If anyone wonders whether Pope Francis has irritated wealthy
conservatives with his courage and idealism, the latest outburst from
Kenneth Langone left little doubt. Sounding both aggressive and whiny,
the billionaire investor warned that he and his overprivileged friends
might withhold their millions from church and charity unless the pontiff
stops preaching against the excesses and cruelty of unleashed
According to Langone, such criticism from the Holy See
could ultimately hurt the sensitive feelings of the rich so badly that
they become “incapable of feeling compassion for the poor.” He also said
rich donors are already losing their enthusiasm for the restoration of
St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan — a very specific threat that he
mentioned directly to Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.
is not only a leading fundraiser for church projects but a generous
donor to hospitals, universities and cancer charities (often for
programs and buildings named after him, in the style of today’s
self-promoting philanthropists). Among the super-rich, he has many
friends and associates who may share his excitable temperament.
his ultimatum seems senseless — would a person of true faith stiff the
church and the poor? — it may well be sincere. And Langone spends freely
to promote his political and economic views, in the company of the Koch
brothers and other Republican plutocrats.
Still, a pope brave
enough to face down the mafia over his financial reform of the murky
Vatican Bank shouldn’t be much fazed by the likes of Langone.
Langone has reason to worry that the Holy Father is in fact asking hard
questions about people like him. Indeed, he could serve as a living
symbol of the gross and growing economic inequality that disfigures the
American system and threatens democracy.
As a leader of the New
York Stock Exchange, he was largely responsible for the scandalous
overpayment of his friend Richard Grasso, the exchange president who
received nearly $190 million in deferred compensation when he stepped
down. Although New York’s highest court eventually upheld Grasso’s pay
package, it was a perfect example of the unaccountable, self-serving
greed of Wall Street’s elite. - Salon
Oh what a clear demonstration of how the wealthy will only support that which supports them. So long as the church does not question or talk about their practices (any more than the expected mentioning of the injustices of the world in a very general sense every now and then) then they will happily donate tons of money to church-oriented causes and projects. Now that the church has started to openly question the practices of the filthy rich they are threatening to stop their financial support. Aside from this showing just how selfish the supremely rich are, it is also an indicator of how deeply their faith runs. No man who abandons his religion over something as petty as money can claim to have been religious in the first place.
The more and more this new pope does all these unexpected and pleasantly surprising things the more I am hopeful that maybe some positive change can come from this. I use the term "hope" loosely, but it suit my purpose for the moment.
Those who are wealthy are generally quite attached to that wealth - their allegiance to all else turning out to be rather fickle in comparison to their allegiance to their money. What makes the whole thing quite scary is that their money gives them the means with which to hold on to their money a whole lot longer than anyone in any other situation would be able to. Most of us cannot comprehend what it is like to control a multi billion dollar corporation - all we have are scenes from movies idolizing what it is like to be rich and famous.
What will come of all this? I don't know. We shall see. What I do know for now is that more and more people are questioning the way we live and the things we accept. It would be great if we could develop some democratically-reached decisions (and then actually implement them) that serve as good solutions that benefit the most people (as possible). But.... considering our history and our commonly accepted "nature", this seems unlikely.
Obviously pessimism does not help, though we cannot be overly optimistic either. Making real changes require serious adjustments from all of us - we cannot just sit back and let the radicals fight it out - we must all actively participate in shaping the world as we would like it to be. This will also require that we let go of the past in terms of everything we believe about our own and other people's nature, as well as the grievances we hold against each other. These will likely be equal to economic changes in terms of difficulty - but they must be done if we wish to live in peace and harmony.