, greed and idolatry are largely religious in nature. However, the flavor of some of his statements might suggest otherwise.
To understand how the Pope thinks, it is helpful to glimpse at some of his closest counselors on these topics.
One advisor on his August global warming encyclical is the controversial professed atheist, Professor John Schnellnhuber, who was appointed to the Pontifical Academy of Science, and has been accused of advocating population control.
In an interview in June with Breitbart, Lord Christopher Monckton, chief policy advisor to the Science and Public Policy Institute, and a leader in the fight against the science of climate change, questioned Schnellnhuber's role in the encyclical:
Monckton further explained that Francis is influenced by extremist Professor John Schnellnhuber, founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who said in 2009 at a climate conference in Copenhagen that if we let global warming continue, six billion of the seven billion people on earth will be killed by it.
Monckton said that Schnellnhuber will be standing by the side of Pope Francis when they announce the encyclical next week. "The fact that Schnellnhuber is going to be there is an extremely bad sign," he declared.
The fact that he will be there next to the pope suggests to Monckton that Francis is thanking him for having written the climate portion of the encyclical.
Another of the Pope's closest advisors is Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, sometimes considered "the Vice Pope" because of his charisma and influence.
On April 13, 2013, Pope Francis appointed Maradiaga as a coordinator of the group of cardinals established to advise him in the governance of the universal church and to study a plan for revising the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia. Maradiaga is apparently also considered a leading progressive voice in Catholicism.
According to a NewsMax report from last year:
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, a close advisor to Pope Francis, criticized the free market as "a new idol" that increases inequality and excludes the poor in a keynote speech in Washington on Tuesday. ... This economy kills," he told the gathered crowd. "The hungry or sick child of the poor cannot wait."
The "elimination of the structural causes of poverty" is another concept taken from the "Apostolic Exhortation" handbook; some suggest it sounds like a call for a revolution.
Pope Francis undoubtedly knows that some of these ideas are not likely to go over as well in the United States as they did in Latin America. According to the New York Times,
"As his papal jetliner was returning to Rome (from his recent visit to South America), Francis signaled that he knew his economic message was already facing criticism in the United States and pledged to study it. Some critics blame him for rebuking capitalism with an unduly broad brush. Others say he ignores that globalization has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty."
The Pope also knows, however, that the UN is poised to strong-arm member nations to sign on to an impossible globalist agenda that will require a total shift of the world's wealth, and a restructuring of international politics and economics with a one-world government and a universal religion at the steering wheel.
Even to the Pope's admirers, that sounds a less like peace and love and more like a utopian totalitarian nightmare.
Susan Warner is a Distinguished Senior Fellow of Gatestone Institute and co-founder of a Christian group, Olive Tree Ministries in Wilmington, DE, USA. She has been writing and teaching about Israel and the Middle East for over 15 years. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.