There is a crackpot quality to this pontificate. Nothing is gained by tripping over our own tongues trying to disguise, excuse, or justify it. The Church was healthier under Alexander VI. A sinner, for sure. Yet the Borgia pope was still an impressive man in many ways. The Church would be better served by a pope who had all his wits plus a mistress on the side than an erratic, mercy-mongering pretender to virtue.
Public sins are easily recognized. It is the cloaked and buried ones that are dangerous. Only a clinician could say with any certainty what has sent the needle off the dial with Jorge Bergoglio. But something is seriously, audibly askew. And that something goes beyond his predisposition for left-wing causes.
Over the last week we learn that the Vatican’s updated norms for priestly formation include requiring candidates for the priesthood to study climate change and acquaint themselves with the catalogue of environmental threats. Seminarians must adopt the reigning creed: “Protecting the environment and caring for our common home – the Earth – belong fully to the Christian outlook on man and reality.” The new document, The Gift of Priestly Formation, states that priests must promote “an appropriate care for everything connected to the protection of creation.”
That insertion is a Bergoglian blot on an otherwise gracious and discerning document. Set aside for now the sentimentality of that problematic phrase “our common home.” Stay with the injunction’s muddled descent into an implicit materialism that drains Catholicism of its Christianity.
At the level of least complexity, this new injunction displays culpable ignorance of the technological sophistication of those very energy companies under assault by environmental fundamentalists. While the Vatican is in a mood to refresh old insights, it might try its hand at Matthew 22:21. A useful update could go something like this: “Render unto Haliburton the things that are Haliburton’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
If only this pope’s half-baked solicitude for worldly flourishing ended there. But no. Bergoglio’s pontificate is the gift that keeps on taking. What is being taken—a theft broadcast worldwide in one untethered interview after another—is the credibility of the Church’s teaching office.
What is there to say about Bergoglio’s equation of partisan journalism and disinformation with feces? At the very least, his wince-inducing references to coprophilia, a sexual deviancy, are staggeringly tone deaf. But there is more to it than that. His natterings about mercy and tenderness jar with his instinct to denigrate conscientious opposition by casting it in psychological terms. (Remember “self-absorbed, promethean, neo-pelagians”?) This time ‘round, he indulges in psycho-sexual terms that carry a perverse frisson. It is an unhealthy analogy that boomerangs attention back onto the pope himself.
Self-awareness is not this man’s strong suit.
Not long ago he made the broad-brush declaration that half of all marriages were likely invalid. Now we learn that “people have a tendency toward the sickness of coprophagia (feeding on excrement).”
How would you know, Francis? Have you stats on that? And is there a papal exemption for the disinformation anointed and enshrined in Laudato Si? The encyclical’s newly minted metrosexual Jesus and contested (not to say junk) science is . . . well, may we refer to that now, with no loss of dignity, as horse manure?
This pontificate is a cornucopia of last straws. There is derangement somewhere.
Maureen Mullarkey is a painter who writes on art and culture. Her essays have appeared in various publications, among them: The Nation, Crisis, Commonweal, Hudson Review, Arts, The New Criterion, First Things, The Weekly Standard, and The Magazine Antiques. She was a columnist for The New York Sun.
She also keeps the weblog Studio Matters [www.studiomatters.com] She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @mmletters.