Two Popes, One Teaching

Two Popes, One Teaching by Paul Kengor

Note the narrative: These media sources portray Benedict’s views on abortion, same-sex “marriage” and homosexuality as completely contrary to Francis in belief and tone. In truth, they’re fully in sync. Francis has been remarkably consistent in opposing abortion, same-sex “marriage” and homosexuality. Sure, he has talked about not judging and loving (as has Benedict), but he still has been critical. A year ago, I wrote a 5,600-word piece for Crisis magazine laying out Francis’ lengthy record on these issues. I will not reiterate that catalogue here, but consider a few telling examples:

As for abortion, Francis has equated it to Nazi eugenics with white gloves. “The entire world was scandalized over what the Nazis were doing to maintain the purity of the race,” he said in June 2018. “Today we do the same thing, but with white gloves.”

Pope Francis also compared abortion to hiring a hit man. “Is it right to hire a hit man to solve a problem?” asked Francis in October 2018. “You cannot … it is not right to kill a human being, regardless of how small it is, to solve a problem. It is like hiring a hit man.”

That’s far more provocative than anything that Pope Benedict said about abortion.

As for homosexuality, Francis is careful not to make homosexuals feel unwelcome, but he’s also careful about not welcoming them into places like the seminary. In May 2018, he warned Italian bishops: “If there’s a doubt about homosexuality, it’s better not to have them enter the seminary. If you think that the guy is homosexual, don’t put him in the seminary.”

When it comes to same-sex “marriage,” Frances thundered: “It is not marriage!” Before an audience of 7,500 at Pope Paul VI Hall on Oct. 25, 2014, Francis remonstrated: “What they are proposing is not marriage. It is an association, but it is not marriage! It is necessary to say things very clearly and we must say this!

He has said this emphatically and frequently. “The family is hit!” Francis shouted. “The family is knocked and the family is debased. … Can everything be called a family? How … much relativism there is in the concept of the sacrament of marriage!” The Holy Father condemned the “new forms, totally destructive” of marriage.

Ever since same-sex “marriage” came on his radar, Francis has blasted the concept. In 2010, when he was a cardinal in Argentina, he declared same-sex “marriage” a diabolical effort of “the father of lies.” He was responding to an effort by Argentinian leftist lawmakers to legalize same-sex “marriage.” He stated flatly, “Let us not be naïve. This is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

As to “gay couples” adopting children, he condemned that notion, as well, stating that it would target “the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”

He has reiterated that same position on adoption as pope. In November 2017, Francis insisted that “children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother.” He had said the same in November 2014 at the Vatican’s three-day interfaith colloquium on “The Complementarity of Man and Woman,” among other occasions.

Those are merely examples on abortion, marriage and homosexuality. If Francis’ liberal admirers would read more deeply, they would be apoplectic over his fulminations against gender theory, which he has called “demonic,” comparable to “the educational policies of Hitler” and the “doctrine” of “the Hitler Youth,” to fascist youth groups in Mussolini’s Italy, and to “nuclear arms.”

Today, in schools they are teaching this to children — to children! — that everyone can choose their gender,” Francis has protested. “This is terrible!”

Francis is no fan of transgenderism. Remember headlines like this one from February 2015? “Pope Francis Compares Transgender People to Nuclear Weapons.”

Francis has openly complained: “Behind all this we find gender ideology. In books, kids learn that it’s possible to change one’s sex. Could gender, to be a woman or to be a man, be an option and not a fact of nature?”

Many of these things Francis has not hesitated to describe as literally Satanic. His words have been much more strident than anything Benedict said.

And yet, some journalists are either unaware of these statements or willfully ignore them in order to foment a false dichotomy between the two popes and further an ideological agenda. The childish games that some reporters engage in smacks of Francis’ November 2013 warning of “adolescent progressivism.”

In my experience, most of this poor journalism is based not on willful malice but on ignorance by people who read only sources they agree with. They are unaware of the other side because they’re closed-minded to beliefs they don’t want to even consider. The result: false narratives, fake news and, now, a fake fight between two popes who, in reality, like and treat one another with respect.

In February 2018, Francis condemned “fake news,” calling it a “sign of intolerant and hypersensitive attitudes” that “leads only to the spread of arrogance and hatred.” This, too, he grimly warned, is the work of the “crafty serpent.”

The ongoing effort by some reporters to appropriate Francis as “one of them” — a fellow traveler in progressivism — and shape their enemy Benedict as Francis’ enemy is wrong. To borrow another Francis phrase, they are “ideologizing” the relationship between the two popes to advance a political-cultural agenda. It is divisive, it is rotten, and it should stop.

Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania.