Why Rome is doing battle with American culture

The Pope’s advisors have taken aim at US Christianity. Here’s why this matters

In 1866, when Pope Pius IX’s secretary of state learned that the Habsburgs had lost the Battle of Sadowa, he exclaimed “Casca il mondo!” – the world is collapsing. “Good God,” he cried out as he struck his face, “what is to become of us?” For decades, the popes had positioned themselves as the spiritual support of European powers challenged by revolution. The defeat of the Habsburgs cast the Church’s very survival into doubt.

Today, threats as varied as Corbyn, Putin, ISIS and Trump have left the leaders of the liberal order – based on open borders, free trade and secular pluralism – feeling embattled. On the night of Donald Trump’s election, Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to the US, tweeted, “After Brexit and this election, everything is now possible. A world is collapsing before our eyes.” Florian Philippot, the impish adviser to Marine Le Pen, retorted: “Their world is collapsing. Ours is being built.” Once again, the pontiff was put forward as the bulwark of teetering powers. Fr Antonio Spadaro, a close adviser to Pope Francis, tweeted, “Who’s the world’s moral leader in this moment? Who leads the way? A voice emerges and continues to emerge.”

The men surrounding Francis see him as an indispensable support of a uniquely just political system. In a series of speeches on Europe, Francis has embraced that role, arguing that with the formation of the European Union, Europe finally “found its true self”. Europe had always had “a dynamic and multicultural identity”, but only since World War II has that identity been embodied in societies “free of ideological conflicts, with equal room for the native and the immigrant, for believers and non-believers”.

Francis stresses diversity over identity, dialogue over agreement. (“If there is one word that we should never tire of repeating, it is this: dialogue.”) For all else…

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