“Do not let us fall into temptation,” the man walking home from a day’s work as a street trader in Bujumbura would wonder what such words might mean. What temptations were there into which he might fall? The tiny amount of money he might have earned might buy a little food for his family, it might buy a handful of charcoal for the fire on which they would cook the cassava that formed their staple diet. There would not be sufficient cash to pay for the books the children needed for school; there would be no possibility of paying for medical treatment if anyone fell sick; they would need to fall back on church or NGO assistance for such things.
Of course, there were temptations into which people might fall, the temptations that went with the despair of daily life, alcoholism, gambling, violence. Generally, though, the poverty is so grinding and so oppressive that temptations are rarely things to be pondered.
It seems odd that a South American pope, with his awareness of the poverty endured by countless people, has not demonstrated a greater commitment to change, has not set his church on a path that would align it with the poor, that he has not sought a fundamental change in the way that the world is ordered. It seems odd that people like the street trader in Bujumbura have not played a more significant part in his thought.
Pope Francis’ proposed change to the Lord’s Prayer, his suggestion that the words “lead us not into temptation” be replaced with the phrase “do not let us fall into temptation,” seem to imply that the church has not succumbed to temptation, that it has not put its own interests before those of the poor.
Despite the humility of Pope Francis himself, the church he leads remains deeply compromised by its resolute retention of vast wealth and opulent buildings and by the persistent refusal of church authorities to divest themselves of the worldly power and affluence they have embraced over the centuries.
People falling into the most significant temptation are not those guilty of the various personal sins defined by the Roman Catholic Church, contraception, divorce, homosexuality, and the like, the people who have fallen into the greatest temptation are the bishops and cardinals who live lives of comfort and ease. The greatest temptation into which to fall is to look at the vast riches of the Vatican and to believe that this is acceptable.
“Do not let us fall into temptation.” Pope Francis, hasn’t the church irrevocably fallen?