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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Argentinian: "If You Try to Understand Francis, You Will Lose Your Reason"

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Argentinian: "If You Try to Understand Francis, You Will Lose Your Reason"

I have mentioned on a number of occasions my conversation with an Argentine friend just after the election of Pope Francis. Readers might remember that he made this rather ominous, though amusing comment: “If you try to understand him, you will lose your Reason”.

My friend uttered that phrase to underline his conviction that anyone trying to outline a heresy in the words of the pope would be barking up the wrong tree. As far as he could see, the pope’s “thought” is not “thought” in any traditional Greco-Roman-Catholic sense, and therefore cannot be held up for normal scrutiny as “orthodox” or “heterodox”. He assured me that anyone looking for orthodoxy or heresy would be able to find both, together, and even perhaps simultaneously. Take your pick.

This same friend insisted that critics accusing the pope of Marxist sympathies were off the mark as well. Marxism is an intellectual system alien to his mindset. His social justice concerns are not Marxist social justice concerns. The Argentine claimed that Francis’ whole approach emerges out of populist, Peronist, and therefore Fascist influences. Fascism is not rational. It does not build “systems”. It is based upon the will of the Leader who must be obeyed simply because he is the Leader: precisely the vision of conservatives like Jeff Mirus. Sometimes this can intersect with Catholic visions; sometimes not.

Finally, my friend urged reading of the pope’s comments on the two hundredth anniversary of the Society of Jesus (1814-2014). He argues that Francis knows the history of the Society and the battles that it has fought, including the famous one over the nature of grace and free will with the Dominicans. The climax (though not the end) of this debate was a thrashing out of the arguments in seventeen disputations in the presence of Pope Paul V (1605-1621), at the conclusion of which the pontiff permitted both positions to be held.

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My Argentine “informer” wondered whether Francis sees himself in a similar position, as a pope presiding over discussions of a chaos of opinions about everything imaginable, from orthodox to insane, with himself as Sovereign in the German political philosopher Carl Schmitt (1888-1985)’s definition of the term:
"Sovereign is he who decides on the exception"—with “exception” meaning “the appropriate moment for stepping outside the rule of law in the public interest”—and, perhaps, with “public interest” defined by the Leader or the populist influences to which he is responding alone. Interesting, is it not?

In any case, I thought it valuable, in confirmation of some of my friend’s theses, to pass on this note sent to me yesterday from another source:

In the Fall of 2013 a well-known Catholic intellectual from South America, a highly recognized university professor, Lucrecia Rego de Planas, who knows Bergoglio well and who worked with him, among other things, gave a portrait of the man.

"Bergoglio wants to be loved by everyone and please everyone. In this sense one day he will talk on TV against abortion and the next day he will bless the pro abortionist in the Plaza de Mayo; he could give a marvelous talk against the Masons (Masonic Order) and, an hour later, eat and drink with them at the Rotary Club.......this is the Cardinal Bergoglio whom I know close up. One day busy in a lively chat with Bishop Aguer about the defense of life and the liturgy and the same day, at dinner, having a lively talk with Mons. Ysern and Mons. Rosa Chavez about base communities and the terrible obstacles that are presented by the Church's dogmatic teachings. One day a friend of Cardinal Cipriani and Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga speaking about business ethics and against the New Age ideology and little latter a friend of Casaldaliga and Boff speaking about the class struggle and the "richness" of Eastern techniques which could contribute to the Church."

Friends of The Remnant, would you care to debate before a tribunal headed by such a judge? Just wondering.

Last modified on Friday, November 21, 2014
John Rao | Remnant Columnist, New York

John C. Rao, Ph.D. is an associate professor of history at St. John's University, director of the Roman Forum/Dietrich von Hildebrand Institute, and former president of Una Voce America.  In 1977 he received his D.Phil. in Modern European History from Oxford University. Notable works include Americanism and the Collapse of the Church in the United States, Removing the Blindfold, and Periphery. His latest book, Black Legends: The War of the Words Against the Word, a guide to the history of the Catholic Church, was published by The Remnant Press in 2012. A student of Dietrich von Hildebrand and a close friend and collaborator of Michael Davies, John Rao has been a frequent contributor to The Remnant since the early 1980s.  He is known for writing his Remnant columns from Rocco's Cafe, an Italian pastry shop in Greenwich Village Manhattan.