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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/5/15

Pope Francis Versus American Catholic Theocons?

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) August 5, 2015: In the book The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope (2014), Austen Ivereigh discusses Jorge Bergoglio's interest in Romano Guardini (1885-1968), a German priest and philosopher whose thought was influential on the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) in the Roman Catholic Church (pages 67, 197-200, 202, 247, 376). In 1986, Bergoglio (born 1936) explored the idea of writing a doctorate on Guardini, but he never did this.

According to Ivereigh (page 417), Bergoglio's bookshelf of books by Guardini included Der Gegensatz (1925; The Contrast, never translated into English), The Lord (English translation, 1956), and The End of the Modern World (English translation, 1956).

According to Ivereigh (page 198), Bergoglio's "desire to explore Guardini's Gegensatz . . . was of a piece with his core underlying interest in politics and institutional reform, and helped shape what as a cardinal he would promote as a 'culture of encounter.'"

According to Iverveigh (page 198), Bergoglio believed that Guardini's critique of Marxist and Hegelian dialectics could be useful for conceptualizing the dynamics of disagreement.

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

Of course theists in various traditions, including ex-Catholics, may recognize God as the authority of life, without recognizing the Roman Catholic Church's teaching authority. (Disclosure: As an ex-Catholic, I am a theistic humanist, not a secular humanist.)

According to Ivereigh (page 202), Bergoglio deeply studied Guardini's The Contrast and The End of the Modern World.

In Pope Francis' 2015 eco-encyclical, he quotes from the 1965 ninth edition in German of Guardini's book The End of the Modern World several times (see the footnotes numbered 83, 84, 85, 87, 92, 144, 154).

No, to be sure, the modern world has not yet ended.

Regarding the apocalyptic alleged end of the modern world, I should say here that Guardini was in effect heralding what we have more recently come to refer to as post-modernist thought.

In the 19th century, popes issued various denunciations of the modern world, including an encyclical known as the Syllabus of Errors. Because the Roman Catholic Church has never yet to this day had an American pope, perhaps we should look on all the historical papal inveighing against the modern world as expressing the view and values of the Old World, not the view and values of the New World exemplified historically in American culture.

In the 20th century, American Catholics jumped on the bandwagon, as Philip Gleason in history at the University of Notre Dame shows in his book Contending with Modernity: [American] Catholic Higher Education in the Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 1995).

Unfortunately, the mischievous Catholic convert Richard John Neuhaus hijacked Guardini's book The End of the Modern World for the cause advanced by certain Roman Catholic theocons by supplying the foreword to the 1998 American edition.

Concerning Roman Catholic theocons, see Damon Linker's book The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege (2006).

Make no mistake about it, Pope Francis is doctrinally, and temperamentally, conservative. Nevertheless, he may be a wee bit less conservative than the American Catholic theocons discussed by Linker are.

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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; Ph.D.in 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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