Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Pope and the President

The contrast between our new Pope and the current President is hard to miss. Francis is a man who eschewed the episcopal palace in Buenos Aires in favor of a small apartment, road the bus around town instead of a limousine, did his own cooking in his apartment, and frequently wore the simple cassock of an ordinary priest. Barack Obama, famous for the crease in his tailored pants, has given new meaning to the Imperial Presidency with his lavish lifestyle, hobnobbing with Hollywood celebrities, and 40 car motorcades to go golfing with Tiger Woods. Not to mention his patent disdain for the common people ("bitter clingers") he supposedly champions.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, of course, has embraced a specific religious calling that involves simplicity and sacrifice that Obama has not. Nonetheless, the office of the President of the United States was created in specific contrast to the prerogatives of the European royalty against which Americans originally rebelled. The Presidency was supposed to be a secular office of limited power and perquisites, elected to perform certain specific functions necessary to the maintenance of a free republic. It has now been transformed to the point that, as Mark Steyn notes, the yearly maintenance of the Presidency costs more than that of all European royal houses put together.

There is a reason the Catholic Church has endured for more than 2,000 years, and the secular democracies of Europe and, now, the United States, may be entering their twilight years after no more than 200. The broken nature of man, a consequence of original sin, is a fact for secular democracies as much as it is for the Church, even if the former do not acknowledge it; and the only cure for original sin is submission to the Divine Physician.

The great puzzle for secularists is why the Church hasn't disappeared after its many failures and scandals. The reason is that the Church is under no illusions about the fallen nature of man, and does not hope in itself in the manner of a political institution, but places its Hope in the Savior, who promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. So when yet another scandal occurs, as in the recent Vatileaks brouhaha, the Church does not lose hope, but finds that God has raised a simple priest from Argentina to reform it. In contrast, our nation seems unable to correct itself from the path of spending, debt and crushing government regulation that is driving us to ruin; at a time when we desperately need a man of virtue to restore simplicity, transparency and frugality to our government offices, we put in place a man who seems to think of himself as Good King Barack the First, and us his subjects who should be duly awed.

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