Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa reprints an extract from an interesting article on the Peronist vision of the Pope:
The chosen people
by Loris Zanatta
Bergoglio is Peronist? Absolutely he is. But not because he took to it in his youth. He is so in the sense that Peronism is the movement that sanctioned the triumph of Catholic Argentina over its liberal counterpart, that saved the Christian values of the people from the cosmopolitanism of the élite. Peronism therefore embodies for Bergoglio the healthy conjunction between people and nation in defense of a temporal order based on Christian values and immune from that [. . .] Protestant liberalism whose ethos projects itself as a colonial shadow over the Catholic identity of Latin America.
But then Bergoglio is populist? Absolutely he is, provided that this concept is properly understood. [. . .] On his great journeys of 2015 – Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay; Cuba and United States; Kenya, Uganda, Central Africa – Francis used the word “pueblo” 356 times. The pope’s populism is already present in his words. But Bergoglio is less familiar with another lexicon: he said “democracy” only 10 times, “individual” 14 times, mostly with a negative connotation. [. . .] Are these numbers meaningless? Not so much. They confirm for us what could already be guessed: that the notion of “pueblo” is the keystone of his social consciousness. [. . .]
His people is good, virtuous, and poverty confers an innate moral superiority upon it. It is in the popular neighborhoods, the pope says, that wisdom, solidarity, values of the Gospel are preserved. It is there that Christian society is found, the deposit of faith.
Moreover, that “pueblo” is not for him a sum of individuals, but a community that transcends them, a living organism animated by an ancient, natural faith, where the individual is dissolved in the whole. As such, that “pueblo” is the chosen people that safeguards an identity in peril. It is no coincidence that identity is the other pillar of Bergoglio’s populism; an eternal identity impervious to the unfolding of history, on which the “pueblo” has a monopoly; an identity to which every human institution or constitution must bend in order not to lose the legitimacy conferred on it by the “pueblo.”
It goes without saying that this romantic notion of “pueblo” is debatable, just as the moral superiority of the poor is. It doesn’t take an anthropologist to understand that popular communities have, like every community, vices and virtues. And the pontiff himself acknowledges this, contradicting himself, when he establishes a cause-and-effect relationship between poverty and fundamentalist terrorism; a relationship that moreover is improbable.
But idealizing the “pueblo” helps to simplify the complexity of the world, something in which the forms of populism have no rivals. The border between good and evil will then appear so diaphanous as to unleash the enormous power inherent in every Manichaean cosmology. This is how the pope contrasts the good “people” with a predatory and egotistical oligarchy. A transfigured oligarchy, devoid of face and name, the essence of evil as the pagan devotee of the God money: consumption is consumerism, the individual is selfish, attention to money is soulless worship. [. . .]
What is the greatest harm caused by this oligarchy? The corruption of the “pueblo.” The oligarchy undermines its virtues, homogeneity, religious spontaneity, like a tempter devil. Seen in this way, Bergoglio’s crusades against it, inasmuch as they emulate the language of postcolonial criticism, are heirs of the anti-liberal crusade that hardliner Catholics conducted a couple of centuries ago. Something that is not strange at all: the Catholic anti-liberalism that on the secular level sympathized with the anti-liberal ideology of the moment, fascism and communism first of all, naturally embraces with ardor today the anti-globalization lingo.
Of course, there is in the history of Catholicism a robust Catholic-liberal tradition, devoted to political secularism, to the rights of the individual, to economic and civil liberty. But such is not the family that saw Francis grow up. If the sacred college had elected a Chilean pope, who knows, perhaps he would have fished around in that cultural universe. But the Argentine Church is the tomb of the liberal Catholics, killed by the wave of national populism. [. . .]
In the background, meanwhile, many things are happening and raising enormous questions on the foundation of Francis’s vision of the world and on the notion of “pueblo” that inspires it; and therefore on its efficacy in restoring to the Church its lost stature.
Modern societies, including those of the southern hemisphere, are ever more articulated and pluralistic. Speaking of a “pueblo” that preserves its pure and religiously imbued identity is often a myth that does not correspond to any reality.
Continuing to consider the middle classes, growing by the millions and anxious for more consumption and better opportunities, colonial classes that are enemies of the “pueblo,” makes no sense. So many poor of yesterday are in the middle class today. [. . .]
Also on the political level, the forms of populism with which the pope shares such affinity have suffered severe blows, especially in Latin America, so much so as to prompt the suspicion that they are being orphaned by the “pueblo” that they invoke.
It is no accident that Bergoglio appeared to be disoriented when a journalist asked him for his view on the election of Mauricio Macri in Argentina and on the new anti-populist course that some think is beginning in Latin America. “I have heard a few opinions” – the pope stammered – “but on this geopolitics, at this moment I don’t know what to say. There are a number of Latin American countries in this somewhat changing situation, it is true, but I cannot explain it.”
At first glance he is not an enthusiast of this, considering the rather more secular and cosmopolitan profile of the forces that are coming forward to replace the forms of populism in crisis. But it is with these that the Holy Father will have to come to grips. Adored by the faithful, but he too an orphan, at least a bit, of the “pueblo.”
Go here to read the rest. So we have a Pope who sees the world in the terms of a political movement in Argentina which helped transform a once flourishing nation into a third world basket case. God help us all.
As President, Perón gave a classic demonstration, in the name of socialism and nationalism, of how to wreck an economy. He nationalised the Central Bank, railways, communications, gas, electricity, fishing, air-transport, steel and insurance. He set up a state marketing agency for exports. He created Big Government and a welfare state in one bound: spending on public services, as a percentage of GNP, rose from 19.5 to 29.5 per cent in five years. He had no system of priorities. He told the people they would get everything at once. In theory they did. The workers were given thirteen months’ pay for a year’s work; holidays with pay; social benefits at a Scandinavian level. He would track down a highly successful firm which spent lavishly on its workers and force all firms to copy its practices, regardless of their resources. At the same time he carried out a frontal assault on the agricultural sector, Argentina’s main source of internal capital. By 1951 he had exhausted the reserves and decapitalized the country, wrecked the balance of payments and built wage-inflation into the system. Next year drought struck the land and brought the crisis into the open. Seeing his support vanish, Perón turned from economic demagoguery to political tyranny. He destroyed the Supreme Court. He took over the radio station and La Prensa, the greatest newspaper in Latin America. He debauched the universities and fiddled with the constitution. Above all, he created public “enemies”: Britain, America, all foreigners, the Jockey Club, which his gangs burned down in 1953, destroying its library and art collection. Next year he turned on Catholicism, and in 1955 his labour mobs destroyed Argentina’s two finest churches, San Francisco and Santo Domingo, and many others. That was the last straw. The army turned him out. He fled on a Paraguayan gunboat. But his successors could never get back to the minimum government which had allowed Argentina to become wealthy. Too many vested interests had been created: a huge, parasitical state, over-powerful unions, a vast army of public employees. It is one of the dismal lessons of the twentieth century that, once a state is allowed to expand, it is almost impossible to contract it.
Paul Johnson, Modern Times