“A dictatorship requires three things: a man, an idea, and a following ready to live for the man and the idea, and if necessary to die for them. If the man is lacking, it is hopeless; if the idea is lacking, it is impossible; if the following is missing, the dictatorship is only a bad joke.”
Thus said Joseph Goebbels, the “Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda” for Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. To his list of three requirements for a dictatorship, I would add an obvious fourth (given his office, I’m surprised Goebbels didn’t mention it): propaganda. In order for a man and his ideas to amass a following – especially if said man or his ideas are bad – it is necessary to propagate a favorable narrative, one that typically appeals first to the emotions rather than the intellect and omits inconvenient truths.
I decided to go see Pope Francis: A Man of His Word on opening weekend (it premiered on May 18 across North America) – for investigative journalism purposes only – and if I was forced to use a single word to describe it, I would have to go with propaganda. From start to finish, it is obvious that the film’s purpose is to (1) propagate a favorable narrative that (2) appeals to the emotions rather than the intellect and (3) omits inconvenient truths.
As I opted not to try to take notes in the dark theater, I will do my best to recall the film’s particulars from memory. (Surely, Pope Francis and his dear atheist friend, Eugenio Scalfari, would approve.)
For starters, one of the film’s central themes is the inaccurate comparison between St. Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis. The former is falsely portrayed as “an apostle of Vatican II’s new brand of dialogue and ecumenism” (to quote John Vennari), while the latter is shown to be a veritable “reincarnation” of the pretend St. Francis.
Toward the end of the film, for example, footage from the 2016 World Day of Prayer for Peace ceremony in Assisi is shown (a syncretic gathering modeled on Pope John Paul II’s scandalous 1986 meeting), followed by the narrator saying something like, “Here in Assisi, the legacy of St. Francis lives on.” This is absolute nonsense, seeing as the real St. Francis was a staunch Catholic who called all men – even the Islamic sultan of Egypt – to convert to the One True Faith for salvation.
Globetrotting: For Christ or the New World Order?
The film’s documentary “plot” focuses on the Argentine pope’s travels around the world, not to preach the Gospel and convert souls as St. Peter did (e.g., “Do penance, and be baptized” – Acts 2:38), but to promote “progressive” causes such as environmentalism, climate change, the rights of workers and migrants, ending poverty, interreligious dialogue, fraternal harmony among all peoples, etc. (For anyone interested, Sister Rose Pacatte describes in greater detail these themes in her glowing review of the film, written, predictably, for the National Catholic Reporter.)
“For the first time in history,” says the narrator in the film’s trailer, “the Pope opens his doors to address the questions and issues we face together[.] … In a divided world, one leader has a mission to bring us together.” Together in Christ and His One True Church? Or together in some sort of Masonic brotherhood of man apart from Christ? Since Francis emphasizes in the film, yet again, his strong abhorrence of “proselytism” (i.e., trying to convert souls to the True Faith), let the reader decide what sort of “unity” the current Roman pontiff is pursuing. For myself, one thing that comes to mind is the following words of Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk, archbishop of Utrecht (Netherlands), at the end of his recent commentary on the German bishops’ “intercommunion” proposal (the admittance of Protestant spouses to Holy Communion in “some cases”):
Observing that the bishops and, above all, the Successor of Peter fail to maintain and transmit faithfully and in unity the deposit of faith contained in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, I cannot help but think of Article 675 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
‘The Church’s ultimate trial
‘Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.’
As for the numerous inconvenient truths about Francis and his pontificate – for example, “the propagation of heresies effected by the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia and by other words, deeds and omissions of” his (Correctio filialis) – they are completely absent from this film, which is essentially an exercise in shameless self-promotion.
For the sake of combating the propaganda, let us recall just a small sampling of his most scandalous “words, deeds, and omissions” that continue to wreak havoc:
- July 25, 2013: During his inaugural World Youth Day as supreme pontiff, he told a group of 30,000 Argentinian youths gathered in Rio de Janeiro’s Cathedral of St. Sebastian to “make a mess, to disturb complacency.” (He has certainly led by example in this regard!)
- July 28, 2013: During the flight back to Rome from the same World Youth Day, when asked about Msgr. Battista Ricca (a notorious and active homosexual whom Francis had recently appointed to oversee the Vatican Bank) and “the gay lobby” in the Vatican, he responded, “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?”
- Nov. 24, 2013: In his inaugural apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis singled out those who hide “behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church” (n. 93), as well as those who “observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past” (n. 94) – in other words, traditional Catholics – as being guilty of “gnosticism” and “self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism” (ibid.). In this same document, he commended “true followers of Islam” and falsely asserted that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence” (n. 253).
- Oct. 2014: During the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, the first of the two family synods, he approved the scandalous midterm report, which included a section called “Welcoming homosexual persons” that spoke of “accepting and valuing their sexual orientation.”
- Jan. 19, 2015: While en route back to Rome from his trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, in answer to a question about population levels and contraception, he stated that “three [children] per family” is sufficient “according to the experts, for maintaining the population.” He further opined that Catholics do not need to “be like rabbits” (referring to large families).
- July 2015: During his visit to Ecuador, Bolivia, and Paraguay, Pope Francis was given a blasphemous “hammer-and-sickle crucifix” by President Evo Morales, the communist leader of Bolivia. When asked about the incident during the flight back to Rome, he praised Luis Espinal, S.J., the Marxist priest who designed it (a design based, as Francis admitted, on “a theology that uses Marxism”) and said, “Under this kind of hermeneutic [i.e. liberation theology], I understand this work. For me, it wasn’t an offense[.]”
- June 16, 2016: While speaking at a diocesan pastoral congress in Rome, Francis incredibly asserted that cohabiting couples (those living as husband and wife outside marriage) who are faithful to one another possess “the grace of a real marriage” while also claiming that “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null” because spouses do not sufficiently understand the lifelong commitment involved.
- Nov. 2016: In one of his infamous interviews with Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari, the pope was asked if he supports “a Marxist type of society,” to which he responded, “It has been said many times and my response has always been that, if anything, it is the communists who think like Christians.” (For those who doubt the authenticity of Scalfari’s quote, bear in mind that it squares perfectly with Francis’s praise of Fr. Espinal and his “hammer-and-sickle crucifix” mentioned above.)
- Jan. 2018: When asked about Bishop Juan Barros, the Chilean prelate accused of covering up crimes of child sexual abuse committed by Fr. Fernando Karadima (found guilty by the Vatican in 2011), Pope Francis defended Barros (his appointee), stating, “There is not one piece of evidence against him. Everything is slander. Is that clear?” He voiced this view in spite of substantial evidence to the contrary, some of which he was well aware of, including the testimony of abuse victims such as Juan Carlos Cruz.
- Mar. 2018: During his most recent interview with Scalfari, Francis yet again allegedly denied the eternal punishment of any souls in Hell, claiming instead that the damned are simply “annihilated” (cease to exist). His exact words, as quoted (not paraphrased) by Scalfari, were, “Hell does not exist, only the disappearance of sinful souls.”
These examples are truly just the tip of the iceberg, but I believe that the point is sufficiently made. (For those interested in more, see “The A – Z list of concerns with Pope Francis” at LifeSiteNews.)
“Don’t Trust Him an Inch”
To conclude this brief critique, I can do no better than to quote what Henry Sire, author of The Dictator Pope, told me about the film toward the end of our recent interview:
If you look at the trailer for this film, it begins: ‘No matter what divides us, his words unite us.’ This, about the most divisive pope the Church has seen for centuries. It is typical of the whole tenor of liberal propaganda, which depends on standing the truth on its head. … [I]f there were a film-maker prepared to do his homework, a good subject for a film would be Bergoglio’s career in Argentina in the forty years prior to his papal election. It could be titled: ‘Jorge Bergoglio: Don’t Trust Him An Inch.’
Well said, Mr. Sire.
Editor’s note: This article first appeared at Catholic Family News. It is edited and published here with the author’s approval.
Matt Gaspers is the Managing Editor of Catholic Family News, a monthly journal and online media apostolate devoted to promoting the traditional Catholic Faith and the precious heritage of Christian civilization. He was asked by John Vennari (1958-2017), longtime Editor of CFN and stalwart defender of the Faith, to carry on CFN’s important work shortly before Mr. Vennari’s passing. In addition to writing for CFN, Mr. Gaspers has also been published by The Fatima Crusader, OnePeterFive, and LifeSiteNews. His study and writing interests include theology, Church history, Fatima, Islam, and the spiritual life. He has spoken at conferences hosted by Catholic Family News and the Fatima Center. He and his wife, together with their children, reside in Colorado.