Topsy looks flustered as she comes into the Apple House and sees Tuptim sitting at a table drinking coffee.
Tuptim: (Putting down her cup and tapping her watch) Hey, Lady, where have you been?
Topsy: (apologetically) Traffic on 81 was terrible -- another truck problem...a jackknifed semi at the first Strasburg exit. Fortunately I wasn't too far from the exit, but it still took twenty minutes to go a quarter of a mile. Sheesh! It seems to happen at least once a week on that highway.
Tuptim: Oh gosh! That's so frustrating.
Topsy: Yup...about as frustrating as getting rained out on Skyline Drive last October. Sure put a damper on our study of Fratelli Tutti. (shaking her head) Things have been so busy since then too. With all the school closings because of the Chinese virus, I've been helping my daughter by tutoring her kids two days a week. My husband does math and I do language arts, penmanship and religion. It gives our daughter a break and we love being with our grandkids.
Tuptim: I hear ya! Me too. Well...since our time is short shall we get right down to Chapter 3 of Tutti Frutti? (Topsy nods and pulls her notebook out of her bag.) I had to review the first two chapters to remember what we did so far.
Topsy: Me too. The spirit is willing but the memory is weak. I had to laugh though from the very beginning of Chapter III when I read this. "No one can experience the true beauty of life without relating to others, without having real faces to love." Good grief, we've hardly seen any "real faces" for a year. It has a real impact on relationships and is actually dangerous. [She pulls an article from the back of her notebook.] A law officer, Dave Grossman, has a book on the psychology of masks. Masking not only provides anonymity to the aggressor, but dehumanizes the victim. It's a pretty shocking article, but not surprising I don't think. Masking damages bonding. Think of how babies learn to relate to people. They take facial cues from those around them. Think of babies these days in the neonatal nurseries who never see an unmasked face including their own parents. We won't know the consequences of all this for years.
Tuptim: I found the pope's use of the terms "liberty, equality, fraternity" particularly troubling. How can that not bring up the specter of the French Revolution and the distortion of those terms even today. He talks about "cultivating fraternity" but, as usual he never defines. I looked up the meaning and it's more than a little troubling used in this sense of a call for universal fraternity. Hmmm...[she checks her notes]. Ah...here it is according to Merriam Webster:
1: a group of people associated or formally organized for a common purpose, interest, or pleasure: such as
a: a fraternal order
b: GUILD sense 1
c: a men's student organization formed chiefly for social purposes having secret rites and a name consisting of Greek letters
d: a student organization for scholastic, professional, or extracurricular activities a debating fraternity
2: the quality or state of being brothers : BROTHERLINESS
3: persons of the same class, profession, character, or tastes the racetrack fraternity
[She looks up.] Now, do you see any problem with that definition in terms of the pope calling on us all to be of one universal "fraternity?"
Topsy: [pausing to consider] Well....It seems to me there are plenty of "fraternal organizations" Christians must shun by moral obligation. The Masons call themselves a fraternity. Should Christians bind themselves in union with the lodge? Or with the Communist brotherhood that also calls itself a fraternity? The pope says that equality can only come about through the "cultivation of fraternity." This is one more vague, meandering slog through a swamp of words that are never defined and can inspire hundreds of different interpretations depending on the individual reader's world view. [Checking the highlights on her copy of FT]. Listen...What does any of this mean? "Education in fraternity through dialogue and through the recognition of the values of reciprocity and mutual enrichment?" And how about these terms? "Social friendship... universal fraternity... integral human development...solidarity..." None of this is defined and we are left with wondering whether the pope embraces definitions from the world or from the heart of the Church.
Tuptim: Frankly, Topsy, I never get the sense that Francis is speaking from the heart of the Church. He almost always quotes himself, rarely popes or encyclicals before Vatican II. You'd think there was no Church before the 1960s.
Topsy: What did you think about the discussion of private property?
Tuptim: The Church has never condemned private property and ownership and, in fact, has pretty explicitly defended it. Think of the story in Acts of the Apostles about the couple who sell a piece of land and lay the money before the apostles pretending it's the total amount. St. Peter affirms the right of the couple to use their land. They're killed because they lied to the Holy Spirit. It is a moral truth that people have the right to benefit from their work. The pope implies that the "social role of property" takes precedence over personal ownership. Obviously in the Christian context we are only stewards of what we possess and have an obligation to use our property for the advancement of the common good. But think of a father of a family who impoverished his wife and children by disposing of all his property on others. That would clearly be a violation of natural justice.Topsy: I get really tired of the pope's liberal language. The section on "rights without borders" and the "rights of peoples" sounds like it comes right out of the Communist Manifesto. Listen to this! [Reads]
the common destination of the earth’s goods requires that this principle also be applied to nations, their territories and their resources. Seen from the standpoint not only of the legitimacy of private property and the rights of its citizens, but also of the first principle of the common destination of goods, we can then say that each country also belongs to the foreigner, inasmuch as a territory’s goods must not be denied to a needy person coming from elsewhere. As the Bishops of the United States have taught, there are fundamental rights that “precede any society because they flow from the dignity granted to each person as created by God”.
Tuptim: That's an interesting paragraph in view of the invasion of the United States by those entering our boarders illegally and demanding all kinds of free stuff while they undermine the common good of our citizens. It seems like the only "fundamental rights" people like the pope and our liberal bishops recognize relates to unrestricted illegal entry and the obligation of hard-working Americans to be responsible for supporting them. And yet, the bishops lock up our churches and chancery buildings and have no problem putting up "no trespassing" signs on diocesan property. But you better not say one word about the illegals destroying farms and ranches along the boarder and even killing the owners. Not to mention the power of the drug cartels and the sex trafficking of unattended minors.
Topsy: I don't know anyone who opposes legal immigration, but no country can sustain an unlimited number of illegals pushing their way into a country and demanding the country's taxpayers take care of them.
Tuptim: One of the things that bothers me most about this pope, is his constant vilification of people. If you want to protect your borders you're a selfish racist. If you defend the right to private property, you're the equivalent of a robber baron. The last paragraph of Chapter III is troubling, if not baffling:
127. Certainly, all this calls for an alternative way of thinking. Without an attempt to enter into that way of thinking, what I am saying here will sound wildly unrealistic. On the other hand, if we accept the great principle that there are rights born of our inalienable human dignity, we can rise to the challenge of envisaging a new humanity. We can aspire to a world that provides land, housing and work for all. This is the true path of peace, not the senseless and myopic strategy of sowing fear and mistrust in the face of outside threats. For a real and lasting peace will only be possible “on the basis of a global ethic of solidarity and cooperation in the service of a future shaped by interdependence and shared responsibility in the whole human family”.
Topsy: What does all that even mean? What is the "alternative way of thinking?" Karl Marx's way? Herbert Marcuse's way? Mou's way?You never get the sense that the pope is talking about Christ's way and certainly not the American founders' way. This pope has shown more respect for the Chinese Communist government than he's ever shown for the American dream. We are a country where poor people have thrived and risen to heights of education and prosperity. Compare that to the Soviets' claim that the workers were the owners of the land, when they were actually just cogs in their slave machine. Under the land reforms private property was outlawed and collectivism took over. So exactly what is the pope talking about when he speaks of this "global ethic of solidarity and interdependence and shared responsibility in the whole human family?" It sounds vague and meaningless and even like Utopian claptrap!
Tuptim: [shrugging]. I sure can't disagree with that.And now we have the latest debacle where the Traditional Latin Mass is almost disappearing from the Vatican. The Mass of the millennia is no longer welcome. Makes me think of the old Irish song - "Oh Paddy dear oh did you hear the news that's going round. The shamrock is forbid by law to grow on Irish ground." And just like [She snaps her fingers!] that symbol of Catholicism was purged by the English Protestants. And now, our own Protestant pope is throwing out the Mass of the centuries, purging it from St. Peter's basilica like it's an embarrassing relic of our Tradition. I find that horrifying!
Topsy: I tell you, Tuptim, this chapter reminded me of Stalin's collectivism in Russia. [She pulls up a video on her phone.] It seems to me that Pope Francis has the same vision for the world that Stalin had for Russia. And if a few peasants had to be destroyed in the process of creating his workers' paradise -- no problem! [She plays the video for Tuptim.]
Tuptim: Omigosh, Topsy, is it really that bad? I have to confess that I continually wait to see what atrocity Pope Francis will inflict on us next! But that's enough bad news for one day. We'll move on to Chapter IV next time. Let's talk about something cheerful like our grandchildren.