U.S. Catholic Contributor Condemns George Will's “Shameful” Attack On Pope Francis

Stephen Schneck: “The American Public Square Should Long Ago Have Forsworn The Ridicule Of Others' Religious Teachings And The Person Of Their Religious Leaders”

george will, pope francis

U.S. Catholic contributor Stephen Schneck denounced a recent Washington Post column by George Will, which attacked Pope Francis' move to act on climate change, as “shocking” and “shameful.”  

On September 18, Will wrote in The Post that Pope Francis' views on climate change and capitalism are “demonstrably false and deeply reactionary,” and “woolly sentiments that have the intellectual tone of fortune cookies.”

In response, Schneck -- director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America -- stated in a September 21 blog post for U.S. Catholic that Will's remarks were “profoundly appalling.” Schneck wrote that “anti-Catholic bigotry has crept from online comment sections to rear its ugliness prominently in cable TV commentary and newspaper op-eds,” and that "[a]ll Catholics should be disturbed" by Will's op-ed for its "ad hominem, sarcastic, and demeaning ridicule of His Holiness, Pope Francis."

Schneck also expressed surprise that Will's attack would be published in The Washington Post, “one of America's most respected newspapers.”

Will's column aligned with the trend of conservative media figures trashing the pope over his views on climate change and capitalism.

From the U.S. Catholic post:

Over the past summer, ahead of Pope Francis' visit to the United States this week, discriminatory, anti-Catholic bigotry has crept from online comment sections to rear its ugliness prominently in cable TV commentary and newspaper op-eds.

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It's Will's treatment of things Catholic that is more concerning. What is profoundly appalling is the vitriolic temper of Will's remarks about the pope. His tone and language are shocking, coming as they do not from a scurrilous, fly-by-night website but from the op-ed page of one of America's most respected newspapers. All Catholics should be disturbed. Most shameful is the columnist's ad hominem, sarcastic, and demeaning ridicule of His Holiness, Pope Francis. 

The moral teachings that His Holiness reaffirmed in this summer's encyclical, Laudato Si' -- teachings preached as well by Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II -- have been at the heart of Catholic analysis of our responsibilities in modern life since Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891. Crudely, Will smears these traditional teachings as “Francis's fact-free flamboyance.” Lampooning Pope Francis for “trailing clouds of sanctimony,” Will dismisses papal teachings as “demonstrably false and deeply reactionary” and as “woolly sentiments that have the intellectual tone of fortune cookies.” He parades around with the hoary banner of Galileo and against Catholic “medieval stasis.” He demands that “Americans cannot simultaneously honor” Pope Francis “and celebrate their nation's premises.”

The historian Arthur Schlesinger once called anti-Catholicism “the deepest bias in the history of the American people.” I've never actually agreed with that argument. Racism, anti-Semitism, and a peculiar American misogyny are equally deep and certainly more virulent. But, on the left and on the right, anti-Catholicism has always had a kind of pass in otherwise polite corners of American public life where other overt discriminatory language is disparaged. 

You are certainly free to disagree with Pope Francis, Mr. Will. You are certainly free to disagree with Catholic teachings and to contest them in any forum. But surely you would agree that the American public square should long ago have forsworn the ridicule of others' religious teachings and the person of their religious leaders.