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.”
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.”
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.
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