An essay in "Civilta Cattolica" about a suspected pro-Trump alliance of Catholic and Protestant fundamentalists in the U.S. is causing debate. The dispute shows the problems the pope is facing.
The outrage of theologian George Weigel in his recent commentary for First Things magazine is abundantly clear. The authors of the "Civilta Cattolica" article on an "ecumenism of hate" in the U.S. don't know what they're talking about, Weigel said.
Pope's confidants Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa would have challenged Francis with their "surreal portrayal" of 21st-century U.S. Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism. Century did not do any favors. The result, says Weigel, is an "intellectual dumpster".
A world in black and white?
Since the articles in the prestigious Jesuit magazine "Civilta Cattolica" are proof-read by the Vatican Secretariat of State, "the irritating question of competence" arises – including that of the Secretariat of State. Weigel has been considered a thought leader among conservative Catholics in the U.S. for decades.
Spadaro, editor-in-chief of the "Civilta Cattolica," and the Protestant theologian Figueroa, for their part, had already made it clear on 13. The article, which was published in July and has since been translated into several languages, is not lacking in poignancy. "Catholic integralists" and evangelical fundamentalists shared the same "political Manicheism" that divides the world into black and white. They were "not very different" from jihadists in their worldview, they polemicized.
The pope's confidants take a hard line on Donald Trump's chief strategist Stephen Bannon, a right-wing Catholic who was accused by journalists of having "close contacts" with conservative Cardinal Raymond L. Burke is said to be. Bannon espouses an "apocalyptic geopolitics" whose hallmarks are xenophobia and Islamophobia, as well as blocking steps against climate change.
While Pope Francis is trying to build bridges, right-wing Catholics and evangelicals continue to address abortion, same-sex partnerships and religious education. Such an "ecumenism of conflict" has nothing to do with the ecumenism that Francis has in mind.
Different development of Catholicism
Catholic theologian Massimo Faggioli of Villanova Catholic University in Pennsylvania sees the analysis of "Civilta Cattolica" as a historical contribution "particularly important for understanding the relationship between the Vatican under Francis, the United States and American Catholicism."
The latter, he said, has evolved very differently from Catholicism in Europe and Latin America. Just how much can be seen in the reaction of the conservative Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput. Chaput dismisses Francis confidants as 'useful idiots'. Her article represents a gross oversimplification "that inadequately depicts Catholic-Evangelical interaction on religious liberty and other key ies". Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter, on the other hand, interprets the outcry of the critics as the barking of kicked dogs.
Anything but commonplace
"At last, someone with authority has acknowledged that this link between conservative Catholics and evangelicals has always had more to do with politics than religion." Not unnoticed in the U.S. church also the criticism of the U.S. bishops practiced on a Catholic website and further tweeted by Spadaro. "Why have the bishops not long since said something on this sensitive and crucial ie?", "Il Sismografo" questions their role during the Trump presidency.
John Allen, an experienced connoisseur of the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, finds the article of the "Civilta Cattolica" too undifferentiated, but does not condemn it outright. Above all, he points to the diplomatic entanglements involved, stressing that it is anything but commonplace for a quasi-official organ of the Vatican to comment on the politics of another country.