This question has always been supposed to be facetiously rhetorical. Yet, thanks to Pope Francis, it can now be posed in earnest.
Not only does His Holiness fail to provide the spiritual leadership the Church sorely needs in the face of the massive atheist onslaught, but the Pope also tends to say things that make one doubt his understanding of – and commitment to – doctrine.
This is a serious matter indeed, especially since, when Pope Francis steps outside his immediate remit and into the world of earthly politics, he consistently mouths leftish gibberish, of the sort one would expect from the Bernie Sanderses and Jeremy Corbyns of this world.
In that vein he has attacked President Trump yet again, this time over his decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This cherished policy of the Obama administration gave a two-year deferral from deportation to some 800,000 people who had entered the country illegally as minors.
I happen to think that Trump was probably right about DACA (as he definitely was about leaving the Paris Agreement, which also gave fits to His Holiness), but offhand I can see possible arguments con as well as pro. Offhand is all I can offer here, for I haven’t studied the issue in sufficient depth to pass an ironclad judgement.
All I have to go by is general respect for the law and general dislike of law-breakers. More specifically, Trump’s action can’t be all bad because it was met with hysterical shrieks from the neocon quarters. The shrieks were incoherent, and all one could discern was their fear that all foreign-born Americans would now be deported, regardless of their legal status.
That sort of thing isn’t merely stupid but completely deranged, so the less said about it, the better. It’s the Pope’s reaction that interests me here, and that also shows signs of ideologically actuated madness.
“The President of the United States presents himself as pro-life and if he is a good pro-lifer, he understands that family is the cradle of life and its unity must be protected,” declared the Vicar of Christ.
From this it doesn’t follow that the US is the only place where families can be reunited. A Mexican family, for example, can rock this ‘cradle of life’ as effectively in Monterrey, Mexico, as in Monterey, California. But never mind the logic, feel the febrile emotion. However, the implied parallel is worth a comment.
‘Pro-life’ is shorthand for anti-abortion. The opposite of that is pro-abortion. Hence the Pope equates deporting illegal aliens with infanticide. This both matches the pitch of the hysterical neocon effluvia and – more important for Catholics – trivialises the Church’s stand against abortion.
That position is unequivocal and not open to debate, just as it was enunciated the other day by Jacob Rees-Mogg. Since a person’s life begins at conception, abortion constitutes infanticide, the arbitrary taking of a sacred human life. Equating it with deportation of illegal aliens is at best vulgar and at worst heretical.
This at a time when the 2016 British Social Attitudes survey found that 61 per cent of British Catholics agreed that “the law should allow an abortion if the woman decides . . . she does not wish to have a child”. An even higher proportion approved same-sex relationships.
Both categories showed sharp increases compared to 2013 – and stratospheric ones compared to 1985. That means that almost two-thirds of British Catholics either don’t understand doctrine or choose to flout it.
In the first case the pontiff’s job is to educate them; in the second, to chastise them. In neither case should he make a mockery of what he’s institutionally obligated to consider infanticide by comparing it to this or that immigration policy, whatever he thinks of it.
We desperately need a pope who can tell every one of us what it means to be a Catholic, a Christian, or simply a decent person. That doesn’t mean His Holiness should steer clear of quotidian concerns, including politics.
On the contrary, as all great popes have done, he should sit in judgement of earthly affairs, shining on them the light of doctrine to see how they measure up. But the task of relating Christian theory with everyday practice is difficult, and it does in fact take a great prelate to cope with it.
On the other hand, bungling attempts at linking heavenly laws with secular ones are bound to cause untold damage – by crushing both sets of laws under the weight of St Peter’s throne.
Sagacity, piety, prudence and subtlety are job requirements there, and I hope my Catholic friends won’t be offended at the suggestion that Pope Francis is lacking in those qualities.