Cardinal Mueller’s bold attempt to smoke out the hard-core revisionists by publishing a string of quotations from the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church and challenging them to subscribe to it, is harvesting a goodly number of the usual suspects.
But what the Holy Father will sign up to, we will never know. For him silence is golden, and clarity is yet another manifestation of ‘clericalism’.
Genesis Butler (sic), a 12-year-old US animal rights activist, and the Million Dollar Vegan campaign have challenged Pope Francis to go vegan for Lent 2019. This gesture – consonant with Francis’s aim to make the Catholic Church the custodian of the planet’s future – will be rewarded with 1m dollars to the charity of the Pope’s choice.
With the books of the Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù still to be balanced (even after ex-Cardinal McCarrick’s generous subvention) it was a no brainer. Francis will go vegan. Only the details needed to be settled.
The Million Dollar Vegan campaign is insistent, however, that there should be independent verification, and the suggestion that Archbishop Vigano should come out of hiding to fulfil the task was not immediately acceptable to the Cardinal Secretary of State. Eventually, however, it was agreed that Vigano, disguised a a Swiss Guard, would be given temporary accommodation in an apartment in the City until Holy Saturday.
The Holy See has let it be known that it is open to other sponsorships of a similar kind. A deal with Macdonadl’s is already being negotiated for the whole of Eastertide
The Holy Father has said that his visit to the Arabian peninsula and meeting with Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the imam of Al-Azhar, has caused him to think again about the meeting of Francis of Assisi with Sultan al-Kamil.
But this was more than mere musing.
Pope Francis was making a direct connection between his visit and that of his saintly namesake. Just as the Assisi meeting of 1986 deployed the story of Francis’s visit to Egypt during the fifth Crusade, so the Pope is now portraying himself as Francis’s successor as mediator and peacemaker.
But both politicised deployments of the Francis of Assisi story distort the history of the event (in so far as we can be certain about it). St Francis did not cross the military line at Damietta to broker a truce, or to effect a dialog or reconciliation between Christianity and Islam. His aim was to convert the Sultan to Christ. So confident was he of success in this task that (according to Bonaventure, writing some 40 years later) he told the Sultan to decapitate him if he failed.
There is, it seems, in the tale of St Francis and the Sultan, no precedent at all for the doctrinal indifferentism currently championed by Pope Francis. St Francis of Assisi clearly believed that God willed that all men should be Christians, and was prepared to uphold that proposition at the expense of his own life.
See also: Augustine Thompsom, OP, Francis of Assisi: A new Life, Cornell, 2012, pp 67-70; and (for more diverse interpretations of the evidence) John V. Tobin, St Francis and the Sultan : The Curious History of a Christian-Muslim Encounter, OUP, 2009.
It is never easy to know what Francis means. Perhaps, in that, he is being deliberate.
But unlike John Paul’s kissing the Koran, this is not an action (picturesque but ambiguous): these are words with a plain meaning:
The pluralism and the
diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His
wisdom, through which He created human beings.
Francis needs now to explain, first of all, what he is NOT saying.
Is religion, then, like ‘colour, sex, and race’ – an accident of biology for which the individual cannot be held responsible? Or is it like language – a social construct indigenous to a particular ethnic group? *
Neither of these sits easily with the Church’s notion of the Faith as a personal commitment to Truth divinely revealed and constituted. Nor are they consonant with traditional Islamic theology and the teaching of the Koran. To contemporary liberal indifferentists, the absolute claims of both religions are, of course, an embarrassment; but they are an indispensable part of the self-understanding of each.
*Or, in the Babel story, a God-given punishment for hubris
This mendacious piece of encumenospeak by two eminent religious leaders is astounding in its audacity. Neither party could possibly hold to such a statement, or sustain it with integrity, in concert with their co-religionists.
The challenges of the famous dubia (about aspects of Amoris Laetitia) are as nothing beside the defence which will be required of this unequivocal statement of divine indifferentism. Not for the first time a pronouncement by Francis sounds more like Anglicanism than Catholicism. And more like empty virtue signalling than coherent theology.
How, in a representative democracy, has it come about that an overwhelming preponderance of MPs supports remain? (One would have thought that the ballot box would have ensured virtual parity.) This disproportion – at the heart of the current constitutional crisis – demands an explanation. There seem to me to be three factors.
The predominance of remainer opinions in academe and the BBC. Despite suspicion of the EU as a ‘capitalist conspiracy’ among left-wingers in the Labour movement, the left-leaning academy has demonstrated enthusiasm for the EU for many years. To a community with extensive internationalist connections opposition to the European project has seemed narrow and xenophobic. The BBC recruits predominantly from this class (and disproportionately from Oxbridge) and has assumed its prejudices. MPs, increasingly, are university educated and symbiotic with establishment broadcasters. What is sometimes decried as the ‘Westminster Bubble’ is simply the crowd self-affirmation of an educated meritocracy.
Repudiation, by that class, of Britain’s colonial past. The largest empire in world history has largely been written off as racist, oppressive and mistaken. Historians who identify positive attitudes and achievements are routinely derided by their colleagues. The post imperial history of Great Britain has been portrayed as one of diminution and decline (until the Thatcher era, a self-fulfilling prophecy). Incorporation in a supranational arrangement has thus seemed attractive, perhaps even inevitable. These attitudes have filtered down. They are routinely taught in primary and secondary schools, often as part of programmes of ‘racism awareness’.
Antipathy among educated elites to the nation state. The nation is routinely portrayed as malign and destructive. From this prejudice derives the extravagant claim that the EU has kept the peace in Europe since the Second World War. This is evidently not the case. The cessation of two centuries of Franco-German antagonism (in which the UK was only incidentally and tangentially involved) could better be attributed to exhaustion than idealism.
In these three ways the governing class has lost contact with the majority of the British people – as evidence the hubris of David Cameron’s sanctioning a referendum, blithely confident of its result.