After two Popes of towering intellectual and spiritual strength, it is difficult to become used to the fact that their successor is a flibbertigibbet.
It seems that, while remaining a conservative on some theological matters, on great issues of the day Pope Francis is wrong, or monstrously confused, or has taken refuge in denial. His public pronouncements suggest an alarming divorce from the realities of the world.
An 86-year-old French Priest, Father Jacques Hamel, was beheaded in his own church while saying Mass by two Muslim terrorists. As they sawed at his throat they chanted in Arabic. According to the Vatican, the Pope ‘participated in the pain and horror of this absurd violence,’ while condemning ‘every form of hatred.’
Absurd? Absurd! Is that the best he can come up with? I suppose in some nihilistic anti-clerical Theatre of the Absurd the beheading of an ancient priest in his own church might not be out of place, but this is real life. Further, ‘participating in pain and horror’ without a word to the faithful about anger or resistance to the present massive attack, both by doctrine and by direct terrorism and murder, on Christianity is the reaction of an Eloi confronted by Morlocks. It suggests total spiritual capitulation and collapse of ordinary human courage.
As well as suggesting a similarity between the elections of Donald Trump and Hitler, Pope Francis claims Muslim terrorism does not exist. How someone with unparalleled access to religious history and to theological experts could make such a claim leaves one at a loss for words. But Pope Francis denied the existence of Islamic terrorism, while simultaneously asserting that ‘the ecological crisis is real… Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist. They do not exist.’
What he apparently meant is that not all Christians are terrorists and not all Muslims are terrorists — an obvious fact — yet his words also seemed to suggest that no specifically Islamic form of terrorism exists in the world. Terrorism, he said, grew out of poverty. The most murderous terrorist of modern times, Osama bin Laden, was a multimillionaire. The 9/11 pilots had good jobs. Oil money is financing the extermination of Christians throughout the Middle East. It is not poverty that enables terrorism and massacre but wealth and fanaticism.
The Pope also reiterated his conviction that all religions promote peace and that the danger of violent radicalisation exists equally in all religions. It doesn’t.
‘There are fundamentalist and violent individuals in all peoples and religions—and with intolerant generalisations they become stronger because they feed on hate and xenophobia,’ he said.
But Islam, as soon as it wiped out the Jewish and other non-Muslim communities of Arabia, has kept up an unremitting attack on Christianity, beginning with the North African Christian cities, relics of the Roman Empire, which once were the home of great Christian clerics and philosophers like Saint Augustine of Hippo, and attacked Rome itself.
Is there no-one to point out to him there have been more than 35,000 Muslim terrorist attacks since 9/11, both in Europe and against the struggling Christian communities of Africa and Asia? Has he no idea why so many Christian communities of North Africa and the Middle East (except Israel) aren’t around any more? While seeing parallels in President Trump and Hitler, he appears to have been grief-stricken by the death of Fidel Castro, who tried to start an omnicidal nuclear war, and who brought the inhabitants of Cuba poverty and tyranny which Francis, when he visited the island and hob-nobbed with the Castro boys, failed to denounce. He angered the Jewish community by calling European holding camps for illegal immigrants concentration camps, and repeated it. He has shown no interest in the institutions of Western civilisation and progress which, from space travel to the Boy Scouts, his predecessors greeted and blessed.
It was reported that ‘[The Pope] launched a strong attack on the global economic system, even attracting the attention of Al Jazeera America. It reported on the Pope’s visit to the Sardinian capital of Cagliari, where he declared the economic system could no longer be based on a ‘god called money’ and urged the many unemployed workers of Cagliari to ‘fight for work’. Unfortunately, even the Supreme Pontiff cannot repeal the laws of supply and demand. Fight for work? How exactly does one do that? By shooting the bosses? In that case who will be left to pay the wages? He can hardly mean for them to fight each other for work, as a social Darwinist might. Or will they work without the god called money? Like many of his pronouncements it is easy to say but makes no sense.
In what appeared to be an attack on democratic capitalism (and, in the context, on President Trump), he proclaimed: ‘The system’s gangrene cannot be whitewashed forever because sooner or later the stench becomes too strong.’
Does he want more industrialisation to create more jobs? Yet he is also a credulous believer in global warming, asserting that ‘the ecological crisis is real’, and that ‘A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.’ Of course, if his good buddy Castro had succeeded in triggering a thermonuclear war, the ecological crisis might have been even more real. He also wanted Europe to take in more non-Christian immigrants, which would also necessitate more production, and presumably more pollution.
What is most notable is that he seems to ignore the thing that should be his province, and which exercised his great predecessors: the multi-sided attack on Western Christian values, culture and civilisation. The matters in which he seems interested are not all unimportant, but they seem peripheral. Where is the matter in which he should be uniquely positioned to give a lead: raising a banner against the great existential attacks on the West? His attack on the nickname of the Massive Ordnance Air Blast weapon, ‘mother of all bombs’, a take off of Saddam Hussain’s ‘mother of all battles’ is silly and childish, making a nickname more important than the jihadist enemy the weapon was used against.
In 2016, the Pope attacked President Trump outright, saying that ‘a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian’. The Pope lives in his own walled city, whose walls were begun by another pontiff in the 9th Century as protection against Muslim marauders.
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