By Darryl Lorenzo Wellington

Pope Francis has done us all a favor, whether we're Catholic or not.

In this Christmas season, he has shown the way to a more humane society.

He has certainly earned Time magazine's Person of the Year commendation.

In his first papal exhortation, he put most leaders in the Western world to shame with his heartfelt message lamenting international hunger and inequality.

"While the earnings of the minority are growing exponentially," lamented the pope, "so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few."

He pointed his finger directly at the free market idolatry that is so prevalent in some Western circles.

"The imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation," he said. "The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything that stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market."

It was almost as though he were speaking directly to the Republican Party when he said it is wrong and unChristian to "continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice."

He also decried the callousness that has accompanied such theories.

"A globalization of indifference has developed," he said. "Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us."

Not surprisingly, Rush Limbaugh carped that Pope Francis was advocating "pure Marxism."

Asked about this criticism a few days later, the pope gave a stunning response.

"Marxist ideology is wrong," he said. "But in my life I have known many Marxists who are good people, so I don't feel offended."

In reality, Pope Francis was echoing not the German philosopher but Christ himself.

And by being generous to those the church has often demonized, the pope has demonstrated the depths of Christian generosity.

In a remarkable display of compassion toward homosexuals, he said in July: "Who am I to judge them if they're seeking the Lord in good faith?"

Far from clinging to the rigid and the doctrinaire, Pope Francis has returned to the compassionate Christ.

And in this season of giving, his words instruct us not only to provide for the poor but also to build a just economy.

Thank you, Pope Francis, for reminding us of the true spirit of Christmas.

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington is a poet living in Santa Fe, N.M. He can be reached at

Copyright Darryl Lorenzo Wellington.

Photo: Flickr user thierry ehrmann, creative commons licensed.


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The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

The reach of this story extends from the lowliest working stiff to the highest court in the land.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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