Being a religion journalist is crazy. Every day, it seems, I come across something I can hardly believe is real.
Today I came across an item on the website of The Remnant, a traditionalist Catholic newspaper. Under the headline, “DCLeaks Bombshell: The Soros/Francis Alliance Confirmed,” a news article purports to give evidence for the claim that Pope Francis and the Catholic Church are going along with a sinister plot by billionaire George Soros to abolish national borders and repopulate Europe with as many Muslims as possible.
I was especially struck by the photoshopped image accompanying the article, which depicts Pope Francis under a United Nations logo washing the feet of Soros, who is sitting on a large pile of dollar bills.
The article strongly implies that Soros masterminded Laudato Si’, an encyclical letter on the environment promulgated by Pope Francis in 2015. Here’s a typical passage about the migration crisis, complete with a link to Breitbart.com:
In the face of the massive Muslim migrant invasion of Christian Europe, Pope Francis remains largely silent about European Christian values and brutal Muslim attacks on Christians. He prefers the political language of the UN and the Soros’ new world order.
Breaking news: Francis states that welcoming Muslim refugees is the greatest protection against terrorism. Really, Holy Father? Ask the people of France and Germany if they are safer after the Muslim refugee invasion.
Another bizarre claim: “Soros’ team tracks and applauds every move of his papal ally.” I wonder what George Soros and the organizations to which he contributes think of Pope Francis’ and the Catholic Church’s views on marriage, sexual morality, and abortion.
Now, a lot of people know I have been fascinated by the spate of anti-Francis commentaries by conservative American Catholics. I find people like Ross Douthat, Michael Dougherty, and Matthew Schmitz to be quite thoughtful and provocative, even when I disagree with their conclusions and cringe a little at what sometimes comes across as slightly cavalier attacks on the integrity of the spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. At the other end of the spectrum, sites like The Federalist and Breitbart regularly publish vapid, nasty anti-Francis screeds.
I usually don’t even comment on fringe stuff. But I found the photoshopped image to be really alarming. It’s pretty easy to imagine Pope Benedict XVI’s response to the migration crisis to be a lot like the current pope’s. But I can’t imagine the folks at The Remnant making an identical image, except with Benedict instead of Francis.
I grew up thoroughly Protestant. But even I know it’s insulting to Catholics to slander the pope. I wouldn’t push the analogy too far, but everyone is talking about how Trump has emboldened the alt-right. I wonder if unhinged hatred of Pope Francis is gaining a broader hearing in certain Catholic circles.