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OPINION - Picking the wrong man

by Chris Conley

Tonight's blog comes from onboard eastbound #48 - The Lake Shore Limited. I'm snugged into my roomette for the night, headed to New York for a few days of vacation to celebrate my dad's 70th birthday.

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  My love of Pope Francis is undiminished, even though I disagree with his critique of capitalism. I expect the Holy Father to be a champion for the poor. Christ's most explicit instructions for were about helping the downtrodden, and the Church is truest to Her calling when She reaches out to those in need.

This Pope, age 77, knows there is no time to waste. He is not changing church doctrine about abortion, homosexuality, the role of women in the clergy, or married priests. But he wisely acknowledges two things: first, if those things dominate all conversations about the Catholic church, it crowds out other things like ministry, witness, and compassion. The Holy See can't be just about finger-wagging. And second, behind each of those issues and controversies are real people -- some who've made life choices and others who have mere disagreements -- and they all need faith. I believe Pope  Francis' most powerful message is that nothing stand between those who seek God and the Almighty Himself. The mystery of grace is all-encompassing.

Still it is capitalism that has lifted more poor people out of poverty than any other economic system. I almost wonder would the Pope be so bold as to turn Rome's incredible wealth towards capitalistic goals. How about a micro-lending program for peasant farmers? Or funding worker-owned factories in low-wage nations? The Church is already involved in media, real estate speculation, and international politics. Why not finance for the poor?

And despite my admiration for Francis, Time Magazine picked the wrong man.

It is NSA leaker Edward Snowden who did the most to shape 2013. I believe the newly defined boundaries of privacy and government monitoring of our day to day lives is the issue of our times. The Fourth Amendment is battered against the technology of today. No one ever envisioned a time when almost every communication could be logged, stored, and then retrieved if the government wants to know more about us. And if you believe, as I do, that being secure in "our papers" includes our emails and cellphone records, than our rights are being worn thin. 

It was Edward Snowden's leak that sparked this very necessary debate. He gave up a good job, a comfortable life, and his citizenship to expose a massive government overreach. Not everyone agrees, but I think of him as a patriot in exile. I also think of him as Person of the Year.

Chris Conley

Image: Pope Francis (Reuters)