On Plane to Africa, Pope Shrugs Off His American Critics

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — In an offhand remark on the papal plane en route to Mozambique, Pope Francis on Wednesday acknowledged the sharp opposition he has faced from conservative Catholic detractors in the United States, calling it an “an honor that the Americans attack me.

His remark came at the start of a six-day trip to Africa, as Francis shook hands in the back of the plane with a French reporter who handed him a copy of his new book, “How America Wanted to Change the Pope.”

Francis warmly told the reporter, Nicholas Senèze, who covers the Vatican for the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, that he had been unable to find the book, which explores American financial, political and media backing of the small but noisy conservative opposition seeking to undermine Francis. Apparently referring to his critics, Francis quipped that their disapproval is “an honor.”

He then handed the book to an aide, and jokingly called it “a bomb.”

Francis’ priorities and inclusive approach to the papacy have infuriated some American prelates, donors and their supporters in the constellation of conservative Catholic media. Those critics often complain that Francis is watering down church orthodoxy, retreating in the culture wars and sowing confusion in the church.

Mr. Senèze said in an interview later that his book, which was released in France on Wednesday, explored the criticism of American conservatives who disagree with Francis’ championing of migrants, his absolute opposition to the death penalty and his willingness to offer the sacraments to divorced and remarried Catholics.

Supporters of Francis had hoped that, after years of being drawn into the sexual abuse scandal and bickering with his conservative critics, this week’s trip to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritiuswould allow him to focus anew on poverty, climate change and migration.

Pope Francis with his spokesman, Matteo Bruni, left, addressing journalists during his flight from Rome to Maputo, Mozambique, on Wednesday.
CreditPool photo by Sandro Perusini

But it was Francis himself who brought the old ideological rifts along for the ride.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, an American who has been repeatedly demoted by Francis, has been the de facto leader of the dissent against the pontiff. But other conservative prelates in the American hierarchy have not been shy to criticize Francis on a broad variety of issues.

Last August, the former Vatican ambassador to the United States, Carlo Maria Viganò, demanded the pope’s resignation. He has been hailed as a hero in some American conservative circles.

It has been no secret that Francis, the first Latin American pope, has a complicated view of his former neighbors to the north, and that the American conservatives have long been out of his good graces.

He has been a committed critic of the abuses of American capitalism. Not long after Francis’ election, Vatican ambassadors briefed the pontiff about various situations around the world and suggested that he be especially careful when appointing bishops and cardinals in the United States.

“I know that already,” the pope interrupted, a high-ranking Vatican official told the Times in 2017. “That’s where the opposition is coming from.”

That year, two close associates of Pope Francis, in an article published in a Vatican-vetted magazine, accused American Catholic ultraconservatives of making an unholy alliance of “hate” with evangelical Christians to help President Trump.

One of the writers of that article, Antonio Spadaro, a prominent Jesuit who edits the magazine, Civiltà Cattolica, sat with Pope Francis in the front section of the plane on Wednesday.

Almost immediately after the pope finished his meet-and-greet, asked for prayers for victims of hurricane Dorian and returned to his seat, the Vatican spokesman appeared in an apparent effort to clean up his remarks.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, an American who has been repeatedly demoted by Francis, has been the de facto leader of the dissent against the pontiff.
CreditAlessandro Bianchi/Reuters

“In an informal context the pope wanted to say that he always considers criticism an honor,” said Matteo Bruni, the Vatican spokesman. “Particularly when it comes from authoritative thinkers, in this case from an important nation.”

The pope’s casual conversation with reporters on the plane soon after taking off from Rome on papal trips is a tradition, and usually features the pope receiving gifts and requests for blessings from reporters in the Catholic media, and engaging in harmless and often awkward chitchat.

When I told the pope on Wednesday that I nearly missed the flight because, like him a few days earlier, I had been stuck in an elevator, he chuckled and made an Italian hand gesture to show how scary it was.

But other conversations yielded more pointed remarks.

In another conversation overheard on the plane, Francis spoke with a German reporter, Andreas Englisch, about the pope’s decision to elevate to the rank of cardinal Raymond Burke, a longtime proponent of interreligious dialogue with Muslims.

Francis called the elevation of Bishop Fitzgerald, who had been sidelined under Pope Benedict XVI, “an act of justice.”

Mr. Englisch said that he also told Francis that not all Germans believed the bad things said about him by the German cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the church’s former chief theologian, who was fired by Francis.

When the pope asked Mr. Englisch what Cardinal Müller had been saying about him, Mr. Englisch told him the cardinal had been saying he would try and save Francis’ papacy from bad theology.

Francis replied that Cardinal Müller “has good intentions and he is a good man, but he is like a child,” Mr. Englisch said.

Jared Kushner Makes Trump Look Like An Idiot

Trump forgot that his family is a bunch of slumlords. Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down. MORE TYT: https://tyt.com/trial

Read more here: https://www.newsweek.com/trump-critic… “Critics of President Donald Trump responded to his recent labeling of Elijah Cummings’ congressional district in Maryland as “disgusting” and “rodent infested” with photos of neighborhoods in Republican-controlled districts that also appeared to be rife with homelessness, poverty and waste.

Trump on Saturday railed against Cummings and Baltimore — about half of which falls in the congressman’s district — calling the city “disgusting rat and rodent infested.” Rather than decry or disavow the president’s remarks, Trump’s allies and conservative media outlets like Fox News attempted to bolster his claim by sharing photos and video of destitute and dirty portions of the Maryland metropolis. White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday he’d have been “fired” from running his former South Carolina congressional district if it had as much crime and homelessness.

But Trump critics began pointing out these images were cherry-picked and failed to tell the whole story of Baltimore or the many suburban and rural communities included in Cummings’ district, they also posted pictures of their own of neighborhoods blighted by poverty and crime.

What’s more, these photos were reportedly taken in congressional districts and states controlled by staunch Republican Trump defenders, including Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Rep. Devin Nunes’ district in California’s San Joaquin Valley and Fresno.”

The Welfare State Is Broken. Here’s How to Fix It.

A social entrepreneur in Britain shows the way.

I met Cottam in London last week and she made the point that welfare systems are often designed to manage needs, but they are not designed to build capabilities so that families can stand on their own.

Moreover, most Western systems were not designed to confront the kind of poverty prevalent today. When these systems were put in place in the 1950s and ’60s, unemployment was more often a temporary thing that happened between the time you got laid off from a big employer and the time you got hired by a new one. Now, economic insecurity is often a permanent state, as people patch together different jobs to make ends meet. Health issues for people in the welfare system are often chronic — obesity, diabetes, many forms of mental illness.

Our legacy welfare structures are ill suited to today’s poverty.

For example, Ella was asked if she would like to lead a “life team” that would help her family turn around. She agreed. She was given the power to select the eight people from across agencies who would comprise the team. She chose people from social work, the housing authority and the police force.

Members of the team spent 80 percent of their time with the family and only 20 percent on administration. Ella and the team worked together to stabilize her most immediate issue — negotiating away eviction notices. Then the team worked to improve inter-family dynamics so there wasn’t so much violence and screaming.

Cottam has designed other programs with a similar collaborative ethos. Backr is a program that takes people who are detached from the labor force and helps them join extended social networks where they can connect one another to job openings and develop skills. Circles is a program for the elderly. It brings together lonely seniors into small groups that are part social club, part concierge service and part self-help cooperative. Wellogram is a similar social structure for the chronically ill.

Basically, Cottam’s programs create villages within the welfare state. Her systems are not designed around individual clients, but around relational networks. People tend to have better outcomes when they are held accountable by a network of peers. Three-quarters of the smokers in Wellogram successfully quit, 44 percent lowered their blood pressure, 64 percent started work or went back to school.

The old legacy welfare programs were designed for people enmeshed in thick communities but who had suffered a temporary setback. Today many people lack precisely that web of thick relationship. The welfare state of the future has to build the social structures that people need to thrive. This is one way government can build community.

Poverty isn’t a lack of character; it’s a lack of cash | Rutger Bregman

“Ideas can and do change the world,” says historian Rutger Bregman, sharing his case for a provocative one: guaranteed basic income. Learn more about the idea’s 500-year history and a forgotten modern experiment where it actually worked — and imagine how much energy and talent we would unleash if we got rid of poverty once and for all.