Pope Francis and the [Spanish] 15M Movement

Because of the 10th anniversary of the 15M that started the movement of the outraged, today loaded with more reasons than 10 years ago, I have been asked to answer two questions: 1) Can Pope Francis be considered as one of the outraged?; 2) Does Francis’s synodality correspond to the time of the public squares of the 15M? I will answer these questions in three points.

1.- Pope Francis is with the outraged. Although the figure of a good-natured pope of advanced age, impreccably dressed in a white gown, presiding over solemn meetings in luxurious rennasaince rooms of the Vatican palace does not agree well with the looks of outraged youths camping out in public squares, I believe that Pope Francis is, indeed, with all outraged people of this world, from Madrid to Tinduff, from Palestine to Cali, just as the free and peace-loving Francis of Assisi would have been.

I image him looking over the long balcony of the Vatican and shouting to the world, softly but firmly, the main points of his Encyclicals (sentences between inverted commas and in italics are literal quotations): “Youths and adults of the world, rise against the economy that kills. ¡Damned be ‘the assassin greed of mining, oil, wood, livestock and hydroelectric enterprises that destroy and kill mercilessly’! Europe, look to Lampedusa and to Lesbos, to the islands and waters of the Mediterranean, full of dead people: ¡Vergogna, Shame on you!’. And listen, you all, to what Saint John Chrysostom taught in the IV century: ‘Not sharing with the poor our own goods is to rob them and take their lives from them. Those that we have are not our goods, but theirs’. Thus, ‘the right to private property can only be considered a secondary natural right derived from the principle of the universal destiny of all created goods, and this has very specific consequences that should be reflected in the functioning of society’. Therefore, ‘the right of some to freedom of enterprise or to market freedom cannot be above the rights of the peoples, the dignity of the poor, or the respect for the environment’. The eternal Spirit of life calls us to a ‘brave cultural revolution’. He who has ears to hear let him hear.

And you, Church who calls yourself ‘of Jesus’, quit behaving like a ‘customs office’ and become an ‘aid station for the wounded’. Forget your ‘tomb psychology’. ‘Get out’ of yourself, of your closed temples, of your repeating the same doctrines. Free the spirit from the prison of the letter and of the past and of power. Get out. May justice and peace embrace each other on Earth and may we all live and may we all be brothers and sisters”.

Due to his figure and to the media echo of his message, Pope Francis is –I happily recognize it– one of the great prophetic voices of today’s world, fully tuned in with the “plea against indiference and in favour of peaceful insurrection” of Stéphane Hessel, inspirator of the 15M: ¡Time for Outrage!

All that in the first place. But… to this first point, let me add two critiques, likewise necessary.

2.- Cannon Law and the Pope’s Catechism crash against the outraged. Not everything in Pope Francis is in agreement with the outraged, not even close, and this must also be said loud and clear. Not only because, in spite of his message and personal unsophisticated attitude, he inhabits luxury palaces surrounded with pomp and domestic staff, or because he represents a religion and a Church which, like the Vatican palaces, has betrayed the liberation for the poor that Jesus announced and practiced, a Church that in the history of the western world has been the most faithful ally –with honorable personal and institutional exceptions– of power and the major obstacle to insurrection in favour of justice and equality… not only because during his eight-year pontificate he has not modified a single letter of the Cannon Law or a comma of the Catechism with its most traditional and immobilist doctrine and theology, enemy of social insurrections and of new interpretations… not only because of all that, but also because this pope, in the name of an imagined “God” as a supreme personal Being, seriously offends millions of Christian lesbians, gays, transexuals, bisexuals, intersexuals, queers, denying them the Church’s recognition and blessing, and does not at all accept that divorced and remarried people may take Communion at Jesus’ table, and continues humiliating the feminine half of the Catholic Church, denying to them their full ecclesial status.

It is just the opposite that the outraged have shouted and demanded in public squares. And talking about squares…

3.- Pope Francis’s synodality contradicts the spirit of public squares. According to its etymology, synod means “to walk together”, but in the Catholic Church it specifically designates the council of hundreds of bishops in Rome, presided over by the all-powerful Supreme Pontiff who represents “the divine Christ” in the world. A synod is a meeting in which bishops –all named by the Pope– are practically the only ones who can speak. And they are the only ones that can vote. It is hierarchical and pyramidal clericalism at its purest version. Pope Francis has criticized it but has not corrected it. In his eight-year pontificate he has called four synods, of which three have been celebrated. Which ones were the advancedments realized? In one word: None. A “none” adorned with a lot of rhetoric. Eight years are too many not to have made a single and irreversible step forward. He does not have another eight years left. And it is not an excuse to say that the pope is willing but he cannot do it because of a possible schism. Inaction and immobility are causing the worst schism: the increasing abandonment of the best people and generalized vacuum.

In conclusion, I think, and it hurts to admit it, that pope Francis’s supposedly strengthened synodality has very little in common with the spirit and practice of the public squares of the 15M. Any person who wanted to participate and to speak in those public squares could do so, and everybody voted. Many practical decisions were adopted in those public squares to realize a democratic and feminist ecosocialism. That the synods of the squares of the 15M have failed? I do not know. It depends on what we understand by failure and if we consider that Jesus’s movement was also a failure. In any case, if the 15M failed we should also ask ourselves about what part of that failure corresponds to the Catholic institution headed by Pope Francis. And I blame not this pope for it, but the papacy and the entire system. A church which is no longer credible and no longer inspires and promotes movements like the 15M is a failure, it betrays Jesus and its Good News, the hope for which he risked his life and lost it. No, he gained it.

Aizarna, May 12, 2021

Translated by Mertxe de Renobales Scheifler