The following is an analytical submission by a friend of the Lepanto Institute. Alcuin is the nom de plume of a Christendom College graduate and current Catholic high school social studies teacher. Hailing from the midwest, his interests include Catholic and American historical studies and chess.
Pope Francis’ much anticipated trip to the US has generated a great deal of controversy and confusion amongst Christians of all ranks. Just ask any one of them and you will receive as many different answers.
Some will say that the Pope’s capacity to lead and meet people where they are has inspired their Faith.
Others will say, however, that he is here to change the Church and reshape the Faith.
Still more believe that Francis is leading Catholics to seek true progress, in a way that authentically embraces Church-teaching but also the Church-compatible tenets of progressivism.
Meanwhile, antagonists say that Francis’ statements before Obama, Congress, and the UN demonstrate that he is the Pope of the New World Order, a false prophet here to pave the way to the anti-Christ and the Rapture.
So which is it, exactly? Are many educated and thoughtful Christians wrong in their positive assessment of Francis and his visit, or is it the naysayers who have it backwards? The answer, I believe, lies in the middle and seems to have escaped a good many people. Let’s review.
The Pope arrived at a highly critical moment in this nation’s history, one that knows no precedent when it comes to its moral history. Mass immigration intermingled with terrorist threats tramples the borders of the US and other Westernized countries. Gay “marriage,” a great abomination to the Lord, has been legalized by the Supreme Court and deemed progress by many of the nation’s leaders. The largest abortion provider in the US, Planned Parenthood, has been caught red-handed engaging in the repeated and gruesome practice of killing babies and then selling their body parts for profit.
To make the spectacle even more dramatic, the Pope’s official welcome occurred on Sept. 23, the Day of Atonement in the Jewish calendar. Meanwhile, during his visit, an historic and eerie series of “blood moons” loomed, marking, as it were, the day of his departure on Sept. 27/28.
For a nation hemorrhaging from such moral decay and in such desperate need of moral guidance, the timing and the opportunity of the Pope’s arrival was so good it was almost biblical. Is it a wonder, then, that this trip was so-anticipated?
In the final analysis, while others don’t see it this way, I contend the Pope missed a grand opportunity to call America and its leaders to repentance for its greatest evils.
While others heard the Pope decry the evils of abortion, gay marriage, and religious freedom, I witnessed a Pope, who, while implicitly or subtly acknowledging those things, focused, albeit with several caveats, more on clearly legitimizing the UN as an institution and embracing the 2030 UN Agenda for the Environment (which encompasses far more than the environment per se. Please read it).
I saw a Pope who told Americans to “do unto others” with respect to illegal immigration while not emphasizing respect for the rule of law.
I heard a Pope ask Congress to stop the arms trade (even though it seems hypocritical to do so, since the Vatican Bank has substantial stock in Berreta) while, literally, a federally-funded Planned Parenthood has been illegally selling not only arms, but legs, feet, brains and other organs to the highest bidders.
Simply put, I do not buy the notion that the Pope’s remarks here in the US need to be taken into the context of his other public teachings and statements. The Pope chooses that which he wants to emphasize, when and where, and Francis himself gave us the key to understanding his leadership style: In his address to the bishops at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, he stated that we should “dialogue, dialogue, dialogue,” not reprove those who disagree with us, no matter how much we feel or think it’s right to do so.
The problem here is that talk is always cheap and that dialogue and good leadership are not always one and the same. Did Pope St. Leo the Great gather with Attila the Hun to “dialogue” about not destroying Rome, killing its people, and plundering its inhabitants? Not likely.
The idea of engaging in dialogue with people who disagree with you is surely not a bad thing. However, with the blood of 56+ million babies on Americans’ hands, the time for dialogue is over; right now, people need to be challenged, before God challenges America with His judgement. Good leaders usually challenge us not to stand down, but to stand up.
For a Pope, that means being the messenger of the hardest truths in a technological world estranged from decency. It means confronting the leaders that protect and enable the greatest evils.
For example, exhortations to stop the illegal arms trade is grand and all, but telling Obama publicly, to his smiling face, that he must cease and desist in his steadfast support for Planned Parenthood would have been nothing short of heroic.
The Church has had good popes and bad popes throughout its 2000-year history. While many have been saints, from the beginning none have been perfect – even Peter ran from Rome at first to escape martyrdom. The bottom line is that Francis is a congenial man who, as Pope, is guided by the Holy Spirit when he invokes its authority in matters of Faith and morals.
Leading the Church prudentially in the day-to-day is a different matter, and subject to human weakness. It is my opinion that he has chosen dialogue with the wrong people, at the wrong time, in the wrong way, and has left far too much up to inference and the imagination of his listeners.
In doing so, he has emboldened his enemies and made new enemies out of those who would otherwise choose to be friends. To borrow a phrase from Ronald Reagan, Pope Francis on his visit in public remarks with political leaders needed to raise “a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where [he] stand[s] on all of the issues troubling the people.”
Regardless of what one thinks of his visit, he is assured of my prayers and good will.