What are we to make of our remarkable new Pope? He has thrilled liberals by down-playing sexual issues and focusing instead on the plight of the poor. Of course, this has triggered waves of fuming dissent from the reactionaries who pose as "conservatives" in our culture (further delighting the liberals.)
However, I suspect the Pope cares little for our political labels. After all, we tend to think of liberals as being those who have enlightened views about race, gender and sexual issues - economic issues and the huge disparities in our culture are little more than an after thought for most. The global liberal elites are card carrying members of the meritocracy (AKA creative class) that is reaping the material rewards of our technological advances.
Let's face it... we still live in the age of Reagan, the market is considered holy by both liberals and "conservatives" alike.
...what the pope said was actually more challenging than that. He was taking on the complacency of our creeping and sometimes creepy libertarianism. He was attacking the free market less as an economic mechanism than as a way of thinking that leads to the conclusion the market logic of contract and consent can and should inform all of our lives. His shot was fired at our whole "cognitive elite," from Wall Street to Silicon Valley to our foundations to our institutions of higher education to our gated communities found in our richest zip codes to our condescending bureaucrats to our sophisticated self-help experts.
...The pope opposes "a globalization of indifference." That means that indifference is not a particularly American problem, because the lifestyle based on "the selfish ideal" that emerges from being "deaden[ed]" by "the culture of prosperity" is found in an elite that's been globalized or disconnected from responsibility to a particular place, country, or faith.
...Globalized, elitist indifference is one piece of evidence among many that economic growth and technological progress, by themselves, don't inevitably lead to more justice and more inclusiveness. The complacent libertarian Tyler Cowen, for example, has explained that throughout the world societies are dividing into two classes. First, there is the relatively few members of our hyper-competent and hyper-productive cognitive elite--those who display comfortable mastery of genius machines. And then there are the many who are, at best, marginally and live increasingly diverted from their plight by the entertainments provided on screens and perhaps by legalized soft drugs.
...So - from the point of view of Christian love--what else is Pope Francis supposed to do but remind us, that despite or because all the freedom and prosperity we enjoy, we live in an emotionally stunted time?
It goes without saying that Pope Francis was talking up loving, personal responsibility as the foundation for a common good that, in justice, sometimes trumps individual freedom and maximum conceivable prosperity.