Amazing! Some people who've long enjoyed a lifestyle of old-money elegance are suddenly trying to downscale their lives and show a bit more of the common touch.
They're not corporate chieftains, but they do run multimillion-dollar operations and consider themselves role models for the masses. They are the Catholic bishops of the United States — and it's that role model thing that has them a bit flummoxed. Many are living in grand residences, with extensive staffs and personal servants, socializing with the political elites, moralizing from elevated pulpits, and, well, generally living in a lofty manner. This has left many of them aloof from the common folk, the very flock they supposedly tend.
For years, such privileges for the bishops were accepted as normal, even deserved. Then, last year, Francis happened.
Like a hurricane, a new pontiff — and a new ethic — hit the Catholic hierarchy. Pope Francis lives a spartan life and goes openly and gladly among the masses, while stressing simplicity and personal humility as the proper demeanor for the clergy. The church's moral emphasis, Francis says by word and deed, must be on service to the poor and disadvantaged, and the existence of economic inequality must be a top priority, addressed as a social evil.
So we now have the phenomenon of bishops scrambling to cut extravagances, allocating more resources to the down and out, focusing on economic justice, becoming more available to ordinary parishioners, and... well appearing more like Francis. Actually, though, they're not aligning their lifestyles and work with the pope — but with the life and teaching of Jesus, the founder of their church.
Wow, that's a most impressive conversion! So here's an idea: If Francis can have this effect on the elites of the church, what say we turn him loose on the hubris of Wall Street and the extravagances of the corporate elites?
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.