Pope Francis: Vallely




Ross Douthat has an interesting article in The Atlantic about whether Pope Francis is leading the Church into schism.  He examines the life of Pope Francis for clues as to how Bergoglio developed his positions:


But he did not attack the Dirty War publicly, and the Jesuits under his leadership kept a low political profile as well. The entire Argentine Church was a compromised force during the junta’s rule, and Bergoglio probably couldn’t have played the kind of role that, say, the soon-to-be-beatified archbishop Oscar Romero played in El Salvador. But some in the order blamed his conservatism, as they saw it, for the absence of a clear Jesuit witness against the junta’s crimes.

Eventually these critics gained the upper hand. Not long after Bergoglio’s term ended in 1979, his policies were altered or reversed. Just over a decade later, following a period in which the Argentine Jesuits were divided into pro- and anti-Bergoglio camps, he was exiled from the leadership, sent to a Jesuit residence in the mountain town of Córdoba, and essentially left to rot.

That exile lasted almost two years, and ended when John Paul II’s choice for the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Antonio Quarracino, reached out and picked Bergoglio to serve as one of his auxiliaries in 1992. The rescue made everything that followed possible, but it also completed the former provincial’s break with his own order. Ivereigh notes that over the next 20 years, during which he took many trips to the Vatican, Bergoglio never so much as set foot in the Jesuit headquarters in Rome.

Told this way—conservative Jesuit fights post–Vatican II radicalization, finds himself shunned by left-wing confreres, gets rescued by a John Paul appointee—the story of Francis’s rise and fall and rise sounds for all the world like The Making of a Conservative Pope. And indeed, a number of Catholic writers greeted Bergoglio’s election—some optimistically, some despairingly—with exactly that interpretation of his past’s likely impact on his papacy. But it seems fair to say that this interpretation was mistaken. So how, exactly, did the man who fought bitterly with left-wing Jesuits in the 1970s become the darling of progressive Catholics in the 2010s?

Piqué’s biography doesn’t even attempt to explain this seeming paradox. She blurs the tensions by treating Bergoglio’s 1970s-era critics dismissively—without really digging into the theological and political roots of the disputes—and then portraying Bergoglio the archbishop as basically progressive in his orientation. After succeeding Quarracino, she writes, he fought with “right-wing adversaries in the Roman Curia,” publicly showed annoyance at “obsessive strictness” on sexual ethics, and so on.

Vallely has a more creative argument. He suggests that Francis was essentially a pre–Vatican II traditionalist as provincial, and then, in exile, experienced a kind of theological and political conversion to his critics’ point of view. This is a fascinating idea, but perhaps too psychologically pat, and Vallely’s documentary evidence is interesting but thin. He makes much, for instance, of the older Bergoglio’s tendency to retrospectively criticize the too-hasty or overly authoritarian decision making of his earlier years. But much of this self-criticism seems more about style than about religious substance. And Vallely (like his sources) is rather too fond of false dichotomies: it’s supposed to be surprising, a sign of some radical interior change, that a theological conservative could be pastoral or want to spend time among the poor.

Go here to read the rest.   Douthat rejects the interpretation of biographer Paul Vallely , but PopeWatch thinks that Vallely is on to something.  Pope Francis has always struck PopeWatch as having the zeal of a convert for the ideas he presents.  Hence the abuse, self-absorbed promethean neopelagian, he pours upon those who not in line with his views may be regarded as a condemnation of the youthful Bergoglio who stood in the path of radical Jesuits.  This may or may not be accurate, but at least Vallely is at least looking at the contradictions in the life of Pope Francis, while the usual attitude of most Catholics, and most of the media, is to ignore his past life entirely.

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  1. G K Chesterton observed that “A confusion… has arisen in connection with the word “liberal” as applied to religion and as applied to politics and society. It is often suggested that all Liberals ought to be freethinkers, because they ought to love everything that is free. You might just as well say that all idealists ought to be High Churchmen, because they ought to love everything that is high. You might as well say that Low Churchmen ought to like Low Mass, or that Broad Churchmen ought to like broad jokes. The thing is a mere accident of words.”
    Similarly, a man may be a Throne and Altar Conservative in politics and a Liberal or Modernist in theology – One recalls the “Catholic atheism” of Charles Maurras and not a few of his supporters. Similarly, French Radical Republicans were often supporters of laissez-faire economics and Royalists were often dirigistes.
    At most, one can say that there is often a temperamental, rather than a logical, connection between political and theological liberalism.

  2. MPS suggests that religious liberal and political liberal are two different things, and that a person may be one without necessarily being the other. Yet it would seem from Jorge Bergoglio’s actions that he is both. His Synod on the Family introduced a liberal progressive agenda: welcome sodomites and adulterers without requiring repentance. And his writings indicate a liberal progressive mindset opposed to the free market and in favor of more government intervention. Now he may have the best of intentions – mercy for the sinner in religion and mercy on the poor in economics – but what he does and what he says ignores the fundamental cure for these problems: repentance by everyone – you, me, the poor, the rich, the sodomite, the adulterer, the fornicator, the thief, the murderer, etc. Holiness and righteousness come first – no some misplaced (however good-willed) social justice program.

  3. Paul W Primavera

    Opposition to free markets is quite as common on the Right as on the Left.
    The French Catholic Counter-Revolutionaries of the 19th century were passionately opposed to them, demanding the restitution of the privileges and immunities of the trade and merchant guilds and making landed estates impartible and inalienable.
    Indeed, Tocqueville pointed out that “the ancien régime, which doubtless differed in many respects from that system of government which the socialists call for (and we must realize this) was, in its political philosophy, far less distant from socialism than we had believed. It is far closer to that system than we. The ancien régime, in fact, held that wisdom lay only in the State and that the citizens were weak and feeble beings who must forever be guided by the hand, for fear they harm themselves. It held that it was necessary to obstruct, thwart, restrain individual freedom, that to secure an abundance of material goods it was imperative to regiment industry and impede free competition. The ancien régime believed, on this point, exactly as the socialists of today do. It was the French Revolution which denied this.”
    It was, in fact, the liberal parliamentary régimes of the 19th century that favoured free markets; neither the absolutist monarchies that preceded them – in Austria, France, Prussia and Russia – nor the totalitarian régimes that followed them, in Italy, Spain, Portugal and elsewhere, did so.

  4. My impression is that Pope Francis appears to be a person of feeling rather than thought, sentiment rather than truth, mercy rather than justice. His desire to be liked over-arches his desire to be respected. Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Light.” Sentiment doesn’t have a part in this formula of being.

  5. Everything about the Roman Pontiff’s history points to a past in an order that has gone off the rails and is often openly rebellious against Catholic teaching and doctrine. Throw in the mix that Argentina has had corrupt government almost since it became independent from Spain and you have a clergyman about whom few knew anything in depth.

    The Jesuits are far greater in number in South America than in North America and as a result exert far more influence upon Catholic thought. Imagine Georgetown University everywhere and involved in everything Catholic.

    Douthat apparently has not mentioned the impact the SSPX and specifically Bishop Williamson have had on the Roman Pontiff. +Williamson was the most hard core of the bishops ordained by +Lefebvre and anyone who even hints at denying any part of the Holocaust is seen as not just a kook but possibly a dangerous person along with any group he participates in or represents. Do not doubt for a minute the anti-Semitism that percolates in certain Traditionalist circles.

    The Roman Pontiff apparently never set foot in North America and had little if any contact with North Americans. Given that the North American Church hierarchy is no great friend of free market economies, how could the Roman Pontiff possibly appreciate economic freedom when Latin America has almost never known such a thing?

  6. Bill Bannon:Tangential…a vice president of CRS is in a gay marriage apparently…
    Symptoms of the crisis we face in the Church and in the World.
    Is Pope Francis part of the problem or part of the solution?

  7. @John F. Ishwar: Thank you for EL “DENZINGER-BERGOGLIO” Thanks be to God who has left for him and us seven thousand in [the Church], all the knees that have not bowed to Ba′al, and every mouth that has not kissed him. [Cf. 1Kings 19:18]

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