Peter Cavanaugh

Matthew v. 2015

It doesn’t happen overnight.

From start to finish (“novitiate” to “final vows”) it can take up to 20 years to complete formation as a fully professed Jesuit priest.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Flores, Argentina, a middle class barrio of Buenos Aires, was 36 years old on April 27, 1973, when he took his final “Fourth Vow” pledging obedience to the Pope. Three months later he was named Provincial Superior of the Society in Argentina.

After a series of promotional advancements within and outside the Order, Bergoglio was named Archbishop of Buenos Aires in February of 1998, Cardinal in February of 2001 and became Pope Francis on March 19, 2013 following the abrupt and somewhat suspect resignation of his predecessor, Benedict XVI. Benedict still lives in the Vatican as a self-cloistered contemplative with no official duties or responsibilities, referenced by some as the “Pope in the Attic.”

Pope Francis speaks Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, French, Latin, Ukrainian and English and has earned educational degrees in Chemistry and Philosophy and a Doctorate in Theology.

In terms of intense preparation, grueling self-sacrifice, academic brilliance and unwavering commitment to Jesus and the poor, Jesuits are the Navy SEALS and intellectual vanguards of the Roman Catholic Church. Many march to become “Soldiers of Christ”. Few finish. Only one now reigns as supreme Pontiff over 1.2 billion human souls.

Francis is the first Jesuit to do so.

“Devout Catholic” Jeb Bush is not impressed. “I think religion ought to be about making us better people and less about things that end up getting into the political realm.”

Neither is “Anti Birth Control Catholic” Rick Santorum. “We are probably better off leaving science to the scientists.”

Or especially “Not Even a Little Bit Catholic” Rush Limbaugh.

“Pope Francis is a Marxist.”

What twits.

What has them all twitchy and twittery is last week’s official Vatican release of “Laudato Si” -- “Praise Be To You” – subtitled – “On The Care of Our Common Home.” It is the first major encyclical solely authored by Francis. An encyclical carries heavy weight, being a papal letter sent to all Roman Catholic bishops – in modern times conveying the most important utterances of the Holy See given to the world.

In “Laudato Si” the Pope deeply criticizes heedless consumerism and irresponsible development, insisting upon “swift and unified global action” to fight environmental degradation and the undeniable reality of man-made climate change.

Along with working as a chemist in his youth prior to ordination, Francis was also a bar bouncer, so it should come as no surprise that he pulls no punches all the way through this 183-page document.

* “Mother Earth now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

* “Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive.”

* “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. It is true that there are other factors, yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is a result of human activity.”

* “A sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful.”

* “The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests.”

* “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or distain.”

Reception of “Laudato Si” in this country so far falls pretty much along party lines - a sharp, cutting, divisive reality that demonstrates the power of paralysis vs. papal persuasion.

I only suggest that those with open hearts and minds spend a bit of time becoming familiar with “Laudato” even in summary form, then ask themselves if a single contradiction can be found between its insights and those revealed in Matthew, chapters 5, 6 and 7.

Also know as “The Sermon on the Mount.”

“For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Matthew 7:29.