Reading Up on Argentina, Birthplace of Pope Francis


With the Pope’s visit to the U.S. this week, now is a good time to add a few choice items to your reading list.

Pope Francis is from Argentina, a country in crisis. That includes economic crisis. For background to the history of capitalism and free enterprise in Argentina, have a look at The Crisis of Argentine Capitalism, by Paul H. Lewis. Paul Lewis-Crisis Argentine Capitalism-book coverArgentina once boasted a vital economy. Today it struggles under a regime that has frittered away the capital of a storied nation and crippled economic opportunity among the rank and file. Lewis documents the history of this condition and explains the unique story of economic decline in Argentina. In the same vein is Vito Tanzi’s informed on-the-ground account in Argentina: An Economic Chronicle—How One of the Richest Countries in the World Lost Its Wealth. Tanzi, an Italian, spent three decades working in various roles for the International Monetary Fund.

For those seeking a travelogue, Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia is the celebrated gold standard. Condé Nast, a travel journal, ranks it among “The 86 Greatest Travel Books of All Time”. The London newspaper Telegraph includes it among “The 20 Best Travel Books of All Time”. William Dalrymple, writing for The Guardian, proclaims it his favorite book in the category of travel literature. He judges that it is probably the most influential travelogue since World War II.

Uki Goñi-Real Odessa-Nazi War Criminals to Argentina-Book CoverMany have forgotten, or never knew, that Nazi war criminals found safe have in Argentina under Juan Perón. Uki Goñi narrates this story in his book The Real Odessa: How Perón Brought the Nazi War Criminals to Argentina. He documents collaboration between Perón and the Vatican. Kenneth Maxwell reviews the book in the journal Foreign Affairs. For a fuller description and evaluation of Goñi, see Richard Gott’s review in The Guardian. Gott doesn’t dispute the evidence of Catholic collusion.

Altogether incidentally, one of my favorite films, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford (1969), recalls the demise of these affable ruffians in a hail of bullets while hiding out in Argentina.

Note: All links are to Kindle editions at Amazon.com

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The Pope’s Support for Immigration and His Tacit Approval of Free Market Enterprise


Pope Francis is visiting the United States. He’s made several appearances, including a White House visit and an address before the United States Congress. His criticism of free market enterprise, of a capitalist economy, is well-known. Some have wondered whether he fully understands the unique expression of capitalism in the United States. It’s true, his views have been shaped by his experience coming from Argentina, which could not differ more extremely from political and economic arrangements in the U.S. But I wonder if he understands more than these commentators think.

Pope Francis Addresses Congress-2015.09Today, while speaking before Congress, Francis lauded the importance of an immigration policy that welcomes those seeking to improve their life circumstances. He called for, or commended, a humane and just policy that would allow movement across our borders. He was speaking to the U.S. Congress where the debate about immigration and border control is intense. The Pope weighed in on that debate. While his remarks were delicate and deferential, he did encourage adoption of an immigration policy that is welcoming.

Of course, he offered no detailed proposal for our border policy. Nor did he even hint at one. That would be a form of meddling that would be politically disruptive and unbecoming of a prominent religious leader who is visiting from outside the United States and enjoying the hospitality of gracious hosts. At any rate, there is little fodder here for left-leaning politicians to exploit in support of their open-borders preference. There’s nothing in his remarks to suggest that we should adopt this or that particular policy about border control.

What I find it interesting is this. The Pope urges hospitality toward those who simply wish to make a better life for themselves, while also adopting a negative posture toward a free market economy. The Pope recognizes the advantages that life in the U.S. affords those seeking greater economic opportunity. For the most part, immigrants from the south aren’t seeking political asylum; rather, they desire economic prosperity that is not available to them in their home countries. Capitalism, despite its shortcomings, is the engine that drives prosperity in this country. And the idea that a capitalist society such as ours should, as a matter of justice and hospitality, find ways to assimilate immigrants looking for a better life is tacit approval of capitalism.

This approval goes deeper even. For the Pope considers it morally commendable for this capitalist society, which has so much to offer legitimate immigrants, to share the fruit of an economy that increases opportunities for prosperity. This is tacit agreement that capitalism is not intrinsically motivated by greed, or essentially dependent on greed for its sustenance.

In addition, it is not accidental that the desirable fruit of our economy is the product of a free market system. I believe such a system is the only system that could bear such fruit. The alternatives, especially Marxist alternatives, are barren in this regard. The gross failure of economies south of our border explains why there is such a flood of immigrants into the United States.

The Pope’s concern for the poor and his efforts to galvanize collective efforts aimed at eradicating poverty is admirable. Free market enthusiasts argue that capitalism offers the greatest hope for achieving this ambitious goal. I concur. I suggest that the Pope, perhaps unwittingly, advocates for a qualified version capitalism when he urges us to share the fruit of our economy with those seeking a better life for themselves.

I would add that what is good for our economy is good for any economy. In fact, the poor of Central and South America would benefit even more fully if they could enjoy the fruit of a growing economy such as ours—without leaving their own countries. The Pope is uniquely positioned to work toward this goal. He hails from Argentina and is head of a church that dominates that part of the world that lies south of our borders.

The Pope has urged humane acceptance of immigrants. It is at least as humane to create opportunities for them that do not depend on immigration. And a successful policy for border control should include measures that would encourage the spread of capitalism from Mexicali to Tierra del Fuego.

Prince of Peace—Jesus, or Pope Francis?


On Fox News Sunday today, Chris Wallace interviewed Father Thomas Rosica, Advisor to the Vatican. This was prompted by the upcoming visit to the U.S. by Pope Francis. Here’s what Rosica said about the importance of this visit:

The visit to the White House, the President and his wife, and the whole team at the White House, are doing a very good job, and they have a certain decorum that’s required of them at that stage, to welcome the Pope as the great, greatest, I should say—not just the great, the greatest—the greatest moral leader in the world right now. And this is an opportunity for the President and his whole team to welcome him and to listen to the message of a peacemaker. The backdrop of this whole visit is not what’s happening in American politics, or a presidential campaign; the backdrop is a world steeped in violence, and bloodshed, and rancor, and hatred. And here we have, coming to your city [New York], to your diocese, a real prince of peace. If there’s any princely title that should be associated with Francis, it’s a prince of peace, it’s a bringer of peace. And when peacemakers come, they upset those who are not at peace. So [if] people are going to be upset, on any side of the spectrum here, let them look inside themselves and see what those issues are first, because in the presence of Francis, as you know and as I know, you’re in the presence of extraordinary goodness, of kindness, of intelligence, and of humanity. So humanity is coming to teach us how to be more human.

“Prince of peace” is biblical language. In other words, it derives from its use in the Bible as a descriptive title with a very specific context. The title “Prince of Peace” is used of the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6. It is, therefore—according to Christian orthodoxy—a reference to Jesus Christ. This is an extraordinarily honorific title. It denotes the full realization of messianic hope. In the Christian Scriptures it alludes to human reconciliation with God, and only by extension to the realization of peace within the human community. The agent, of course, is the Prince of Peace.

This agent is described in a series of four titles. The passage reads:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Notice:

  1. This passage is prophetic.
  2. It refers to the messiah by “name.” This name is captured by four descriptive titles. They are combined to express complementary and mutually reinforcing attributes of the messiah.
  3. Within this complex of titles are the superlative designations “Mighty God” and “Eternal Father.” The Prince of Peace, then, is the almighty God, creator of the universe, the beginning and the end. As “Mighty Counselor,” he is wise without limit and all-knowing.
  4. This prophecy will be fulfilled with the coming of the messiah, the incarnate son of God to be born into this world.
  5. The name of this son—denoted by this magnificent fourfold description—is linked to the role he is to play: the government will rest on his shoulders.
  6. The implication is that those who are governed will declare this figure to be the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” These are the titles they will use when speaking of him.

Verse 7 enriches the sense of things:

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

It is striking, then, that Father Thomas Rosica adopts this title when speaking of Pope Francis. In its biblical setting, which surely is Rosica’s source for the language he uses, “prince of peace” is an honorific title reserved for a specific individual who acts with uniquely divine authority. In a daring move, Rosica deploys the biblical language to express this pope’s gravitas as a peacemaker and as “the greatest moral leader” in the world today.

Rosica does not say that Francis comes as an emissary of the Prince Peace, the Lord of hosts. He simply calls him a prince of peace. In his defense, we might think that, in calling Francis a prince of peace, he does think of him as an emissary of peace. If asked, Rosica might explain that Francis is an emissary of the God who desires peace, an emissary of the Prince of Peace, as it were. In that respect, Francis would be an emissary of the Emissary of Peace!

But will this do as an explanation? There is overt and intentional grandeur in Isaiah’s use of the title for the messiah. This messiah, the Pope would no doubt agree, is none other than Jesus Christ. Christians boldly proclaim that Jesus is the incarnate son. He reconciles the world to Himself, and in this way he brings peace. He alone is worthy of the exalted titles ascribed to him in Isaiah 9:6. These titles should be reserved for the Lord of hosts who accomplishes these things, though he accomplishes them in part through the sons and daughters he has redeemed.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. the old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

The New Testament emphasizes the peacemaking role of individual believers in Christ. It’s called “the ministry of reconciliation.” Reconciliation here must be understood in the most basic sense; it is reconciliation between God and human persons. When a person is reconciled with God, He no longer counts their trespasses against them. Harmony with God is restored. That is true peace. And it falls to those who are in Christ, who are themselves restored creatures, who have been reconciled to God, to bear the “word of reconciliation” throughout the world.

There are two dimensions to peacemaking. The first and most fundamental is reconciliation with God so that personal sin is no longer a barrier to fellowship with God. The second dimension builds on this, pointing men and women to their need for fellowship with God through reconciliation with Him and making peace with others on that basis.

As I reflect on these things, it seems fitting to call the pope a peacemaker. That surely is one of his goals. And he has a useful platform for acting as a peacemaker. I would hope that both dimensions of peacemaking, carried out in their proper order, will be exhibited during the pope’s visit. But I would reserve the title “prince of peace” for him alone who has purchased peace between almighty God and human persons, namely, Jesus Christ. Is the pope a “peacemaker”? Yes. “Prince of peace”? I think not.

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