In his return to Latin America, Pope Francis spoke with fervor and passion about a lot of global issues , mostly focused on economic and social injustice. The passion and intensity of his speeches were such that journalists who covered that trip described them as statements that blended “ biblical fury with apocalyptic doom.” But here is the problem : Without a patience to explore and read other news sources , a Filipino Catholic who makes it a point to learn more about Pope Francis would have missed much of what he talked about in his visit to his native land .
The answer is obvious. True, the Philippine press made a huge play of his statement against corruption , which he called as a “ gangrene of a people.” In the major Philippine dailies , that statement against corruption merited a banner headline , the top story. The most important issues he talked about, the more forceful ones, however, were given minor or perfunctory play in the Philippine media , items near the obit pages. Or totally ignored. So Filipinos who relied on the Philippine media to learn what Pope Francis talked about in Latin America missed a lot of things. His Latin American trip was not really a global trip focused on the need to stamp out the evils of corruption but was focused on a more pressing and urgent issue .
What topic then dominated his speeches in Latin America? His critique of global capitalism and the resultant inequalities. Here, the “ biblical fury and apocalyptic doom” really met. He described global capitalism as the underlying cause of global injustice. He described excessive, freewheeling capitalism as the “ dung of the devil.” And a “ subtle dictatorship that condemns and enslaves men and women.”
Pope Francis’s call for a “ global movement” against a form of “ new colonialism” – his most forceful and recurring call – was ignored by the media here in this only Catholic country of Asia because of one sad reality. ( He made that call over and over again that seemed – but not really – to blend with Marxist strain of Catholicism in some of the countries he visited. ) That message does not get any traction here. There is no mass audience for such universally discussed issues here.
Pope Francis is the head of our Church yet his call for equality and fairness and his indictment of the capitalist class is taboo here . Despite our Catholic faith and having a pope who fights for the exploited, our deepest admiration and reverence go to the capitalist class, the rich and the super rich. The pope, we have to point this out, be damned. The fact that we are a vastly unequal society does not at all diminish our disproportionate admiration for the super wealthy.
We only love Pope Francis nominally and at a very superficial level. On display of physical adoration , we can be over-the-top, just look at the crowds that welcomed him here in his recent visit. But as a prophet who tells us lessons on fairness and justice and what kind of economic arrangement would result in a better world , we completely ignore him and his messages. Our editors will not write a headline that says “ capitalism: “ dung of the devil.” The corporate owners will fire them the next day. And the public will support the firing because of the public adores the capitalist class .
Again, this is the sad reality in the Philippine context: Calling free market capitalism “ the dung of the devil” is the equivalent of blasphemy here .
The Filipinos will chug along as the only dominant Catholics that revere Pope Francis on an skin-deep basis. Even if it is in the interest of the poor majority to precisely demand from polity the very same policies that Pope Francis wants to reign in the new order : tempered capitalism , the reining in of corporate greed , policies aimed at redistributing resources to bridge the rich-poor gap.
Or something as basic as decent wages for the workingman. Or, a cash transfer program that is four to five percent of the yearly national budget.
The political and economic elites are just too happy with the Filipino mind-set. Where people ignore Pope Francis’s messages and are just too contended with exuberant rich-worship, nothing will push the elites into shifting the governing paradigms.
The happiest man, of course, is President Aquino .
In his five years as president, we have pointed this out several times, Mr. Aquino has presided over the surge of Filipino dollar billionaires, those rich enough to buy small and insignificant countries. Those who-can-buy-a-small country-rich. The 11 million families living below the poverty line and the close to 6 million families that have not seen the inside of a decent home have been invisible to him, non-constituents in fact.
Mr. Aquino has had the best of both worlds: Catering to his constituency , the “ creators, ” and bludgeoning the “ moochers,” without peril to his leadership. Without igniting an “ Arab Spring” or an “Occupy Wall Street.”
Where the mind-set and aspirations of a people run counter to their self-interest, Pope Francis’s messages are a whistle in the dark.