Are we seeing signs that Pope Francis is back-paddling on his progressive views, and could that make the Catholic church more attractive for Christians again?
As most of us are likely aware by now, the current Head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has not been particularly secretive regarding his more “progressive” views, especially when compared to his predecessors. Since his election to the position of the Papacy on the 13th March 2013, Pope Francis has stoked controversy among the more conservative circles of the Catholic Church and the wider Christian world by expressing support for the LGBT community (stating that the Catholic Church should be more “open” and “welcoming” to them), expressing open support for migrants entering both Europe and North America illegally and even becoming a vocal opponent of populist ideology.
In this day and age, “populist ideology” has become an umbrella term for any ideology on the political right. However, in a recent speech, Pope Francis began to show signs that even he may slowly become disillusioned by “progressive” ideology.
On Monday, 11th January, the 85-year-old Pope attacked cancel culture in his annual “State of the World” speech, which he delivered in the Apostolic Palace’s Hall of Blessings in the Vatican City. The Pope attacked “agendas increasingly dictated by a mindset that rejects the natural foundations of humanity and the cultural roots that constitute the identity of many peoples.”
“I consider this a form of ideological colonisation – one that leaves no room for freedom of expression and is now taking the form of the ‘cancel culture’ invading many circles and public institutions…Under the guise of defending diversity, it ends up cancelling all sense of identity, with the risk of silencing positions…A kind of dangerous one-track thinking is taking shape – one constrained to deny history or, worse yet, to rewrite it.”
Pope Francis’ statements come in the wake of several ongoing protest movements, such as Black Lives Matter, which have embarked on numerous campaigns to deface and even take down several statues and monuments dedicated to historical figures and events, as well as the renaming of countless street names and buildings which, until recently, bore the names of key historical figures of historical importance also.
Pope Francis also declared that historical issues, events, figures, etc., must be discussed and interpreted within the context of their respective historic times and not through the lens of modern social and/or political standards.
This statement, in particular, stands out because one of the main factors behind modern-day cancel culture is the attitude that many left-wingers and liberals hold in which they allow their political ideologies to warp their perception of history, thereby judging the past based on their respective modern-day views. A dangerous attitude indeed.
Still a Controversial Pope
While Pope Francis did not give specific examples regarding cancel culture, in December 2021, he publicly criticised a document published by the European Commission, which instructed its staff members to refrain from using the word ‘Christmas’ when referring to the Holiday season. Following the subsequent backlash, the European Commission formally withdrew said document.
Nine years since his election as Pope, Francis and his largely “progressive” personal views on social issues have been sources of much controversy among social and national conservatives in the Christian world, with many arguing that he is a poor representative as leader of a Christian church.
However, with his recent statements on cancel culture and his defence of history from the distorted visions and ideologies of the political left and centre, what we are seeing may be a small hope that the Head of the Catholic Church himself may be slowly realising that so-called “progressive” ideology may not be so progressive after all. Suppose Pope Francis and the Catholic Church are to win back over the hearts of disillusioned Christians worldwide. In that case, the Pope’s slow realisations must quicken, for, at his age of 85, the job of winning back hearts and minds might have to befall his successor, whoever that may be.
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