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Pope Francis Critiques Bannon's View of Christianity Pope Francis Critiques Bannon's View of Christianity
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-07-21 10:48:24
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“Pope Francis wants to break the organic link between culture, politics, institution and Church. Spirituality cannot tie itself to governments or military pacts for it is at the service of all men and women. Religions cannot consider some people as sworn enemies nor others as eternal friends. Religion should not become the guarantor of the dominant classes”
--Rev. Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa (in Civiltà Cattolica)

The Rome-based Jesuit publication La Civiltà Cattolica is widely considered one of the most influential Vatican journals within Catholic intellectual circles. Recently it has issued a scathing rebuke of certain strands of religious evangelical “fundamentalism” which in its view has fused with politics in America and elsewhere.

The authors are two of the present Pope’s confidants: Rev. Antonio Spadaro, and Rev. Marcelo Figueroa. The first is a Jesuit, as the Pope is also, who serves as editor-in-chief of the journal, and the other is a Presbyterian pastor and editor-in-chief of the Argentinian version of the Vatican newspaper “L’Osservatore Romano.”

Spadaro has maintained close communication with the pope since Francis’ election. Under his watch, La Civiltà Cattolica has become one of the foremost vehicles for understanding the views of the current pontificate.  While the publication isn’t an official Vatican source, it is reviewed by the Vatican’s Secretary of State before it is published. 

The article explicitly mentions President Donald Trump, who in the past has identified as a Presbyterian, and his adviser Steve Bannon, who identifies as a faithful Catholic, allegedly loyal to Church doctrine.


The article attacks the decades-old partnership between two strands of American Christianity ― fundamentalist evangelicals and Catholics who are brought together by the “same desire for religious influence in the political sphere.” Although these two groups differ on a number of theological issues, they have come together since the 1980s and 1990s over issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

Spadaro and Figueroa have accused this group of misinterpreting verses in the Bible to fit their own political stances on a wide range of topics ― from war-mongering to climate change to the idea of America as a “promised land” that is to be defended against all odds. This is in conformity with Steve Bannon’s professed theory of the invasion of Christian Europe by hordes of Moslem refugees; a theory he gathered from a book titled The Field of the Saints which I have treated at length in a previous article on the Pope in Ovi magazine (see http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/14682)

In this article, the authors explain that these evangelicals and Catholics “condemn traditional ecumenism and yet promote an ecumenism of conflict that unites them in the nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state.”  One of the most worrisome aspects of this alliance for the pair is how it encourages hatred of different ethnicities and conflates Islam with terrorism. At a purely political level, this hatred of Moslems has been exemplified in the travel ban President Trump has attempted to put into effect at the outset of his tenure in the White House. The courts, as equal branch of the government, have fortunately intervened in the matter.

In any case, this view of the world stands in stark contrast to Pope Francis’ interfaith outreach and his repeated calls to build bridges, not walls. The two authors state that “The most dangerous prospect for this strange ecumenism is attributable to its xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls and purifying deportations.”

They compare Steve Bannon’s world view to that of the so-called Islamic State, branding Bannon a “supporter of an apocalyptic geopolitics.” They claim this vision of the world reduces everything to a battle between good and evil, between God and Satan, and that moreover “the desire of these Christian fundamentalists is to submit the state to the Bible with a logic that is no different from the one that inspires Islamic fundamentalism. We must not forget that the theo-politics spread by Isis is based on the same cult of an apocalypse that needs to be brought about as soon as possible.”  

Then the authors outline the path that Pope Francis recommends in stark contrast to this “apocalyptic” view of politics and religion. They claim that the pope “radically rejects” the idea of creating an actual Kingdom of God here on earth through politics, including at the level of a political party…Spirituality cannot tie itself to governments or military pacts for it is at the service of all men and women. Religions cannot consider some people as sworn enemies nor others as eternal friends. Religion should not become the guarantor of the dominant classes.”

Those are strong admonishing words that should put to rest once and for all the misguided notion that the likes of Steve Bannon and Paul Ryan are good Catholics who espouse the magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church. They are far from being good Catholics, and a sure sign that such may be the case is their enthusiastic identification with social Darwinistic, racial, and class theories of White Supremacy supporting the privileged and the rich and condemning the poor and the underprivileged of our world.


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