Two of Pope Francis’s closest aides have written a scathing article denouncing conservative American Christians in which they assail Stephen K. Bannon by name as a fundamentalist with an “apocalyptic” views of geopolitics.
In the article, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, the editor-in-chief of the quasi-official Vatican periodical La Civiltà Cattolica, slams conservative Christians in the U.S. as ignorant, theocratic, Manichean, war-mongering fanatics.
Steve Bannon, Spadaro suggests, is part of a dangerous “fringe group” of U.S. Christians who seek to bring about a theocratic Christian state, wiping away America’s healthy secularism.
The Jesuit priest is a friend and counselor of Pope Francis and drafted the essay with a Presbyterian minister, Marcelo Figueroa, another friend of the Pope, who was hand-picked by the pontiff as editor of the Argentinean edition of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.
The article states that U.S. evangelicals and Catholics have engaged in “an ecumenism of conflict” that seeks to advance “a theocratic type of state.”
The authors claim that Bannon’s views are fueled by ideas from Calvinist Pastor Rousas John Rushdoony, the father of so-called “Christian reconstructionism,” and assert that Rushdoony had a great influence on Bannon’s “theopolitical vision of Christian fundamentalism.”
In the sparsely documented essay, Spadaro makes no mention of where he came up with his odd theory that Bannon is a disciple of Pastor Rushdoony, a radical Calvinist who advocated the application of strict biblical law, including execution for adultery, blasphemy, homosexuality, witchcraft, and other sins.
Instead, in a footnote, the authors refer to an article in the Washington Post that in turn cites more essays denouncing Mr. Bannon, such as “Steve Bannon Believes The Apocalypse Is Coming And War Is Inevitable” (the HuffPost) and “Steve Bannon Wants to Start World War III” (the Nation). Again, no mention of Rushdoony.
Father Spadaro seems to share the views of Steve Bannon articulated by fellow Jesuit Father James Martin, who was recently tapped by Pope Francis as a consultor to the Vatican’s communications department.
Last February, Father Martin, who is the editor of the Jesuit-run America magazine, repeatedly insulted Bannon, throwing his support behind a fabricated story of a “war” between Pope Francis and Trump’s chief strategist.
On an MSNBC segment titled “Steve Bannon vs. the Pope,” Father Martin claimed that Bannon uses church teaching to promote “racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic sentiments.”
Martin also said that Bannon is a “radical traditionalist” who opposes Pope Francis’s reforms and pines “for a time when the Church was purer,” a theme picked up by Father Spadaro in his recent screed.
Bannon is not only an anti-Pope Francis, Martin alleged, “I would also say he is an anti-Pope Benedict and an anti-Pope John Paul.”
“All these people were about economic justice,” Martin said, implying that Steve Bannon is not.
Father Martin also made the astonishing claim that Jesus Christ does not share Steve Bannon’s view of Catholicism as the “Church militant,” which he said is a synonym of “radical traditionalists.” In his article, Father Spadaro also picked up the topic of the “Church militant,” associating the term with an outlying group by the same name.
Neither Father Martin nor Father Spadaro mentioned that their religious order—the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits)—was approved in 1540 by Pope Paul III with the papal bull titled “To the Government of the Church Militant,” and the Jesuits were commonly referred to as the pope’s “shock troops.”
Moreover, as literate Catholics know, the “Church militant” is a common expression employed by countless Catholic saints, including Pope John Paul II, to distinguish the members of the church on earth still doing battle with evil from those who have already died.
In his most famous text, The Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius Loyola—the founder of the Jesuits—wrote out a series of rules that should be followed “to foster the true attitude of mind we ought to have in the church militant.”
Pope Francis is, of course, a Jesuit as well.
The panel of guests on the MSNBC program with Father Martin continually referred to Bannon as a “white supremacist,” without ever being challenged to back up their insults with facts.
“Steve Bannon is aligned with a radical sect of Catholics,” the MSNBC tag for the show read, a claim Father Spadaro seems to have swallowed hook, line, and sinker.
Apparently, in Pope Francis’s Age of Mercy, bearing false witness against one’s neighbor is no longer an issue, at least not for some Jesuits.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome