Speak Nice to Power


Jeb Bush, on MSNBC last night, spoke about Donald Trump’s rise as a presidential candidate. He laid it partly at the pope’s feet, as reported on Breitbart:

Bush also went on to blame the Catholic Church, saying, “the Pope intervening in American politics didn’t help.”

“[The Pope] was talking about basically open borders at a time when the whole Trump phenomenon was to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. [The Pope] literally goes to the border for a massive mass,” Bush said. “I don’t think he should be intervening . . . . I don’t think he understood he was intervening in our political affairs.”

There it is: the pulled punch, the misplaced courtesy, the mousy kowtow to office. All the tiptoeing, the pussyfooting, the if-you-please-your-Majesty gets in the way of the truth of things. Of course Pope Francis understood. His intention from the get-go was to interfere. Faux-Franciscan theater is his preferred medium of intrusion.

All the world’s a stage for yet another tableau of mannered piety. No one paying attention to this pontificate could think otherwise. Witness papal theatrics in Cuba or the Middle East, with Evo Morales in Bolivia, in the self-conscious Lacanian language running through Laudato Sí, in the spectacle of Muslim families imported to Rome while Christians were left behind.


Spinelli Aretino. Frederick Barbarossa Submits to the Authority of Alexander III (14th C).

Stagecraft is revealing. Think back to Francis’ histrionic chirp to the world after embracing—for the cameras—Cairo’s top Sunni imam: “Our meeting was the message.” His self-congratulatory paraphrase of Marshall McLuhan’s famous The Medium is the Message, a bestseller in 1967, tells us much about what decade the papal mind inhabits.

“A cat may look on a king, ye know.” From that standpoint, what comes into view is a meddling megalomaniac in competition with St. John Paul II for a legacy on the international stage. Moral vanity smothers any ability or willingness to distinguish between tearing down a wall in one situation and putting one up (bureaucratically) in another. Any conscientious effort to protect national borders—without which there can be no nation—and guard one’s own people and culture is just so much razor ribbon to Jorge Bergolio.


A 1652 edition of The Proverbs & Epigrams of John Heywood.

“By Me, kings reign,” says Proverbs 8:15. Authority itself—like every other attribute known to man—may come from God, but the officeholder does not. The surest way to show respect for office is to approach the occupant of office with clear eyes. And to tell what you see.

What we see in the Pope of Hearts is a power-driven narcissist with an eye on his own place in history. And, I trust, on a coveted entry in a forthcoming edition of Butler’s Lives of the Saints.

How much courtesy is owed to a man as promiscuous with Church authority, and as destructive, as this one?


Henry Brock’s illustration of Puss in Boots (early 20th C).