Browse Our Articles & Podcasts

Notes On A Road Show

The road show is over. The spectacle flamed up and subsided, a Roman candle of demonic sanctimony. Think of it as pre-game warm-up for the main event: the global climate summit in Paris, November 30 to December 11. The Vatican is partnering with the Obama administration, at the U.N. and later in Paris, in magnifying state control over a free society and tightening the screws on the developed world. This, in the name of saving the planet from the production and growth of those very means by which the poor can raise themselves out of poverty.


Our obligation to charity—caritas—is bound to the truth of things—in veritate. There is little truth in the aggressively promoted patchwork of contested science and hysteria that fuel apocalyptic prophecies. Yet the Vatican and Our Man in Havana militate against the imagined enemy of climate change while an actual, advancing one slaughters the faithful in its path.

A Christian man crucified by ISIS. Photo: Middle East Media Research Institute.
A Christian man crucified by ISIS. Photo: Middle East Media Research Institute.

Catholics are doubly burdened. The intellectual squalor of our secular administration is mirrored in a preening Vatican faction that adds moral indigence to the equation. The modern state is exempt from any mandate to lead us toward a transcendent end. That is the work of the Church—an unsurpassable, crowning mission addressed to the poor and the prosperous alike. But this pontificate makes an idol of The Poor, an abstraction by which it justifies its own rancor toward the developed world. It gives evidence of a mind fed on tracts by statist ideolaters who muddle distinction between the material and the transcendent. Worse, it squanders the moral authority of the Church on an unholy alliance with corrupt or rent-seeking regimes that relinquish their own responsibility for the conditions of those they govern. It is an ominous confederacy that denies moral agency to all but the West.


Does there exist anything more Western than a self-flagellating urge to indict the West? A guilty son of the European stock that was once the pride and driving force of Buenos Aires, Francis resents the West’s affluence, scorns its freedom, curses it. He will scald it however he can. Pascal Bruckner, writing two decades ago, anticipated the vanity of Western self-hatred lurking in this pontificate:

Evil can come only from us; other people [i.e. the poor; the Third World] are motivated by sympathy, good will, candor. This is the paternalism of the guilty conscience: seeing ourselves as the kings of infamy is still a way of staying on the crest of history.

cannot not help but wonder if this week-long showcase of misdirected sermonizing, and often ambiguous pieties, signaled the de-Christianization of the Catholic Church. Were we witnessing the descent of Catholicism into one more “ism,” an ideology using language onto which an audience could project its own meaning? After Cuba, the non-stop showboating, pageantry, and preachments in the wrong places took on the look of a Faustian bargain between the Vatican and cynical brokers of worldly prestige—an exchange of truth (including that of the gradual but ongoing diminishment of poverty) for power.

H. L. Mencken understood the world better than our bien pensant hierarchy: “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.”


On the eve of Francis’ address to the joint session of Congress, I wrote an essay for The Federalist. Permit me to repeat a portion of it here:

Ideolatry, the idolatry of fixed ideas, is as rampant in the Vatican as in any other directorate. And just as dangerous. Even more so. Because the pope commands deference from the world’s peoples, the present object of his worship—from climate change dogma to the antagonisms peculiar to an anti-democratic Leftist elite—disfigures the faith of billions. It becomes a golden calf festooned with Gospel quotes.

.  .  . There comes a moment when deference glides into collusion. At that point, we all become Good Germans. Fascist-friendly. Trust in respected authority curdles into a thing entirely different—a willed blindness to something dark in the particular voice commanding assent. Decent and dependable, we incline toward the beckoning circle of connivance.

resource_560996d14bc28It was not necessary to listen to a scrupulously written, edited, and rewritten product scripted for media consumption.  Not a single word of it could annul Francis’ assent to celebrate Mass under a triumphal image of Che Guevara:

Something in me gave way at the sight of an exultant image of Che Guevara overseeing the altar in Plaza de la Revolución, approved site of the papal Mass in Havana. A sadistic, murderous thug looked down on attendees in an obscene burlesque of Christ Pantocrator. Under the gaze of a butcher, and amid symbols of the regime, Jorge Bergolio joined his fellow Argentine in service to the calamitous Cuban revolution. The entire spectacle played like a farcical inversion of John Paul II’s presence in Warsaw’s Victory Square, in 1979, and in stark contrast to the message he brought to Cuba in 1998.

[The Federalist essay in its entirety is here.]

Marc Thiessen, writing on September 22 for the American Enterprise Institute, compared the homilies of the two popes. His essay, ”In Havana, Pope Francis is no John Paul,” notes the number of times John Paul used the words freedom (17 times) and justice (13 times). Francis did not use either word even once. Thiessen quotes generously from John Paul. He closes with this:

Pope Francis said nothing even resembling this during his Cuban visit. He is not expected to be so reticent during his visit to Washington. But then, as the [Washington] Post correctly notes, “it takes more fortitude to challenge a dictatorship than a democracy.”

Even without a TV it was impossible to completely avoid the flood of images we swim in. Screens are everywhere. One other image touched an unwelcome chord. MSNBC scanned the crush of spectators at the airport in Philadelphia, almost everyone with an arm raised to hold a camera phone over head. An innocuous gesture in itself, viewed en bloc it recalls the old Fascist salute, parodied this time by the grip on a camera. In the wake of Francis’ newly released motu proprio, the analogy struck me as having a discomforting purchase on reality.


12049247_10207802500080591_3830965674971529327_nWe do not need a Leni Riefenstahl or a Ministry of Popular Culture any more. We have the promotional tentacles of a 24/7 media doing their job. CNN Newsource hawked its Pope Francis Visit Coverage Plan to other stations at $350 for 5-minute window or $300 per media feed:

CNN Newsource is giving you a front seat to the historic trip of Pope Francis to Cuba and the U.S. in September. Whether you send a crew to join us on location or book a live shot with a CNN correspondent, CNN Newsource gives you the flexibility to book a bundle of shots or onsite services at discounted pricing. Contact your Newsource Sales representative today for details.

Circus-as-news is the bread and butter of the 24/7 media bubble that passes as an organ of information. Time Warner Cable dedicated its own local news channel to the papal visit. If that was not enough, The New York Times reported:

The papal channel will be available to Time Warner’s subscribers in New York and more than two dozen other markets around the country, 15 million households in all. It will also be available online and on the TWC News app. In addition to showing the events, with on-the-scene commentary and analysis, the papal channel will feature a special edition of NY1’s nightly call-in show and a daily recap show at 10 p.m., recounting the day’s events.

Jobin Bernhard. Christ on a Donkey; The Pope on a Horse (16th C.)

Some commentators, anxious for something nice to say, mistook waving, cheering multitudes as proof that Americans are still a religious people. Yes, we are. But the adulation of crowds testified equally, perhaps more, to the strength of celebrity culture and its susceptibility to media promotion. Here was yet another once-in-a-lifetime experience. (Experience is the magical marketing word of the day.) In short, excited throngs are as much evidence of the efficacy of media-perfected techniques of mass mobilization. This is what we once called propaganda—a therapeutic massage which includes valorizing treacle from the amen corner.

How much the supremacy of God in Christ had to do with the sponsored product remains moot.

39 thoughts on “Notes On A Road Show”

  1. Steve, thanks for posting and hosting this. It doesn’t matter how much I agree with Maureen or not– mostly I do. I simply despise the neoCatholic unpersoning effort. Hilary knows all about it. Others do too. Keep standing.

  2. Maureen is brilliant as usual capturing the decadence and sacrilegious spectacle which was Pope Francis visit as a celebrity worldly politician tarted out in Catholic vestments. Except for his dress one would be hard pressed to say who this man represented, certainly not Jesus Christ who came to preach repentance and salvation. We can only sigh with relief that his visit is now over and the damage he inflicted by sowing further confusion about the Catholic faith can now be dealt with by prayer and penance.

  3. Ms. Mullarkey has been cut loose by the male nanny minders at First Things, with a lecture about manners thrown in for good measure. They are a joke. I hope to see her byline here regularly.

  4. THE


    We will —





    We will —



    No judgment

    To fear

    We will —


    Not kneel

    No reason

    Just feel

    All inclusive —

    The party’s for

    All who enter

    This damned door!

    • NONE SO
      We are the blind who say, “We see!”
      In our torn cloaks of superiority
      Surrounded by sinners –ah! the misery!
      Trapped by the mirrors of our dazzling glory.
      We must go, for we are led
      Into the darkness (Call it “light” instead).
      On vile, wormy lies we’re fed.
      We bury each other, for we are the dead.

      • THE


        The beginning of Wisdom

        Is Fear of the Lord,

        So Wisdom with age

        I’ve seen no accord.

        So you’ve lived many decades

        Seen the world once or twice

        But what have you learned

        That sinners are nice?

        That sinners eat

        And sinners drink

        And sinners read

        And sinners think

        And sinners have

        Sincere desires

        Like remodeling rooms

        With art that inspires

        And compels one to lift

        His goblet of wine

        To toast all we want

        And make want what is mine!

        So all in modern


        Shall acknowledge their versions

        Of propriety

        And when you die,

        They’ll bring goblets, blessed lockets

        But they’ll realize too late…

        The shroud has no pockets!

        • JUSTIFIED
          Two friends went into a church to pray
          (I saw them there the other day)
          The one in front bowed her head and lamented
          A Church disarranged, sinners unrepentant
          And even in this sacred space
          A “reconciliation room” What a disgrace!
          The other immediately entered that room
          Treasuring heaven’s every boon
          And since within herself had striven,
          Now whispered, “Have mercy.”
          And mercy was given.

          • SATURDAY


            Of all the happy


            Of all my happy


            Confessions in the


            Were best for

            Cutting strife.

            Upon my head

            A beanie

            Or sometimes

            Chapel veil

            In summer’s heat

            Tar-bubbled street

            I’d run

            Like wind in gale.

            Holy water font

            Into, my fingers dip

            Made the sign of the Cross

            So careful not to drip

            Dark and cool and quiet

            One red rose candle lit

            And in the corners’ cornices

            My soul saw Angels sit.

            For they were there to help me

            Come face to face with self

            With poor man’s free psychologist

            The Priest, behind dark shelf.

            It wasn’t always easy

            But always was absolved

            And light with grace, back to the race

            To live His Word, resolved.

            And at this very moment

            Saturday doors are there, no locks –

            A place of virtual reality

            Confessional box!

          • No one’s really listening
            Though we try our level best.
            The day wears on unceasing
            And we might be slightly stressed.
            No one’s really getting it
            Though the meaning seems quite clear.
            I think grace can save us,
            You hold forms and fashions dear.
            No one’s really tuning in;
            They’re all gone off to play.
            Perhaps we’ll meet again somewhere
            On some other day.
            And so for now adieu, adieu,
            Please pray for me; I’ll pray for you.

          • THE SOUL


            THE BODY

            It’s not just the form

            It’s not about fashion

            It’s all about Truth

            And Our Lord’s holy passion

            And it’s not just the Mass

            It’s the Faith in its whole —

            And the body well formed,

            Full of grace, leads the soul.

            “May you live long,

            Die happy,

            And rate a mansion in heaven.”

  5. Mullarkey puts succinctly into words and images what has been gnawing at me for a week, viz. the sordidness of this manipulative public relations stunt, the tawdry, un-Catholic nature of the entire spectacle. Every bone and muscle in my body screams NO! to this chintzy, undignified performance. And that’s before we even begin to address the lack of Catholic content in the speeches or all the schmoozing with the likes of Castro and Obama.

  6. When we look at the pictures….what can we say? Oh Francis, can’t you see? Has no one shown you those crucified? Have you not seen the videos of little babies torn to shreds from their mothers’ wombs? What are you doing! Where is a Jonah now, to cry out in our cities, repent! save yourselves! We must pray for a good Pope who will restore hope in us – who will urge us to repent and do penance for all that is happening now.

  7. It warms the cockles of my heart to read the truth. Thank you. On a personal note, my mater called me yesterday and asked if I had watched the pope’s visit and Masses. I said, “Not a thing.” She, a typical Episcopalian, said, “Oh, I watched every Mass. I just love Pope Francis. He won’t make me Catholic, but I loved his homilies. Even your [militantly pro-abortion] sister loves him!” It has long been my experience that whatever my mother adores is something to be avoided at all costs.

  8. Religion means “bond with God” and as it is the case that bond was established by our Triune God with His Creatures. that means there has always been one and only one true religion which means that americans are not a religious people for the vast majority of them, even nominal catholics, are not faithful members of His One True Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church and collectively the american people reject the truth that Jesus is King of Heaven and Earth and that, as He said, all authority has been given unto Him and, thus no people, in the form of a state, can legitimately legislate even one law opposed to His authority and Commandments for He, not Moses or Mahomet, is the law giver of the New Covenant which superseded the Old Covenant.

    As far as Our Pope and Our Cross is concerned, he never speaks of Jesus as King, as He who rose from the dead Triumphant as the sole way of Salvation and Sanctification, but,rather, Franciscus, in his attire, attitude, and appearances, projects a papal praxis far more concerned with anthropocentric matters than with Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell and his constant appeals for the faithful to accept surprises is quite sickeningly evil as we have a multi-millenial year Tradition he arrogantly and haughtily wishes to overturn as though he, far better than the more than 260 Popes preceding him, knows what it is the Church must do to be faithful to He who established it, but the radical and simple truth is that Franciscus proposes a pastoralism that directly opposes constant doctrine and discipline whereas it is the truth that all authentic pastoral praxis must actualise those doctrinal truths in particular circumstances.

    When IANS reads the teachings, warnings, and advice contained in the Commonitorium of Saint Vincent of Lerins, IANS can not see any way to avoid concluding that Our Pope and Our Cross is, effectively, an antiChrist.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, in its general survey of the Pope, tells us that the Pope is the principle of unity and stability whereas Franciscus is the negative of that faithful portrait.

    Who does not know that the Synod is a foregone conclusion that will have disastrous results that will cause calamitous consternation and tend to weaken the faith of even nominal Catholics?

    Even most of those who oppose his noxious novelties are afraid to face the fact that the discordant music accompanying his reign is a score not written by Jesus Christ.

  9. Congrats to Maureen, good article, as well as the dust up at first things. You know you’ve hit them where it hurts when they turn on you like that. Keep it up, sure God is pleased.

  10. Mostly a great piece. I wish a couple of things had in fact been trimmed to keep her on board over a FT. She was a rare and welcome voice there. “…[A] Roman candle of demonic sanctimony” is in fact pushing a little harder than she might have chosen to, at least in the second sentence! An Reno would have been better served not to have published his mea culpa.

  11. Are you saying that man-caused global warming does not exist; or that it is good for the poor? I don’t get it. But I do observe the spirit of meanness.

  12. Lots of aggresion and little logic and charity in all this. The Pope criticized capitalism clearly.and Marxist materialism is really nothing more than a historically dated form of the same materialism. The Pope is challenging your mind, and you do not get it. Does the Pope have to repeat mechanically what the last Popes did in order to make you happy? And really the last Popes did not do what you suppose they did. They did not engage in capitalist triumphalism. The Pope is clearly pro-life, but does not share your Manichean theatrics. Paul tells us that the cult of money is the root of all evils. Perhaps such talk rubs you the wrong way. You prefer all this harshness against. Open your mind to what this Pope is really after.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Popular on OnePeterFive

Share to...