Making Sense of Pope Francis

Roundup: Historians' Take
tags: Catholic Church, Pope Francis

Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, A Matter of Principle, and the recently published Flight of the Eagle: The Grand Strategies That Brought America from Colonial Dependence to World Leadership. He can be reached at cbletters@gmail.com.

A few weeks ago, there was a brief flurry of mindless enthusiasm in the Guardian, one of the Western world’s most pathologically biased atheist, socialistic, and anti-American newspapers, over the notion that Pope Francis was abandoning the traditional battlements of Roman Catholicism and fleeing into the theological tall grass, after his interview in August with the editor of the Jesuit publication Civiltà Cattolica. If such a thing happened, the Guardian would, as its premature ululations of self-satisfaction indicated, not even commend the Holy See on adopting a more contemporary view, but would gloat and prance and preen as only the British middlebrow Left can, because its regular announcements every year or so for most of the last century that the Roman Catholic Church was finally crashing to earth like a gigantic bumblebee were coming true. In such circumstances, the Guardian might even, because it understands by osmosis that to many this is the British way, have doffed its flat wool cap with a few condescending words of appreciation of Cardinal Newman, Evelyn Waugh, and one or two other elegant Catholic writers, befuddled stooges of unscientific superstition though they were.

Few scenarios could be more improbable than that the Guardian would have got such a story right, and the aroma of a journalistic rat was especially pungent because of the source of this breathlessly imparted aperçu, which seemed to have escaped other sections of the media, even those almost as unwaveringly antagonistic to Rome as the Guardian. There were no columns by the giggly twins of the New York Times Maureen Dowd and Gail Collins, reciting for their readers, like rosaries, recollections of their exposure to medieval mental torment in their Catholic youth, nor specials from CNN’s Anderson Cooper (or even the inimitable Wolf Blitzer, the hirsute would-be Victor Hugo lookalike from Buffalo), on the decline and fall of the Roman Church....

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