Pope Francis

Francis: An Unworthy Householder

There are moments in this media-conscious pontificate that compel us to turn our eyes away. To keep on looking is to risk stumbling over the edge of the Slough of Despond. “And his disciples remembered that it was written: ‘Zeal for thine house will consume me.’” (John 2:17) That Johannine passage came to mind when I saw the photograph of Pope Francis kissing the shoes of the leaders of opposing sides in the South Sudan’s brutal civil war. The man we call Vicar of Christ groveled at the feet of the president of South Sudan, the leader of his opposition, and several others in the room—as if a papal kiss equips tribal enemies to sally forth in harmony and goodwill. Continue Reading
Shrine to Migrants in St. Peter's Square

Last month, in honor of  the Vatican’s World Day for Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis unveiled a three-ton shrine to migrants in St. Peter’s Square. Lumpen and inert, the addition is no surprise. Less and less is art conceived or promoted in terms of aesthetic value. It has become a form of advocacy journalism. Even in the Vatican, a repository of centuries of cultured achievement, political significance is the primary measure of artistic significance. St. Peter’s spanking-new monument squats in proximity to the luminous twin fountains by Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Continue Reading
The Vatican: Integral Ecology and Liberation Theology

The extraordinary Synod of Bishops for the Pan Amazon region, coming to the Vatican in October, is a very big deal. It would be a mistake for people to dismiss it as inside baseball among Catholics. Far-reaching issues of broad societal concern are at work here under cover of ecological ideals and social justice rhetoric delivered in a Christian idiom. Under cover of deep ecology, liberation theology has come in out of the cold. And it is gunning to even the score between the industrial West and the Third World. Continue Reading
Francis & Mirages of Fraternity, part 1

Pope Francis’ Christmas message, clotted with the word fraternity, was such a brew of pernicious banality that it is hard to know where to start. From the perspective of our 24-hour news cycle, a Moloch that feeds on contrived obsolescence, the papal dispatch asks to be addressed before the end of Christmastide. However, what matters is not one passing item in the news but its substratum, something steady and abiding. In this case, that bedrock something is hostile to the very civilization—however flawed—which has sustained the Church that gave it life and breath. Continue Reading