The Devil’s Double-cross, For and Against Pope Francis
A UN report humiliates the Church while exalting the current pontiff. Who is not reacting and is even remaining silent after Belgium has legalized the euthanasia of children. The risks of the strategy of silence adopted by Bergoglio
by Sandro Magister
ROME, February 21, 2014 – Almost one year after his election as pope, the popularity of Francis continues its triumphal march. But he himself is the first not to want to entrust himself to the applause that is coming to him from even the most unexpected and far-flung venues.
For example, the cover dedicated to him by the magazine “Rolling Stone,” a full-fledged coronation in the temple of pop culture.
Or the commendation that by the report of the UN committee on the rights of the child has bestowed on the famous “Who am I to judge?” spoken by Pope Francis, the only one spared in a Catholic Church against which the worst of the worst is said in the same report.
In his first morning homilies as pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio often referred to the devil. And even this manner of speaking was appreciated, was found endearing.
But one morning, on November 18, instead of the devil he took aim at the “single form of thinking that is the fruit of worldliness,” that wants to subject everything to “hegemonic uniformity.” A single form of thought, he continued, that already dominates the world and even legalizes “the death penalty,” even “human sacrifices” complete with “laws that protect them.” And he cited one of his favorite novels, the apocalyptic “Lord of the World” by Robert H. Benson.
When early this February he leafed through the sixteen pages of the UN report, which peremptorily enjoin upon the Catholic Church that it “correct” its teaching on abortion, on the family, on sex, Francis must have become even more convinced that events were proving him right, that the prince of this world was really at work and by heaping praise on his vaunted “openness” wanted to associate even him, the pope, with the enterprise of making the Church conform to the hegemonic school of thought, in order to annihilate it.
It is not easy to enter into the mind of pope Bergoglio. His words are like the tiles of a mosaic whose design is not immediately apparent. He also makes tough and biting remarks, but never at a moment in which they could generate conflict.
If he had pronounced that tremendous homily of his against the single form of thought that intends to hegemonize the world the day after the publication of the UN report and explicitly in response to it, the event would have entered into the “breaking news” of global information. But it was not to be. Delivered on an arbitrary day, that same homily did not cause the slightest chagrin. It was ignored.
And yet it is precisely there that the concealed thought of the Jesuit pope is to be found, his judgment on the present era of the world.
“The view of the Church is known, and I am a son of the Church,” Francis says and says again. His thought is the same as that which is written in the catechism. And sometimes he recalls this combatively for those who expect him to change doctrine, as in the least-cited passage of his “Evangelii Gaudium,” where he has the harshest of words against the “right” to abortion.
But he never proclaims Church teaching out loud at a moment when the dispute over an issue has become heated.
He has kept quiet now that the euthanasia of children has been permitted by law in Belgium. He keeps himself apart from the millions of citizens of every faith who in France and in other countries are opposing the dissolution of the idea of the family made up of father, mother, and children. He has remained silent after the unprecedented affront of the UN report.
With this he intends to blunt the weapons of the adversary. To defeat him with the immense popularity of his figure as pastor of the mercy of God.
There is a Jacobin-style attack against the Church, not only in France, that simply wants to exclude it from civil discourse.
But there is also a more subtle attack that cloaks itself as a consensus for a Church refurbished and new, up to date, in step with the times. There is also this in the popularity of Francis, a pope “like never before,” finally “one of us,” molded through a copy-and-paste of his open, adaptable statements.
This worldly cunning could not have been used against his predecessor, Benedict XVI. He, the meek one, preferred conflict in the open field, with the courage of the yes that means yes and the no that means no, “in season and out of season,” as in Regensburg, when he lifted the curtain on the theological roots of the connection between faith and violence in Islam, and yet again on the “non-negotiable” questions. This is why the world was so ferocious with him.
With Francis it is different. A new match. But not even he knows how the game will unfold, now that he is getting tougher.
This commentary was published in “L’Espresso” no. 8 of 2014, on newsstands as of February 21, on the opinion page entitled “Settimo cielo” entrusted to Sandro Magister.
Here is the index of all the previous commentaries:
This commentary was printed early in the morning of Thursday, February 20.
Shortly afterward, that same day, Pope Francis opened the consistory with a few words for the cardinals that Fr. Lombardi called “carefully thought out,” on the issue of the family. Saying:
“During these days, we will reflect in particular on the family, which is the fundamental cell of society. From the beginning the Creator blessed man and woman so that they might be fruitful and multiply, and so the family then is an image of the Triune God in the world.
“Our reflections must keep before us the beauty of the family and marriage, the greatness of this human reality which is so simple and yet so rich, consisting of joys and hopes, of struggles and sufferings, as is the whole of life. We will seek to deepen the theology of the family and discern the pastoral practices which our present situation requires. May we do so thoughtfully and without falling into “casuistry”, because this would inevitably diminish the quality of our work. Today, the family is looked down upon and mistreated. We are called to acknowledge how beautiful, true and good it is to start a family, to be a family today; and how indispensable the family is for the life of the world and for the future of humanity. We are called to make known God’s magnificent plan for the family and to help spouses joyfully experience this plan in their lives, as we accompany them amidst so many difficulties with a pastoral care that is sound, courageous and full of love.”
The November 18, 2013 homily of Pope Francis at Santa Marta, in the summary from “L’Osservatore Romano”:
The report released at the end of January 2014 by the United Nations committee on the rights of the child, which after expressing its appreciation for “the progressive statement delivered in July 2013 by Pope Francis” demands the Catholic Church “correct” its teaching on abortion, on the family, on sex:
This committee is headed by the Norwegian Kirsten Sandberg. Its four vice-presidents come from Saudi Arabia, Bahrein, Ethiopia, and Sri Lanka, countries not outstanding in their respect for human rights.
In issuing judgments on sexual abuse committed against girls and boys, the UN is among the most discredited institutions, seeing the endless string of unpunished rapes committed by ‘blue helmets’ operating in various countries of the world.
Other details from the report:
> Anteprima del Sinodo. Il contributo dell’ONU sulla famiglia
The analysis of James D. Conley, bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, on the reason why pop culture is making Pope Francis its hero:
Conley’s analysis appeared on February 3, 2014 in “First Things,” a magazine of Catholic “conservatives open to the world,” a description also applied to the driving force of the episcopate of the United States.
Bishop Conley – a former auxiliary in Denver of the current archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput – is an active part of this group.
He writes among other things:
“Sexual and social libertines have little interest in discrediting Christianity. They’re far more interested in refashioning it—in claiming Christ, and his vicar, as their supporters. The secularist social agenda is more palatable to impressionable young people if it complements, rather than competes with, the residual Christianity of their families. The enemy has no interest in eradicating Christianity if he can sublimate it to his own purposes. The greatest trick of the devil isn’t convincing the world he doesn’t exist—it’s convincing the world that Jesus Christ is the champion of his causes.”
“I’m sometimes asked whether Pope Francis knows that he’s subject to media misinterpretation. I would suspect he is keenly aware of the choices he’s making, and the risks they pose.”
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.