I follow the fortunes of the Roman Catholic church in which I was raised, even if I’ve not been a practicing Catholic for over 50 years. Like other societal institutions, the RC Church has for decades been locked in a battle between conservative Catholics and more progressive ones. The two Popes before Francis were very conservative and bent on enforcing the most traditional interpretation of the rules, of which there are countless. Francis is more pastoral, talking about things like tolerance and humility. Conservative Catholics in the U.S. seem to have decided that the fate of the Western world rests on controlling sex: no birth control, no place in the tent for sexually active gays and lesbians, no sacraments for divorced and remarried Catholics. Pope Francis looks for ways to bring people in — infuriating traditional Catholics like Cardinal Burke, and our very own Steve Bannon. The fight has gone past being nasty; conservatives threaten schism.
Now, a journal said to be the voice of Pope Francis, has nailed Bannon et al for casting in their lot with evangelical Christians in an “alliance of hate” which supports the worst impulses of Donald Trump.
This puts conservative Catholics in quite a bind. Catholics owe an obligation of deference to the Pope, any Pope, and they pray for him at Mass every Sunday. The Pope is the head of the teaching magisterium of the Church — the guys who get to say what the word of God means. Bannon may feel trashed by this Pope, but he can’t really trash talk back. In the conservative Catholic understanding of the relationship between the Pope and his flock, Bannon is called to submit — and with penitence and humility.
I rather like having Bannon called out, and by a publication so close to the Pope. No one in the Pope’s coterie, nor the Pope himself, has said anything to temper the article. I think they are saying something simple and direct to Bannon and his alter egos: if the shoe fits, wear it.