Pope Francis and the Far Right Counterattack

Here’s a guest column “Is Pope Francis a Fraud?” on the new pope by Andrew O’hehir from SALON. I’ts the best  commnetary on the the papacy, the recent history of the Roman Catholic Church and religion in general I’ve read in a long time.

Is Pope Francis a fraud?

After a right-wing coup crushed the reforms of Vatican II, one scholar says the last two popes are illegitimate



It’s easy — maybe too easy — for people with progressive political views to dismiss the Roman Catholic Church as a vile anachronism, a nightmarish patriarchy of aging pedophiles, woman-haters, homophobes and/or closet cases that can offer nothing of value to the contemporary world. When it comes to the church hierarchy, and especially the Roman Curia, the corrupt and labyrinthine Vatican bureaucracy that makes the Soviet-era Kremlin look like a model of transparency, that point of view seems more than justified.

But the church is not just the hierarchy, and as the spectacle of the last several days has demonstrated, there are millions or billions of people around the world — Catholics and non-Catholics alike — who wish the newly elected Pope Francis well and yearn to see in him the possibility of hope and renewal for this ancient, powerful and heavily tarnished institution that claims direct succession from the apostles of Jesus. As the first Latin American pope and the first Jesuit pope, Francis represents a break with tradition in several ways. Both the name he has chosen and his personal modesty and humility are meant to recall St. Francis of Assisi, one of the most adored figures in the Christian tradition, and no doubt also St. Francis de Sales, a 17th-century mystic, author and ascetic known for his devotion to the poor.

But the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio emerges from a Jesuit order that has been largely purged of its independent-minded or left-leaning intellectuals, and his reputation at home in Latin America is decidedly mixed. While Francis seems to be an appealing personality in some ways — albeit one with a shadowy relationship with the former military dictatorship in Argentina, along with a record on gay rights that borders on hate speech — it’s difficult to imagine that he can or will do anything to arrest the church’s long slide into cultural irrelevance and neo-medieval isolation. His papacy, I suspect, comes near the end of a thousand-year history of the Vatican’s global rise to power, ambiguous flourishing and rapid decline. It also comes after 40 years of internal counterrevolution under the previous two popes, during which a group of hardcore right-wing cardinals have consolidated power in the Curia and stamped out nearly all traces of the 1960s liberal reform agenda of Pope John XXIII and Vatican II. A handful of intellectuals, both inside and outside the church, quietly believe that means Pope Francis isn’t a legitimate pope at all…


About Frank Schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer is an American author, film director, screenwriter and public speaker. He is the son of the late theologian and author Francis Schaeffer. He became a Hollywood film director and author, writing several internationally acclaimed novels including And God Said, "Billy!" as well as the Calvin Becker Trilogy depicting life in a fundamentalist mission home-- Portofino, Zermatt, and Saving Grandma.

  • Brother Nelson

    Finally, some leadership !

    “I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work. I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized, Evangelical subculture that was told “we’re gonna change the thing” and they haven’t. And they actually have turned away lots of people. And i think that when you’re in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it’s very painful. You sort of die or you adapt. And if you adapt, it means you have to come face to face with some of the ways we’ve talked about God, which don’t actually shape people into more loving, compassionate people. And we have supported policies and ways of viewing the world that are actually destructive. And we’ve done it in the name of God and we need to repent.” – Rob Bell

  • Nick Gotts

    Very interesting article. I hadn’t looked into “Communion and Liberation”, but it’s obviously key to Bergoglio’s true intentions. According to wikipedia, it’s often regarded as “integralist” in ideology (“integralist” is a polite word for “proto-fascist”), and has been highly supportive of Silvio Berlusconi – who, during the recent Italian election campaign, went out of his way to say nice things about Mussolini. Much has been made of Bergoglio’s expressed concern for the poor, and opposition to globalization and “market fundamentalist” ideology; all these fit with integralism, and it should be remembered that historical fascism itself had important pseudo-socialist elements.

  • http://none edward hopkins

    i am not dyslexic, but my A.D.D. is sufficiently disruptive to drive everyone around me and me nuts. that should suffice as to why the following is dislocated (i hope.) this is my response to comments proffered about frank’s published work on his experiences as the child of a famous couple and an insider with the big shots of elements of Christendom, on another website that rejected it unless i made a purchase.

    “no offense, but I knew enough about human nature not to become absorbed in glorifying “leaders” of any thing including evangelical or fundamental christianity. who cares what they do or say anyway, in terms of one’s walk with god almighty? you know? also, the one supposedly at the center of these movements, jesus Christ, made it clear that he alone deserved adoration and loyalty. so, i’m surprised it is such a shocking disappointment that people got burned for going crazy over these kinds of things.

    what i would like to know is simply this: do you love jesus, franky? is he still the most important person in your life? if not, what happened to cool your affection for him?

  • http://www.tommyryden.com Tommy Rydén

    This is strange, Frank. How come you promote this article about a “Right wing coup” destroying the “good” Vatican II, when YOU yourself denounce the Vatican II reforms in your 1995 book “Letters to Father Aristole” in very strong words and with many valid points?!!! Is the truth no longer the truth?
    One do not have to be in the “Right Wing” ditch anymore than one have to jump over to the opposite (liberal/left leaning) ditch as you unfortunatelyl seems to have done. Why not chose a middle road? Or just keep to the principles you outlined in your own book, about promoting Christian orthodoxy as the road forward, altough I understand its a great challenge within the American context.

    • Frank Schaeffer

      Tommy, because I changed my mind

      • http://www.tommyryden.com Tommy Rydén

        Yes, I understand that you have changed your mind. What makes me wonder is how come you made such a great turnaround on this and other (Catholic/orthodox) issues. If you have written about your reasons for this change (not talking about the Evangelical stuff now) then please point me to that book or article.

        The article I found on this blog/site just said that this Greek-orthodox church of yours is where you happen to go for church service for the past 25 years, just one of many alternatives for those seeking God and orginal Christianity as you present it.

        As you know, you have written books and given interviews on the subject, this is perhaps a politically correct statement , to say its just one alternative, BUT not true or correct from a Christian Orthodox viewpoint. But you know this — you even wrote 2 books on that subject and made book tours. And your books and tours on and about orthodoxy was not part of your evangelical era, this was after that period and thus not explained in your speeches and TV interviews on the Religious Right/evangelical dilemma.

        In short, what I and many others would like to see is an article where you present your reasons to why you made this drastic turnaround from “Letters to Father Aristotle” ,and the promoting of traditional orthodoxy, to where you are today.

        Greetings from Sweden.

  • fredg922

    It’s really interesting to see people keep attempting to paint the church as some sort of secretly fascist organization. It usually says something about the person trying to do that, rather than the church.

  • fredg922

    Another sure tell is when they use the word “medieval” to describe the church. Well, apparently 1.2 billion people like medieval churches. About 15 years ago, a documentary called “The Millenial Pope” was shown on PBS. It was about John Paul II. Over and over again, artists and intellectuals described JP II and the church as “Medieval”. “He’s ruining the church!” they cried. “He’s making it irrelevant!”
    And now, John Paul II is called “The Great”. 4 million people came to his funeral. In the end, he looked like a giant, they looked like sour little yapping dogs at his feet.
    All the churches that have taken their advice on being “relevant” (Episcopalians, United Methodists, United Churches of Christ, Presbyterian USA) are declining rapidly – 30 % less in the last ten years. The Catholic church, meanwhile has grown. Not by much, but it is growing.
    More medievalism, please

  • fredg922

    it’s the best commentary you’ve seen? Because he went out and found a nut case who claims the last two popes are not legitimate because they don’t agree with HIM? Have you read the documents of Vatican II? Do you think for one moment that ANY Pope could get away with dismissing what Vatican II said?

  • Alexander Anderson

    “it’s difficult to imagine that he can or will do anything to arrest the church’s long slide into cultural irrelevance and neo-medieval isolation.” This is funny. I would be very impressed at any institution that could suffer 500 years of decline into “cultural irrelevance” like the Church has and still be as culturally powerful as the Church is now on the other side. I mean, everyone was predicting the final end of the Catholic Church at the end of the 18th Century, and yet here you are, kvetching about it over 200 years later. As Chesterton said: “At least five times.. the Faith has to all appearance gone to the dogs. In each of these five times it was the dog that died.”