Malcolm Muggeridge, in his book entitled “Jesus Rediscovered” is seen very much as a prophet for our present times. When he was writing these articles in the 60’s, and giving the interview to Roy Trevivian, you see the conversion of a notorious womanizer, and drunk, albeit one who was a brilliant journalist and T.V. interviewer, into a profound, if somewhat unorthodox Christian. He was able as something of an outsider to view the Church very accurately. Here are two excerpts from his Chapter “Am I a Christian?”
One may marvel, that when pretty well every item of Christian belief and Christian ethics has been thus subjected to some degree of denigration and attack by those ostensibly responsible for upholding and propagating them, congregations of sorts none the less continue to assemble in parish churches on Sunday mornings, and ordinands and novices, though in dwindling numbers, continue to come forward with seemingly authentic vocations. The Church of Christ has to stagger on under the guidance of those who increasingly sympathise with, when they do not actually countenance, every attack on its doctrines, integrity and traditional practices. By one of our time’s larger ironies, ecumenicalism is triumphant just when there is nothing to be ecumenical about; the various religious bodies are likely to find it easy to join together only because, believing little, they correspondingly differ about little. I look forward to the day when an Anglican bishop in full canonicals will attend a humanist rally on the South Downs, or a Salvation Army band lead a procession of Young Atheists to lay a wreath on Karl Marx’ grave in Highgate Cemetery. It cannot be long delayed if it has not happened already. (Jesus Rediscovered, p. 38).
Far worse has of course happened with gay weddings being acceptable in the Church of Scotland. Such a volte face is unbelievable, but for the fact of the very remoteness of Calvin’s God, and his terrifying theory of Double Predestination. If you are predestined to Hell you might as well enjoy yourself now, and as your Church says that from all eternity some are destined to Hell, then the ministers of that dour Church should happily tie the knot, for there is nothing you can do about it. Then there is the spectacle of the Archbishop of Canterbury lamenting that he cannot do a gay wedding. On a sadder note we remember St. John Paul II being manipulated into the inter religions meeting in Assisi in 1986, which his predecessors prior to Paul VI would have been appalled at. An English Bishop in full canonicals attending a humanist rally is somewhat put into the shade after the Assisi episode.
The second excerpt from “Jesus Rediscovered” then develops the theme of the Church on a path to auto-destruction.
The surrender of institutional Christianity to the promoters of a kingdom of heaven on earth has been so abject, the assumptions of scientific materialism so widely accepted and arrogantly stated, that an aspiring Christian today is left in a kind of catacomb of his own making, utterly remote from the debates and discussions going on around him, whether about “permissive” morality (divorce, contraception and abortion ----- those three panaceas for all matrimonial ills), or about the basic dogma of Christian faith.
In my copy of the New Testament I underline passages which take my fancy. Nearly all of them are about the deceitfulness of this world and of riches, about how concupiscence and vanity separate us from God, and about glorying in tribulation which brings patience, experience and hope, about the flesh lusting against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, these being contrary to one another so that we cannot do the things that we would do, and so on. It is difficult to think of any sentiments which would be more intrinsically unsympathetic in most clerical circles. They, are I should say, about the most unpopular sentences it is possible to utter today; at religious gatherings they cause malaise and irritation; on radio and television panels derision and incredulity. When I use them I am often accused of insincerity and affectation, so rooted are the opposite assumptions --- that by caring about this world we shall all make it better, that we must aim collectively to get richer in order to get happier and happier, that the unrestrained satisfaction of earthly hopes and desires is the way to physical, mental and spiritual contentment.
However, I love these sentences, and often say them over to myself. I should like them to govern my every thought and activity for the rest of my life. They seem to me to be true, and the notion of making the world better by caring about it, and achieving happiness through material prosperity and sensual pleasure, quite nonsensical. In face of the otherworldliness which I still unfashionably find in the Gospels, as far I am concerned the whole edifice of twentieth-century materialism --- and utopian hopes that go therewith ---- falls flat on its face. One is delivered from the myth of progress. The terrible vision of a Scandinavian-American paradise, with longer lives, more and better aphrodisiacs and more leisure and amenities for all, dissolves into a nightmare, awaking from which one advances gingerly upon the sublime truth that to live it is necessary to die, that a life can only be kept by being lost--- propositions which strike contemporary minds as pessimistic, but which seem to me optimistic to the point of insanity, implying as they do, that it is possible for mere man, with his brief life and stunted vision, to aspire after universal understanding and a universal love. Is this being a Christian? Ask me another. (pp.39-40)
Quite what Muggeridge would make of Pope Francis would be hard to imagine, for the present Pope, whose heretical utterances and endorsement of such scandalous people as Emma Bonino, Paul Erlich, and George Soros, who are undoubted enemies of both Christ and the Church, would perhaps be made clearer when we remember that Muggeridge thought that “Good Pope John” was the most disastrous Pope in History. What must be stressed however is the utterly erroneous perception of the World that far too many ecclesiastics, great and small have had since the 60’s. The love affair with the world is sadly damnable and condemned by St. John; “Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John; ch.2 vv. 15-16) and then we have the Pope and goodness knows what other deluded ecclesiastic worried that the planet is in danger because of Global Warming, which has not been scientifically proved. We pause and wonder at such stupidity. Why we must ask ourselves are people so concerned with over population, which is another myth, and even if it wasn’t (There is no overpopulation in Western Europe, and there is definitely underpopulation in Russia), it is a strange way of looking at things. It is a lack of trust in God. It is his creation, and not ours; we are only stewards and pretty incompetent ones at that. The Pope’s real problem is the political and ideological atmosphere that he has been reared in.
Unless I have completely misunderstood Pope Francis’ parents’ decision to emigrate to Argentina in the 30’s, it was because they could not stand the thought of remaining in Mussolini’s fascist Italy. Unfortunately it was out of the frying pan into the fire. Juan Peron was a great admirer of Mussolini, and wanted to reproduce something similar in Argentina. He might have managed it, if his glamorous second wife Evan Peron had not died prematurely. The entry for Peron in the 2002 Chambers Biographical Dictionary is illuminating and very helpful:
Juan Peron was born in Lobos, in the province of Southern Buenos Aires. He joined the army in 1913, and took a leading part in the army revolt in 1943 which toppled the pro-Axis President, Ramon Castillo. He was well read, a hypnotic speaker and a close student of Benito Mussolini; he developed a broad base of popular support, augmenting his rule with force.
He used his position as Secretary of Labour to gain union support, while using his other position as Under-Secretary of War to cultivate junior officers. He organized the descamisados, a civilian paramilitary organization which, like Hitler’s Brownshirts and Mussolini’s Blackshirts, was drawn from the lower classes. Their affections were secured by his politically astute wife, Eva Peron, and when she died in 1952 they greatly mourned her. In 1945, senior army and naval officers, alarmed at Peron’s mobilization of the masses, imprisoned Peron, but released him after thousands gathered in the public squares demanding his return.
In 1946 after a populist campaign laced with strong nationalist and anti-American rhetoric, ‘El Lider’ was elected President and set about building a corporatist state. He reduced the legislature and the judiciary to rubber-stamps, tried to crush all opposition by any means including torture, and sought to modernize and industrialize the economy through large-scale government intervention and by nationalizing foreign-owned enterprises (including railways). In 1955 with the government in a shambles and having alienated the church, the military, the middle-class and some of the labour movement, he was deposed by the army and fled to Spain.
Peron did return in the last two years of his life, and when he died in 1974 his third wife Isabelita Peron was briefly President until she was toppled by the Military Coup of the Generals.
Pope Francis’ rule has all the hall marks of Peron’s method of ruling. Both are populists who wish to be popular with the masses. Pope Francis behaves as if the Papacy is his own. He allows a plate dinner to take place in the Sistine Chapel. He demotes those with whom he disagrees, namely Cardinal Burke, and refuses to give them audiences. He endorses PICO (People Improving Communities through organizing ---- anything more communist sounding would be hard to imagine) a leftist group with ties to George Soros, a Globalist who among other things is Anti-Christian and who helps destabilize regimes, such as the Ukraine in 2014. George Soros with the aid of Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, the epitome of a left wing prelate and saturated with the ideology of Liberation Theology, pressured the Pope in his 2015 U.S. visit not to mention abortion, but emphasize economics and racial justice. The Pope’s treatment of the Friars of the Immaculate, and his treatment of Fra Matthew Festing, the former Grand Master of The Knights of Malta is an offence against International Law, as the Knights of Malta constitute a Sovereign State, and is also deeply uncharitable. His support of Emma Bonino and Paul Erlich who are open enemies of the Catholic Church and of Christ leave one speechless. A Pope, who says such things as, God would not send people to Hell, atheists can go to Heaven, who denies the miracles of the loaves fishes, and says Christ on the Cross becomes the devil like the Bronze servant has now crossed the Rubicon and become an Antipope?
The problem with the Left wing agenda is that, true to its Marxist ideology, it sees people as simply the masses, never is the encounter with a human being, a person made in the image of God. That is why both Hitler and Stalin, not to mention Mao and Pol Pot, saw people as the masses. When one views Hitler and Stalin’s huge armies on film, you are overwhelmed by the gigantic and monumental. Soviet art, and Nazi art hangs between the tasteless and the gargantuan. There is nothing intimate about these Nazis and the Soviets. One is overwhelmed by Speer’s model of Germania, the new Capital of the Third Reich, a model of the grotesque, the grand and the utterly superficial, and one is bemused by Stalin’s Moscow University. Both men were monsters, and produced the monstrous. Both turned on their own people in different ways. Both wielded power arbitrarily. Pope Francis should heed what happens when one does such a thing. He need look no further than one of his patron’s, namely St. Francis of Assisi.
In, what I consider the finest of the modern biographies of St. Francis, namely Omer Englebert’s biography, which I have recently been re-reading, I came across a footnote by the Franciscan, Father Hilarin Felder. It deals with the mistaken notion that St. Francis was a conscious social reformer, especially with regard to the founding of The Third Order, the order of Franciscan Tertiaries. What made the tertiaries so extraordinary is that they were not to carry weapons, and should not take oaths. At one stroke the whole feudal system was challenged. However let us read Father Hilarin’s comment.
That St. Francis was a social reformer such as, since Jesus Christ, the world had not seen, is generally admitted to-day. There is no doubt much truth in this and other similar views, but it should be said that neither in his writings nor in his discourse was St. Francis preoccupied with social and political needs. Like Christ he seemed indifferent to the temporal fate of parties and groups. It was the individual alone and his salvation that counted in his eyes. Certainly he preached the love of one’s neighbour, peace and interior happiness, the right of each to accomplish his supernatural destiny. But that is the Gospel, the practice of which, as we know, is entirely favourable to the temporal happiness of both individuals and of societies. It would be better then to say that the political and social role of the Poverello was to give the Gospel to souls.’(Omer Englebert; St.Francis, footnote 2, p.238 Burns and Oates, 1950)
Sadly this gift of the Gospel the Pope seems unable to manage. He does not give the Gospel to souls, but a social programme that is taken up with the plight of young people without jobs, the care of elderly, and the migrant crisis (The supposedly greatest catastrophe of the present era) all good things, but not ends in themselves, which is why his pontificate is so disastrous, and which unfortunately lends plausibility to the theory that the Jesuits are Machiavellian; namely that the end justifies the means. And so the Pope can appoint a priest as one of the consultors for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who has likened gay sex to the Eucharist, be close to Cardinal Daneels, a protector of sex abusers, and give back to the well known sex abuser Fr. Izzoli his right to practice his priesthood, which had rightly been taken away from him by Pope Benedict. Pope Francis then attacks Catholics just for being Catholics, as Matthew Schmitz noted in an op-ed in the New York Times last September, and which was quoted by the utterly admirable Steve Skojec in his brilliant article on Pope Francis in Onepeterfive only recently; entitled Four Years Later: Reflections on an Unprecedented Pontificate.
[Francis] describes parish priests as “little monsters” who “throw stones” at poor sinners. He has given curial officials a diagnosis of “spiritual Alzheimer’s.” He scolds pro-life activists for their “obsession” with abortion. He has said that Catholics who place an emphasis on attending Mass, frequenting confession, and saying traditional prayers are “Pelagians” — people who believe, heretically, that they can be saved by their own works.
Christ meets the individual and convicts them of sin, such as the woman at the well, and the woman taken in adultery, or Matthew the tax collector. He does not accompany the woman at the well and slowly gets her to get rid of her lover, nor does he say to the woman taken in adultery “There, there you didn’t really mean any harm, and adultery is so understandable and not such a big thing after all.” No! He tells the woman to go and sin no more, and he certainly doesn’t tell Matthew to remain where he is and try and make the tax gathering system more people friendly and less corrupt. He simply says “Follow Me.” precisely what he says to St. Francis and all the saints. So how has Pope Francis made such a huge and disastrous mistake in his conception of Christianity? It has been put with utter succinctness by Hieromonk Damascene in his massive biography of that great prophet to the Christian world of 20th century, Father Seraphim Rose:
The religion of the “Grand Inquisitor”, Eugene(Seraphim Rose) maintained, takes fundamental Christian values ---peace, brotherhood, unity, love --- and distorts them to be used for the furtherance of purely earthly aims. It does not do away with Christianity; it only reinterprets it, so thoroughly that sincere Christians are eventually led to work for the same goals as secular idealists to build their kingdom of heaven on earth. (Father Seraphim Rose, His Life and Works, Hieromonk Damascene; St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, p.242)
Returning to that marvellous character, and journalist cum prophet, Malcolm Muggeridge, it is good to remember that he never felt that he belonged in this world and this feeling went back to early childhood. Throughout his early life he had to struggle with his fairly appalling sensuality and hard drinking, allied to a world weary cynicism until he returned to Christ and realized that the flesh availeth naught.
In Eden Adam and Eve were, though physical, utterly permeated with the spiritual. They had no need for excitement, wonderful meals and a healthy sex life, which is neither healthy, nor fecund. In Paradise our first parents would have reproduced themselves in a totally different manner to the way we reproduce ourselves in the fallen world. All was bliss in Eden, but not excitement.
With the Fall, the longing for Heaven, a purely spiritual thing, has got muddled up with our fallen nature. We feel alien in the Fallen world, because that is the truth of the situation, but to escape this Fallen world we too often take the road of pleasure, which leads to Hell. Our longing for love and Heaven, our innate desire for God gets diverted into the pursuit of beauty and all that is seemingly good and ends in despair, and in our modern world this means a life steeped in drugs, drink, sexual perversion, and violence, which makes us even more aliens in an alien fallen world. The only way back to Paradise and to God is by living the life of the Spirit, living the life of the Gospel, and not living in an Utopia of social advancement, comfort and jobs for all, because after all, Jesus himself had no job, no home, and no comforts, so why should we cling so stubbornly to such things, and pursue them with a frenzy bordering on craziness? As Christians we should long to live in Christ’s company and imitate him as far as we are able.
So if the Pope really wants to change the world, I would suggest that he should look to reviving the Third Order of St. Francis with all the rigours of its original rule, and then we will really see the true reformation of a Church which looks as if it is about to die at the hands of priests and religious who have fallen in love with the contemporary world and who have rendered to Caesar what belongs to God, which is why so many of them have betrayed Christ, discarded their vows, and sold their souls to the World, the Flesh and the Devil, not realizing that in the Cross they will find joy inconceivable, love unimaginable, and life without end.