Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

The same but different

I found the recent meeting of Donald Trump and Pope Francis fascinating. For I cannot think of another meeting in which we were presented with two characters simultaneously so different and yet so similar!

Different because politically one stands on the right and the other, though he should be politically neutral, is very much on the left. Different because one is a thrice married playboy billionaire and the other a celibate member of a religious order. Different because one was formed amidst the revolutionary junta of Argentina whilst the other is American to the marrow of his bones. Different because one seems to favour a globalist outlook and the other is fiercely nationalistic. And yet….(though it will doubtless ranckle those whose narrative is neatly divided into ‘people I love’ and ‘people I hate’)

Both are popularists whose charisma carries the crowd. Both egotists whose personality drives their message. Both shoot from the hip and are thus prone to verbal gaffs and lack of clarity. Both run roughshod over established protocol and largely ignore historic procedure. Both rule with an iron fist and opt to elevate loyal friends to an inner circle whilst demonising those they disagree with. Both are marmite figures whose tendency is to a division of opinion not harmonious agreement. And both are anything but dull.

How I would love to have been a fly on the wall when they met. The liberal left predictably delighted in one photograph of a scowling holy father at the photo shoot, whilst conservative voices delighted in shots of them laughing together. But photographs in the press do not tell a story. I wonder if they connected due to similarity of leadership style or clashed over ideological belief? Perhaps we will never know. But it certainly intrigued me.

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8 Comments

  1. Greg

    ‘Different because politically one stands on the right and the other, though he should be politically neutral, is very much on the left.’

    [snip and separate source]

    ‘At the level of crass public imagery, Pope Francis is generally seen as a critic of capitalism and hostile to both big business and a free-market economy.’

    [Source: https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2017/05/28/supposedly-anti-capitalist-pope-channels-inner-entrepreneur/ ]

    Good op for a Compare and Contrast, Father. Enjoy! 🙂

  2. Tony Hill

    Yes, both do and say too much.

    The eminent Catholic philosopher of science, Bas Van Fraassen, is worth a look if you don’t know him. There’s a route there, I suspect, from Newman (notably in the Grammar of Assent) through Wittgenstein and onwards, which is properly about the reservation of religious belief. Reserved in that it distinguishes itself, or emphatically should, from any science which makes metaphysical or “truth about the world” claims. Van Fraassen says little or nothing about his faith (and, of course, Wittgenstein was in his own austere realm) in his philosophical work and so speaks volumes. I appreciate, of course, that this is traceable a great deal further back than Newman but he’s a good start for a modern view.

    This is where the Mass of Ages should be defended and promoted. Not aesthetically, not as a rejection of what may be messy and ugly, but as the highest we can manage in our inevitable falling short. Traditionalists must acquire grace and humility in their utterances and defences (the gravest charge that I level against Traditionalists is that they lack grace and are insufferably smug as well as being bilious in their criticisms of their fellow believers. I see the irony in my having said that, but the point survives).

    You talked about mysticism recently, Father, and traddies and reverent liturgists should be saying: “We’re all hopeless and clueless beyond our little limits, join us then in murmurous adoration, in silence and in love”. I think that will speak to whole societies and generations.

    Despite my comment on your earlier post about transcendence piercing us even among guitars and bad liturgy -as, of course, it may – we will do better, as Cardinal Sarah has told us, staying still and keeping quiet.

    Which is where we came in.

  3. David Knowles

    The Pope can never be neutral, this would equal neutered. He is quite right to condemn the evils of extreme capitalism and consumerism. If communism were still rampant then I am sure he would also condemn that.
    Capitalism is only just when its benefits reach all levels in society and as far as I can see Francis only criticises it when this does not happen.

  4. Pat

    A certain Nazarene, whose teaching we profess to follow, also ran roughshod over established protocol and largely ignored historic procedure. The Jewish and Roman religious and legal regimes had very similar views of Him. The pope and the rest of us are called to be ‘thorns in the side’. likewise. We need to distinguish clearly between what is unchangeable dogma and mutable but deeply entrenched custom.

  5. Pat

    “this would equal neutered”
    I suspect a lot of people inside and outside the Church want just that.

  6. Tony Hill

    On the political front, what a shame that there is no coherent pro-life voice in opposition both to abortion and nuclear weapons. Finnis and George (following, of course, the magnificent Anscombe) are exceptions but on the normal spectrum far too many Catholics contrive to believe that nuclear weaponry has a moral justification.

    If Catholicism could unite against nuclear weapons and, for that matter, against capital punishment, then the prospects of persuading unthinking Left wing supporters of abortion that their stance is illogical and disgraceful would be greatly enhanced.

    It is, I think, the main tragedy of this papacy that a huge opportunity to undermine the abortion industry from the Left has been missed and I count the Pope as chiefly responsible for that failure. He had all the right instincts in the matter about our instantaneously disposable culture, and has had an enormous amount of liberal support, but he has had none of the courage to assert the obvious conclusion.

    It is another tragedy that so much money is expended upon maintaining the military instruments of mass slaughter.

    Now Who or What could be wishing for that sort of two-faced blindness?

  7. David Knowles

    Tony Hill

    ‘Maintaining the military instruments of mass slaughter’ is what has kept us safe for the past fifty years. Granted, this situation is far from ideal but unilateral disarmament on our part would leave us in a much more dangerous position. Only the limitation of the proliferation of neuclear weapons or ideally a bilateral agreement to scrap them all is the only way forward.
    On a lighter note an elderly neighbour of mine expressed the view that, ‘ they ought to bring back capital punishment for these suicide bombers’.

  8. Tony Hill

    I understand that argument, David, but I think it is profoundly mistaken. Forgive me if you have read it, but Elizabeth Anscombe’s “Mr Truman’s Degree” is powerful on this matter and is worth a read – easily available online. Ditto, as i mentioned, the analysis of John Finnis.

    Anscombe and Finnis are the two most clear-sighted and brilliant opponents of the culture of death, in all its forms, over the last 60 years or so.

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