- The Washington Times - Friday, March 15, 2013

The Roman Catholic Church has chosen a new leader: Pope Francis I. The Holy See has a new kind of pope. He is the first South American and Jesuit to occupy the office. He is the shepherd — the spiritual head of more than 1 billion Catholics — who now has the heavy responsibility of tending to his flock. Secular liberals, however, are already on the attack. Their Christophobia knows no end.

As the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, the pope is known as a champion of the poor and downtrodden. He frequently visited Argentine slums, caring for the homeless and destitute. He also visited AIDS patients, kissing their feet and demonstrating Jesus Christ’s compassion for the sick. He often rode public transportation. He cooked his own meals. He has lived an austere life in a small apartment. He has shunned the privileges to which most Argentine cardinals have been accustomed. In short, he embodies the humility and simplicity of Christ.

Pope Francis opposes corporate plutocracy. He is a staunch critic of economic globalization and jungle capitalism. He has excoriated the International Monetary Fund and big banks, rightly arguing that they help prop up corrupt financial elites at the expense of ordinary citizens. Like most Catholics, he understands one fundamental point: Morality trumps economics. A free market works so long as it is underpinned by Christian ethics, personal honesty, social virtue and the rule of law. Otherwise, it leads to gangster corporatism and reckless greed — the kind of crony capitalism that is slowly destroying America. For defending a humane economy, some on the left, such as MSNBC host Chris Matthews, are claiming that the Holy See is in the hands of an economic liberal who believes in state socialism and the coercive redistribution of wealth. Call it Pope Francis as Robin Hood. Mr. Matthews and his Democratic ilk charge that the church has finally gone left-wing. Liberals argue that after capturing the White House, they have now breached the walls of the Vatican.

This is false. It is progressive propaganda masquerading as analysis. Pope Francis is the opposite of a modern American liberal. In fact, he probably finds much of the Democrats’ agenda repulsive. President Obama is waging a war on Christians and on Catholics in particular. His administration is compelling Catholic institutions — schools, hospitals and charities — to provide free birth control and abortion-inducing drugs to employees. This directly assaults Catholics’ conscience rights and freedom of religion. Obamacare encodes the federal funding of abortions. The health care overhaul forces devout Catholics to hand over their taxpayer dollars to fund a procedure they find not only a moral abomination, but a religious prohibition.

Mr. Obama supports homosexual “marriage.” He has allowed homosexuals to openly serve in the military. His pro-homosexual, pro-abortion and pro-contraception policies violate basic Catholic doctrine. He is an enemy of the church.

Contrary to liberal spin, Pope Francis is an orthodox Catholic. His election to the papacy consolidates the theological legacy of Blessed John Paul II and retired Pope Benedict XVI. The Holy Father is walking in their spiritual footsteps. He opposes the secular West’s culture of death. He is a moral traditionalist and cultural conservative. He denounces the mass murder of unborn children. He bravely criticizes homosexual behavior, decrying sodomy as unnatural and immoral. He eloquently defends the sanctity of the family from the onslaught of homosexual “marriage” and homosexual adoption.

Unlike shallow secularists, Pope Francis grasps that civilization depends upon one seminal institution: the sacred marital union between a man and a woman. The purpose of marriage is not cohabitation or affirming some romantic commitment. Rather, it is procreation — having, raising and socializing children. The family is the basic unit that perpetuates one generation to the next. Destroy it, and social collapse is inevitable. Homosexual “marriage” is a Trojan horse aimed at smashing the family — an invention by cultural Marxists to undermine Christianity’s ancient foundations.

This is why Pope Francis publicly challenged the national socialism of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez. Her leftist policies — legalizing homosexual “marriage,” providing free contraception to the public and enabling homosexuals to adopt — are slowly transforming Catholic Argentina. He courageously stood up to her. For this, he has been demonized by the authoritarian Peronist regime.

Pope Francis’ election demonstrates one stark reality: The church’s center of gravity is moving away from Europe toward the Third World. For centuries, the church was the cradle of European civilization. This is now over. The faith in Europe is dying. In America, the church is becoming increasingly liberal — and thereby, alienated from Rome. Yet, in Latin America, Africa and Asia, the church is vibrant, self-confident and growing. Hence, the pope’s election was not only logical, in some ways, it was inevitable. The church may be shifting toward the Third World, but it is not getting more liberal. Rather, it is becoming even more traditionalist. This is why the Vatican — and its new pope — will remain the progressive left’s worst enemy.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a radio commentator in Boston.