Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
They Said It:
The contention, then, that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error. True, if a family finds itself in exceeding distress, utterly deprived of the counsel of friends, and without any prospect of extricating itself, it is right that extreme necessity be met by public aid, since each family is a part of the commonwealth. In like manner, if within the precincts of the household there occur grave disturbance of mutual rights, public authority should intervene to force each party to yield to the other its proper due; for this is not to deprive citizens of their rights, but justly and properly to safeguard and strengthen them. But the rulers of the commonwealth must go no further; here, nature bids them stop. Paternal authority can be neither abolished nor absorbed by the State; for it has the same source as human life itself. “The child belongs to the father,” and is, as it were, the continuation of the father’s personality; and speaking strictly, the child takes its place in civil society, not of its own right, but in its quality as member of the family in which it is born. And for the very reason that “the child belongs to the father” it is, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, “before it attains the use of free will, under the power and the charge of its parents.” The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice, and destroy the structure of the home. And in addition to injustice, it is only too evident what an upset and disturbance there would be in all classes, and to how intolerable and hateful a slavery citizens would be subjected. The door would be thrown open to envy, to mutual invective, and to discord; the sources of wealth themselves would run dry, for no one would have any interest in exerting his talents or his industry; and that ideal equality about which they entertain pleasant dreams would be in reality the leveling down of all to a like condition of misery and degradation. Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property. . . .
Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, 1891.
A POPE WHO WILL FIGHT OUR BATTLES?
Of all the commentary we’ve read this week on the new Pope, Francis I, perhaps the most recurrent – and tiresome and useless – theme is that centering on his dedication to the poor. Francis is a Jesuit, the collective commentariat has shrieked, and that means he wants to help the poor! And the disadvantaged. He lives in an apartment! He shuns pomp! What a guy! What a change! What a world! Typical of this genre of commentary was an article penned for Salon by a woman called Mary Elizabeth Williams, who fashions herself a real Catholic, unlike, say, Paul Ryan, who thinks that protecting unborn babies is more important than trafficking in liberal jingoism. To wit:
Bergoglio is, significantly, the first Jesuit pope. And Jesuits, as everybody knows, are among the coolest of all the Catholic religious orders.
One of the primary foundations of the Jesuits is to serve “the poor and vulnerable” and seek “justice wherever injustice exists.” And as John Baldoni wrote in Forbes on Wednesday, the Jesuits have long been the guys who “educated people, took care of the sick, managed businesses, and performed a myriad of other tasks.” Jesuits get stuff done . . . .
The newly poped Francis I chose his papal name from St. Francis of Assisi – a move that CNN Vatican analyst John Allen notes represents “poverty, humility, simplicity.” And Bergoglio has already spent a lifetime walking the walk on that front. He blew off living in the archbishop’s palace, preferring instead a simple downtown Buenos Aires apartment, cooking his own meals and riding public transportation. In 2009, he criticized his government’s “immoral, illegitimate and unjust” economic system, saying, “Rather than preventing that, it seems they have opted for making inequalities even greater. Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities.” Chew on that, my fellow Catholic Paul Ryan . . . .
What Francis I does with the rest of his life is yet to be written. But at an unprecedented moment in human history, it’s possible the college of cardinals have just given us a pontiff unlike any other – a pope of the 99 percent.
It is, as you can well imagine, nigh on impossible for us to wrap our heads around the sheer enormity of stupid contained in these few sentences. Good Lord. Someone pays this person for this kind of drivel. And she’s hardly alone! As we said, this is merely “typical” of the genre.
Now, we hate to break it to Ms. Williams and to the greater preponderance of her colleagues in the press, but Pope Benedict XVI was also concerned about the poor. And so was Pope John Paul II. And John Paul I. And Paul VI. And John XXIII. And so on. Indeed, with a handful of exceptions – your Borgias and Medicis, for example – EVERY pope in the history of the Church has been concerned with the poor. That’s one of the principal temporal functions of the Church, to minister to the spiritual AND the material poverty of the people. Anyone who doesn’t know this or pretends otherwise is willfully ignorant. And there’s really no other way to put it. Yes, some popes have performed this mission better than others, and some have focused their pontificate on other matters that they deemed more pressing. But such is the nature of an institution – ANY institution, even a divine one – that is led by human beings, frail, weak, and confused as we often are.
What is interesting about the mainstream commentary and about the mainstream supposition that Pope Francis will somehow be more dedicated to the poor than were his predecessors is that it appears to be based largely on his personal predilection for simplicity and, more to the point, on the fact that he is a Jesuit. As Ms. Williams says, “Jesuits, as everybody knows, are among the coolest of all the Catholic religious orders.” The strange thing is that none of the things that make the Jesuits appear cool to the progressive-mainstream order necessarily apply to the new Pope. He is, in many ways, an atypical Jesuit.
To be fair, when we say that Pope Francis is atypical, that is not to say that he is “unique” or “matchless.” There are countless Jesuits just like him, who share his intellectual, philosophical, and religious sentiments. They too are generally atypical in that their beliefs reflect more the mainstream of the Church magisterium than the mainstream – or what is presumed to be the mainstream – of their order.
As a general rule, the Jesuits are presumed to lean rather pronouncedly to the political Left. They are and have long been thought of as the “intellectuals” among the predominant orders. In the first twenty years of the order’s existence, its missionary clergy founded some 70-plus colleges throughout the world. And as Abby Olheiser put it in a primer on the new Pope for Slate, “they’re now best known as the administrators of several universities (Georgetown is probably the most famous one in the United States) . . . . Jesuits have a reputation for being more progressive than the Church’s other clergy.”
This “progressive” reputation derives mostly from the Jesuits’ work in Latin America in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, and especially in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. Under the leadership of the Superior General Pedro Arrupe, the Jesuits took the spirit of reform and emancipation fostered by Vatican II and altered their mission, making the poor the principal focus of their work. During this period, the Jesuits, more than any other order, became associated with the movement known as “liberation theology.”
To hear the mainstream media tell the story, “liberation theology” is really no big deal. It is merely the willingness of religious men and women to focus on the poor and to work for their “liberation” from the circumstances of their poverty. The aforementioned Abby Olheiser, for example, declares that “Christians adhering to a liberation theology should orient themselves toward action against oppression. More symbolically, liberation theology argues that God identifies with the oppressed, and that Christianity should take upon itself the lens of the poor.” How quaint. At the Daily Beast (formerly Newsweek), Caroline Linton writes that “liberation theology … is focused on the liberation of oppressed people . . . particularly of the poor from their rich oppressors.” Again, that’s sweet.
Of course, it’s also complete garbage.
Liberation theology is a pernicious and corrupt reading of Christian doctrine. It is also very much part and parcel of the pernicious and corrupt schools of intellectual thought that reached their zenith during the same general period of time. Liberation theology is not merely a philosophy geared toward helping the poor. It is an entire, self-contained world-view, an epistemological schema that not only undermines and seeks to supersede orthodox Christianity but orthodox metaphysics more broadly as well.
The history of the Jesuit involvement with liberation theology is very much the history of Western intellectualism over the last century or more. In our estimation, the election of a Pope who hails from this tradition, but who overtly rejected it, signals something important about the Church, about its plans for the future, and about the role that it intends to play in the global order. And it goes without saying, we think, that this “something important” has been missed entirely by the mainstream analysis of Pope Francis, in part because of its willful distortion of liberation theology and in part because of its ignorance of the eternal and universal mission of the Church.
The first thing to understand about liberation theology is that it is absolutely and unquestioningly Marxist in application. Again, the mainstream analysts would rather pretend that this is not the case, couching the Marxist connection in subtler terms. Abby Olheiser writes that liberation theology is “often derided as ‘Marxist’ by conservatives.” Nonsense. Liberation theology is openly celebrated as Marxist by its adherents. Father Arrupe put it this way in a letter to the Jesuit superiors in Latin America, even after his order had been roundly criticized for its embrace of Marxism:
First, it seems to me that in our analysis of society we can accept a certain number of methodological viewpoints which to a greater or lesser extent arise from Marxist analysis, as long as we do not attribute an exclusive character to them.
For instance, an attention to economic factors, to property structures, to economic interests which motivate this or that group; or again, a sensitivity to the exploitation that victimizes entire classes, attention to the role of class struggle in history (at least of many societies), attention to ideologies which can camouflage vested interests and even injustice.
The other thing to know about liberation theology is that “Marxist” is, frankly, the least of the criticisms one can make of it. Like the other neo-Marxists of the era, the liberation theologists were part of a much broader and much more insidious intellectual movement.
The foundations of liberation theology can, ironically, be found in the work of a Lutheran named Rudolf Bultmann, an early twentieth century theologian who radically changed the way in which “intellectuals” viewed the Bible. He is considered one of the fathers of “modern” biblical scholarship, though in truth he is the father of post-modern biblical scholarship.
Butlmann was a very good friend and an intellectual disciple of Martin Heidegger, the Nazi apologist who was also one of the most influential post-modernists of the first half of the last century. Like Heidegger, Bultmann believed that texts could and should be interpreted to discover their deeper and more relevant meanings. And with Heidegger’s encouragement, Bultmann applied this belief about textual interpretation to the Bible, thereby unlocking the “hidden” multiple realities contained in scripture.
Given this, we think a brief review of postmodernism, Heidegger, and textual interpretation might be warranted. The following is from our June 19, 2012 newsletter, from a piece titled “The Postmodern Left and Interpreting ‘Cool.’”
Put simply, “postmodernism” is an anti-Enlightenment philosophical tradition. It explicitly rejects the foundations of the Enlightenment, and of modernism itself, which is to say that it rejects reason as the source of knowledge and rejects the individual as the repository of this knowledge.
As such, postmodernism rejects objective reality, preferring to define reality as nothing more than the amalgamation of language and power. It also broadly espouses a view of the individual as a derivative of the collective, the “group,” and of the collective’s social and linguistic attributes. Stephen Hicks put it this way in his classic Explaining Postmodernism:
Metaphysically, postmodernism is antirealist, holding that it is impossible to speak meaningfully about an independently existing reality. Postmodernism substitutes instead a social-linguistic, constructionist account of reality. Epistemologically, having rejected the notion of an independently existing reality, postmodernism denies that reason or any other method is a means of acquiring objective knowledge of that reality. Having substituted social-linguistic constructs for that reality, postmodernism emphasizes the subjectivity, conventionality, and incommensurability of those constructions.
Hicks notes that what this means in practice is that the postmodern Left views reality as a construct of language and views language “primarily as a weapon” in the accumulation of power. Which is to say that language and its deconstruction are the keys to understanding the postmodern Left’s political strategies and machinations . . . .
An oft overlooked but critical component of the postmodern enterprise is the interpretation of texts, the “hermeneutic” examination of language to decipher the deeper, post-superficial, post-rational meaning. Martin Heidegger…was the critical figure in the development of the “hermeneutic circle,” which is the analytic process by which postmodernists create and come to “understand” the “multiple realities” contained in any given text.
In the case of Heidegger…[textual] interpretation takes on new significance and new purpose, that being to “clarify” the meaning of texts and therefore to understand the “concealed” message within the text and its subtext. Let us be clear: the interpreter here is not looking for hidden messages related to known historical events or historical occurrences, but for hidden meanings based on socio-linguistic usage and on the conscious and unconscious effects of that usage.
The philosopher Paul Diesing writes…:
Hermeneutics depends essentially on communication, verbal and nonverbal, made possible by a shared language, shared tradition, shared cultural; practices, and translation. Our foreknowledge and preunderstanding which we bring to the text or practice, our empathy, also comes from shared traditions and practices, not from personal intuition. Thus the distinction between a private self and an external world is completely foreign to hermeneutics. What all of this means, then, is that postmodern hermeneutics is an analytic ritual whereby an interpreter examines the author of a text, develops a hypothesis based on the group characteristics of the author and the social-linguistic constructs attributed to the group, and then develops multiple alternative realties to the surface meaning of the text that fit a coherent message about author and his collective.
This is postmodern, hermeneutic reality.
And this, then, is the intellectual milieu into which liberation theology was born. Bultmann insisted that the Gospel accounts of Jesus were mere myth, parables created to teach theological concepts, but useless without contemporary interpretation based on the experiences and collective comprehension of the group by whom and for whom the interpretation is undertaken. In short, the Gospels mean very little outside of collective interpretation.
More to the point, if the Gospels mean nothing outside of collective interpretation, then Jesus himself means nothing, indeed IS nothing outside of collective interpretation, which is to say that the Jesus of customary Gospel tradition is deemed irrelevant, if not entirely fictitious. Here, we turn to one of the recognized experts on liberation theology, who sums up the effect that Bultmann’s interpretative critique had on religious understanding:
Bultmann’s “historical Jesus” is separated from the Christ of faith by a great gulf (Bultmann himself speaks of a ‘chasm’). In Bultmann, while Jesus is part of the presuppositions of the New Testament, he himself is enclosed in the world of Judaism.
Now the crucial result of this exegesis was to shatter the historical credibility of the Gospels: the Christ of the Church’s tradition and the Jesus of history put forward by science evidently belong to two different worlds. Science, regarded as the final arbiter, had torn the figure of Jesus from its anchorage in tradition; on the one hand, consequently, tradition hangs in a vacuum, deprived of reality, while on the other hand, a new interpretation and significance must be sought for the figure of Jesus.
Bultmann’s importance, therefore, was less because of his positive discoveries than because of the negative result of his criticism: the core of faith, christology, was open to new interpretations because its previous affirmations had perished as being historically no longer tenable. It also meant that the Church’s teaching Office was discredited, since she had evidently clung to a scientifically untenable theory, and thus ceased to be regarded as an authority where knowledge of Jesus was concerned. In the future her statements could only be seen as futile attempts to defend a position which was scientifically obsolete.
This, of course, is the story of twentieth century epistemology in microcosm. You take the traditional, standard conceptions of knowledge, truth, and reality, and you subject them to critical interpretation based on socio-linguistic deconstruction. And in the end, you are left with nothing, a void, a vacuum created by the “intellectual” case undermining the traditional and by the subsequent incapacity to replace the traditional with anything even remotely satisfactory as a metaphysical or epistemological ethos. Into this vacuum any – and many – pretender ethos may then advance.
The parallels between religious post-modern deconstruction and non-religious post-modern deconstruction, of course, continue beyond the mere undermining of the traditional. With the credibility of traditional moral codes and traditional epistemology destroyed, and in a period of increased intellectual inquiry – i.e. the post-war explosion in higher education and the post-Vatican Council release of religio-intellectual curiosity – the philosophical vacuum was filled by a pretense to logic, to science, and to historical inevitability.
As we have argued before in these pages, the failure of the socialist undertaking over the two centuries prior to the rise of the post-modern ethic was entirely discounted by the post-modernists. Indeed, as Stephen Hicks argues, that was the entire point of the rise of post-modernism, to rationalize and explain away socialism’s repeated failures. Contemporary post-modernism is, in many ways, best understood as the means by which to maintain the viability of the socialist mythology even in the face of a reality that has repeatedly crushed that viability. If reality contradicts your beliefs, in short, you simply deny the validity of reality. Post-modernism and hermeneutic interpretation therefore lead, almost by definition, to the embrace of socialism under the guise of “scientific Marxism” and Hegelian-historical-determinism.
This inevitability was not consigned to mere geo-politics, of course, and was the result/intended effect of the post-modern attack on religion and Biblical teaching as well. Again, to quote one of the foremost experts on liberation theology:
The experience of the “community” determines the understanding and the interpretation of Scripture.
Again it can be said, in a way that seems strictly scientific, that the Gospels’ picture of Jesus is itself a synthesis of event and interpretation, based on the experience of the individual communities, whereby interpretation was far more important than the no longer ascertainable event.
This original synthesis of event and interpretation can be dissolved and reformed continually: the community “interprets” the events on the basis of its “experience” and thus discovers what its “praxis” should be. The same idea appears in a somewhat modified form in connection with the concept of the people” where the conciliar emphasis on the “People of God” is transformed into a marxist myth. The experiences of the ‘people” elucidate Scripture. Here “people” is the antithesis of the hierarchy, the antithesis of all institutions, which are seen as oppressive power. Ultimately anyone who participates in the class struggle is a member of the “people” the “Church of the people” becomes the antagonist of the hierarchical Church.
Finally the concept “history” becomes a crucial interpretative category. The view, accepted as scientifically certain and incontrovertible, that the Bible speaks exclusively in terms of salvation history (and thus, antimetaphysically), facilitates the fusing of the biblical horizon with the marxist idea of history, which progresses in a dialectical manner and is the real bringer of salvation. History is accordingly a process of progressive liberation; history is the real revelation and hence the real interpreter of the Bible.
A Marxist interpretation of the Bible is destructive in a great many ways. Beyond the mere foolishness of Marxist economics, there is the fact that such an interpretation turns everything into a question material well-being. This, in turn, means that spirituality is replaced by materialism and the object of Christian redemption is defined in material rather than spiritual terms. Salvation becomes a concept no longer relegated to the afterlife, but the goal of earthly existence. Again, the expert:
Hope is interpreted as “confidence in the future” and as working for the future and thus is subordinated once more to the history of class conflict.
Love consists in the “option for the poor”; i.e., it coincides with opting for the class struggle. In opposition to “false universalism”‘; the liberation theologians emphasize very strongly the partiality and partisan nature of the Christian option; in their view, taking sides is the fundamental presupposition for a correct hermeneutics of the biblical testimony. Here, I think, one can see very clearly that amalgam of a basic truth of Christianity and an un-Christian fundamental option which makes the whole thing so seductive: The Sermon on the Mount is indeed God taking sides with the poor. But to interpret the “poor” in the sense of the marxist dialectic of history, and “taking sides with them” in the sense of the class struggle, is a wanton attempt to portray as identical things that are contrary.
The fundamental concept of the preaching of Jesus is the “Kingdom of God”. This concept is also at the center of the liberation theologies, but read against the background of marxist hermeneutics. According to one of these theologians, the Kingdom must not be understood in a spiritualist or universalist manner, not in the sense of an abstract eschatological eventuality. It must be understood in partisan terms and with a view to praxis. The meaning of the Kingdom can only be defined by reference to the praxis of Jesus, not theoretically: it means working at the historical reality that surrounds us in order to transform it into the Kingdom.
What all of this means, in the end, is that liberation theology is a radical, post-modernist construction that asserts the inevitability of Marxist materialism, and which therefore adopts the Millenarian supposition that salvation can be achieved in this world, rather than relegated to the next. The parallels therefore between liberation theology and other twentieth century Millenarian movements – including Soviet Communism and Heidegger’s beloved National Socialism – are undeniable. All of which is to say that liberation theology is hardly the simple “concern for the poor” that the American media would have us believe.
And there’s still more!
But before we get to that, we’d like to clarify a couple of things about the new Pope. It is, we think, important to note that Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio was and is an avowed opponent of liberation theology. Given his circumstances – Latin American and a Jesuit – he should, by all rights, have been expected to be an advocate for liberation theology. But he was not. As a Vatican statement released last week (and read to the press by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi) put it:
Regarding “Liberation Theology”: Bergoglio has always referred to the Instructions of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He has always rejected violence saying that its price is always paid by the weakest.
This is, we think, critical on two counts. First, it clearly and unambiguously states the fact, reported but yet minimized in the press, that Pope Francis has always rejected liberation theology, unlike many of his Jesuit brethren. Second, it suggests that the new Pope’s reading of liberation theology is not simply that it is misguided, but that it foments “deviations, and risks of deviation, damaging to the faith and to Christian living.” These, of course, are the words of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in its instruction on liberation theology – with which Bergoglio agrees.
Additionally, we should note here – on the off chance that you haven’t yet figured it out – that the “expert” cited repeatedly above is none other than the author of the Congregation’s instructions, its onetime Prefect, then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, also known as Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Ratzinger, as you may know, was the man whom Pope John Paul II entrusted with this task because of his intellect, his delicacy, and the strength of his knowledge, both of Church doctrine and of the challenges posed by post-modernism’s rejection of human reality. Ratzinger did his job well, in great detail, and with devastating effect. By exposing and elucidating liberation theology’s Marxist and post-modern underpinnings, Cardinal Ratzinger exposed it as just one more Millenarian deviation and part of what he would go on as Pope to call the “dictatorship of relativism.”
In his discussion of the matter, Cardinal Ratzinger argued quite convincingly that one of the most important and most damaging aspects of liberation theology – or of any Marxist ethos, for that matter – is that it reduces the entirety of human activity to material concerns, which is to say that it reduces the entire potential remedy to human suffering to politics, to the exercise of purely political action.
As to other reinterpretations of biblical concepts: The Exodus becomes the central image of salvation history; the paschal mystery is understood as a revolutionary symbol, and consequently the Eucharist is interpreted as a celebration of liberation in the sense of politico-messianic hope and praxis. The word redemption is largely replaced by liberation, which is seen, against the background of history and the class struggle, as a process of progressive liberation. Absolutely fundamental, finally, is the stress on praxis: truth must not be understood metaphysically, for that would be “idealism”. Truth is realized in history and its praxis. Action is truth. Hence even the ideas which are employed in such action are ultimately interchangeable. Praxis is the sole deciding factor. The only true orthodoxy is therefore orthopraxy.
And this, Ratzinger concludes, leads to an attempt, “in all seriousness, to recast the whole Christian reality in the categories of politico-social liberation praxis.” To the liberation theologist, any “theology that is not ‘practical’; i.e., not essentially political, is regarded as ‘idealistic’ and thus as lacking in reality, or else it is condemned as a vehicle for the oppressors’ maintenance of power.”
The Church’s rejection of liberation theology is therefore, above and beyond everything else, a rejection of politicized religion. This is, we think, a critical and largely misunderstood aspect of the Church’s approach to matters of faith and belief for at least the last three-and-half decades, beginning with the papacy of John Paul II, running through that of Benedict XVI, and now to be reinforced during the tenure of Francis I.
It is often charged by the mainstream press and by political critics of the Church that the hierarchy is perpetually inserting itself into political debates, attempting to impose its beliefs on the entirety of society. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is constantly accused of “getting political” when it opposes abortion, when it denounces gay marriage, or, more recently, when it objects to the Obama administration’s decision to force religious employers to pay for contraception and abortifacient coverage for their employees. Even in the coverage of Cardinal Bergoglio and his ascension to the papacy, “politics” and his “deliberate” involvement in politics is a near-universal theme. Take, for example, the following from the Washington Post:
Whatever his role in that chapter of Argentine history, his political role in a country polarized between President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s government and a beleaguered opposition became a central theme here a day after Bergoglio was named pope. Bergoglio, observers say, has not been shy about energetically taking on the president or her predecessor and late husband, Néstor Kirchner.
“It was never a good relation,” said Oscar Aguad, a deputy in Argentina’s congress from the opposition Radical party. “There were scraps between Bergoglio and the Kirchner governments, to the point where Nestor Kirchner even said that Bergoglio was the head of the opposition.”
All of this is, we think, a radical misinterpretation of the reality. Properly understood, Bergoglio’s clashes with the Kirchner government were not political, but moral. They were not political responses on the part of the Cardinal, but rather a Cardinal’s responses to the encroachment of political leaders on religious territory.
The same can and should be said about “political” actions of the American Bishops and of the Church more generally over the past three-plus decades. To those who wish for the Church and its leaders to shut up and butt out – people ranging from President Barack Obama to Nancy Pelosi to former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev –the Church’s opposition is always and everywhere political. But to anyone paying attention and concerned with moral strength as opposed to political power, it is clear that precisely the opposite is true. The Church is merely standing its ground and refusing to succumb to political pressure or to facilitate the politicization of matters of faith and morals. The Church’s position is, indeed, the very rejection of politics and of politicized religion.
Given that Pope Francis has joined his predecessors in affirming both the abstract and the specific rejection of politics as a foundation for religion, one can therefore expect that the clashes that have so upset the political Left over the last several years will continue unabated. There will be no truce issued by Pope Francis on the issues that matter most to him – and that mattered most to John Paul II and Benedict XVI. There will be, rather, a rather palpable continuity.
That’s not to say that Pope Francis will not be different from his predecessors or that he will not be a reformer. He will, we expect, be both. But he will not be Pope about whom many Leftists are dreaming. As the inimitable George Weigel, biographer of John Paul II, has written, the Church’s emphasis going forward will be on the “new evangelization,” on its “turn from the Counter-Reformation Catholicism that brought the Gospel to America . . . to the Evangelical Catholicism that must replant the Gospel in those parts of the world that have grown spiritually bored, while planting it afresh in new fields of mission around the globe.” This mission was unambiguously detailed by Pope Benedict, with the explicit aid of Cardinal Bergoglio among others. All of which is to say that this mission will continue under Pope Francis, just as it was envisioned under Pope Benedict.
There will be continuity and vigor. And the political Left will remain deeply unhappy with the Church. Jesuit Pope notwithstanding.