The Corner

Religion

Pope Francis, Man of the Right?

Pope Francis waves during the weekly audience at the Vatican, February 19, 2020. (Yara Nardi/Reuters)

Declan Leary makes the case that in his post-Synodal exhortation, Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis reveals himself a deeply traditional Catholic, and possibly a “man of the Right.”

First, it’s important to concede a few things up front. It’s true that many of Pope Francis’s progressive cheerleaders have expressed disappointment and even betrayal at the fact that the document did not open the priesthood to married men, or the diaconate to women. And I appreciate Leary’s clear-eyed and generous assessment that Francis sometimes suffers unjustly by comparison to his immediate predecessors, Benedict XVI and John Paul II, who had, respectively, a brilliance and a charisma that are unusual in popes.

But I suspect that in the filial desire to cover a father’s nakedness, some conservatives are just squinting so hard they end up distorting their own perception. Like the vast majority of Churchmen in the West, Francis would be anxious to reject a label placing him on the political right, and not merely because of the American right’s devotion to liberal (in the European sense) economics.

Leary compares Francis’ socioeconomic views to those of Richard Weaver and the Southern Agrarians. It’s hard to know what unites these figures, save for thunderous rhetoric and an aesthetic revulsion at consumerism that never quite develops into economic thinking.  But my other objection is that Leary doesn’t stop to ask whether Francis’s view of Amazon deforestation is accurate. Francis blames extractive industries such as mining or oil — bugbears of the left. But in fact, the greatest part of deforestation is being done by a kind of laborer and enterprise many of the Agrarians would have admired, and that has its own traditions and relationship to nature: cattle ranchers.

It’s true that some of Francis’s rhetoric can be made to match certain schools of conservative thought — the ones of two-or-fewer cheers for capitalism. But he refuses to use them, instead asserting that indigenous communities of the Amazon inhabit “their surroundings in a non-deterministic symbiosis which is hard to conceive using mental categories imported from without.”

This romanticization takes the form of projecting onto indigenous communities longstanding Western critiques of Western culture. “The ethnic groups that, in interaction with nature, developed a cultural treasure marked by a strong sense of community, readily notice our darker aspects, which we do not recognize in the midst of our alleged progress.”  If you think discrimination and inequality are defects in modern society, just wait until you encounter them in a non-modern one.

Leary is correct that Francis may technically be less “liberal” than his predecessors. But I think we also get glimpses of the man when he humiliates Cardinal Burke, or strikes back at Cardinal Sarah’s attempt to rescue the Church’s liturgy from modern banality. We get a glimpse of his instinct when he empowers men like Cardinal Cupich and passes over men like Archbishops Gomez and Chaput. Or when he indulges the dangerously modernist theology of Cardinal Kasper. Or when his Vatican destroys congregations of religious nuns for living a charism deemed too traditional or contemplative. These are not the actions of a “man of the Right,” nor were they right at all.

Most Popular

Media

Mark Zuckerberg’s On the Right Track

In comments earlier this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg argued that social-media companies should strive to avoid regulating the views of users. “I don’t think Facebook or internet platforms in general should be arbiters of truth,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with CNBC. “I think that’s kind ... Read More
Media

Mark Zuckerberg’s On the Right Track

In comments earlier this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg argued that social-media companies should strive to avoid regulating the views of users. “I don’t think Facebook or internet platforms in general should be arbiters of truth,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with CNBC. “I think that’s kind ... Read More

The Need to Discuss Black-on-Black Crime

Thomas Abt’s book Bleeding Out (2019) has garnered a fair amount of attention for its proposals to deal with gun violence in mainly black urban neighborhoods. The entire focus of the book is on interventions in high-crime locations to stem the violence, including: hot-spots policing, working with young males at ... Read More

The Need to Discuss Black-on-Black Crime

Thomas Abt’s book Bleeding Out (2019) has garnered a fair amount of attention for its proposals to deal with gun violence in mainly black urban neighborhoods. The entire focus of the book is on interventions in high-crime locations to stem the violence, including: hot-spots policing, working with young males at ... Read More
U.S.

Toward Justice — and Order — in Minneapolis

George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died shortly after being physically restrained by four Minneapolis police officers on Monday. His arrest on suspicion of a non-violent crime (passing a counterfeit $20 bill) was caught on a cellphone video and at least two store surveillance videos. From the videos that are ... Read More
U.S.

Toward Justice — and Order — in Minneapolis

George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died shortly after being physically restrained by four Minneapolis police officers on Monday. His arrest on suspicion of a non-violent crime (passing a counterfeit $20 bill) was caught on a cellphone video and at least two store surveillance videos. From the videos that are ... Read More
Elections

Amy Klobuchar Takes a Big Hit

As Minneapolis burned this week, so too did Amy Klobuchar’s prospects of becoming Joe Biden’s running mate. Just six weeks ago, Klobuchar looked like the frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic veepstakes, but the Minnesota senator happens to be the former top prosecutor in Hennepin County, home to Minneapolis, ... Read More
Elections

Amy Klobuchar Takes a Big Hit

As Minneapolis burned this week, so too did Amy Klobuchar’s prospects of becoming Joe Biden’s running mate. Just six weeks ago, Klobuchar looked like the frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic veepstakes, but the Minnesota senator happens to be the former top prosecutor in Hennepin County, home to Minneapolis, ... Read More
World

Let’s Focus on China’s Origin Story Again

On the menu today: a return to the topic of the Wuhan labs and the origin of the coronavirus, as China’s top epidemiologist declares the Huanan Seafood Market was not the origin point of the coronavirus. China Stops Blaming the Huanan Seafood Market for Launching the Pandemic The fact that scientists ... Read More
World

Let’s Focus on China’s Origin Story Again

On the menu today: a return to the topic of the Wuhan labs and the origin of the coronavirus, as China’s top epidemiologist declares the Huanan Seafood Market was not the origin point of the coronavirus. China Stops Blaming the Huanan Seafood Market for Launching the Pandemic The fact that scientists ... Read More