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Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?

In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to economics, displays no interest in actual Catholic teachings on economics. Perhaps that his because his position is at odds with that of Pope Francis, and as recent news reports suggest, he may also have joined forces with Vatican opponents of the Pope’s emphasis on refugees, tolerance and spiritually.

On February 7, 2017 The New York Times published an article that suggests “Steve Bannon Carries Battles to Another Influential Hub: The Vatican.” The story outlined how Bannon appears to be now engaging in a Fifth Column action within the Vatican in support of ultra-traditionalist forces who are unhappy with the Pope’s social justice message. These forces take issue with Francis’s more tolerant tone towards Syrian refugees, his call for economic fairness and his pro-environmental stances, particularly when it comes to climate change.

This reactionary “Shadow Church” features some familiar names. First and foremost is the former Archbishop of St. Louis, Missouri, Cardinal Raymond Burke. And there is strong circumstantial evidence that the shadow church may include The Dignitatis Humanae Institute (Institute for Human Dignity); a Catholic lay organization led by Benjamin Harnwell, whom The Times describes as “a confidant of Cardinal Burke.” Indeed, it was Harnwell who introduced Bannon to Burke.

The Times reported that Harnwell invited Bannon to speak before the Institute’s summer 2014 conference on poverty. Bannon, then-the editor of Breitbart News (not long before he joined the Trump presidential campaign), used the occasion to launch into a rallying call to culture war replete with broad allusions to what he believed is a coming clash of civilizations between the Christian West and Islam:

And we’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.

Cardinal Burke is also on the record stating his belief that Christianity and Islam are incompatible.

I think that in order to understand what may going on here we need to be aware of the idea of Fourth Generational Warfare (4GW for short). It is a term and a set of ideas that are likely to start getting more attention. What may look like a reign of confusion emanating from Bannon’s perch in the White House is more likely a well-thought-out strategy. You might say there may be a method to the madness — designed to “overwhelm, disorient and disrupt” progressives, moderates and even some centrist conservatives. The more confusion that is sown, the better.

And it is not too difficult to understand why Pope Francis would be a target . It is all-too-common for Catholics such as Bannon who have no true grasp of Catholic social justice teachings to confuse Marxism with the Church’s economic teachings. As sociologist Dr. James Scaminaci noted:

A sub-component of 4GW is William Lind’s conspiracy theory of the internal war for supremacy between what he called “cultural Marxists” and their ideology of “Political Correctness” or “multiculturalism” and the “traditional American culture” or “Judeo-Christian culture.” Lind argued that “cultural Marxists” hate America’s “Judeo-Christian culture” and were seeking to destroy it. The losers were to be rich, white, conservative, Christian, heterosexual men.

Nevertheless, some have pooh-poohed the idea of a possible “rad-trad” alliance against Pope Francis. However, as one article from NPR has pointed out, Breitbart News has made it quite clear where they come down in the battle between Pope Francis and the clique of radical traditionalists:

A year ago, Francis criticized candidate Donald Trump for wanting to build a wall along the border with Mexico, saying, “A person who thinks only about building walls … and not building bridges is not Christian.”

But that’s not Bannon’s worldview. While most Breitbart reports on the pope have been neutral, headlines about the pope when Bannon was in charge included:

▪ “Seven Ways Pope Francis Slapped Conservatives in the United States”

▪ “A Vatican Expert: Pope Francis a ‘Friend of Islam'”

▪ “Pope Francis Slams Capitalism, Death Penalty, Immigration Law; No Real Mention of Abortion, Gay Marriage”

▪ “Pope Francis Threatens Legacy of Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan”

Perhaps Charles Pierce put it best. Writing in Esquire :

This isn’t just a matter of the cafeteria having a few new and unfamiliar faces in the buffet line. This is dragging elements of the Church into alliances with white supremacists all over the world, lining up parts of the Church with the likes of Marine Le Pen in France. This is entering into an alliance with forces so completely contrary to the Church’s stated mission that they might as well give Cardinal Burke an army and let him march against the Languedoc.

It may well turn out that Bannon is less of a racist at all — but something worse; a political opportunist. The presidential advisor is playing a dangerous game using previously marginalized political movements in order to advance his own agenda — with possibly unintended but entirely foreseeable consequences.

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3 Responses

  1. From The Washington Post:

    This Vatican operation, called Dignitatis Humanae, or the Institute for Human Dignity, whose advisory board includes two of the four cardinals openly challenging Francis on marriage and sexuality, is slavishly promoting Burke’s favorite American white Catholic nationalist, Bannon, with star billing on its home page. The institute’s top office-bearers, Burke and his henchman, the media-savvy Breitbart contributor Benjamin Harnwell, are also encouraging Benito Mussolini fan Matteo Salvini, of Italy’s Northern League, and Muslim-baiting far-right Catholic poster girl Marion Le Pen, the National Front “rising star” niece of party leader Marine Le Pen in France.
    As the Italian press first revealed, Burke held a long meeting last week at his Vatican home with Salvini, a fierce critic of the pope who wants to push refugees back into the sea and close all mosques in Italy. It was a flagrant political intervention on the side of the extreme-right racist grouping ahead of the Italian elections. Mysterious posters also appeared around the Vatican decrying a sinister-looking pope’s “decapitation” of the Malta Knights order.

  2. As I noted with facts in the previous blog, “Cardinal Burke Frenzy – Another Failure of the U.S. Media,” both the Times and WaPo articles were incorrect on the almost all their assertions.

    It is Pope Francis who has been seeking reconciliation with the anti-Semitic Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) since 2014. (The society has been considered “schismatic” since 1988.) The SSPX “has fully embraced the far-right politics” of Marine LePen et al.

    http://www.lastampa.it/2017/01/30/vaticaninsider/eng/the-vatican/fraternity-of-st-pius-x-ever-closer-to-reconciliation-xY7GVwCDVyST373inFczcP/pagina.html
    http://www.lastampa.it/2016/07/28/vaticaninsider/eng/inquiries-and-interviews/society-of-st-pius-x-sspx-what-is-and-what-is-not-negotiable-for-reconciliation-with-the-catholic-church-6tOUfZuU1Bu4pjePd4KhWI/pagina.html
    http://www.dailystormer.com/traditional-catholicism-is-pro-fascism-jew-wise-and-perfect-for-white-nationalists/

  3. Actually Betty, I think you are dead wrong. And when you consider what Bannon is all about that just strengthens my case.

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