We're a long way from Anthony Quinn's performance of Pope Kiril the first in the 1960s film Shoes of the Fisherman. Back in the 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, certain things were a given: American youth were - for the most part, hippies and Woodstock and Marcuse notwithstanding - still convinced that socialism of any form was a bad idea (and so were unwinnable undeclared wars in Vietnam), "they" - the Soviets and the Communist Chinese - were still the "bad guys" and we were the "good guys," and the churches, and in particular, the Roman Catholic Church, were still recognizably Christian and, in Rome's case, Catholic, though the veneer was beginning to rub mighty thin after the Second Vatican Council's liturgical "reforms," which ended up being far beyond those of Martin Luther or Archbishop Cranmer. I'll take a 15th century Lutheran missa brevis to the modern Vatican Two "quickie" any day. But turn the clock ahead a few decades from the 1960s and what do we have?
A pope lecturing us on the need to obey the UN, that unrestricted immigration is good, and holding synods in the Amazon that look suspiciously more amazonian than Roman Catholic, is a new thing. Indeed, as Francis I continues to lecture everyone about this or that political agenda, many people including many Roman Catholics both hierarchical, clerical, and lay are wondering if the current Pope is even Catholic at all.
Well, now you can add Russian President Vladimir Putin to that list, according to this article shared by V.T.:
If this article is to be believed, apparently Mr. Putin minced no words:
“Pope Francis is using his platform to push a dangerous far-left political ideology on vulnerable people around the world, people who trust him because of his position,” Putin said.
He dreams of a world government and a global communist system of repression.
“As we have seen before in communist states, this system is not compatible with Christianity.”
“If you look at what he (the Pope) says it’s clear that he is not a man of God. At least not the Christian God. Not the God of the Bible,” Putin said at the Naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Kronstadt.
“He dreams of a world government and a global communist system of repression.
“As we have seen before in communist states, this system is not compatible with Christianity.”
The article also mentions a few more of the Pope's recent pronunciamenti:
The pope has become increasingly brazen this year in pushing the globalist agenda and far-left talking points upon the masses. Earlier this year he called for a global central bank and financial authority, and more recently he said “Americans need to be ruled by a world government as soon as possible for their own good.”
(Gee, you mean by an institution with universal globalist governing claims like the papacy?)
Pope Francis’s idea that Americans would be better off under a world government doesn’t stop there. The radical leftist pontiff also went on record stating that Europe should become one country under one government.
(Gee, do you mean by an institution already claiming to be, and having the infrastructure of, a global government, like the papacy?)
He is also on record calling for a China-style one child policy for Western nations, as well as telling a congregation in Rome that having a personal relationship with Jesus is “dangerous and harmful.”
My how the worm has turned. When I was a boy, the heroism of Joszef Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary for standing up to the Soviets was something drummed into my head by my Roman Catholic paternal grandparents. He was unabashedly and unapologetically Christian and Roman Catholic. The Soviet leadership was unapologetically and unabashedly brutalitarian and atheistic. And now, the roles have reversed, for it's increasingly dubious to many in the West whether Francis I is Christian at all, much less Catholic, and the leader of Russia, a former member of the KGB, and practicing Orthodox Catholic Christian, is wondering the same thing, and going on record to boot.
It would be wrong, however, to assume that Mr. Putin's remarks were utterly devoid of any political context. For one thing, as I've pointed out many times, the Russian government of the post-Yeltsin era seems to be doing everything it can to speak for, and to, the disenfranchised "deplorables" of the West. I've argued that the Russian government, embarked on its own quest to become the first post-post-modern state has led the charge against the dogmas of globalism and tried to position itself as a spokesman for the traditions and virtues of European culture either being eclipsed, or deliberately "murdered" by its ruling class. Nor has this been a "general critique," for if one listens to the speeches of Mr. Putin and other Russian leaders, these are often directed, point by point, at specific dogmas of globalism.
But there's a more specific political-ecclesiastical context for Mr. Putin's remarks, and that is the recently emerging schism between the patriarchates of Moscow and Constantinople. Constantinople, at the "urging" both of the Vatican and the US State Department, recently granted "autocephaly" to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. "Autocephaly" is a term of Orthodox canonical practice that means (literally) "Self-Headedness", i.e., the right of a national church's hierarchy to govern itself freely apart from the jurisdiction of a foreign patriarchate. To draw an analogy that might be more familiar to Westerners, the Orthodox Church is like the Anglican Communion in this respect: all Anglican Churches around the world, from Australia, Canada, the United States, and so on, are independently governing entities, but remain in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England, and have more or less a common liturgical practice and ethos. This has changed in recent years, for as the Anglican Communion has become increasingly torn away from its traditional doctrines and liturgical moorings, inclusive of the ordination of women, homosexuals, the advocacy of "gender inclusive" language and abandonment of the liturgical English of the Book of Common Prayer, some Anglican groups have recognized these things as a betrayal of fundamental Anglican principles of doctrine and worship, and have broken communion with any bodies claiming the name Anglican, but engaged in these practices. In other words, it's the content and actual practice and not merely the name that makes one an Anglican, and this is a mentality very similar to that of Orthodoxy. In effect, both conceptually and in terms of practice and doctrine, these groups are the genuine (though few) traditional Anglicans today for they recognize the mainstream institutions have been co-opted and hollowed out and are Anglican in name only.
The situation is similar, now, in Orthodoxy with the recent "grant" of autocephaly by Constantinople to the Ukrainian Church. In the past century, Constantinople has articulated a series of claims and privileges that - to the traditional Orthodox mind - can only be viewed as neo-Papal in nature, and hence, not Orthodox in any sense. This is not surprising, given the Vatican's quiet financial support of the patriarchate, and its current occupant's having studied in Rome itself. The traditional view that the Patriarchate of Constantinople was "first among equals" has turned into its own self-promoted neo-papal view of itself as "king of non-equals," and this has been predictably resisted by most of the rest of the Church, including the Patriarchate of Moscow, which has by far and away the most Orthodox Catholic Christians under its jurisdiction.
In short, you're looking at another brewing schism, and much of it is being concocted in the West, by the West, and for the West, and I would argue, is yet another manifestation of the West's almost subliminal and visceral hatred of Orthodoxy. Why the hatred? That would be a long and involved tome beyond the scope of the present blog, but it can perhaps best be summarized by pointing out that it is an unreconstructed Catholicism with no need for infallible popes nor for high minded reformers. Like all ecclesiastical institutions, it has had its share of black moments and blackguards to be sure, but nothing like on the scale as obtained under the Papal tyranny of the Middle Ages, and that led ultimately to the Protestant revolt. And in spite of the best efforts of organized atheism to kill it, literally to "murder and martyr it by individual murder and martyr to the thousands if not millions," it survived the Western import of Bolshevism to Russia, and with it, Russia survived.
Thus, hidden behind Mr. Putin's remarks regarding the papacy is really an implied question: what's your interest in The Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Church? And is it really to make the Ukrainian church self-governing, or is that self-governing status to serve an ultimately more secular and anti-Orthodox agenda?
This one, folks, is thus a story that is not going to go away any time soon.
And as for Pope Francis, Mr. Putin isn't the only one raising questions about the Pope's actual faith (if any). Some in his own close entourage are doing the same:
When confronted with a swamp in the form of co-opted institutions, there are but two courses of action, try to drain it and reclaim the institution, or make a clean break with it. It remains to be seen what will happen here in the case of Rome, and Constantinople.
See you on the flip side...