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Life Arts    H4'ed 1/25/15

Progressives and Liberals Should Be Wary of Pope Francis (BOOK REVIEW)

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) January 25, 2015: Not surprisingly, all authoritarian regimes tend to gravitate toward leaders who are decisive and authoritarian. Occasionally, the leaders of authoritarian regimes may also be perceived charismatic and paternalistic, at least by their followers.

By definition, the pope is the top dog in the authoritarian regime of the Roman Catholic Church, a multi-national corporation with franchises around the world today.

In the deeply researched book THE GREAT REFORMER: FRANCIS AND THE MAKING OF A RADICAL POPE (Henry Holt, 2014), Austen Ivereigh, Ph.D. from Oxford University on religion and politics in Argentina, says that as a young Jesuit, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (later Pope Francis) was perceived by certain Jesuit followers in Argentina as charismatic and authoritarian and paternalistic.

If you think that the demise of the Roman Catholic right in the United States today is approaching because of the reign of Pope Francis, you might want to think again. The back cover of Ivereigh's book features laudatory statements about it and about Pope Francis from such right-wing American Catholics as Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, and George Weigel.

In the book THE THEOCONS: SECULAR AMERICAN UNDER SIEGE (2006), Damon Linker describes certain Roman Catholics who are engaged in a culture war against American secularism. If you think that the demise of the conservative Catholic culture war is approaching because Pope Francis is now the pope, you may be surprised to learn in Ivereigh's book about the views and values of Bergoglio/Francis, as I will explain below.

Furthermore, nothing in Ivereigh's book indicates that we should expect the demise of Roman Catholic religious zealotry against legalized abortion in the first trimester.

I know, I know, Pope Francis has expressed certain strongly worded criticisms of capitalism. No doubt American libertarians, Catholic and non-Catholic libertarians, are upset with him for uttering those criticisms. No doubt he will continue to express criticisms of capitalism, because his thought-world is rooted in the pre-modern thought-world of medieval European Christendom, which was based on a pre-modern agrarian economy.

However, before I discuss this further, I want to discuss certain other important points in Ivereigh's book about the man who became Pope Francis. Ivereigh distinguishing himself by writing about far more issues than the news media typically do, and by contextualizing issues better than the media typically do.

The loyalty of Bergoglio's Jesuit followers in Argentina to his views and practices created strong tensions among the Jesuits in Argentina, which reverberated up the authoritarian chain of command in the international Jesuit order to the Jesuit General Superior in Rome. The Jesuits represent a kind of microcosm of the macrocosm of the Roman Catholic Church.

However, according to Ivereigh (page 206), Bergoglio subsequently experienced a period of inner suffering in his life -- due to what St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, refers to as desolation. As a result of this protracted experience of inner suffering, Bergoglio emerged as being less quick as an authoritarian, but still capable of being decisive in his decision making.

Ivereigh reports that Bergoglio rejects the Enlightenment, presumably including the American Enlightenment and American political and economic liberty:

"It is hard to think of a more thorough rejection of the Enlightenment project," says Ivereigh, "than in a retreat Bergoglio gave in the 1970s. 'The worst that can happen to a human being,' he said, 'is to allow oneself to be swept along by the "lights" of reason. . . . Our mission is instead to discover the seeds of the Word [the Second Person in the divine trinity, according to orthodox Roman Catholic mythology] within humanity, the logo spermatakoi.' It is a theme Pope Francis returned to in his meeting in Rio with the bishops of Latin America, when he warned against making the Gospel an ideology -- whether free-market liberalism, Marxism, or certain forms of 'psychologizing.' Noting that Gnosticism -- an early church heresy -- was the 'first deviation' in the Church that has reappeared throughout its history, he told the bishops: 'Generally its adherents are known as "enlightened Catholics," since they are in fact rooted in the culture of Enlightenment'" (pages 63-64).

Now, in the book THE SEARCH FOR ROOTS: C. G. JUNG AND THE TRADITION OF GNOSIS, translated from the 1999 German edition by Don Reneau (2013), Alfred Ribi claims that "the [ancient] Gnostics were simply Christians who had an introverted attitude" (page viii). He characterizes their fellow Christians who considered them to be heretics as extroverts.

Ivereigh's biography of Bergoglio/Francis makes it abundantly clear that he himself is an extrovert -- "a man of action," says Ivereigh (page 198).

The most informative part of Ivereigh's book is his discussion of the Roman Catholic thinker Romano Guardini (1885-1968). For years, Bergoglio was fascinated with Guardini's thought, and in 1986, Bergoglio on a sabbatical even thought about undertaking to write his doctoral dissertation on Guardini's thought. But that did not happen.

In any event, "Guardini saw the drama of the modern age [presumably the Enlightenment] as a pendulum swing between heteronomy (placing authority outside oneself, in another human being or institution [such as the Roman Catholic Church's so-called magisterium]) and autonomy (placing authority in oneself [as in individualism]), and proposed that true happiness and freedom were only possible in theonomy -- recognizing God as the authority from human life, setting each human being free to become a whole person in 'I-thou' relationships" (page 198).

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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