One ultraconservative blog describes this article as
two of Francis' closest confidantes attack US,
American conservatives in Pope's own journal
Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A surprising ecumenism appears in the current issue of La Civiltà Cattolica, a journal whose subtitle “Reflecting the mind of the Vatican since 1850” indicates its control by the Vatican. The article is by Antonio Spadaro S.J., its Editor-in-chief who is regarded as very close to Francis, and by Marcelo Figueroa, Presbyterian pastor, Editor-in-chief of the Argentinean edition of L’Osservatore Romano. Remember Francis had extremely good relationships with evangelicals in Argentina.
At times this mingling of politics, morals and religion has taken on a Manichaean language that divides reality between absolute Good and absolute Evil. President George W. Bush spoke in his day about challenging the “axis of evil” and stated it was the USA’s duty to “free the world from evil” Today President Trump steers the fight against a wider, generic collective entity of the “bad” or even the “very bad.” Sometimes the tones used by his supporters in some campaigns take on meanings that we could define as “epic.”
The panorama of threats to their understanding of the American way of life have included modernist spirits, the black civil rights movement, the hippy movement, communism, feminist movements and so on. And now in our day there are the migrants and the Muslims.The article criticizes Pastor Rousas John Rushdoony (1916-2001) the father of so-called “Christian reconstructionism” (or “dominionist theology”), the theopolitical vision of Christian fundamentalism, the Council for National Policy and Steve Bannon, currently chief strategist at the White House and supporter of an apocalyptic geopolitics.
Both Evangelical and Catholic Integralists condemn traditional ecumenism and yet promote an ecumenism of conflict that unites them in the nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state.
However, the most dangerous prospect for this strange ecumenism is attributable to its xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls and purifying deportations. The word “ecumenism” transforms into a paradox, into an “ecumenism of hate.”The article see Francis as the antidote to all the above:
The religious element should never be confused with the political one. Confusing spiritual power with temporal power means subjecting one to the other. An evident aspect of Pope Francis’ geopolitics rests in not giving theological room to the power to impose oneself or to find an internal or external enemy to fight. There is a need to flee the temptation to project divinity on political power that then uses it for its own ends. Francis empties from within the narrative of sectarian millenarianism and dominionism that is preparing the apocalypse and the “final clash.” Underlining mercy as a fundamental attribute of God expresses this radically Christian need.
Francis wants to break the organic link between culture, politics, institution and Church. Spirituality cannot tie itself to governments or military pacts for it is at the service of all men and women. Religions cannot consider some people as sworn enemies nor others as eternal friends. Religion should not become the guarantor of the dominant classes. Yet it is this very dynamic with a spurious theological flavor that tries to impose its own law and logic in the political sphere.
I think this critique of some trends in Evangelical Protestantism is long overdue. It is good that two of Francis close aides are writing it. I hope it will embolden the progressives in the American Bishops conference. The Religious Right has been the driving force behind the exit of the Nones from institutional religion. It has done far more damage to religion than any secular movement.
ADDENDUM: Michael Sean Winters over at NCR had the same reaction The Civilta Article: FINALLY!
UPDATE John Allen gives his perspectives on the article:
The Secretariat of State would not have signed off if the presumption wasn’t that Francis would approve. If you want to know what Francis himself makes of the Trump phenomenon, in other words, this is probably the best place to go.
this is not just business as usual. It’s rare for a Vatican media outlet, even one that’s only semi-official, to comment directly on the politics of another nation, especially in a fashion that can’t help but be seen as fairly partisan.
Over the years, a classic view of the U.S. in the Vatican, especially among Italians but more widespread, is that historically we’re a Calvinist culture, not a Catholic one, and somewhere deep in our DNA is the tendency to think in terms of the “elect” and the “reprobate.”
Suspicion of a latent “Manichean” streak is a time-honored Vatican take on America, which neither Pope Francis nor Spadaro and Figueroa invented, and which will still be there long after they’re gone.Two the last two comments I would add. The Vatican is Catholic, the big tent Church! And anything that speaks of a spiritual elite superior to that big tent or of seeing the world as evil isn't Catholic. American Catholics who don't understand that, are culturally Protestant.