Christmas, as we know, is a season of good feelings and it is understandable that Pope Francis has chosen this moment to enter the homes of Italians, through the interview he released on December 18 on Canale 5 on the theme “The Christmas I want”. The themes you touched on are subjects to which everyone is sensitive, such as war, poverty, hunger, demographic winter, sport, children. His observations seemed to be inspired by a natural good sense, but neglecting to touch on the basic questions, in terms of faith and morals, which also challenge our daily lives every day. Many of these problems are addressed in two books that have appeared recently, which seek to shed light on the pontificate and personality of Pope Francis. They are, it must be said immediately, rigorous studies and not pamphlet. The first, entitled François, the conquête du pouvoir. Itinéraire d’un pape sous influences (Contretemps, Versailles 2022, pp. 386, 25 euros), is by Jean-Pierre Moreau, a French specialist in liberation theology; The second one, Super hanc petram. The Pope and the Church in a dramatic hour of the history (Fiducia, Rome 2022, pp. 276, euro 22), is due to Father Serafino Lanzetta, a talented Italian theologian, who exercises his ministry in the United Kingdom.
Moreau goes in search of the “maîtres à penser” of Pope Francis and identifies them in the architects of the “Theology of the People”, a branch of the Latin American theology of liberation inspired by the Pact of the Catacombs celebrated in Rome on November 16, 1965, when about forty bishops, including Monsignor Helder Câmara , proclaimed the need to return to the praxis of the historical Jesus through “a servant and poor Church”. In that same year, Father Pedro Arrupe was elected general of the Society of Jesus, the author of a project to reform the Church that upset its foundations. Both of Msgr. Câmara that Father Arrupe’s cause for beatification was introduced under the pontificate of Pope Francis, arousing the indignant surprise of connoisseurs of liberation theology, such as Julio Loredo de Izcue, who rightly wondered if we are not faced with a «beatification of evil».
According to Moreau, the archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who became Pope Francis in 2013, inspired by the “theology of the people”, would have proposed to implement Arrupe’s political-religious plan, interrupted in 1981 by his resignation and subsequent commissioning of the Society of Jesus by John Paul II. But Moreau goes even further back and traces Jorge Mario Begoglio’s true mentor to the Argentine dictator Juan Domingo Peron, who played a decisive role in his country’s politics between 1940 and his death in 1975. In this respect, Pope Francis would above all a “Peronist”, not an ideologue, but a pragmatic and populist man of action, attracted by the political rather than the supernatural dimension of the Catholic faith.
If Moreau’s approach is historical-political, that of Father Lanzetta is exquisitely theological. The words and actions of Pope Francis are examined in his book with a rigorous critical spirit, but also with filial devotion to the Papacy, showing the danger of making pastoral care precede doctrine, action before being, the person of the Pope before establishment of the Church. Very penetrating are the pages that the author dedicates to the new form of nominalism, widespread today, whereby words no longer correspond to reality, but are used to say something else than their original and authentic meaning. Nominalism is historically the main road that leads to pragmatism, that is, to the dissolution of thought, through the dissolution of language. The very concepts of orthodoxy and heresy evaporate in the nominalistic primacy of praxis. From this point of view, rather than the spread of heresy, the real problem of the Church today consists in what Father Lanzetta effectively defines as a «liquid apostasy», which has its roots in the attempt to separate «the doctrinal aspect of Revelation from the pastoral one, seeing the beginning of preaching not in the truths to be believed but in how to believe, judging the opportunity and methods».
The religious crisis is therefore profound, but Pope Francis himself, in the Angelus on Sunday 18 December, affirmed that in times of crisis God opens up new perspectives, which we did not previously imagine, perhaps not as we expect, but as He knows . Who would have expected, for example the statements made that same December 18 to the Spanish newspaper ABC ?
The Pope who at the time of the post-Amazon Synod of 2019 had contrasted the wisdom of the natives with the arrogance of the conquistadors Spaniards, today he says that: «The hermeneutic to interpret a historical event must be that of its time, not the current one. It’s obvious there (in Latin America, ed) people were killed, it is obvious that there was exploitation, but the Indians also killed each other. The atmosphere of war was not exported by the Spaniards. And the conquest belonged to everyone. I distinguish between colonization and conquest. I don’t like to say that Spain simply “conquered”. It’s debatable, all you want, but she colonized. If one reads the directives of the Spanish kings of the time on how their representatives should act, no king of any other country did so. Spain entered the territory, the other imperial countries remained on the coast. Spain did not piracy. It must be taken into account. And behind this there is a mystique. Spain is still the Motherland, which not all countries can say». Is Marcello Veneziani right when he says that Pope Francis has been changing his positions for some time (“La Verità”, 17 December 2022) or are we faced with the development of a political program inspired by a coherent philosophy of practice?.