16 Jul

Che Guevara among the fishermen

Pope Francis has been taken to task. Asked why he had rarely spoken of hard-working, tax-paying families, instead concentrating on the marginalised and poverty-stricken, he said: “You’re right. It’s an error of mine not to think about this,”

Well, it would indeed be nice to see him take a few minutes off from his effusive rhetoric about the picturesque poor. True, Jesus commanded his disciples to care for the poor, but his attitude towards poverty was rather more complex than that of Guardian-reading sentimentalists. Jesus actually called the poor blessed. Why? “Because theirs is the kingdom of God.” And when he was anointed with expensive ointment, a Guardian-reading disciple protested, “This ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.”

Jesus replied, “Ye have the poor always with you, but me ye have not always.”

That wasn’t very Christian of Christ, was it, Francis?

Jesus also said that it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven, the province of the poor. So you would think that the Pope might be led to have sympathy for the rich and spend more time and effort helping them in their hard task of entering the kingdom.

Francis’ predecessor Benedict XVI is one of the greatest theologians since St Augustine. Francis –  great self-publicist as he is and a close friend of vox pop – is no theologian. But he must have attended Sunday School when he was a nipper. There he would have read, or had read to him, the Gospel stories in which Jesus has much to say about the poor, but where he is also seen spending much time with the rich and influential.

He eats often in the houses of rich Scribes and Pharisees. He also eats with “publicans and sinners.” But when we hear that word publican, we should not imagine that it connotes a scene in which Jesus likes to go out of a night with his disciples – the lads – for a few pints at The Rose & Crown in downtown Capernaum. The publicans were not landlords. They were public servants – actually tax-gatherers for the occupying Roman power. Naturally, they were loathed by the poor.

Jesus loved the poor? Of course he did. But he also loved those well off enough to put on a wedding that lasted ten days, attended by numerous guests. Not only did Jesus attend the wedding – with the lads – but when the wine ran out, he created a further 180 gallons of the stuff.

The Son of God who said, “Blessed are the poor” also said, “I am come that ye might have life; and have it more abundantly.”

The Pope and just about every bishop and clergyman you have ever heard are so fond of preaching that mawkish Christmas sermon about Jesus being born into poverty in a stable. As if the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity had been a lesser condescension if he had been born Mayor of Tunbridge Wells.

He wasn’t born into poverty. His earthly father was of the house and lineage of King David. Joseph was an established craftsman and a member of the middle class,

We know the Pope is a Catholic – but does he read the Bible?