Those of you who aren't Catholic might not know that Pope Francis just dropped a 43,000 word brick of an encyclical on the world, Fratelli Tutti. Those of you who are Catholic, as I am, are frantically searching for someone else who read and reported around the thing. So you won't have to.
I helped edit the English translation of Pope Francis' first book in English. At the time, I remember thinking, \”I can't discern his theology or his politics. But this guy is a nasty piece of work. I'd hate to have him in Confession.\”
It's a comical understatement to say that Pope Francis is no Pope Benedict XVI. In fact, he's no Benny Hinn.
It's a comical understatement to state that Pope Francis is no Pope Benedict XVI. In fact, he's no Benny Hinn. The only Christian evangelist whom Francis really recalls, together with his worldly preoccupations and self-referential digressions, is the late late-night TV rambler, the Rev. Gene Scott.
Caesar, Mammon, and Sodom
Like Scott, Francis often seems a lot more concerned about the Benjamins than about Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Francis spends a large number of words complaining about that has wealth and who hasn't, and offering justifications for seizing it and spreading it around. Via, of course, the government – aided by non-profit agencies for example those run by U.S. bishops, getting forty percent of their income from The government. He blames the free market for environmental destruction, inequality, and even the ravages of COVID.
It's not surprising, really, that Francis doesn't mention China's intentional effort to spread that plague worldwide – locking down travel from Wuhan to the rest of China, but letting virus carriers fly to the rest of the world. After all, Francis just renewed his alliance with China against the West, and reportedly collects $2 billion annually from that government. We don't know a lot here, because large areas of this deal are still secret. Perhaps we are able to ask the man Francis sent to China to barter, disgraced pedophile Theodore McCarrick.
We do know that Francis has been completely silent on the vicious persecution of Christians and Uighur Muslims in China. Once the elderly hero and survivor of Communist persecution Cardinal Joseph Zen flew to Rome to satisfy with Francis last week, the pope refused to see him. He was too busy writing about love, compassion, and mercy. It's curious how the great self-styled \”humanitarians\” of history are rarely fond of actual people. Read Henry Sire's The Dictator Pope for any tour of the burned bridges and deeply-stabbed backs that mark Jorge Bergoglio's climb towards the apex of the Church.
Encyclicals aren't infallible – which is a good thing, since in the new one Pope Francis contradicts statements of many previous popes on the list of important subjects. These include capital punishment, border control, economics, as well as the right of private property. Which means that Catholics have two choices.
We can weigh the merits of every pope's statements like rational believers, or else just accept the party type of the current pope like good little Stalinists. Count on those who share the pope's Woke, globalist views to wield this new document just like a club, trying to banish from U.S. voters' minds little things like abortion, religious liberty, and the growing power of Beijing.
Meddling in U.S. Elections
Pope Francis chose to release Fratelli Tutti on the eve of a U.S. election, because he chose to visit America on the eve of the last one. Francis is deeply worried that Trump might win, and reportedly wouldn't talk with Mike Pompeo to talk about Chinese persecution of Christians, lest he give Trump a lift. This new Woke encyclical coincides exactly with the Biden campaign's big push to portray the candidate as a \”nuanced,\” not a \”single-issue,\” Catholic. But I'm sure that's a 100 percent total coincidence.
Especially since the hard-left group PICO that used George Soros' money to spin Francis' 2021 U.S. tour to assist the Democrats is still in Francis' good graces. See the fulsome message he sent PICO's 2021 Modesto Meeting, where 24 U.S. bishops, along with a Vatican cardinal, urged Americans to \”disrupt Trump\” and help illegal aliens break our laws.
Painting St. Francis like a Hippie
I can point you to brave souls who swam through it and critiqued Fratelli Tutti from various angles. Samuel Gregg explains here that Pope Francis completely misconstrues Francis of Assisi – the saint whose name Jorge Bergoglio took. Francis makes much of the saint’s peaceful visit to an Islamic ruler during the Crusades. He completely omits the fact that St. Francis preached Christ to the whole royal court. He was there to proselytize, a dirty word for Francis. This pope prefers making diplomatic deals with Muslim leaders, and whitewashing their creed's baked-in intolerance of Christians.
Jules Gomes, at Church Militant, notes that Francis doesn't bother to quote the Bible much, or even the words of previous popes. He does give a lot of space to quotes in the Quran, Muslim leaders, Desmond Tutu, and Mahatma Gandhi. Mostly, though, Francis just quotes – himself. Some 60% of the footnotes are to Francis' own writings. When he condemns capital punishment – which God demanded in the Covenant of Noah, and popes have defended for just two,000 years – Francis reverts to his favorite go-to argument. \”As I've clearly said,\” Francis writes, as if that clinches the issue.
Sorry, Holy Father, the only person who gets to argue from His own personal authority is Jesus. You're not a second Christ, just a second St. Peter. Remember that.
Fighting Brexit, From Rome
Gomes notes that Francis uses those words not wasted on Jesus or eternal salvation instead to talk about – the European Union and how wonderful it's. The dangers of \”separatism\” , \”nationalism\” , and \”xenophobia,\” .
Francis also rides like Don Quixote on a white charger, knocking down straw men. As Eric Sammons notes, Francis has a long-time habit of portraying his critics, or those whom he dislikes, in lurid cartoonish caricatures. Once he's finished his parody of his opponents' views, he triumphantly demolishes them. The result is – wearying, and frankly sophomoric.
Recycling Socialist Fantasies
The same holds true of Francis' rants about economics. Read Brad Polumbo. He shows how Francis' grim picture of the heartless, rapacious capitalism spoiling the earth has nothing to use reality. It's so off, it isn't even wrong. It's a nightmare fantasy from the kind you'd find in some North Korean textbook.
But the scariest thing in the encyclical? That's where Pope Francis directly contradicts the very words of his saintly, gifted predecessor Pope Leo XIII on the crucial topic. That is, the character of private property rights. On Twitter, alert reader Mitch Skywalker caught this intentional slap at a previous pope.
They can't both be right. Since each was a pope, it's pointless to try to settle this by a disagreement from authority. And that's just fine by me. Economics, like other public policy issues, needs to be argued based on the natural law, which God wrote on human hearts. And also the natural law case for private property rights is rock-solid and primordial.
Put simply, it is the same case we offer against slavery. Property is nothing more or less than a person's time, the fruit of his labors. If our labors don't belong to us but instead to the State, or some global agency, or even the next band of rioting looters, then we aren't really free. Every single day of labor that's taken gets turned, looking back, into slave labor. And slavery is evil.
I've written about this before. Perhaps I should be more like Pope Francis, and settle the problem by quoting myself. I'm able to even cite the Bible, \”What I have written, I have written.\” Which has a nice ring to it.
But seriously, people. Because the author of nine Catholic books, my advice to people who want to read Fratelli Tutti is this. Prepare yourself spiritually and intellectually. Brew a pot of coffee watching the following video:
Are you done? Now find Francis’ encyclical around the Vatican website, and read it aloud in Se~nor Wences's voice. Believe me, it will help.
John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream, and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Help guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the federal government.”