I find it striking how often Pope Francis engages in pejoratives against people who really tick him off. The list of people who Pope Francis clearly does not like includes “fundamentalists”, the rich, conservatives, capitalists, self-absorbed promethean neopelagians, etc. One could be forgiven for thinking that for decades Pope Francis has been carefully putting groups he does not like in a “them” category as opposed to the “us” category he belongs to, and that his papacy is payback time against the thems. A striking example of this occurred recently:
The Argentine pope, who has been trying to foster cooperation with moderate Islam in order to work for peace and protect Christians in the Middle East, said it was wrong for anyone to react to terrorism by being “enraged” against Islam.
Now in this throwaway line Pope Francis manages to compare people who massacre people in job lots, Islamic jihadists, with Christians he labels “fundamentalists”. I assume that the Pope is using the term in a non-technical sense, and isn’t referring to the Protestant groups that arose out of the Niagara Bible Conferences of 1876-1897. In a Catholic context who he is referring to is clear enough as demonstrated by the ongoing persecution of the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate. The Pope seems to have the likes and dislikes of a fairly typical modern Jesuit, and looked at through that prism much of the apparent confusion surrounding the Pope’s statements melts away.
The problem of course with having a papacy that operates on such a basis is that those clearly in the them camp do not like being targeted by the man at the top and will react to what they regard as unfair aspersions being cast on them. This is especially problematic at this stage in the history of the papacy in that Pope Francis is ticking off those Catholics who have hitherto overall been quite loyal to the papacy, while those who love what the Pope is saying against their adversaries are often Catholics who are lukewarm, to put it charitably, about the practice of the Faith.
Where is all this leading? I think that depends upon the length of the reign of Pope Francis. I do not expect him to change. Later this month he will turn 78 and what he believes was long ago set in cement. A long reign might end in a major schism. A short reign might make him a blip on the history of the papacy. A medium reign would probably most closely resemble the chaos of the reign of Pope Paul VI, with the Pope this time fostering the chaos and drift from orthodoxy. We shall see. One prediction I will make: it will be a very long time indeed before another Jesuit will ever again fill the shoes of the Fisherman after what I think future historians will deem a disaster of a pontificate.