PopeWatch: Populism



Continuing with our look at the Pope’s interview with El Pais, the largest leftist newspaper in Spain, the question of populism came up:

Q. Both in Europe and in America, the repercussions of the crisis that never ends, the growing inequalities, the absence of a strong leadership are giving way to political groups that reflect on the citizens’ malaise. Some of them —the so-called anti-system or populists— capitalize on the fears of an uncertain future in order to form a message full of xenophobia and hatred towards foreigners. Trump’s case is the most noteworthy, but there are others such as Austria or Switzerland. Are you worried about this trend?

A. That is what they call populism here. It is an equivocal term, because in Latin America populism has another meaning. In Latin America, it means that the people —for instance, people’s movements— are the protagonists. They are self-organized. When I started to hear about populism in Europe I didn’t know what to make of it, until I realized that it had different meanings. Crises provoke fear, alarm. In my opinion, the most obvious example of populism in the European sense of the word is Germany in 1933. After [Paul von] Hindenburg, after the crisis of 1930, Germany is broken, it needs to get up, to find its identity, it needs a leader, someone capable of restoring its character, and there is a young man named Adolf Hitler who says: “I can, I can”. And Germans vote for Hitler. Hitler didn’t steal power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people. That is the risk. In times of crisis we lack judgment, and that is a constant reference for me. Let’s look for a savior who gives us back our identity and let us defend ourselves with walls, barbed-wire, whatever, from other people who may rob us of our identity. And that is a very serious thing. That is why I always try to say: talk among yourselves, talk to one another. But the case of Germany in 1933 is typical, a people who were immersed in a crisis, who were searching for their identity until this charismatic leader came and promised to give their identity back, and he gave them a distorted identity, and we all know what happened. Where there is no conversation… Can borders be controlled? Yes, each country has the right to control its borders, who comes in and who goes out, and those countries at risk —from terrorism or such things— have even more of a right to control them, but no country has the right to deprive its citizens of the possibility to talk with their neighbors.



Go here to read the rest.  Note how the Pope at the outset separates Latin American populism from populism in general.  His excuse that populist movements in Latin America are organized by the people themselves is risible.  The most famous populist movement in Argentinian history, perhaps in all of Latin American history, is the Peronist movement to which the Pope, on occasion, has been thought to be an adherent.  Condemn populism and he has to condemn Peronism, something the Pope clearly does not wish to do.  Thus we have a papal fairy tale that distinguishes Latin American populism from populism elsewhere around the globe.  That being done, the Pope turns to Europe and, ignoring hundreds of populist movements in Europe since World War II, he raises Nazism as the prime example of populism.  Leaving aside whether fascism is populism, a proposition that is certainly debatable, we see the impulse of the Pope to slime those who disagree with him.   The Pope tends to think in strawman terms when he considers those he is not in sympathy with.  A tragedy for any priest, a disaster for a Pope.

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  1. Thanks to the Cardinals appointed by John Paul II and Benedict, who should have known better, we have a Pontiff with the reasoning ability of a two year old.

  2. Pope Chastisement answers a question containing an uncharitable premise with an uncharitable response. Clearly, President Trump and his supporters “hate” foreigners. And, as all good historians know, “the case of Germany in 1933 is typical…” You have to say that or you don’t get to make the always charitable Hitler reference when talking about President Trump. Sadly, I have come to expect this from the Pope.

  3. Goodness, I suppose he might have said that Moses also arose as a populist leader at a time of crisis to lead the chosen people to the promised land–but Hitler serves the narrative so much better.

  4. The Pope said:
    “Let’s look for a savior who gives us back our identity and let us defend ourselves with walls, barbed-wire, whatever, from other people who may rob us of our identity.”
    God’s Holy Word says:
    “7 And I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah; 8 and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house which I shall occupy.’ And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.”
    I rest my case.

  5. “Let’s look for a savior who gives us back our identity and let us defend ourselves with walls, barbed-wire, whatever, from other people who may rob us of our identity.”
    No one can rob another of his identity. The sovereign person can forfeit his identity and ignore his identity. The image of God remains until the person chooses otherwise.

  6. Again, strange use of the word “identity”, like in that tweet we discussed. He doesn’t realize how gender theory has twisted that word in people’s minds.

  7. I wonder if the “if by whiskey” speech could be translated and sent to the Pope…..
    “My friends,

    “I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey.

    “If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.


    “If when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

    “This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.”

    The Clarion Ledger, Saturday, February 24, 1996, Jackson, MS, p. 3B.

    (Incidentally, this gets listed as a fallacy; I do not agree. I think it’s a brilliant illistration of why you need to define your terms, delivered in a way that exposes the unstated assumptions that people are putting in– that is, it shows how different assumptions create different answers to the same question.)

  8. Foxfier…very instructive. Thank you. For some reason, it reminded me of an incident involving General George S. Patton. A Reporter saw a copy of the King James Bible on Patton’s end table, and asked him if he really read it. To which Gen. Patton replied, “Every GD day !” TR.

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