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Confidant of Pope Francis condemns US religious right

Pope Francis talks with the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, as he meets journalists aboard his flight from Rome to Nairobi, Kenya, on Nov. 25, 2015. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

(AP) — A close confidant of Pope Francis, writing Thursday (July 13) in a Vatican-approved magazine, condemned the way some American evangelicals and their Roman Catholic supporters mix religion and politics, saying their worldview promotes division and hatred.

The Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor of the influential Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, said a shared desire for political influence between “evangelical fundamentalists” and some Catholics has inspired an “ecumenism of conflict” that demonizes opponents and promotes a “theocratic type of state.”

Spadaro also took aim at conservative religious support for President Trump, accusing activists of promoting a “xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls and purifying deportations.” Trump has sought to bar travelers from six Muslim-majority countries and vowed to build a wall on the Mexican border.

The article, “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism: A Surprising Ecumenism,” was co-written by a Presbyterian pastor, the Rev. Marcelo Figueroa, who is editor of the Argentine edition of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, in the pope’s native country.

Articles in La Civilta Cattolica are reviewed and approved by the Vatican Secretariat of State. Under Francis, who is a Jesuit, the publication has become something of an unofficial mouthpiece of the papacy.

The political alliance between Catholics and American Protestants that is at the heart of Spadaro’s article emerged in the late 20th century.

Anti-Catholic bias once split members of the two traditions, both religiously and politically. But in the 1980s and ’90s, some conservative religious leaders built an affiliation over such issues as abortion and marriage, culminating in a 1994 declaration written by the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, a Lutheran who converted to Catholicism, and Chuck Colson, the Watergate felon turned born-again Christian.

Spadaro said this relationship has “gradually radicalized,” dividing the world into only good and evil and providing theological justification for a type of “apocalyptic geopolitics” advocated by such figures as White House adviser Steve Bannon, who is Catholic.

Spadaro specifically criticized the far-right Catholic American media organization Spadaro said the media outlet framed the presidential election as a “spiritual war” and Trump’s ascent to the presidency as “a divine election.”
Michael Voris, who founded the outlet, said in an interview that he was shocked by the article.

“Here’s a fellow who is accusing us of trying to use the church to push a political agenda, which is completely absurd,” Voris said, when “they are using a leftist agenda to pursue leftist goals.”

Some political conservatives have accused Francis of promoting socialism or Marxism, a characterization he rejects. The pope has frequently lashed out at the injustices of capitalism and the global economic system, and has urged governments to redistribute wealth to the poor.

Spadaro’s critique also appears aimed in part at America’s Catholic bishops, who have fought for religious exemptions from gay marriage laws and other measures church leaders consider immoral, and have often characterized those with opposing views as wishing to persecute Christians.

Spadaro wrote that “erosion of religious liberty is clearly a grave threat.” But he warned against mounting a defense of religious liberty in “fundamentalist terms.”

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who leads the U.S. bishops’ advocacy on religious liberty, said in an interview that the article doesn’t mention the U.S. bishops and refers only to “a very narrow band of ecumenical relationships.”

American bishops work on a broad range of issues that reflect Catholic social teaching, not any other theology, Lori said.

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  • Like his American confreres who used “moral issues” to oppose progressive government, Cardinal Bergoglio “clashed with the Kirchner administration sharply over issues of abortion, contraception and sex education.”
    Pres. Fernandez’ relationship with Bergoglio was “strained due to her support for same-sex marriage and the leftism of her administration.” A week before the vote on legislation approving same-sex marriage, Bergoglio wrote a pastoral letter “harshly criticizing the initiative.” The legislation was a “’move’ by the father of lies [Satan] meant to confuse and deceive the children of God,” he wrote.
    In 2012, when the Fernandez administration “pushed for mandatory sex education in schools, free distribution of contraceptives in public hospitals, and the right for transsexuals to change their official identities on demand,” Bergoglio accused the president of “demagoguery, totalitarianism, corruption and efforts to secure unlimited power.”

  • This is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.
    1 John 3:23,24

  • This type of judgement and condemnation by both sides is unreasonable. This is probably not the way of the Spirit.

  • So because the Pope is wrong on gay marriage and reproductive issues, therefore he and his allies are also wrong in condemning the Islamophobic and Xenophobic rhetoric of Trump and his allies? I don’t need him to be perfect on every issue to recognizes that on some issues(calling out racism, imperialism, colonialism, economic exploitation, environmental degradation, xenophobia and islamophobia) he gets it right.

  • Not surprising. Pope Francis, as a South American cleric inundated with the ethic of Liberation theology with it’s emphasis on social justice and anti imperialism will never be able to understand the right wing versions of Christianity that exists under the banner of the religious right.

    It’s good that this article was written and that it was an “ecumenical endeavor”(the others being a Jesuit priest and a Argentine Presbyterian Pastor).

  • Lay’s Barbecue Potato Chips will work just as good.

    (But be sure you have some Mountain Dew on hand to wash it down!!)

  • The condemnation is appropriate. God has little tolerance for a false gospel, and they have supplanted the Culture War in place of Jesus Christ. The Religious Right is apostate Christianity and those who lead it will burn in hell forever. This includes such criminals as Cardinal Burke.

  • That’s not what I said at all. The point is that the pope’s positions on gay marriage, reproductive rights, (teaching children that being transgender is acceptable the pope said was “the epoch of sin against God the Creator,” etc.) puts him squarely in sync with the foundational “moral values” of the Religious Right in the US, Latin America, Europe and Russia used to oppose progressive governments.

  • Reread the Gospel. Love God, love neighbor as ourselves is what Jesus taught are foundational “moral values.”

  • The original article is very interesting. It is nice to see such analysis of the sickness and vile apostasy of Right-Wing Christianity. It is the replacement of the gospel with the Culture War that forms the core of their criminal actions against Christ. And for this, they will burn. There is no escape for these terribly sick human beings.

  • He agrees with them on 4 issues and disagrees with them on like 60. I don’t think that means they are in sync. They aren’t in sync on moral values on the things I just listed. And opposing racism, economic exploitation, imperialism, colonialism, war, xenophobia, etc are moral values as well.

    And even on the topics that they allegedly “agree on” the agreement isn’t even that far. The Pope is traditional in his views of Gender and sexual ethics but doesn’t believe in imposing those things in a legalistic fashion on people.