Readers old enough to remember the early 1960s might recall the hype that surrounded John F. Kennedy after eight years of the aging war leader Dwight D. Eisenhower, symbol of the boring 1950s.
This writer knew Irish Americans who took being Catholic seriously, but who would nevertheless bear insults to the Blessed Virgin Mary before they would criticism of Kennedy. His assassination left his worshippers forever yearning for what might have been. His pre-election effort to ingratiate himself with Baptists in Houston by soft-pedaling his Catholic faith and his legendary womanizing were brushed aside as irrelevant. This was, after all, Camelot, secular precursor of the post-conciliar New Pentecost.
JFK and John XXIII were perceived as heralds of a new dawn of freedom and love. The austere and aloof Pius XII was replaced by the chubby, avuncular, and anxious-to-please “Good Pope John.” We might match the presumption of Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural speech, and its suggestion that “here on earth God's work must truly be our own” with John XXIII’s opening the Vatican window to the world, and his belief that replacing doctrinal severity with pastoral mercy would produce a new springtime for the Church. Well, how did that work out for us? Anyone here disappointed with the promise of the ‘60’s, both social and spiritual?
Neither man lived to see 1964. Consider who replaced them. Both Johns paved the ways for wrecking balls, Lyndon Johnson to traditional America and Paul VI to the Roman Catholic Church. LBJ’s Great Society could be seen as logical extensions of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, securing the beachhead for cradle-to-grave government paternalism. Paul VI’s New Mass and homage to the United Nations, among his other subversive policies, rehabilitated the Modernism St. Pius X suppressed, and softened us up for the innovations of John Paul II and Francis.
John Paul II and Ronald Reagan were both presented as “conservatives.” Both have been credited with the “downfall” of communism. A little skepticism might be in order. Both were actors in their previous lives. Both made us feel good, John Paul II with his Slavic warmth and Reagan with his cheery “morning in America” optimism. John Paul II was the first rock star pope, whose occasional nods in the direction of traditional Catholic moral teachings distracted us from his determination to turn other teachings of his predecessors upside down. Can anyone imagine St. Pius V encouraging Moroccans to be good Muslims? Pio Nono hosting Assisi? Leo XIII giving joint blessings with the Anglican arch-layman? Reagan said many of the right things, but what did he accomplish that lasted? What’s left of the Reagan Revolution? Will future historians say Jimmy Carter was right to suggest we wear sweaters and lower the thermostats?
Neither the Bushes nor Bill Clinton lend themselves to this parlor game as well as Obama. In fact, pairing him alongside Pope Francis may offer the most frightening comparison of them all.
We have, at this writing, a Pope who seems determined to overturn every vestige of Catholicism not already subverted by Vatican II, and a President who seems determined to transform America into a Third World state as punishment for its sins. Judging by their respective words and deeds, President Obama hates the European basis of America, the America most of us recognize, and Pope Francis hates the traditional Catholicism that every saint in heaven would recognize.
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Obama expresses his contempt for a Congress too spineless to insist on its Constitutional prerogatives. Francis wants traditional Catholic moral teaching turned upside down whether a Synod full of bishops likes it or not. No wonder this Pope and this President seem to like each other so much.
We need to pray without ceasing, if not for the current occupants of the Chair of Peter and the White House, then for God to minimize the damage the two can do. God is, after all, still in charge. Nothing will happen without His willing or permitting it to happen. Even the two most powerful men in the world cannot alter that fact.