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Organ Grinder II

Today we take a break from Marginal Analysis due to an interesting post which appeared recently on Andrea Gagliarducci’s MondayVatican blog. The initial part of the post, the part which I am republishing below, pertains to an academic paper titled “A Populist Pope”, written by Loris Zanatta from the University of Bologna. (see original here)

The reason why I bring this to your attention dear reader, is that the subject matter of this post adds to the body of OBJECTIVE information (DATA POINTS) assembled on this blog to date, which explain in large part the behaviour of Jorge Bergoglio, the present bishop of Rome.

This post should be read in conjunctin with other posts which your humble blogger has transcribed from the From Rome and Unam Sanctam blogs containing interviews with Senor Jack Tollers. See here and here. I am also linking to the excellant post by from The Federalist blog titled Pope Francis Ushers The Second Coming Of Peronism (see here). I think that the three linked post above should provide a sound foundation for discerning the below professor Zanatta paper.

On an aside. The title of this post is from a Polish saying that goes something along the lines of: ” He who owns the monkeys, owns the circus”.

I will also add emphasis and am republishing this post…



What does Pope Francis really have in mind? The best response is probably found in a paper, published in the latest issue of the Italian magazine Il Mulino. The paper is titled “A Populist Pope”, and it is authored by Loris Zanatta, professor of the history of Latin America at the University of Bologna and an expert in populism. To Professor Zanatta, populism is the key through which to interpret Pope Francis’ thought. However, populism must not be understood from a generic point of view. Zanatta explains in depth the particularity of Argentinian populism, and sheds light on its contradictions. The key notion to understand is the notion of pueblo, which is people.

Pueblo – Zanatta says – is a very common word in Pope Francis speeches. Pope Francis uses pueblo 356 times, while he uses the term “democracy” only 10 times, the term “individual” only 14 times, while the term “liberty” is used 73 times (only 2 times in his speeches in Cuba). This wide occurrence of the term shows the importance of the notion of pueblo to Pope Francis. And the notion is likewise important to understand how populism developed in Argentinian culture.

Zanatta asks: “What is Pope Francis’ notion of pueblo?” He responds that “people according to Pope Francis are good and virtuous. Poverty bestows on them an inner moral superiority.” Zanatta adds that “Pope Francis says that wisdom, solidarity, values of the Gospel are preserved in inner-city neighborhoods. It is there that Christian society is found, the deposit of faith.”  

To Pope Francis – Zanatta then argues – “that pueblo is not a sum of individualism. It is rather a community that transcends individuals, a living body animated by an ancient and natural faith, in which individuals are completely diluted. Being this, pueblo is the Chosen People that is keeping an identity in danger.”

Zanatta goes on by explaining that “it is not for nothing that identity” is the other pillar of Bergoglio’s populism,” and “every institution or human constitution must bow to this identity, in order not to lose the legitimacy which pueblo bestows.”

In Pope Francis’ thought there is space for a contraposition between “the pueblo that is good and supportive, and the oligarchy that is a selfish plunderer.” The worst damage provoked by oligarchy is the “corruption of the pueblo,” thus undermining “its spontaneous religiosity as a tempter, the devil.”

Outcomes of the notions of pueblo are other pieces of Pope Francis’ populism, such as “the notion that democracy is merely a social notion.”

The argument is fascinating, and it has many outcomes. Much can be understood by reading Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis’ first apostolic exhortation that represents a sort of manifesto.

Evangelii Gaudium presents four criteria through which the common good develops: time is greater than space; unity prevails over conflict; realities are more important than ideas; the whole is greater than the part.

When Pope Francis claims that he has fully expressed his thought in Evangelii Gaudium, he is right. A glance at some of his decisions is enough to be aware of this.

Francis does not plan big strategies. His model is that of the Church as “field hospital”. That means, a Church that quickly puts on a Band-Aid, waiting for wounds to be healed. Time – the Pope is convinced – will tell how good his method is, and this method must be the most spontaneous possible. For example, Pope Francis is not concerned with the consequences when he makes a decision to meet someone. He goes toward people, toward the outer bounds, without too many calculations, and sometimes even moved by his personal sympathies.  

Pope Francis has put into effect a new kind of ecumenism. This new kind of ecumenism is characterized by the push to evangelize evangelicals that became evident when he wanted to go and meet the Protestant Pastor Traettino in Caserta. Because of his personal friendship with him, the Pope wanted the visit to Traettino to be detached from the visit to the Catholic community.

Pope Francis’ new ecumenism bases itself on a popular sensitivity that is traditionally closer to charismatic movements. And charismatic movements are the closest to the notion of a “pure” people like that intended by Argentinian populism.

The Pope’s new ecumenism is also characterized by the notion that unity prevails over conflict. Hence, Pope Francis’ choice to meet the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, at any cost. The Pope did not want the meeting to be organized by a diplomatic body; he preferred a body with theological competences like the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the Unity of Christians.

The same Pontifical Council took part to the Pope’s trip to Lesbos during the one-day visit on April 16. Lesbos is a Greek island that now houses many refugees coming from Syria and other places in the Middle East where Christians are persecuted. The meeting in Lesbos was not an ecumenical meeting, but a humanitarian meeting. However, the presence of the Archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, Ieronymos II, and of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, gave an ecumenical character to the meeting

The idea of the “ecumenism of the blood” (that Pope Francis always reiterates) is thus colored with the notion of a social ecumenism able to generate a sort of “pragmatic unity”. From this pragmatic unity, the Pope hopes to get one day to full, visible unity. No need for theological discussions. This is one of the many developments of the notion that realities are greater than ideas.

The meeting with crowds – like the meeting with the big communities of refugees or with popular movements that have been held – are a big part of the pontificate’s agenda – fitting with the notion that the whole is greater than the parts. The crowd, filled with the notion of young people committed to hacer lìo (make noise), is the expression of a pure popular identity, based upon Zanatta’s analysis.

This is Pope Francis’ popular Church that often risks turning into a “pop-Church”, loved by the mass media for the simplification of conflicts and notions, but at the same time at risk to become culturally inconsistent.

Zanatta explains this well in his paper: “Populism is always anti-intellectual.” It is true. So much so that the Council of Cardinals, during its last meeting on April 11-13,