Pope to Imam: “The Meeting is the Message”
On May 23, Pope Francis met with Imam Ahmad el-Tayed, a religious leader from Egypt. A similar was planned with Pope Benedict, but Muslims broke off the discussions. The National Catholic Reporter (NCR, here) said Muslims “halted the talks altogether after the former pope [Benedict] had said Christians in the Middle East were facing persecution.” This is the Catholic propaganda machine at work. The Religious News Service (here) noted that Pope Benedict said the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed – Islam -- were “evil and inhuman.” NCR suppressed this fact, and placed all blame on the Muslims.
Most of the meeting between Pope Francis and the imam was private. The pope’s declaration that “The meeting is the message” was made during a brief public photo-op. This rather cryptic message has a number of implications, none of which have been mentioned by the media.
Pope Francis, Health Care, and the Gospel of Prosperity
A recent headline from the Religion New Service (here) said, “Pope Francis rips ‘bloodsucking’ bosses and prosperity theology.” The lede: “Pope Francis has blasted employers who do not provide health care as bloodsucking leeches and he also took aim at the popular ‘theology of prosperity’ in a pointed sermon on the dangers of wealth.” The pope said that employers who fail to provide health care for their employees were effectively enslaving them. He said that such employers are “living on the blood of the people. And this is a mortal sin. This is a mortal sin. And this demands a great deal of penance, a great deal of restitution, in order to be converted from this sin.”
Papal charges don't get much more serious than this. But Pope Francis overlooked the fact that such employers are acting legally. Rather than damn them, this suggests that the laws need to be changed. Why didn’t the pope say that health care is a basic human right, and that nations must guarantee health care for their people? This is what most Western democracies do. Why tie health care to employment? Does he think that people who are not working do not deserve health care? The pope proclaimed a strange new doctrine. It demands further explanation, but the media has ignored it.
The pope declared that this was equivalent to slavery, and a mortal sin. But slavery was not a mortal sin. The Hebrew Bible permitted it, and regulated it. Slavery was practiced in Palestine. It didn’t seem to bother Jesus, who never mentioned it. Paul approved of slavery, and told the slaves of his householders to simply accept their lot, because God and Jesus didn’t care whether they were slaves or free.
Throughout almost all its history, the Church supported slavery. Its strongest allies not only practiced slavery, but played key roles in the slave trade. The Papal States practiced slavery. The Church maintains that its doctrines are eternal and unchanging, guided by the Holy Spirit. When did the Holy Spirit change its mind about slavery? What explanation did it provide? Where is this documented?
The Pope condemned the Gospel of Prosperity: “ ‘you cannot serve both God and riches’ because the love of money becomes ‘a chain’ that makes it impossible to follow Jesus.” The pope cited the letter of James, and said the rich will suffer for exploiting the poor. This is traditional Catholic doctrine. The Church had always condemned the prosperity gospel.
But Francis now declares that “the meeting is the message.” How does he explain this meeting, with Ken Copeland, the dean of the prosperity preachers?
Not only did Pope Francis meet with Copeland, he gave him a high-five. This was Pope Francis’ warmest expression of approval and brotherhood. He offered no other religious or political leader a high-five. But Ken Copeland is not only the dean of prosperity preachers, he is probably the most odious. Not only does he urge his followers to send him cash and checks, promising them that Jesus will enrich them, he tells them this is such a great deal they should load up their credit card and go into debt to send him money. He has often been investigated for fraud and related crimes, even by Congress, though these investigations have been terminated, often under mysterious circumstances.
Not only did Pope Francis meet with Ken Copeland, he met with other Prosperity Preachers, even though he now condemns them. Furthermore, he met these charlatans early in his papacy, well before he met with any of the victims of priestly sex abuse. Not only do meetings have messages, but their priority also carries a message. While Francis set up a special commission to study the Church’s sex abuse problem, that commission has done nothing of significance in its several years of existence. When one of its members complained of this, the Vatican removed him from the commission. This sends a confirmatory message, one which has been ignored.
Other Meetings and Messages
Here are some pictures of other key papal meetings. What message do you take away from them?
Pope Francis and his predecessor seem to preach the gospel of photo-ops. This reminds me of another well-known meeting, along with its message.