Now the real excuse for this post is that yesterday, it being a sort of holiday, I made rather merry and neglected to cause a post to be written. Since I cannot rely on randomness, chance, or whatever else is supposed to be the modern, sophisticated replacement for hard chance, nothing got done. From nothing came nothing.
The New York Post became the New York Pope. The lachrymose speaker of the house was near to blubbering, and the wet stuff glistened the cheeks of several other other Congresspeoples. Great masses made pilgrimages to DC, NYC, or Philly. The sworn secular were lost in admiration, even, I am guessing, to the point of doubting their doubts. Even the die-finally atheists on Twitter were respectful, more or less.
Ross Douthat, of the secular Cathedral’s press organ, said Pope Francis bolstered progressives.
It’s a gift the religious left sorely needed, because the last few decades have made a marriage of Christian faith and liberal politics seem doomed to eventual divorce. Since the 1970s, the mainline Protestant denominations associated with progressive politics have experienced a steep decline in membership and influence, while American liberalism has become more secular and anti-clerical, culminating in the Obama White House’s battles with Francis’ own church. In the intellectual arena, religiously-inclined liberals have pined for a Reinhold Niebuhr without producing one, and the conservative fear that liberal theology inevitably empties religion of real power has found all-too-frequent vindication.
Pope Francis has not solved any of these problems. But his pontificate has nonetheless given the religious left a new lease on life. He has offered encouragement to Catholic progressives by modestly soft-pedaling the issues dividing his church from today’s liberalism — abortion and same-sex marriage — while elevating other causes and concerns. His personnel decisions have confirmed that encouragement; his rhetoric has reinvigorated left-leaning Catholic punditry and thought. And his media stardom has offered provisional evidence for a proposition dear to liberal-Christian hearts — namely, that a public Christianity free from entanglements with right-wing politics could tug the disaffected back toward faith.
His analysis is surely right, at least for many. But only because of two things. The Holy Father did not on this trip talk say, what he has said before and surely still believes, that for instance gmarriage is of the devil. That means Satan-caused, dear reader. A harsh and frightening proposition. The second thing is the left’s euphoric eagerness to mold any statement made by the Pope into their image.
But not all on the left are buying it. One headline: “Pope Francis is not a progressive–he just has terrific PR“. The writer of that piece noticed that Francis said this:
Gay adoption is discrimination against children: “What is at stake here is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of so many children who will be discriminated against in advance, depriving them of the human maturation that God wanted to be given with a father and a mother.”…
“Defend the unborn against abortion even if they persecute you, calumniate you, set traps for you, take you to court or kill you. No child should be deprived.”
These kind of “hidden secrets” so unnerved the writer that he used the “P”-word—-propaganda—to describe the Pope’s efforts.
And here at home I noted that the Pope has spoken deeply and eloquently on, for instance, the Eucharist and its necessity, as well on other matters of Catholic dogma. These statements were not buried, but where right there, plain to see, in his so-called environmental encyclical. It’s just that everybody pretended not to see, or somehow ignored, those words.
Lastly, given the weakening, perhaps only temporary, of the secular of the renewed, again perhaps temporary, faith of the lapsed, the visit at least shows that traditional religion is far from dead. Secular religion—democracy, scientism, etc.—is still with us. But has it been softened?
What do you think?
Update On lefty reporting: “Thus saith The New York Times: Compassion is the opposite of Catholic doctrine“.