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Populism MenckenToday we continue developing our thread from yesterday’s post titled An Ideology in Disguise (see here) and provide a practical application example.

Just as a quick reminder, yesterday we defined the philosophical determinants in our Peirce/Ockham pragmatic methodology (see here) that we use to identify whether we are dealing with a phenomenon based on a “positive” process (i.e. a theological or scientific phenomenon) or a phenomenon based on an exclusively “normative” process (i.e. one that is ideological).

A good practical application of the above describe categorization of a “observed occurrence” according to our philosophical determinants can be observed in the below example. Our “observed occurrence” is contained in the very recent report on the Vatican leak about the situation with respect to the Medjugorje apparitions by Gloria.TV. (see here) In the Gloria.TV piece, we have the following information:

No and yes.

As it has become common practice, another Vatican report, the one on Medjugorje has been leaked in order to prepare the public for its findings. According to the Italian media, pope Francis will not recognize the apparitions at Medjugorje as supernatural. At the same time, Medjugorje will be recognized as a place of worship.


Along the same line, pope Francis polemicised during yesterdays homily indirectly against Medjugorje. He warned of ways in which Christian witness can be weakened or watered down. Among different examples, Francis also mentioned those who are always searching for some novelty in their Christian identity. They say: where are the visionaries who can tell us exactly what message Our Lady will be sending at 4:00 o’clock this afternoon.

Leaving aside the quip warning against those who are always searching for some novelty in their Christian identity, like the gentlemen in this post and video (see here), Francis has provided your humble blogger with a first-rate example  of a occurrance that can easily help us illustrate the subject matter of yesterday’s post.

What we have in the above two paragraphs is a logically contradictory statement. The logical contradiction arises from the fact that:

the reason the faithful travel to Medjugore and pray to Our Lady there, is because of the apparitions that supposedly took place at Medjugorje (a causal relationship).

By not recognizing the supernatural nature of these said apparitions, Francis debunks their authenticity, which simultaneously debunks any pretext that Medjugore is an authentic “place of worship” where faithful should come to perform acts of devotion and veneration to those apparitions. On an aside, it could also be the case that it is the evil one who is behind these apparitions for all Francis knows. But I digress…

And yet, at the same time Francis contradicts his earlier position by going and recognizing Medjugore as a “place of worship”, i.e. a specially designed structure or consecrated space where individuals or a group of people such as a congregation come to perform acts of devotion, veneration, or religious study.  (see here)

To put a formal designation on the logical problem with the above statement attributed to Francis, this statement would be considered a logical inconsistency, i.e “an assertion that contrary or contradictory statements are both true”.(see here)

Therefore, we can be certain that we are dealing here with a “normative” process, (logical contradictions by definition cannot be “positive” statements) one that would identify this statement by Francis as being strictly ideological. Once again, one definition of an ideology is a “system that derives ideas exclusively from sensation” and “theorizing of a visionary or impractical nature”. Therefore, given that we can say with a high degree of certainty that we are dealing with an ideological statement, we can then proceed to identify the exact nature of the statement itself.

On the surface, a logically inconsistent statement would by definition be a “popular” statement since both sides in an argument would receive some form of “sensual gratification”. Both parties can make the claim that Francis supports their positions, when ignoring the logical problem with the statement itself. So the natural place to start the identification process is with an ideology that tries to encompasses the widest amount of parties to any given argument.

So naturally our starting point would be “populism”. Here is how the definition: (see here)

Populism is a political doctrine that appeals to the interests and conceptions (such as hopes and fears) of the general people, especially contrasting those interests with the interests of the elite.

Further in this same definition we read the following:

For much of the twentieth century populism was considered to be a political phenomenon mostly in Latin America…

Since our above definition deals with “political doctrine” and since an “ideology” is defined as “a body of doctrine, myth, etc., with reference to some political and social plan” , we can be very certain that what we are dealing with here is a “populist” statement by Francis.

When examining the definition of “populism”, we find further information that appears to fit into our analysis quite neatly. It would appear that a “populist political ideology” is also very compatible with a “big-tent” approach to politics. Here is how the big tent political party is defined:

In politics, a big tent or catch-all party is a political party seeking to attract people with diverse viewpoints and thus appeal to more of the electorate.

As opposed to:

The big tent approach is opposed to single-issue litmus tests and ideological rigidity, conversely advocating multiple ideologies and views within a party.

Sounds exactly like the statement attributed to Francis.

Furthermore, from the above we can clearly see that we have stumbled upon thread of definitions which appear to describe not only the above statement attributed to Francis in the Gloria.TV video, but likewise most of the two years of the Francis papacy.

Let’s continue with the definition of populism and see if we can observe any other similarities with the “phenomenon that is Francis”. Further in the definition, we come across this passage:

Populism in Latin American countries has both an economic and an ideological edge. Populism in Latin America has mostly addressed the problem, not of capitalist economic development as such but its inclusiveness, in the backdrop of highly unequal societies in which people are divided between a relative few wealthy groups and masses of poor, even in the case of societies such as Argentina, where strong and educated middle classes are a significant segment of the population. Therefore the key role of the State in Latin American populism, as an institution, is to mediate between traditional elites and the “people” in general. In appealing to the masses of poor people prior to gaining power, populists may promise widely-demanded food, housing, employment, basic social services, and income redistribution. Once in political power, they may not always be financially or politically able to fulfill all these promises. However, they are very often successful in providing many broad and basic services.

Very enlightening if you ask me, wouldn’t you say dear reader?

Actually, it’s the best description of Francis that I have read to date.

Concluding, what can we discern from the above? What we can observe is Francis making a decision that is the equivalent of voting “present”. On the one hand, he debunks the Medjugore apparitions which leaves the neo-catholics satisfied… sort of, while making Medjugore itself a “place of worship” which keeps the Medjugore scam cult and the monetary interests that have risen around it, alive and well. And if one doesn’t include the poor souls who will be led astray by this questionable decision of Francis and his duplicity in this obvious to all fraud, then what we are dealing with here is a win/win situation for Francis. Or as the Poles would say, “the wolf is fed and the lamb is saved”.

Another interesting observation one can discern from the above text is the centrality of the “class warfare” issue in both South American populism and the Bergoglian/Kasparian “theology done on the knees”. From the very onset of the Francis’ papacy, this artificial “class warfare” between the “elite” and the “poor” has been promoted. If we look at this situation through a populist theological ideological lens of a “populist papacy”, here is how the entry above would read:

the “key role of the State Francis papacy in Latin American “papal populism”, as an institution, is to mediate between traditional elites and the “people” in general. In appealing to the masses of poor people prior to gaining power, populists may promise widely-demanded food, housing, employment, basic social services, and income redistribution. In the case of the “populist papacy”, the bishop of Rome never has to bear the economic cost of making said promises.

Aside from the operating cost of the Vatican flop house, that is. (see here)

And finally on a higher level, what we see in the above text is an example of a papacy that resembles a populist political regime. In such a political regime, the leader tries to please if not all, then the largest number of the people at any given point in  time. With the exception of the faithful Catholics that is. But then again, like Pope Benedict observed, there always needs to be a group of people who everyone can hate. And if they are a minority, all the better for our present bishop of Rome. But I digress….

But back to our case above, in the Francis papacy, we see a situation that is no doubt the envy of every populist regime, one where Francis can promise everything, while doing nothing aside from some symbolic, low-cost gestures and continue to remain “artificially popular” without bearing any real cost resulting from his populism.

Unlike these two poor slobs here that we featured here and here that we featured here.

Oh well, at least in Francis’ case, it don’t get any better than that.

If you dont’ count the lost souls that is.