First Things editor R. R. Reno was interviewed about Pope Francis’ visit by America, and has some very insightful things to say about the progressives who run the world and, in particular, the real problem with multiculturalism:
As editor of an ecumenical journal founded by the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, a leading theological spokesman for the Religious Right, where do you find yourself most in harmony with Pope Francis?
Clearly, the primacy of our life in Christ over all things resonates. Secondly, I share with Pope Francis a dissatisfaction with the power elite of the contemporary West, which I think is ideologically oriented toward perpetuating its own power even though it calls itself progressive. Most American liberals think the pope is criticizing conservatism, but they are—along with their European counterparts—in fact the dominant outlook in the rich world. So when the pope is criticizing the global system, he’s criticizing the system they run. It’s not a system being run by evangelical pastors in Texas. It’s a system being run by Ivy League graduates in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington—and they are not readers of “First Things.”
As a political conservative, where do you find yourself most in tension with Francis?
I think Francis accepts uncritically the social justice movement in the Catholic Church, which, although often well-intentioned, adopts the intellectual and moral framework of secular progressivism—which is, I think, anti-metaphysical and easily manipulated by the powerful to serve their own ends. Multiculturalism is a technology for managing and manipulating people. I find the same outlook has a therapeutic view of the human condition. So I’m frustrated by Pope Francis’ use of that social justice vocabulary, which I think is easily co-opted by the rich secular world.
Let me put it this way: To make a claim about Natural Law is the most heretical thing you can do at a contemporary secular university, in the technocracy of today. I wish this papacy was more aware of the true nature of what we’re up against in the 21st century. As a conservative, I’m not opposed to the pope’s criticisms of global capitalism. It strikes me that global capitalism doesn’t need to be defended because it’s the only system we have. So criticizing it and trying to humanize it should be the goal of any morally serious person today, whether they’re conservative or liberal. We just disagree in debate about how best to humanize it.
That critique of social justice language and of multiculturalism strike me as spot on, particularly as tools the affluent and powerful of the world — what Reno refers to earlier in the interview as the “Davos elite” who “increasingly live in a bubble” — use to manage and manipulate the world, and assuage their own consciences. And he reminds us who that elite is that manages the world — Ivy League grads.