In a recent interview, Pope Francis denounced capitalism and border walls while becoming mealy-mouthed about victims of sexual abuse in the Church, saying the summit only meant to “initiate processes” which “takes time.”
None of this is coherent or based on reality. Capitalism has lifted billions out of poverty while socialism continues to eviscerate the (many Catholic) countries that try it. Regulating migration with border walls allows developed countries to properly help those in need without losing their cultural integrity and physical security and forces undeveloped countries to deal with their dysfunction. And, considering the decades-long history of sexual abuse and various formal responses to it, one would hope that the summit is more than a mere beginning.
Many Catholic writers have plumbed the depths of Pope Francis’s mind, writing so many books and developing so many theories: he is a Peronist; he has revived liberation theology; he is part of the Church’s “Lavender Mafia”; the Jesuits are modernist invaders; he was complicit in multiple crimes himself, etc. Others constantly contextualize his words and blame bad translations for inaccurate statements. Some of this may be true, but the answer could be much simpler.
Maybe Pope Francis is just old.
At 83, Pope Francis is understandably out of touch with the world. In his mind, the Soviet Union, socialism, overpopulation, nuclear war, colonialism, and unfashionable traditionalist clergy are the problems of the day. It’s as if the last forty years, and the last two popes, never happened. And the current crises of today like Christian persecution, abortion, depopulation, sexual abuse in the Church, and a huge decline in church attendance and priestly vocations hardly register a response from him. Perhaps in the times before the internet and a monolithic media, this ignorance and inaction is forgivable, but not in the Information Age where all this is well-known.
He’s not alone. Many of his fellow octogenarians who make up most of leadership in the political and religious realm are similarly out of touch. The way they talk about foreign affairs (Russia is still America’s rival), about race (racism has only worsened since Civil Rights), about higher education (a college degree guarantees success), about government (“Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together”), about the economy (rich people cause poverty) only make sense to people who lack familiarity with normal life: college students, Hollywood celebrities, government bureaucrats, and members of the media. To those in the real world, all of this sounds like it belongs to the Nixon era.
In some ways, age is an asset that bestows wisdom and competence to a person. In other ways, it can hinder a person and prevent them from adapting to change. This is why previous generations would graciously pass on authority to succeeding generations; this is what retirement signified. They could still serve in an advisory and mentoring capacity and be honored for it. When this is reversed, when elderly men and women bitterly cling to power and compete with the young, the decline and fall of civilization is assured. Problems will proliferate, solutions will go unheard, and leaders long past their prime will continue railing against ghosts from the past.