Thursday, July 31, 2014

Pope Francis 10 Secrets to Happiness.

POPE-HAPPINESS Jul-29-2014 (930 words) xxxi

In latest interview, Pope Francis reveals top 10 secrets to happiness

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Slowing down, being generous and fighting for peace are part of Pope Francis' secret recipe for happiness.

In an interview published in part in the Argentine weekly "Viva" July 27, the pope listed his Top 10 tips for bringing greater joy to one's life:

1. "Live and let live." Everyone should be guided by this principle, he said, which has a similar expression in Rome with the saying, "Move forward and let others do the same."

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead a general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican last month. (CNS/Paul Haring)
2. "Be giving of yourself to others." People need to be open and generous toward others, he said, because "if you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. And stagnant water becomes putrid."

3. "Proceed calmly" in life. The pope, who used to teach high school literature, used an image from an Argentine novel by Ricardo Guiraldes, in which the protagonist -- gaucho Don Segundo Sombra -- looks back on how he lived his life.

"He says that in his youth he was a stream full of rocks that he carried with him; as an adult, a rushing river; and in old age, he was still moving, but slowly, like a pool" of water, the pope said. He said he likes this latter image of a pool of water -- to have "the ability to move with kindness and humility, a calmness in life."

4. "A healthy sense of leisure." The pleasures of art, literature and playing together with children have been lost, he said.

"Consumerism has brought us anxiety" and stress, causing people to lose a "healthy culture of leisure." Their time is "swallowed up" so people can't share it with anyone.

Even though many parents work long hours, they must set aside time to play with their children; work schedules make it "complicated, but you must do it," he said.

Families must also turn off the TV when they sit down to eat because, even though television is useful for keeping up with the news, having it on during mealtime "doesn't let you communicate" with each other, the pope said.

5. Sundays should be holidays. Workers should have Sundays off because "Sunday is for family," he said.

6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people. "We need to be creative with young people. If they have no opportunities they will get into drugs" and be more vulnerable to suicide, he said.

"It's not enough to give them food," he said. "Dignity is given to you when you can bring food home" from one's own labor.

7. Respect and take care of nature. Environmental degradation "is one of the biggest challenges we have," he said. "I think a question that we're not asking ourselves is: 'Isn't humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?'"

8. Stop being negative. "Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem. That means, 'I feel so low that instead of picking myself up I have to cut others down,'" the pope said. "Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy."

9. Don't proselytize; respect others' beliefs. "We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyzes: 'I am talking with you in order to persuade you,' No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytizing," the pope said.

10. Work for peace. "We are living in a time of many wars," he said, and "the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive" and dynamic.

Pope Francis also talked about the importance of helping immigrants, praising Sweden's generosity in opening its doors to so many people, while noting anti-immigration policies show the rest of Europe "is afraid."

He also fondly recalled the woman who helped his mother with the housework when he was growing up in Buenos Aires.

Concepcion Maria Minuto was a Sicilian immigrant, a widow and mother of two boys, who went three times a week to help the pope's mother do laundry, since in those days it was all done by hand.

He said this hard-working, dignified woman made a big impression on the 10-year-old future pope, as she would talk to him about World War II in Italy and how they farmed in Sicily.

"She was as clever as a fox, she had every penny accounted for, she wouldn't be cheated. She had many great qualities," he said.

Even though his family lost touch with her when they moved, the then-Jesuit Father Jorge Bergoglio later sought her out and visited her for the last 10 years of her life.

"A few days before she died, she took this small medal out of her pocket, gave it to me and said: 'I want you to have it!' So every night, when I take it off and kiss it, and every morning when I put it back on, this woman comes to my mind."

"She died happy, with a smile on her face and with the dignity of someone who worked. For that reason I am very sympathetic toward housecleaners and domestic workers, whose rights, all of them, should be recognized" and protected, he said. "They must never be exploited or mistreated."

Pope Francis' concern was underlined in his @Pontifex Twitter feed just a few days later, July 29, with the message: "May we be always more grateful for the help of domestic workers and caregivers; theirs is a precious service."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Poverty's perduring effects in Baltimore and Other places

Urban poverty, in black and white

By Karl Alexander and Linda Olson
updated 9:20 AM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
Discoveries revealed from a 25-year study in Baltimore may hold truths for other urban areas, such as the South Bronx.
Discoveries revealed from a 25-year study in Baltimore may hold truths for other urban areas, such as the South Bronx.
  • Authors: "Urban poor" is not just black men, single moms; many whites fit the category
  • For 25 years, authors studied poor children through their adulthood in Baltimore
  • Authors: Hardly any poor children, black or white, went on to finish college
  • They say white privilege won out as they got more and better-paying jobs
Editor's note: Karl Alexander is the academy professor and sociology research professor at Johns Hopkins University. Linda Olson is a research scientist at the Baltimore Education Research Consortium and the Hopkins Center for Social Organization of Schools. They are co-authors, with Doris Entwisle, of the book "The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood," published by the Russell Sage Foundation. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writers.
(CNN) -- Say "urban poor," and the image that most likely comes to mind is one of young black men caught up in a swirl of drugs and violence and irresponsible single women having babies. But this pervasive stereotype overlooks a surprising reality: Many whites live side by side African-Americans in some of the country's poorest urban neighborhoods.
Because white poverty is less expected, less recognized and less studied, we often exclude poor whites from our discussions. That masks a fundamental truth about economic inequality: Poverty is colorblind. But neither is it the same for everyone, as the white poor benefit from a lifetime of the hidden perks of white privilege.
As our nation continues down the road of economic recovery, this is a reality our local and national policymakers cannot afford to ignore as they seek to address employment and income inequality.
We traced the experience of nearly 800 children in Baltimore for more than 25 years, from the time they entered first grade in the fall of 1982 in 20 Baltimore public schools to well into their third decade. Half their families were low income, according to school records, and the typical low-income parent hadn't finished high school. What might be surprising is that of that half, 40% are white.
Karl Alexander
Karl Alexander
Linda Olson
Linda Olson
Looking at where these children started in life and where they ended up, the study results are troubling but clear: At 28, hardly any of the children from a disadvantaged background, black or white, had finished college.
But even without the benefit of a college degree, whites, and white men especially, had vastly better employment outcomes. At every age, the white men experienced shorter spells of unemployment, were more likely to be working full-time and earned more.
Baltimore, like so many other American cities, suffered immensely under the ravages associated with de-industrialization: the loss of industry, population and wealth. Under such circumstances, many of the city's disadvantaged youths stumbled along the way.
But the consequences have been especially dire for African-Americans. As young adults, African-American men had fared much worse than whites in the job market, even though they and their white counterparts had about the same levels of education and the whites reported higher rates of marijuana and heavy drug use and binge drinking.
Take, for example, the types of jobs the men in our study held. At 28, nearly half of the white men who had not attended college were employed in the industrial and construction trades, the highest-paying sector of blue-collar employment. By contrast, only 15% of African-American men worked in these sectors, and even within that small group, annual earnings were less than half that of whites -- $21,500 versus $43,000.
This disparity is no accident.
It fits a broader pattern evident as far back as high school: About one-fifth of white men who grew up in disadvantaged families had after-school and summer jobs in these industries -- important experience that can help secure a full-time job -- while not a single African-American person did.
Indeed, throughout the course of our study, it was clear that African- Americans face greater barriers to employment. Having an arrest record or failing to complete high school were less consequential for white men than for African-American men: 84% of whites without a high school degree were employed at 22; among African Americans, just 40% were.
Racial inequality also is embedded in hidden ways in other spheres of life, including discrimination in housing and banking practices that have kept white and black Baltimore substantially separate and cut off working class African-Americans from potentially valuable social contacts.
Why do differences in employment track so sharply with color lines?
The race-based privilege that benefits working-class whites over working-class African-Americans has its origins in the discriminatory practices that excluded African-Americans from the skilled trades during Baltimore's booming World War II and post-war industrial economy.
Although overt racial discrimination has lessened since then, the deep structural inequalities these barriers helped establish continue today through word-of-mouth hiring, employer attitudes that limit opportunities for African-Americans and segregated social networks.
The differences in how these young people found jobs illustrate the invisible ways race-based privilege is institutionalized in the job market.
When asked at age 22 how they found their current jobs, whites more often mentioned help from family and friends, while more African-Americans found jobs "on their own." The white job seekers in our study had family, friends and neighbors who could help them access good-quality, higher-paying jobs.
And what of those women having babies?
Most of the women of disadvantaged background, white and African-American, became mothers as teenagers, worked sporadically and when working, their employment was concentrated in the low-pay clerical and service sectors.
The difference, though, is that many more white women were married or in a stable co-habiting relationship. An additional earner in the household makes a vast difference in economic well-being, which means that white men's workplace advantages benefit white women as well.
As Americans, we like to think that we are all on a level playing field. Our society treasures rags-to-riches stories of individuals overcoming their humble origins to achieve the American Dream. But, the harsh reality we witnessed in Baltimore is that race and class place severe limitations on a child's ability to achieve that dream.
Too often, our policymakers focus on colorblind solutions, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, to help the urban poor. Such programs only help those who already have jobs and fail to address chronic unemployment among African-Americans.
Amid the growing national conversation on economic inequality, now is the time for our leaders to recognize that race matters and develop creative programs, such as President Barack Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative, to address the different challenges facing poor African-Americans.
Tracking the lives of Baltimore children for 25 years, we witnessed all too clearly how family conditions and poverty early in life cast a shadow that follows children into adulthood and how that shadow extends much further if you are African-American.
Only by facing this reality head on with proactive programs and policies can we offer young African-Americans a fair shot at achieving the American dream.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Church Responds to Immigration Crisis

IMMIGRATION: Inland parishes, Catholic Charities wait for migrants

With flights suspended, it’s unclear whether Inland shelters and other help will be needed
 Church volunteers Araceli Rendon, left, and Faustine Aguayo assemble donated food at St Catherine of Siena Parish in Rialto to benefit recently arrived migrant families on July 10.

Catholic Charities and the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino are preparing to shelter and care for additional Central American migrants, but it’s unclear whether more will be arriving.
St. Joseph Catholic Church in Fontana welcomed 46 migrants Thursday, all of whom were gone by Friday. But the U.S. Border Patrol announced Thursday it was suspending flights that sent migrants arrested in Texas to Southern California for processing, so the shelters may no longer be necessary, at least for now.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requested the help of the diocese and Catholic Charities and transferred the migrants from San Diego County to St. Joseph. On Monday, ICE declined to speculate on whether more migrants might be sheltered in the Inland Empire.
“We certainly are prepared to accept more,” said John Andrews, spokesman for the diocese, which includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
RELATED: Congress moving to resolve border crisis
Several parishes are ready to house migrants, he said.
One of the back-up sites, in case of an unexpectedly large influx of migrants, is St. Catherine of Alexandria Church in Riverside. Volunteers are waiting for the call to help, Deacon John DeGano said.
St. Catherine is one of a number of Inland parishes collecting food, toiletries, first-aid kits, diapers and other items for migrants.
The migrants who arrived Thursday in Fontana were given some of those donations, and a Catholic Charities caseworker made arrangements for family members across the country to meet them at their destinations, said Ken Sawa, CEO of Catholic Charities San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. The migrants were then accompanied to a Greyhound bus station before being sent to live with family.
For migrants who didn’t have the money for bus tickets, Catholic Charities covered the cost using private donations raised specifically to help the migrants, Sawa said.
All the migrants were women with children, he said.
Most of the migrants helped on Thursday were gone by the end of that day. Four families left on Friday, Andrews said
None of the families stayed in the Inland Empire. One was sent to San Francisco; the others traveled to states including New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Colorado, Andrews said.
Protesters picketed St. Joseph on Sunday, saying the Catholic Church should concentrate on helping U.S. citizens rather than foreign migrants. Some of those who protested Sunday have been involved in broader efforts to stop congressional proposals that would provide a path to citizenship for many people who have lived illegally in the United States for an extended period.
But Andrews said the assistance the church is providing should be separated from the political debate over immigration.
“We’re receiving these folks because it’s a crisis situation,” Andrews said. “They have very real human needs we need to attend to. We can get back to the public policy questions later.”
Contact the writer: 951-368-9462 or

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First Jesuit University in India

India's first Jesuit University to set up in Odisha, to start classes from 2015

Monday, 14 July 2014 - 5:33pm IST Updated: Tuesday, 1 July 2014 - 1:18pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA Webdesk

Jesuits, known as the schoolmasters of Europe are ready to make their university debut in India with St Xavier's University in Odisha.
The campus for the same will be ready for classes in December this year and the first batch will be admitted from the next academic year which is 2015-2016. The campus is located near the temple city of Puri, 60 km from Bhubaneshwar.
Jesuits are credited with introducing modern education in India during the 16th century. They manage several colleges but under government universities.
The Xavier University bill was passed in the Odisha assembly after a marathon debate on April 5. "This is the first time that a private university will have a reservation for Odisha students," said Higher Education minister of Odisha, Badri Narayan Patra.
"Odisha is a very important destination of higher education for students. This is an engagement and a commitment," said Fr Paul Fernandes, the brain behind the project. He added that the Jesuits plan to expand the university to other places as well.
The committee plans to introduce one or two programs in every phase beginning with the rural management program. The university will not be limited to teaching only business but will have science and humanities school as well. As for the resources, Fr Fernandes says,"We need resources and we seek support openly from alumni, friends, donors and anyone whoever wants to support our venture."
The vision of the Jesuits with regards to the university is very clear: establish the university, make it innovative and of greater quality.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

UCatholic Has Great Pope-World Cup Memes

Fun Popes and World Cup Memes from UCatholic.








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Friday, July 11, 2014

USCCB Spokesperson Sr. Mary Ann Walsh defends the immigrant children

Birmingham, Vietnam and Murrieta
By Sister Mary Ann Walsh

Sometimes a picture says it all. Consider the 1963 picture of fire hoses and snarling police dogs in Birmingham, Alabama, used against African-American students protesting racial segregation. Surely not our civil servants at their best.

Or the 1972 picture of the little girl in North Vietnam running terrified and naked with burning skin after South Vietnamese planes accidentally dropped napalm on Trang Bang, which had been occupied by North Vietnamese troops. The world then saw how war could hurt children.

Now, in 2014, we see citizens of Murrieta, California, turning back buses of women and children headed for a federal processing center, a day after Mayor Alan Long told them to let the government know they opposed its decision to move recent undocumented immigrants to the local Border Patrol station.

The first two images helped turn the tide when they awakened U.S. citizens to a shameful tragedy. We know the aftermath. The Congress 50 years ago passed Civil Rights legislation to guarantee basic human and equal rights for minorities that Civil Rights workers fought (and some died) for. We pulled out of Vietnam, a war we could not win.

We now await a moral conscience moment in the welcoming of children and others escaping the violence in such countries as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Parents and children from these countries have made the difficult decision to leave their homes and have endured dangerous journeys to cross the U.S.-Mexican border. They risk it because the possible horrors of the treacherous migration, such as trafficking, abuse and even death in the desert, still look better than the almost sure death by gang violence at home.

Some hopes exist already. Contrast the mob in Murrieta, with the people of Brownsville and McAllen, Texas. There Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley offers welcome centers at Sacred Heart Church in McAllen and Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Brownsville. The youngest guest: a one-day-old baby girl. The baby and others are being helped by a host of volunteers.

Heroes are emerging. First might be Sister Norma Pimentel, MJ (Missionaries of Jesus), executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. She is convening the local faith communities to address the problem and organizing the local populace to collect food, medicine, children’s sweaters and hoodies, men’s sneakers, and women’s socks and underwear. The city of McAllen is collaborating by providing portable shower facilities and tents for overnight stays.

Another is Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville. He gets the problem. On his social media blog, he notes: “What we are seeing unfold in front of our eyes is a humanitarian and refuge reality, not an immigration problem.” He adds that “the Church must respond in the best way we can to the human need” and says “at the same time we ask our government to act responsibly to address the reality of migrant refugees. A hemispheric response is needed, not a simple border response. And we ask the government to protect the church’s freedom to serve people.”

Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, spoke before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in late June. He called the number of children crossing the US-Mexico border “a test of the moral character” of our nation. “We must not fail this test,” he said.

Right now, the welcoming community of Brownsville and surrounding communities are acing the test. In Murrieta, the mayor and the citizens who drove back the buses need to study more. President Obama looks for ways to return the children to their perilous homeland. The U.S. Congress sits on its hands. To prepare for the test of moral character, protesters in Murrieta, the President and the Congress, might hit the books, especially the New Testament. A place to start is Matthew 25, where Jesus states: “Whatever you do for these, the least of my brethren, you do also for me.”


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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Jim Wallis Challenges us to Care for Children

The Moral Failure of Immigration Reform: Are We Really Afraid Of Children?

Did you see the pictures from Tuesday in Murrieta, California? Three buses were full of unaccompanied minors and mothers with children, all fleeing violence in Central America. According to American immigration officials, they were being taken by Homeland Security to a U.S. Border Patrol Station for processing and eventual deportation—after being flown to San Diego from Texas, where they had walked across the U.S. border seeking safety. The buses of children were blocked by adults yelling that they weren’t wanted here in the United States. Big angry white men, holding signs the children couldn’t read, with angry faces screaming at them in a language they didn’t understand—when they were already alone and away from their families and home—would certainly make children feel very afraid. Some of the kids were reportedly as young as six years old.

Two young girls on a bus. Image courtesy Blend Images/
Two young girls on a bus.    Image courtesy Blend Images/

The town mayor, Alan Long, said the children posed a threat to his community and that he was “proud” of the demonstrators. One hundred-and-fifty protesters waved American flags, chanted “USA! USA!” and shouted to the scared children, "Go home—we don't want you here." Totally blocked from reaching the processing center, the buses turned around and left for another Border Patrol Station, where some of the children were reportedly taken to a hospital for unspecified treatment.  
More than 52,000 unaccompanied children from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have walked across the U.S. border since last October—some, unfortunately, by way of human trafficking networks though Mexico. Thousands more have come with their parents. The surge has overwhelmed the system and become a very serious humanitarian crisis to which U.S. officials are scrambling to respond. But this is being politicized in Washington.
Incredibly, some Republicans have used this tragic situation as an excuse for why they scuttled immigration reform—when having a smart, fair, and humane immigration system in place would have helped avoid this crisis.
This horrible scene in California reminds me of an interaction during a talk I gave a few months ago on immigration.
It turned out to be the most important immigration talk I’ve given this year—and it was to my son’s fifth grade class. They were studying the subject and invited me to speak about it. First, we went through the long history of immigration in this country. All the children in my son’s class are part of our national history of people who chose to come to America (with the exception of those families forced by the chains of slavery). Next I told the students about our current problem of 11 million undocumented people living in uncertainty and fear for years and even decades, of families being separated, fathers and mothers from torn away from their children, and hardworking and law-abiding people being deported every day.
Looking very surprised, these students asked the obvious question, “Why don’t we fix that? Why doesn’t Congress change the system?”
I answered, “They say they’re afraid.”
The students looked even more confused and asked, “What are they afraid of?”
I paused to consider their honest question and looked around the room—the classroom of a public school fifth grade class in Washington D.C. I looked at their quizzical and concerned faces, a group of African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American, Native American, European, African children. Then it hit me.
“They are afraid of you,” I replied.
“Why would they be afraid of us?” the students asked, shocked. I had to tell them.
“They are afraid you are the future of America. They are afraid their country will someday look like this class—that you represent what our nation is becoming.”
This multiracial, multi-cultural, and multi-national group of 11-year-olds now looked more confused than ever.
“They are afraid this won’t work,” I said. “Does it work?”
The children looked at each other, then responded with many voices, saying, “Yeah…Sure…Of course it works…It works great…It’s really cool!”
Together we decided that our job was to show the rest of the country that this new America coming into being is, in fact, really cool.
Our long battle for comprehensive immigration reform was recently officially ended in Congress by Speaker John Boehner. The leader of the Republican House of Representatives told the President that he would not allow a vote for reform to be brought up—even though it is widely believed that a vote to fix this broken system would pass were it to come up in the House and the Senate.
Speaker Boehner and his Republican leaders themselves admit this is only about politics. Most Americans of every political stripe believe the current system is untenable and must be fixed. A large coalition from the faith community, the business community, and law enforcement officials says that reform makes common sense, is good for the economy, is good for national security and public safety, is good for keeping families together—in short, is a moral imperative. But that is being obstructed by a vocal group of white conservative lawmakers who are motivated by political and racial fear and hatred. Many conservative Republicans have more or less admitted that those feelings are very present in the constituencies they represent. And the Republican leadership is unwilling to stand up to their fear of a more diverse American future.
This is political obstruction of the common good, and it is a moral failure. This week, in a meeting with President Barack Obama, faith leaders asked the President to do everything he can, within his Constitutional authority, to “relieve the suffering” of all the families and children who will continue to be devastated. Let me say this very clearly: Those who have morally failed to fix this broken system must dare not now try to prevent executive orders to protect the people we love, who have become part of “us,” and whom Christ asks us to protect. If Republicans continue to ignore and cause the suffering of all “the strangers” among us, they will have to answer to the faith community.

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, The (Un)Common Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided, the updated and revised paperback version of On God’s Side, is available now. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

THE WEEK Cartoon Says it All

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Truth about INEQUALITY in the USA (from

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Saturday, July 05, 2014

Pope Francis not Marxist or Communist. Pope Francis is Catholic.

Pope Francis just expertly trolled his critics
When faced with a McCarthy-esque smear campaign, best to pull a communist switcheroo
Nothing diabolical going on here.
Nothing diabolical going on here. (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Since Pope Francis began speaking in public about the Christian view on economic matters, opponents have engaged in what often feels like a McCarthy-era smear campaign, accusing the Pope of things like Marxism, communism, and Leninism.
It was Rush Limbaugh on his radio show that first leveled charges of Marxism after the publication of Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium; he later doubled down on theaccusations:
Pope Francis called today for governments to redistribute wealth to the poor in a new spirit of generosity to help curb the economy of exclusion that is taking hold today…That's Marxism, that's socialism. That's not charity.
Following suit, an Economist blogger diagnosed Pope Francis' recognition of a link between capitalism and violence as Leninism. "Francis may not be offering all the right answers," the piece opines, dripping with patronizing conceit, "or getting the diagnosis exactly right, but he is asking the right questions. Like a little boy who observes the emperor's nakedness."
The pattern is always the same: dismiss Pope Francis, with the greatest respect for his office or the most genteel admiration of his character, by labeling his ministry more political than theological. And the motives attributed to Pope Francis are never neutral; rather, they're mere metonymy, short for larger arguments.
Identifying Pope Francis' theological analyses with the boogeymen political ideologies of yesteryear denies, however implicitly, that what he is doing is strictly Christian. This is accomplished by conflating what is religious with what is secular, and in part through selecting ideologies that have been defamed in American culture for their anti-Christian tendencies.
It will likely never matter to these critics that Pope Francis himself has emphatically denied any association with Marxism or Marxist ideology. And so in a recent interview, he took another tack: Rather than making another attempt to roundly decry a set of ideologies no one seriously suspects him of adhering to, Pope Francis turned the criticisms around on the critics:
"I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the center of the Gospel," he said, citing Biblical passages about the need to help the poor, the sick and the needy. "Communists say that all this is communism. Sure, twenty centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them: 'but then you are Christian'." [Pope Francis, via Reuters]
In other words, since his concern for the poor causes critics to accuse him of Marxism, Pope Francis reversed their accusations: rather than Christianity looking suspiciously communist over its concern for the poor, perhaps communism looks suspiciously Christian. After all, justice for the poor is hardly a communist invention; as Pope Francis points out, a focus on helping the poor was native to Christianity long before the 19th century.
But Pope Francis' reversal has another effect: namely, it calls into question why our political narratives immediately categorize any demand for justice for the poor as anti-Christian communism. In fact, it would seem rather impossible to practice any legitimate form of Christianitywithout seeking justice for the poor. If we immediately identify support for impoverished people as evidence of some anti-Christian impulse, then we've built up a political narrative that can't sustain the truth about Christianity.
For that reason, Pope Francis' refusal to capitulate to how political types would like to contain the radical power of Christianity is especially valuable, and especially irksome. For as long as he's unwilling to contain his Christianity to the realms it's politically welcome in — say, legislation related to sex and reproduction — it will be too vast and too revolutionary for his critics, who will fail to see it as Christian at all, and will continue bandying about accusations of communism, Marxism, and so forth.
But it's hard to imagine those kinds of attacks will ever do much to harm Pope Francis or his message, given that his refusal to pay heed to secular political categories offers a broader range of political thought than his critics' tribal views. Pope Francis puts Christian ethics first, rather than trying to see where Christian ethics will fit in a given political ideology. It's for this reason he can say that communism has stolen the flag of Christianity, and it's his fundamental grounding in faith that will ultimately make his message so powerful.