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Why Pope Francis Doesn’t Like Americans (It’s Complicated)

September 10, 2019 Frontpage No Comments

By SHAUN KENNEY

Much ink shall be spilled, and many trees condemned to the paper factory for Pope Francis’ quip that he enjoys being criticized by Americans, made aboard the papal plane en route to Mozambique. Not faithful Catholics, not pew-sitting Catholics, not conservative or liberal Catholics, neither progressive nor traditionalist Catholics mind you — but Americans.
Ah yes, Pope Francis the Off-Color Interviewee strikes again, and much to the panicked chagrin of the Holy See Press Office who mysteriously allowed the recently formed and decidedly leftist La Croix International (a blog) to ask the Holy Father about a book published by Nicolas Seneze – who just so happens to not only work for La Croix but was allowed to ask Pope Francis about his own book.
Now imagine the converse. Michael Voris of Church Militant stands up on the papal plane in front of Pope Pius XIII to ask about the latest infiltration of Freemasons into the Catholic Church by Germans, and Pius XIII states that it is an honor to be attacked by Germans, etc.
Imagine the uproar! Imagine the pearl clutching from the liberal media! Imagine the horror of the Holy See Press Office!
Instead, we were treated to what is either the most obtuse spin ever recorded in the history of Francis’ pontificate, or a piece of communications sophistry where even the East German judge would give the display high marks. Matteo Bruni offered the explanation that criticism from intellectuals is always welcome, and especially welcome from intellectuals from such an honorable country as America. Hence the reason Pope Francis can say, “For me it is an honor that Americans attack me.”
Ouch.

Surprise! No One Likes Americans

This might pain American readers to hear, but gosh darn it…Americans aren’t very well thought of outside of America. We are loud, fat, opinionated, and always trying to fix problems we were never invited to solve.
Perceived abroad as bullies rather than liberators, it is no small secret that over the course of the last 20 years, both Republicans and Democrats have gone out of their way to use American power as a means of extracting advantage rather than creating the Jeffersonian “empire of liberty” much talked about by our Founders and last championed by men such as Patrick Buchanan.
So goes the folly of empire. Yet it is also important to note that there is a growing threefold rift in U.S.-Vatican relations worth glossing over to get to a final point.
First and foremost, when the United States rose to global power in the post-Second World War peace, our diplomatic corps was an infant at best, whereas the Vatican — stripped bare of temporal power by the 1929 Lateran Treaty — maintained one of the oldest and far-reaching diplomatic corps in the world.
Second, it is no small secret that “social democracy” carries with it the seeds of secular postmodernism, and with that the gender ideology that even Pope Francis has condemned as diabolical. Romano Guardini, perhaps the single greatest influence upon Pope Francis as a theologian, warns about the threat of postmodernism and technology in The End of the Modern World. That the United States as a matter of bureaucratic policy under Clinton, Bush, Obama, and even, to a lesser extent, Trump, floods the developing world with contraceptives while pushing gender ideology is not only offensive to those parts of the world, but absolutely contradictory to what the Catholic Church teaches through the Magisterium.
Third, there is also no secret that these same democrats — illiberal and coercive as they are — have allies among the College of Cardinals and within the Catholic Church. Just recently, the Vatican announced that the Church is running a deficit of $70 million per annum, down from $300 million when Pope Francis was elected Pope, but a deficit nonetheless.
No small wonder why individuals such as McCarrick were activated from exile to resolve the financial crisis; why Pell is being punished for delving too deeply into the Institute of the Works of Religion (the Vatican Bank); why Burke was exiled and the Knights of Malta’s resources were effectively confiscated. What was McCarrick’s price? What is the price of the German cardinals so desperately trying to protect the Kirchensteuer — church tax — that they are willing to water down Catholic teaching on marriage and the family?
The answers aren’t difficult to bear out. The Vatican needs money; left-leaning Catholics are happy to rent out the Deposit of Faith if it makes deposits in the Vatican Bank. Pope Francis is perhaps painfully aware of this and yet simultaneously powerless to stop it, for fear of quite literally destroying the post-Second World War arrangement where the Vatican is viewed a tool of the West.
Then there are longstanding European sensibilities with regards to Americans, usurpers of the world order that we are. Europe has been an idea for 2,400 years. For 500 years, Europe was the major power on the world stage. Only after Europe committed wholesale suicide during the first half of the twentieth century did the locus of power shift into the hands of those rough-and-ready American Protestants and those quasi-Eastern Russians — neither of whom would ever be considered truly Western or truly European in their eyes.

American Coercion Vs. Russian Tradition

Thus to be attacked by those unruly, uncultured Americans is quite an honor for urbane and cultured Europeans (sic). Yet there is an additional undertone here, because as a question of foreign policy, the United States of America has been putting tremendous resources toward undermining traditional understandings of marriage, family, and society. The angst toward Catholic Relief Services and Caritas International is part of that admixture between Catholic values and American resources.
USAID had been offering a choice: Work with us, or we give these resources to organizations like Save the Children who have no qualms about pushing contraceptives into the hands of 13-year-old African girls.
This opens the question of Russia, where the Vatican has been spending an inordinate amount of resources warming up to our one-time foes. Much like Vatican opposition to the Iraq War in 2003, the Vatican has opposed any instigation toward Russia in the Ukraine. An emphasis on unity and the use of time and deliberation vs. American diplomatic and military power are a stark contrast that is driving a wedge between the Vatican and the United States.
Moreover, the Russian Federation is showing an open (if calculated) resistance to postmodern culture. The Russian Orthodox Church supports family, opposes gender ideology, and reacts with horror to the widespread and coercive push to accept such innovations. Poland, Hungary, Italy, and many conservative parties in Europe — again, all useful to Russia as a political stratagem — all sail to the same port in the postmodern storm.

Bully Diplomacy

Thus I would offer this observation. Pope Francis considers it an “honor” to be attacked by Americans because, all in all, no one in the Vatican really respects American opinion on just about anything — either theological or political. We are perceived as bullies and sometimes live up to the reputation accordingly.
Meanwhile, there are forces in the Vatican eager to surrender to the American line, if for no other reason than to resolve the financial problems of the Vatican Bank. Yet despite the willingness to shuffle cards in the respect of charity, the divergence with the United States in places such as the Middle East and the Ukraine cannot be overlooked.
Much ink was spilled over the rather perplexing gift of a relic of St. Peter to the Russian Orthodox Patriarch in July. Why would the Vatican do such a thing, we wondered? Maybe it has more to do with a shot over the bow of American diplomats and bureaucrats, who continue to push policies contrary to the values of a growing Catholic South while aggressively following policies that are destroying lives in the Middle East and the Ukraine?
Welcome to the complicated world of Vatican diplomacy, my friends.

+ + +

First Teachers warmly encourages readers to submit their thoughts, views, opinions, and insights to the author directly either via e-mail or by mail. Please send any correspondence to Shaun Kenney c/o First Teachers, 5289 Venable Rd., Kents Store, VA 23084 or by e-mail to kenneys@cua.edu.

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