Bannon and the ultra-right take on Pope Francis

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Bannon and the ultra-right take on Pope Francis

Post by jserraglio » Sat Apr 13, 2019 8:34 am

Steve Bannon and U.S. ultra-conservatives take aim at Pope Francis ... is-n991411

By Richard Engel and Kennett Werner

VATICAN CITY — Strolling through St. Peter’s Square, the heart of the Roman Catholic Church, Steve Bannon surveyed the enemy camp.

The populist political consultant has a new target in his crusade against “globalism” — Pope Francis.

“He’s the administrator of the church, and he’s also a politician,” said Bannon, a former adviser to President Donald Trump. “This is the problem. ... He’s constantly putting all the faults in the world on the populist nationalist movement.”

Since becoming pope in 2013, Francis has expressed a consistent message on the type of “America First” nationalism championed by Bannon.

Two years ago, the pope cautioned against growing populism in Europe, warning it could lead to the election of leaders like Hitler.

He has called for compassion toward migrants, saying that fearing them "makes us crazy," as well as other marginalized groups including the poor and gay people. He has also defended diversity.

Bannon alleges that Francis has mismanaged numerous sex abuse scandals roiling the church, and says the pope is not treating the issue seriously enough.

"The Catholic Church is heading to a financial crisis that will lead to a bankruptcy," he said. "It could actually bring down, not the theology, not the teachings, not the community of the Catholic Church, but the physical and financial apparatus of this church."

In a speech ending a landmark Vatican conference on the issue of clerical sexual abuse in February, the pope vowed to "decisively confront the phenomenon," adding: "The church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case."
Every abuse is an atrocity. In people's justified anger, the Church sees the reflection of the wrath of God. It is our duty to listen attentively to this silent cry. #PBC2019 — Pope Francis (@Pontifex) February 24, 2019
But Bannon is not alone in criticizing the pontiff. A raft of conservative Catholics, from bishops to lay theologians to firebrand pundits, have attacked Francis.

They were supporters of Francis’s traditionalist predecessor, Benedict XVI, who unexpectedly resigned in 2013. On Thursday, Benedict published a letter outlining his views on the sex abuse crisis. "The crisis, caused by the many cases of clerical abuse, urges us to regard the church as something almost unacceptable, which we must now take into our own hands and redesign," he wrote.

Bannon has found an ideological ally in conservative Cardinal Raymond Burke, a former archbishop of St. Louis who was demoted by Francis and has supported calls for the pope's resignation.

Burke and Bannon reportedly met at the Vatican in 2014 and are both involved in building an incubator for budding right-wing ideologues in Italy. Bannon described the project as "an academy that brings the best thinkers together" to train "modern gladiators."

Other American theologians have openly attacked Francis for “devaluing the doctrines of the church.”

The center of the anti-Francis backlash is in the U.S., according to Massimo Faggioli, a liberal professor of theology at Villanova University. "There is no question about that," he said.

Francis, the first pope from the Southern Hemisphere, was a trailblazer and an outsider from the start, and the elevation of an Argentine brought a new “geopolitical perspective” and priorities to the papacy, Faggioli said.

While Benedict saw Catholicism’s future squarely within the Western world, Francis has espoused a vision of “global Catholicism” in which issues of social justice are paramount.

He has turned support for the poor and the environment into the key issues of his pontificate, while warning against consumerism and unfettered capitalism.

Francis has set precedents by condemning the death penalty in all cases and signaling that divorced and remarried Catholics should be able to receive Communion.

John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown, said this reformist impulse has rankled church traditionalists. Accustomed to favorable treatment from the Vatican, many American Catholics saw themselves sidelined by Francis' progressive agenda.

“If you’re an archbishop living in a big house with a big car and he says you need to have the smell of the sheep, that’s threatening,” Carr added. “He looks at the world from the bottom up and from the outside in. If you’re on top, if you’re an insider in the church, in the economy, in politics, he can threaten you.”

The backlash has been swift. Weeks after Francis’s election, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, a prominent conservative, announced that members of the right wing within the church had “not been really happy.”

Robert Sirico, the founder of the Acton Institute, a Michigan-based think tank, considers Francis to be sympathetic to socialism.

“His dominant understanding of what business is is selfish and doing things to benefit only themselves rather than the poor,” said Sirico, who met Francis in 2013.

The Acton Institute’s mission is to integrate free market principles with Christian theology, and Sirico disagrees with the pope about issues including welfare, taxation and climate change.

While both Sirico and Bannon say they don't believe the pope should step down, others go further.

They have adopted an extremist, “take-no-prisoners” approach unlike any opposition to John Paul II or Benedict, according to Faggioli.

The Vatican’s former ambassador to America, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, wrote a letter last August claiming that Francis had covered up misconduct by Theodore McCarrick, a disgraced ex-cardinal.

“Homosexual networks” within the clergy, Viganò wrote, were responsible for the high incidence of abuse and were “strangling the church.” The Vatican has not commented on Viganò's allegations.

To moderate and liberal Catholics, such weaponization of the sex abuse crisis is aimed at undermining Francis.

His critics want to tarnish “the affection people have for him as pope,” according to Carr.

“The irony is that they don’t have any particular history of standing up for victims and in some cases were allies of those who were involved in the crisis,” added Carr, who is himself a survivor of clerical sexual abuse.

The Vatican did not respond to requests for comment by NBC News.

Richard Engel reported from Vatican City, and Kennett Werner from London.

The Guardian

Steve Bannon ‘told Italy’s populist leader: Pope Francis is the enemy’

Trump’s ex-strategist advised Matteo Salvini ‘to target pontiff’s stance on plight of refugees’ ... -the-enemy

Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon advised Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini to attack the pope over the issue of migration, according to sources close to the Italian far right.

During a meeting in Washington in April 2016, Bannon – who would within a few months take up his role as head of Trump’s presidential campaign – suggested the leader of Italy’s anti-immigration League party should start openly targeting Pope Francis, who has made the plight of refugees a cornerstone of his papacy.

“Bannon advised Salvini himself that the actual pope is a sort of enemy. He suggested for sure to attack, frontally,” said a senior League insider with knowledge of the meeting in an interview with the website SourceMaterial.

After the meeting, Salvini became more outspoken against the pope, claiming that conservatives in the Vatican were on his side. One tweet from Salvini’s account, in May 2016, said: “The pope says migrants are not a danger. Whatever!” On 6 May 2016, Salvini, after the pope’s plea for compassion towards migrants, stated: “Uncontrolled immigration, an organised and financed invasion, brings chaos and problems, not peace.”

The claims coincide with suggestions that Bannon’s pan-European populist project, the Movement, has stalled. Meanwhile, Salvini has announced that he wants to bring the far right from across Europe into an alliance. Last Monday in Milan, he unveiled his “vision of Europe for the next 50 years”, billing it as the launch of a new rightwing coalition for the European parliamentary elections on 23 May. Salvini unveiled his alliance only days after meeting Bannon in Rome in March. This led some to believe that Bannon has handpicked Salvini as the informal leader of Eurosceptic, populist forces in Europe.

The pair also met in Rome six months ago, prompting Mischaël Modrikamen, the Movement’s managing director, to tweet that Italy’s deputy prime minister “is in!”

Bannon, in an interview with NBC and SourceMaterial to be broadcast at 9pm eastern time in the US on Sundayon , also takes issue with the pope’s warnings over resurgent populist movements. “You can go around Europe and it’s [populism] catching fire and the pope is just dead wrong,” said Bannon.

Following the September 2016 meeting between Salvini and Bannon, the League leader was photographed holding up a T-shirt emblazoned with the words: “Benedict is my pope.”


The slogan refers to a Vatican version of the “birther” campaign waged by Trump against Barack Obama, claiming that Francis’s papacy is illegitimate and that his ultra-conservative predecessor Benedict XVI is in fact the true pontiff.

The League source also alleged that Salvini would have attacked the pope harder but was restrained by his own party, predominantly by Giancarlo Giorgetti, the deputy federal secretary of Lega Nord who is close to senior figures in the Vatican.

“[After the Bannon meeting] Salvini moved very tough and said: ‘We have to attack the Vatican, but the other guy said wait.’ Salvini thinks by himself and acts by himself ... so he started to act [for example, by appearing with the ‘Benedict is my Pope’ T-shirt],” said the source.

Bannon has steadily been building opposition to Francis through his Dignitatis Humanae Institute, based in a 13th-century mountaintop monastery not far from Rome.

In January 2017, Bannon became a patron of the institute, whose honorary president is Cardinal Raymond Burke, an ultra-conservative who believes organised networks of homosexuals are spreading a “gay agenda” in the Vatican.

The institute’s chairman is former Italian MP Luca Volontè, on trial for corruption for accepting bribes from Azerbaijan . He has denied all charges.

Among the institute’s trustees is one of the pope’s most outspoken critics, Austin Ruse, a former contributor to rightwing news website Breitbart. Ruse runs C-FAM, an anti-abortion group whose founder was prone to antisemitic rants about population control and which has been termed a hate group by human rights campaigners. Like Volontè, Ruse is an official of the World Congress of Families, a gathering of far-right, anti-gay Christian groups backed by Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin.

Other trustees include Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Conservative thinktank the Bow Group, who met Bannon in London last summer, alongside Raheem Kassam, the former UK editor of Breitbart. Bannon was a founding member of Breitbart’s board.

Bannon was invited by the Observer to respond but at the time of publication had not yet replied.
Last edited by jserraglio on Sat Apr 13, 2019 10:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Steve Bannon and U.S. ultra-conservatives take aim at Pope Francis

Post by lennygoran » Sat Apr 13, 2019 9:00 am

My DVR is programmed for this Sun at 9PM for this show from MSNBC. Regards, Len ... is-n991411

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Re: Steve Bannon and U.S. ultra-conservatives take aim at Pope Francis

Post by jserraglio » Sat Apr 13, 2019 9:24 am

lennygoran wrote:
Sat Apr 13, 2019 9:00 am
My DVR is programmed for this Sun at 9PM for this show from MSNBC. Regards, Len ... is-n991411
I'll be watching . . . the replay of the Indians' game

Posts: 6208
Joined: Sun May 29, 2005 7:06 am
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: Bannon and the ultra-right take on Pope Francis

Post by jserraglio » Sat Apr 13, 2019 9:42 am

Ex-Pope Benedict weighs in. His unprecedented letter is being used by the radical right to drive a wedge between the two factions.


Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI releases letter on clerical sex abuse

ROME — Breaking years of silence on major church affairs, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has written a lengthy letter devoted to clerical sex abuse in which he attributes the crisis to a breakdown of church and societal moral teaching and says he felt compelled to assist “in this difficult hour.”
The 6,000-word letter, written for a small German Catholic publication and published in translation by other outlets Thursday, laments the secularization of the West, decries the 1960s sexual revolution and describes seminaries that became filled during that period with “homosexual cliques.”
The pope emeritus, in emphasizing the retreat of religious belief and firm church teaching, provides a markedly different explanation for the abuse crisis than that offered by Pope Francis, who has often said abuse results from the corrupted power of clergy.
“Why did pedophilia reach such proportions?” Benedict wrote, according to the Catholic News Agency, which published the full text in English. “Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God.”
Since abdicating the papacy six years ago, Benedict — living in a monastery inside Vatican City walls — had remained nearly silent on issues facing the church, in part to yield full authority to his successor. But Benedict’s decision to speak out highlights the unprecedented and awkward position facing the ideologically divided Roman Catholic Church, which has — for the first time in six centuries — two potential authority figures who hold sometimes differing views.
In his intervention, Benedict did not assess his own role in the crisis, during which he held power for decades, first behind the scenes and then for nearly eight years as pontiff. But the letter bears his hallmark: in particular, a conviction that Catholic teaching can show the way out of a crisis.
“He speaks only a little about victims,” said Vito Mancuso, an author who has written books about Catholic theology and philosophy. “It’s almost an excuse for the one thing that he is truly interested in: the traditionalist restoration inside the church.”
Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, confirmed the authenticity of the letter in an email. The Vatican, which was not involved in the publication of Benedict’s letter but later reported on it, did not respond for a request for comment.
‘I am here’
In the letter, Benedict wrote that he contacted both Francis and the Vatican’s secretary of state before proceeding. The pope emeritus finished his essay by thanking Francis for his work to show “the light of God.”
“Since I myself had served in a position of responsibility as shepherd of the Church at the time of the public outbreak of the crisis, and during the run-up to it, I had to ask myself — even though, as emeritus, I am no longer directly responsible — what I could contribute to a new beginning,” Benedict said.
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But theologians and church analysts noted there was little overlap between Benedict and Francis’s diagnosis of the church’s central problem.
Francis has been uneven in his handling of abuse and has failed to draw up significant concrete measures to help the church’s response. But he has described the issue with consistent language, calling abuse a “crime” and acknowledging that the church’s practice of protecting its own has contributed to the coverup of cases. Those themes also prevailed during a February sexual abuse summit at the Vatican that involved leading bishops from around the world.
Francis has faced forceful criticism from Catholic traditionalists, including some who claim that homosexuality lies at the root of the abuse crisis.
Benedict did not directly dive into that debate. But he devoted the first third of his letter to cultural changes inside and outside the church beginning in the 1960s that gave rise to “all-out sexual freedom.” He wrote that Catholic moral theology “suffered a collapse” during a period of major restructuring.
One outcome of the sexual revolution, Benedict wrote, is that “pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate.”
Benedict did not expand on that idea. In the United States and many other countries, pedophilia is considered a psychiatric disorder, and sexual abuse of minors is considered a crime. Some analysts noted that clerical abuse cases existed well before the 1960s.
Since stepping down as pope, Benedict has remained largely in seclusion, quietly hosting visitors, reading and spending time in the Vatican gardens with the help of a walker. Still, some traditionalist Catholics have used him as a counterpoint to the more reformist papacy of Francis and at times encouraged him to speak out about church affairs.
“The way I explain [this letter] to myself is that the pope emeritus has at last responded to so many requests from a vast part of the public opinion, both lay people and believers from all over the world who have addressed him throughout these years because they felt like orphans,” said Marcello Pera, a friend of Benedict and former president of the Italian Senate. “He, after many years, has finally responded: I am here.”
As pope, Benedict defrocked hundreds of priests, and the Vatican was more forthcoming than it is now about releasing data on abuse.
But analysts say Benedict, like many church leaders, also had significant shortcomings and was slow to acknowledge the institutional problems that have enabled abuse to persist — including the role of bishops and cardinals in protecting accused priests.
“There is not one moment of recognition that the abuse crisis was also the result of a collective lapse of judgment by the entire church, including by the Vatican, for a long time,” said Massimo Faggioli, a Villanova University professor of theology.
Faggioli said Benedict “tells a tiny part and a very idiosyncratic version of the story without mentioning his role in the Vatican for almost four decades.”
In the letter, Benedict also took aim at some of the shortcomings of church law for handling abuse cases. He said that church law traditionally favored the accused and that its justice system was “overwhelmed” by cases in which a “genuine criminal process” was required to impose a maximum penalty.
“All of this actually went beyond the capacities of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” the Vatican doctrinal office that handles abuse cases, Benedict wrote. He noted that Francis has since enacted unspecified “reforms.” Before becoming pope, Benedict served as head of that powerful doctrinal office.
Two voices
Benedict, who turns 92 next week, has remained in good mental health, according to those who have visited him, although he is physically frail. Several times in the past half-year, he has been photographed with Francis. But he has not spoken in detail about sexual abuse since stepping down from the papacy until now.
In 2013, he became the first pope since Gregory XII in 1415 to step down. Church historians say that decision — and his handling of the pope emeritus position — could define the role for future popes who might follow his lead in abdicating. Benedict made the decision after stepping down to remain in the Vatican and continue dressing in papal white. The German pontiff also chose not to revert to his given name, Joseph Ratzinger.
His decision to speak out on abuse adds an immediate new dimension to his role as pope emeritus and shows his willingness to interject — at least sometimes — in the most important debates within the church.
“Even beyond the content of the letter, it was not a prudent thing to do for a former pope,” said Brian Flanagan, an assistant professor of theology and religious studies at Marymount University.
“It’s not good for the church to have two voices,” Flanagan said. “If this is seen as Benedict attempting to give more context for his decisions, maybe this can be a helpful way to understand his mind-set. But this raises the specter of his voice being seen as an alternative to the papacy of Pope Francis. And that is bad for the unity of the church.”
Last year, in a landmark act of defiance, a former Vatican ambassador alleged that church higher-ups, including Francis and Benedict, had known about some of the sexual misconduct allegations against Theodore McCarrick, a onetime cardinal who was defrocked in February.
The accusations levied by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò were aimed chiefly at Francis. Viganò said Benedict had tried to privately sanction McCarrick at one point during his papacy. Benedict, in his letter, did not mention the case.
Instead, Benedict concluded his letter by describing a way forward, calling on God to play a more central role in daily life.
“A paramount task, which must result from the moral upheavals of our time, is that we ourselves once again begin to live by God and unto Him,” Benedict wrote. “Above all, we ourselves must learn again to recognize God as the foundation of our life instead of leaving Him aside as a somehow ineffective phrase.”
Chico Harlan is The Washington Post's Rome bureau chief. Previously, he was The Post’s East Asia bureau chief, covering the natural and nuclear disasters in Japan and a leadership change in North Korea. He has also been a member of The Post's financial and national enterprise teams.
Stefano Pitrelli is the Rome bureau reporter for The Washington Post.
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