The Norman Transcript

Columns

January 6, 2014

Pope continues to afflict comfortable

NORMAN — For all his humble charm, Pope Francis has been getting under the thin skin of some rich members of his flock.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald remarked, the rich are different from you and me. They expect deference and coddling, especially for their charitable deeds, and when they don’t get it, they take their riches and go home. At least that’s the message one GOP high roller has sent to the American hierarchy.

Kenneth Langone, the billionaire cofounder of Home Depot and a major Republican backer, has insinuated that Francis should lighten up on his critiques of the corrupting influence of wealth, the problems of inequality and trickle-down economic theories that too often do little to aid the poor.

The reason: Pope Francis is scaring away the big donors. He’s offending the deep pockets that keep the facades of the faith gilded.

Somehow, it’s doubtful that this pope, who has shunned so many of the ornate trappings of the Vatican, is shocked by the continuing backlash to his apostolic exhortation published in late November that contained sharp observations about capitalism, wealth and inequality. And it’s unlikely this will be the last we’ll hear of how the pope’s missives are unnerving people who have become used to the protective screen of entitlement their wealth affords.

Langone is leading the drive to raise $180 million for the renovation of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. He told CNBC that he warned Cardinal Timothy Dolan that a deep-pocketed philanthropist is hesitant to make a seven-figure donation because he’s offended by the Holy Father’s views. You can’t get any more petulant, or, shall we say “holier than thou,” than that.

“I’ve told the cardinal, ‘Your Eminence, this is one more hurdle I hope we don’t have to deal with. You want to be careful about generalities. Rich people in one country don’t act the same as rich people in another country,’” Langone said he explained to Dolan.

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