Vatican Attacks Trump and Right-Wing Catholics
As a Pew survey recently showed, few outside the U.S. like President Donald Trump. Even the Pope seems to be taking shots at him - once again. An article from RNS (Religion News Service) declared, “Confidant of Pope Francis condemns US religious right.” NCR (National Catholic Reporter) said, “Italian Jesuit magazine criticizes political attitudes of some US Catholics.” The actual Vatican article in La Civiltà Cattolica said, “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A surprising ecumenism.”
La Civiltà Cattolica is a Jesuit newspaper whose tag is “Reflecting the Mind of the Vatican since 1850.” It is approved by the Vatican’s Secretary of State prior to publication. The present article is by friends of the Jesuit Pope Francis, and was probably written at his bequest. It was certainly written with his approval.
RNS, unwilling to call a spade a spade, says the article “took aim at conservative religious support for President Trump, accusing activists of promoting a “xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls and purifying deportations.” That is, RNS claims the article is not against Trump, merely his supporters.
The article takes a broad view: “Religion has had a more incisive role in electoral processes and government decisions over recent decades, especially in some US governments. It offers a moral role for identifying what is good and what is bad.” It singles out presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump in particular for “a Manichaean language that divides reality between absolute Good and absolute Evil.”
The Jesuit paper explains, “These stances are based on Christian-Evangelical fundamentalist principles dating from the beginning of the 20th Century that have been gradually radicalized.” It has a lengthy discussion of the history of fundamentalism before getting to the point: “appealing to the values of fundamentalism, a strange form of surprising ecumenism is developing between Evangelical fundamentalists and Catholic Integralists brought together by the same desire for religious influence in the political sphere.” To paraphrase, there is a right-wing conspiracy of fundamentalist/evangelical Protestants and Catholic “Integralists,” an unfamiliar term. They explain: “Some who profess themselves to be Catholic express themselves in ways that until recently were unknown in their tradition and using tones much closer to Evangelicals.” In other words, these right-wing Integralists are pretenders, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and not true Catholics. In prior times, this would be a prelude to a declaration of heresy and prosecution by the Inquisition.
Finally, they get down to brass tacks: “the most dangerous prospect for this strange ecumenism is attributable to its xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls and purifying deportations. The word “ecumenism” transforms into a paradox, into an ‘ecumenism of hate.’” This right-wing conspiracy of Protestant fundamentalists and pseudo-Catholic Integralists is preaching hate against foreigners, especially Muslims.
It is refreshing to hear pro-Islamic sentiments from the Vatican, which has a very long history of Islamophobia.
What Would Pope Francis do?
The article then speaks at length for Pope Francis: “Pope Francis’ geopolitics rests in not giving theological room to the power to impose oneself or to find an internal or external enemy to fight. There is a need to flee the temptation to project divinity on political power that then uses it for its own ends.” Of course, for over a thousand years, whenever popes had real political power, they did exactly this – denounce some internal or external enemy and declare holy war against them. Only in recent decades has the “eternal” Catholic Church reversed its position on external enemies, and even then they made an exception for Communists. The Church even declared liberation theologians, who were local reformers, to be part of the evil international Communist conspiracy.
“There is a need to fight against the manipulation of this season of anxiety and insecurity. Again, Francis is courageous here and gives no theological-political legitimacy to terrorists, avoiding any reduction of Islam to Islamic terrorism. Nor does he give it to those who postulate and want a ‘holy war’ or to build barrier-fences crowned with barbed wire.”
Pretty good stuff, though somewhat Jesuitical for my taste.