Pope Francis’s address to Congress will prove a concluding flourish to the descent of the Catholic Church into an accessory for modern man’s temptation toward totalitarianism.
We must struggle every day so that this love of humanity becomes a reality. — Che Guevara
I am writing this on the eve of Pope Francis’ address to the joint session of Congress. Permit me a confession of distaste for tomorrow’s extravaganza and disinterest in the details of a media-conscious homily to the nation.
In large measure, Thursday’s propaganda event will prove a concluding flourish to what this pope is on course to achieve: the descent of the Catholic Church into one more geopolitical “ism,” a pious-seeming companion to every other materialist -ism that tempts modern man away from freedom and toward submission to totalitarian order. Since ascending to the papacy, Francis’ actions have served a mongrel papo-caesarism that drains Christianity of its soul. Christian idiom degrades into the carrier of a secular agenda.
From Trust to Blindness
Ideolatry, the idolatry of fixed ideas, is as rampant in the Vatican as in any other directorate, and just as dangerous. Even more so. Because the pope commands deference from the world’s peoples, the present object of his worship—from climate-change dogma to the antagonisms peculiar to an anti-democratic Leftist elite—disfigures the faith of billions. It becomes a golden calf festooned with gospel quotes.
Christian idiom degrades into the carrier of a secular agenda.
Deference to a pope comes readily to Catholics. We are groomed for it. Within legitimate bounds, there is grace in that. But the boundaries are not totalizing. Outside of them, obeisance falls prey to forces that do not serve the church. Neither do they lend succor to a civilization painfully wrought from endemic tyrannies and universal poverty. Far, far from it.
There comes a moment when deference glides into collusion. At that point, we all become Good Germans. Fascist-friendly. Trust in respected authority curdles into a thing entirely different—a willed blindness to something dark in the particular voice commanding assent. Decent and dependable, we incline toward the beckoning circle of connivance.
Our own lifetime has not prepared Catholics for such a moment. But it is here now. We can adjust our sensibilities, our priorities, and our hopes to counter this juncture. Or we can surrender our children and grandchildren to a downward slide into a retrograde world order built on contempt for the bases of those very structures that have lifted a still-increasing portion of the earth’s population out of the misery that is history’s norm.
Pope Francis’s Malice
Something in me gave way at the sight of an exultant image of Che Guevara overseeing the altar in Plaza de la Revolución, the approved site of the recent papal Mass in Havana. A sadistic, murderous thug looked down on attendees in an obscene burlesque of Christ Pantocrator. Under the gaze of a butcher and amid symbols of the regime, Jorge Bergolio joined his fellow Argentine in service to the calamitous Cuban revolution. The entire spectacle played like a farcical inversion of John Paul II’s presence in Warsaw’s Victory Square, in 1979, and in stark contrast to the message he brought to Cuba in 1998.
What collapsed was any lingering sense of obligatory constraint. Gone is the time for courtesy extended to an occupant of the papacy despite his hubris and ruinous impulses. Out the window is dutiful tolerance for this man’s accusatory or incendiary language. Politesse has run its course. Historian Roberto de Mattei, writing on the wound to marriage delivered by Francis’ recent motu proprio (a personal mandate) ends his analysis with this: “Silence is no longer possible.”
You are likely thinking that silence is hardly what we have had. Gushing prattle has not stopped since Francis hopped a bus back from the conclave. De Mattei used the word silence to cover the servile readiness of clerics and the court press—the credulous, the timid, the self-serving—to spit-polish the veneer of goodwill that overlays the discernible hostilities driving this pontificate and its planetary ambitions.
Make no mistake—there is malice in this pope. It takes little sophistication to realize that the intentions by which people understand themselves to be motivated are often not the ones that really drive them to speak and act as they do. However incoherent Francis’ logic on issues from economics to munitions, his stridency makes clear his antipathy toward the developed world. In this, he is a commonplace Leftist ideologue intent on finding ever-new sources of incrimination in the works of the West.
‘Meglomania Without Borders’
Is there anything more Western than hatred of the West? A guilty son of the European stock that was once the pride and driving force of Buenos Aires, Francis resents the West’s affluence, scorns its freedom, curses it. He will scald it however he can. Pascal Bruckner has a clear eye for the vanity of Western self-hatred expressed in this pontificate:
Evil can come only from us; other people [i.e. the poor; the Third World] are motivated by sympathy, good will, candor. This is the paternalism of the guilty conscience: seeing ourselves as the kings of infamy is still a way of staying on the crest of history.
We do not need tomorrow’s evening news. There is more to be learned about Francis by reading Bruckner’s “The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism,” first published in France two decades ago:
Even natural catastrophes do not escape our delusions of grandeur: there are always many analysts who see in the slightest hurricane, flood, or earthquake the perfidious hand of Euro-America….By attributing all the misfortunes of the world to man, a certain kind of ecology shows an unbridled anthropocentrism that confirms our status as the master and destroyer of the planet.
Bruckner’s phrase “megalomania without borders” fits this pontificate’s colossal overestimation—disfigurement—of itself and its role in life of the faithful. Men are elected to the Chair of Peter to preside in fraternal charity within the church, not over it. Certainly not in contradiction to it. In that gracious Gregorian definition—Servus servorum Dei—a pope is the servant of the servants of God. He is a priest—not a Führer, not a Duce, not the Party Center, the Supreme Leader, or whatever inflated title gains currency in totalitarian utopias.
A true servant would not squander the Catholic Church’s moral authority with jeremiads on subjects of which he is ignorant. (“I am very allergic to economics.”) He would refuse to conspire in secret with an American president in endorsing the myth that the squalor of daily life in Cuba is a function of embargo rather than the policies of a brutal one-party dictatorship.
At no time would a wise servant deflect attention from an advancing, malignant enemy by calling the all the world to battle a mirage. He would know that genocide is the pathological aim of political climates, not natural phenomena. And he would never seek to undermine a sovereign nation’s right to determine its capacity to select and absorb immigrants.
Monday’s Catholic World Report stated the obvious: Francis will “likely clarify positions on economics and politics.” But of course. He will have been scrupulously coached, the script meticulously written and rewritten. Apologias, iridescent with reverence, will take refuge in the Gospels. All established spinners will spin themselves giddy to keep a shine on this cynical performance. Syrup will pour.
Yet not a single word spoken before Congress will annul Francis’ assent to celebrate Mass under a triumphal image of Che Guevara. Hasta la Victoria Siempre.