An Inadvertent Indictment

Fatima Perspectives #1316

An editorial in the New York Times, “How the Catholic Church Lost Italy to the Far Right,” inadvertently reveals the debacle that is the current pontificate. 

Sub-headlined “Pope Francis’ retreat from culture-war politics has left a void that politicians have been all too eager to fill,” the op-ed piece, by the Italian journalist Mattia Ferraresi, laments that while Italy’s deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, “is a dubious poster child for Catholicism” because he is divorced and “has two children by two women and is in a relationship with a third,” nevertheless he has succeeded in “reinventing himself as Italy’s Catholic-in-chief.”

And what horrible things this unworthy Catholic has said, which Ferraresi quotes with alarm:

“Personally, I entrust Italy, my life and your lives to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who I’m sure will lead us to victory… I defend our history and the existence of Catholic schools… If I believe in God, and if I even ask for Mary’s protection, does that bother anybody?…”

And then Ferraresi’s inadvertently revealing assessment of Francis: “It bothers the Pope, for one.”

Yes, it does bother Francis that a politician, for all his sins — and whatever happened to “Who am I to judge? — has invoked Catholicism, God and the Blessed Virgin in advancing the policies that got him elected: “Italians first,” a ban on illegal immigration that is nothing but human trafficking, and popular pushback against EU tyranny.

Horror of horrors, Salvini “kissed the rosary during a news conference. A few days later, in a magazine interview, he expanded on his devotion to the Virgin Mary and announced his wish to walk the Way of Saint James, a popular pilgrimage route, one day.” The Catholic Church, noted Ferraresi, “has reacted furiously to Mr. Salvini’s politicization of religious symbols.” 

Is he kidding? Nobody has politicized the Virgin Mary and the Catholic religion more than Francis. For example, he has shamelessly likened Mary and Joseph’s obedience to the Roman census in making their journey to Bethlehem to the illegal mass migration of Muslim males into Italy, who have no intention of returning home as the Holy Family did. And it was he who dared to turn the Way of the Cross on Good Friday into a direct attack on “the ‘hardened hearts’ of anti-immigration politicians” who persecute “those who find doors closed because of fear and hearts hardened by political calculations…”

Ferraresi argues that it is possible that “millions of Catholics are voting for Mr. Salvini…. because he is filling a vacuum in Italian politics left by the church’s own retreat, under Francis, from political debate.” 

What?  Francis has been meddling in politics almost since the day he was elected, but only to promote the issues that interest him: open borders, “ecological conversion” and wealth redistribution in capitalist economies — with never a word of criticism for socialist and communist dictators who live in luxury while the people they lord it over struggle to survive and practice religion.

Moreover, what Ferraresi himself observes — the “eagerness of Francis’ church to chastise politicians who refer to Christianity” — is itself a venture into politics.  A venture that, Ferraresi himself admits, “represents a sharp break with the policies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who attempted to keep the church’s views relevant in societies, including Italy, that have grown increasingly secular. Under these popes, spokesmen for the church criticized civil unions and same-sex marriage both in Italy and abroad, and campaigned against procedures like in vitro fertilization.”

Even more tellingly, Ferraresi notes that “Pope Francis has embraced a new model. In a speech to the Italian church in 2015, he called for the end of the so-called bishop-pilots, clerical shepherds who seek to direct the political choices of their flock. Francis exhorted church leaders to limit their action to the pastoral dimension.”  But, as he himself deduces, this does not mean a retreat from politics as such but only, as “some critics” have protested, “a different sort of politics” according to which “Francis’ church didn’t dismiss the bishop-pilots, but rather ordered them to subtly pilot the Catholic people in a different, more progressive direction.”

Indeed, the political meddling of Francis the leftist progressive — not his retreat from politics — was probably instrumental in the rise of Salvini and his League Party in the first place.

Still more tellingly, Ferraresi admits that “[t]he Francis model has received support among some within the church — Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of the Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, for instance, launched the idea of a synod for the Italian church to reimagine the relationship between the church and politics — as well as disparagement from Francis critics like Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, who in a phone interview said ‘the process of de-Christianization of our societies demands the courage to proclaim the truth. I like the politicians who openly say they are Christians better than those who disparage Christianity.’”

In other words, pro-homosexual propagandists like Spadaro love the “Francis model” of political action, but as for orthodox Catholics, not so much.

Indeed, Ferraresi goes on to say, “for some believers, the Francis model has simply been disorienting. The Vatican is now sending ambiguous messages on issues that were considered crucial only a few years ago. Many Catholic voters complain the church is not vocal enough in condemning abortion and L.G.B.T. rights, and upholding Italy’s Christian identity, while it emphasizes immigration, social justice and environmental issues.”

The net takeaway from this confused piece is that Francis is in fact deeply involved in politics and that his involvement is perceived by millions of Italian voters as contrary to the interests of the Church, her members, and whatever little is left of Christian civilization in Italy. Which is why, given the debacle of this pontificate, even a divorced Catholic with two children born out of wedlock has emerged as “Italy’s Catholic-in-chief.”

But who is Francis to judge?


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