What’s really driving Pope Francis? Possibilities

In order from least to most probable:

  1. He’s actually been transported here from a mirror universe where Mr. Spock has a goatee and the Catholic Church does nothing but preach about sex.
  2. He’s plotting to replace Catholicism with a heretical modernist religion–the conclusion of Laura Wood, Mundabor, and Louie Verrecchio.  This requires explaining away Francis’ orthodox statements as attempts to deceive the orthodox and keep us from rebellion.  I doubt, however, that there are enough of us for it to be worth the facade.
  3. He knows voices in America and Europe are agitating for an attack on the Vatican.  (This is, after all, where “sue the Vatican” and “arrest the Pope” require.)  That–given what goes on in America’s prisons, schools, and barracks–it is grotesque for America to seize another sovereign head of state over the alleged failure of his organization to defend its charges from sexual predation will not occur to anyone, given the fantasy world constructed by the Leftist propaganda machine.  Francis knows that few Catholics could endure the scandal of a pope arrested, subjected to an American show trial, and then incarcerated and sodomized like a common criminal.  He must convince the Cathedral that he is their man, and then America will not want to compromise his position.
  4. He’s planning some enormous conservative bombshell, like a mass excommunication of all LCWR-affiliated nuns, and he wants the media to be thrown off when he does it.  I would love for this to be true, of course, but the misdirection itself won’t accomplish anything.  The media has no trouble converting someone from hero to villain in a moment’s notice.
  5. He’s stupid, lazy, or otherwise incompetent, and he doesn’t realize what he’s doing.  However, he would have to be very stupid indeed not to have gone through the obvious ass-covering maneuvers after his interviews–sending spokesmen to make “clarifications”, etc.
  6. He’s vain and irresponsible, and cares more about being popular than about defending the faith.  Even if this is true, very few people have such deadened consciences that they can simply admit to themselves that this is what they’re doing.  Even if one were to say that Francis is vain and stupid, it still matters for understanding him what he believes.  If he is a conscious heretic, as in position 2, then the fact that he enjoys the public favor such beliefs win him is not very important.  If he is orthodox, then it is unlikely that he will bring himself to betray the faith without some sort of rationalization, whatever his ultimate psychological motives.  The rationalization chosen will regulate what he will and won’t do.
  7. He buys into the “win people for Christ by visible meekness” meme being pushed throughout the Church since the Council, including the previous pope.  On this understanding, people become Catholic not because they are convinced of the truth of Catholic doctrine, but because they are impressed by the character traits of Catholics.  Francis may thus in all sincerity consider that he has a mandate from God to pursue popularity before all else.  It is the logical conclusion of what everyone has been saying for the last half century.  To impress people, show how much you care about the poor and how tolerant and open-minded you are.  And, of course, the easiest way to do this in the eyes of the world is to badmouth faithful Catholics.  So this is obviously what God wants him to do!

Once I thought of #7, a lot of things fell into place.  Even the pope’s name.  How is Francis of Assisi remembered by the post-conciliar Church?  He’s the guy who (it is falsely claimed) said “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words”, which means (it is falsely inferred) that when trying to convert people to the faith we should never actually mention the faith, but we should advertise ourselves instead.  (This attributed to the guy who founded the Church’s largest preaching order!)

I hope I am right that #7 is what is going on.  In that case, we can expect more of what we’ve been seeing, but nothing worse.

18 Responses

  1. @Bonald “On this understanding, people become Catholic not because they are convinced of the truth of Catholic doctrine, but because they are impressed by the character traits of Catholics.”

    This may perhaps be the belief of the Pope, but if so it is mistaken: if charactert traits/ Good behaviour is what attracts people to a denomination, then that implies people should become Mormons or conservative Protestants/ evangelicals – since on average these people do pretty obviously live better lives than the average modern people; while Catholics simply do not.

    Indeed, I have been told more than once (by insiders) that Roman Catholicism is for out-and-out Saints and Sinners, rather than the kind of better-than-average, but middling people who populate Mormon and traditional/ strict Protestant churches.

    By this analysis (e.g. according to Peter Kreeft) the BIG problem of modern Roman Catholicism is the lack of Saints. If the Pope was serious about Saints he would (I should think) best be advised to support and build-up monasticism, especially ascetic monasticism (NOT the secular priesthood, nor Friars, nor Jesuits, nor Opus Dei etc), in the RCC.

    And ignore the mass media as completely as possible.

  2. Not paranoid enough.

  3. This and your previous post prompted me to pull up the lyrics of Charles Wesley’s Hymn, “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild,” to see if the old Methodist inserted a footnote to substantiate this outlandish claim. He didn’t. Then I thought to look in an etymological dictionary to see if the meaning of “meek” had undergone a radical change since the 18th century. It hasn’t. All the way back to 1200 it meant modest and unassuming. Then I leaned back and tried to apply the adjectives “modest” and “unassuming” to the Jesus I read about in the New Testament. I couldn’t. The Jesus I read about in the New Testament seems to spend most of his time speaking “boldly” and laying claim to extraordinary “power.”

  4. Could you expand on this?

  5. […] Bonald: What’s really driving Pope Francis? Possibilities […]

  6. “He’s the guy who (it is falsely claimed) said ‘Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words'”

    Really, St. Francis didn’t even say that? I’ll be darned.

    “He buys into the ‘win people for Christ by visible meekness’ meme being pushed throughout the Church since the Council, including the previous pope. On this understanding, people become Catholic not because they are convinced of the truth of Catholic doctrine, but because they are impressed by the character traits of Catholics.”

    I understand your point here; I would only point out that to an extent it is true that the world is to be converted through our presence (which, however, does not imply that the pope’s is properly ordered).

    “The mark by which all men will know you for my disciples will be the love you bear one another.” We have to be careful that we do not only stress the intellectual aspects of Christianity, for some come through from another path entirely.

  7. I think Benedict was right that the most effective evangelizing tools are the lives of saints and Christian art. Argument is secondary.

    However, this does not mean that being “nice” is the answer. We may not be called to argue people into the gospel, but we are certainly called to proclaim it.

  8. I keep thinking about doing a series of posts on rival interpretations of Vatican II. One generous interpretation of that council, I think, is that it represents the Church’s effort to hunker down in a foxhole and “get small.”

    Here is a question. In a counterfactual world without Vatican II, is it a live possibility or not that USG (itself or via proxies) kills priests, rapes nuns, lays waste to the Vatican, routinely murders and imprisons Catholics, and etc. I don’t think that this is all that wild a question, given how psycho USG has been acting since the USSR fell and given how very strangely essentially the whole Church has been acting these past several decades.

    Suppose the answer is yes. In that event, was Vatican II imprudent? (Let’s assume that it was not heretical, arguendo).

    Anyway, this is what I mean by not paranoid enough. I would add a much more extreme version of your 3:

    8. HH considers it a live possibility that the Church is in danger of real and effective persecution at the hands of liberalism, that this persecution can be avoided via sufficiently convincing displays of supplication, that these displays can be carried out without formally defecting, and that liberalism will fall apart by itself soon enough that there will be things worth saving once it has done so. Soon enough may well mean centuries.

    Well, I don’t think I would put it at position 8, since we are ranking from least to most probable. Between 4 and 5 perhaps.

  9. And killing trees. Don’t forget killing trees.

  10. In the context of Jesus’ being the Creator of the universe, to become a man is in itself modest and unassuming. Also, many see Jesus’ behavior as displayed in the Passion accounts as meek, and the prophets’ (see Isaias 53) take on things support this even more perhaps than the Gospel accounts themselves.

    Not necessarily defending Wesley myself, but I can see why he would see it as he did.

  11. If it walks like a concordat, and quacks like a concordat . . .

  12. Viewed in the cosmic context, you may well be right. On the other hand, in the cosmic context Christ’s humbling himself was a glorious act. Not vainglorious, but glorious.

  13. I used to be pretty fond of your theory, Bill, but it seems to require a lot more conspiracizing than I’m really comfortable with. It’s just so much easier to believe that the bishops are largely just a bunch of stupid, incompetent, careerist, degenerate cowards than they are secretly brilliant tacticians aping the zeitgeist for prudential reasons.

    I think the answer is some kind of combination of 5, 6, and 7, probably mostly 6. The postconciliar Church is filthy with vanity and hubris which is to be expected of a Church whose paradigm of self-understanding is “all Catholics everywhere got it all wrong until brilliant special me came along just now and set them all straight,” and since Francis is our first (of many yet to come) postconciliar Pope, it’s exactly what we would expect from him.

    It’s not just ordinary vanity, though, it’s the kind of vanity that has, through years of being forged and perfected in the devil’s crucible, acquired a natural resistance to correction, because it so often takes the form of accusing others of one’s own sins and thereby placing oneself outside judgment. Thus we have hyper-ultramontanists and liturgy-deforming clerics complaining about clericalism, mincining minimalist liturgists and canonists complaining about Pharisaism, and now a Pope with evidently no serious accomplishments of any sort beside becoming Pope correcting and condemning Catholics doing the grueling work of prayer (“Pelagians”) and witness (“small-minded rules”) for not being sufficiently evangelical. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been accused of “not being Christ-like,” an accusation pregnant with the unspoken assumption that the speaker is super-Christ-like and therefore perfectly situated to make such a judgment. Noticeably, none of those people have had stigmata or even tonsures.

  14. I vacillate. But wargame it in your head. No Vatican II. Roe vs Wade comes along. Did you know that Brent Bozell broke into a hospital surgery suite to break abortion equipment after Roe? Imagine the USCCB exhorting Catholics to imitate him and permitting the Church’s people and facilities to be used to organize such efforts. That, after all, would have represented a gross under reaction to Roe.

    Would not the Church have been persecuted as a terrorist organization? That is only one example.

  15. Good question, but it’s hard to imagine. The Church in the immediate preconciliar force was an immensely powerful social force in America and its collapse during and after Vatican II was largely responsible for the rising tide of liberalism, as Bonald has argued on this blog and elsewhere. Had they taken this course it’s easy to imagine conflict, but it’s also easy to imagine the Overton window at least staying where it was if not gradually drifting rightward.

  16. None of the above, but 7 comes closest.

    Francis is an Argentine and a Jesuit. That explains everything. The Jesuit spirituality, from what I know of it, is focused on the incarnation and the fleshly existence of Jesus Christ, which links in with his concern with practical issues like economic hardship, the rich and the poor, and the plight of forgotten elderly people, and also his quoted words about how Christ is to be seen in the flesh of the poor. This contrasts with the transcendent aspects of the faith, as well as the ritual of the TLM. (Personally, I would prefer a more mystical form of spirituality, with the splendour of the Latin Mass, but then the college of Cardinals is unlikely to elect me as pope any time soon.) As for the Argentine dimension, his history (notwithstanding the anti-Catholic stories about his collaboration with the military junta) is bound up with the Perónist movement – a practical, this-worldly, populist movement of the left which has little in common with intellectual conservatism.

    This is also the significance of the name Francis – the real St Francis was not an insipid plaster saint, but a man who worked amid the practical realities of 13th century Italy. He knew what real poverty was and what serving the poor really entailed. He wasn’t just a chap who talked to birds.

    As for preaching by one’s example, that’s just good common sense. People aren’t usually convinced of a position (religious, political, or other) by intellectual arguments, they’re convinced on a deeper, more emotional level. Showing in a practical way that he loves the poor as Christ did – the Mandatum ceremony, for example – is an excellent idea, and I applaud it.

    He also has a deep Marian piety, again derived from his background. I think he’s a good man, and more power to him. You might think that he’s compromising with the secular world, but it could equally be argued that he is witnessing to that world more effectively than a holy old intellectual like Benedict ever could.

  17. I would suggest that Francis’s frame of reference is wholly different from that of American conservatives and the situation vis-a-vis the “USG” and “liberalism” in its North American sense. He is a Latin American, from an alien culture with different concerns and different priorities. He also has his own specific background (Jesuit, Perónist).

    John Paul was the Eastern European Pope. Benedict was the Western European Pope. Francis is the Latin American Pope.

  18. Hello Reggie,

    Is the Latin American context really that different, though? I can imagine an argument that it’s basically not. Communist Poland (the Poland that mattered for JPII’s background) and contemporary Germany and Argentina are all ruled by atheists using their authority to promote perversion and abortion. Latin America is part of Western Civilization, broadly considered, and powerful socialist movements are hardly unknown in the rest of the West. The slander that those who won’t surrender to them are “obsessed” with sexual issues and don’t look at real “persons” could just as easily be heard from the pink tyrants in Washington, Berlin, London, or Buenos Aires.

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