THE last three Popes have taken me from the depths of despair to a modicum of happiness and back to despair.
Not the first of the liberal Popes of the last century, Pope John Paul II was a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
He presented a conservative face to the world when it suited him. But he was a vain man and a crowd-pleaser who liked to be in the spotlight. His trademark kissing the ground when arriving in different countries was an example of his showmanship.
Of course, he was not liked by liberals within the Church and generally he was hated by liberals outside it. The issues of artificial contraception, abortion and women priests ‘plague’ the Papacy and the Church alike. What outsiders find hard to grasp is that the theology behind artificial contraception and abortion are part of Roman Catholic doctrine and not easily changed, if at all. Liberals within the Church ought to know better.
The all-male priesthood derives from the traditions of the Church, and in the Roman Catholic Church tradition speaks louder than doctrine or the Bible. Therefore, popes cannot be judged by the extent to which they conform to the standards of this world. They can only fairly be judged by their actions within the Church.
John Paul II was no conservative. He was a populist whose affiliation with the Polish Solidarity movement was probably unwise. The Solidarity gamble paid off, but John Paul II risked the work that the then President of Poland, Wojciech Jaruselski, had done to plough a different furrow from the Soviet Union and to allow the Roman Catholic Church, to which his beloved mother belonged, to function. It was not perfect, and far from perfect for the Church, but it was infinitely better than a Prague Spring-style Soviet invasion and takeover.
Some of what John Paul II did within the Church was shameful. A potent advocate of liberal Vatican II values, he completed the persecution of traditionalist Catholics and outlawed the Tridentine Latin Mass except under very strict conditions.
He also unleashed Opus Dei and extended its influence throughout the Church, even permitting it to ordain its own priests. Opus Dei may well have the appearance of a conservative Catholic organisation, but it is an alternative hierarchy with unswerving loyalty to the Pope, whoever he is and whatever he says.
We had a brief respite during the Papacy of Benedict XVI who, for example, restored the right to the Tridentine Mass. But old age, ill-health, and a genuine feeling that he could not cope with the magnitude of the unravelling child abuse scandals led him to resign. And so we got Pope Francis.
If John Paul II was a populist, this chap is a veritable attention-seeker. He feigns modesty, eschewing the Papal chambers and driving his own car. He presents a nightmare for his security detail who often do not know where he is.
I began to have my doubts about Francis within weeks of his election when I attended meetings of the Global Advisory Panel on the Future of Nursing in Switzerland and Puerto Rico which were facilitated by a very able American lady. She was an atheist, a feminist and pro-abortion. She knew I was Catholic and said her next stop was Rome. ‘Holiday?’ I asked. It transpired that she was going to meet the Pope as part of an advisory group he was setting up on global health. Apparently, he phoned her himself. A man with a state and a world church to run bypasses his secretariat and makes his own phone calls. Perhaps they would refuse to issue such invitations, which are still being received.
Now he plans to begin the process of canonising Robert Schuman, former Prime Minister of France. Schuman has been declared ‘venerable’, the first in four steps towards sainthood. But there is little doubt he will get there with the ‘fast-tracking’ of saints introduced by John Paul II. This saw the Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escrivá canonised in record time and John Paul II himself canonised before he barely had time to settle into the Vatican catacombs. There is no strict rule about time to canonisation, but it has traditionally been highly irregular to canonise within living memory lest something untoward comes to light as, indeed, it has regarding Josemaria Escrivá in Maria del Carmen Tapia’s excellent book Beyond The Threshold. Escrivá was a bully, his organisation denies people some basic human rights and controls almost every aspect of their lives, with vindictive and capricious reprisals against those who leave.
Does it matter that Pope Francis is elevating Robert Schuman? It does when you consider that Schuman was a globalist and one of the founders of the European Union. It also demonstrates where Pope Francis sits on the Brexit debate, something about which he has never made a secret. As I demonstrated many years ago in a tract for the traditional Catholic journal Apropos titled The Salvation Army in Dinner Jackets, the foundations for the European Union were laid at Caux in Switzerland, the headquarters of the Moral Re-Armament movement. Here Schuman, Konrad Adenauer and Alcide De Gasperi – the leaders of France, Germany and Italy respectively – met Dr Frank Buchman, an arch-globalist involved in the founding of the League of Nations.
Lest anyone doubts the strength of the link between the two key players, Schuman wrote a foreword to Buchman’s collected speeches, Re-making The World. Buchman was purportedly a Christian pastor but also a syncretist who, in his theory of moral re-armament, tried to unite a wide range of religions putting Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism on an equal footing with Christianity. The phrase ‘new world order’ often emerged from his lips.The Moral Re-Armament newspaper was, until relatively recently, called New World News.
Schuman was a Catholic and I would not dare to judge either the sincerity of his faith or any aspect of his life other than his politics. But it is hard not to conclude that Pope Francis is administering a Papal one in the eye to British Brexiters here. The road to canonisation proceeds via four steps taking in the status of Blessed after a life of heroic virtue is demonstrated. The final step of canonisation normally requires at least two verified miracles, and it will be interesting to see what these are. I suggest: 1. The UK rejoining the EU; 2. The UK adopting the euro.