the great achievement of Pope Francis’ five years on the papal throne. He leads a church that spent the prior decade embroiled in a grisly sex abuse scandal, occupies an office often regarded as a medieval relic, and operates in a media environment in which traditional religion generally, and Roman Catholicism especially, are often covered with a mix of cluelessness and malice.
And yet in a remarkably short amount of time — from the first days after his election, really — the former Jorge Bergoglio has made his pontificate a vessel for religious hopes that many of his admirers didn’t realize or remember that they had.
.. the theological risks he’s taken in pushing for changes that liberal Westerners tend to assume Catholicism must eventually accept — shifts on sexual morality above all, plus a general liberalization in the hierarchy and the church.
.. But when people say, “He makes me want to believe again,” as a lapsed-Catholic journalist said to me
.. What my friends and acquaintances respond to from this pope, rather, is the iconography of his papacy — the vivid images of humility and Christian love he has created, from the foot-washing of prisoners to the embrace of the disfigured to the children toddling up to him in public events.
.. Like his namesake of Assisi, the present pope has a great gift for gestures that offer a public imitatio Christi, an imitation of Christ.
.. And the response from so many otherwise jaded observers is a sign of how much appeal there might yet be in Catholic Christianity, if it found a way to slip the knots that the modern world has tied around its message.
.. we — are always at risk of finding in the mirror the self-righteous elder brother in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, who resents his father’s liberality, the welcome given to the younger brother coming home at last.
.. The cardinals who chose Jorge Bergoglio envisioned him as the austere outsider.
.. Vatican life is more unsettled than under Benedict XVI, the threat of firings or purges ever present, the power of certain offices reduced, the likelihood of a papal tongue-lashing increased.
.. the blueprints for reorganization have been put off; many ecclesial princes have found more power under Francis; and even the pope’s admirers joke about the “next year, next year …” attitude that informs discussions of reform.
.. Francis just spent a recent visit to Chile vehemently defending a bishop accused of turning a blind eye to sex abuse, while one of his chief advisers, the Honduran Cardinal Óscar Maradiaga, is accused of protecting a bishop charged with abusing seminarians even as the cardinal himself faces accusations of financial chicanery.
.. the idea of this pope as a “great reformer,” to borrow the title of the English journalist Austen Ivereigh’s fine 2014 biography, can’t really be justified by any kind of Roman housekeeping.
.. Instead Francis’ reforming energies have been directed elsewhere, toward two dramatic truces that would radically reshape the church’s relationship with the great powers of the modern world.
.. The first truce this pope seeks is in the culture war
.. the conflict between the church’s moral teachings and the way that we live now, the struggle over whether the sexual ethics of the New Testament need to be revised or abandoned in the face of post-sexual revolution realities.
.. Instead of formally changing the church’s teaching on divorce and remarriage, same-sex marriage, euthanasia — changes that are officially impossible, beyond the powers of his office — the Vatican under Francis is making a twofold move.
.. First, a distinction is being drawn between doctrine and pastoral practice that claims that merely pastoral change can leave doctrinal truth untouched. So a remarried Catholic might take communion without having his first union declared null, a Catholic planning assisted suicide might still receive last rites beforehand, and perhaps eventually a gay Catholic can have her same-sex union blessed — and yet supposedly none of this changes the church’s teaching that marriage is indissoluble and suicide a mortal sin and same-sex wedlock an impossibility, so long as it’s always treated as an exception rather than a rule.
.. At the same time, Francis has allowed a tacit decentralization of doctrinal authority, in which different countries and dioceses can take different approaches
.. In effect he is experimenting with a much more Anglican model for how the Catholic Church might operate — in which the church’s traditional teachings are available for use but not required
.. different countries may gradually develop away from each other theologically and otherwise.
.. seeking a truce not with a culture but with a regime: the Communist government in China
.. Such a reconciliation, if accomplished, would require the church to explicitly cede a share of its authority to appoint bishops to the Politburo — a concession familiar from medieval church-state tangles, but something the modern church has tried to leave behind.
.. A truce with Beijing would differ from the truce with the sexual revolution in that no specific doctrinal issue is at stake, and no one doubts that the pope has authority to conclude a concordat with a heretofore hostile and persecuting regime.
.. the two truces are similar in that both would accelerate Catholicism’s transformation into a confederation of national churches — liberal and semi-Protestantized in northern Europe, conservative in sub-Saharan Africa, Communist-supervised in China.
.. both treat the concerns of many faithful Catholics — conservative believers in the West, underground churchgoers in China — as roadblocks to the pope’s grand strategy.
.. they both risk a great deal — in one case, the consistency of Catholic doctrine and its fidelity to Jesus; in another, the clarity of Catholic witness for human dignity — for the sake of reconciling the church with earthly powers.
.. they take this risk at a time when neither Chinese Communism nor Western liberalism seem exactly like confident, resilient models for the human future — the former sliding back toward totalitarianism, the latter anxious and decadent and beset by populist revolts.
.. the “Francis effect.”
.. If current trends continue, China could have one of the world’s largest Christian populations by this century’s end, and this population is already heavily evangelical
.. Francis will have ceded the moral authority earned by persecuted generations, and ceded the Chinese future to those Christian churches, evangelical especially, that are less eager to flatter and cajole their persecutors.
.. The gamble on an Anglican approach to faith and morals is even more high-risk — as Anglicanism’s own schisms well attest.
.. it will ensure that the church’s factions, already polarized and feuding, grow ever more apart.
.. it implies a rupture (or, if you favor it, a breakthrough) in the church’s understanding of how its teachings can and cannot change
.. Francis’ inner circle is convinced that such a revolution is what the Holy Spirit wants — that the attempts by John Paul II and Benedict to maintain continuity between the church before and after Vatican II ended up choking off renewal.
.. this pope has not just exposed tensions; he has heightened them, encouraging sweeping ambitions among his allies and pushing disillusioned conservatives toward traditionalism.
.. here is no sign as yet that Francis’s liberalization is bringing his lapsed-Catholic admirers back to the pews;
.. Whereas accelerating division when your office is charged with maintaining unity and continuity is a serious business
.. Mr. Ailes, a former Republican political operative, took the story of the affair and the trial that followed and made certain his anchors hammered it ceaselessly, 24 hours a day.
.. The story hooked viewers and made them Fox loyalists.
.. Some experts have noted that viewers found Fox for the first time because of the crisis.
.. “The Lewinsky saga put us on the news map.” As he put it in another interview: “Monica was a news channel’s dream come true.”
.. Mr. Ailes’s station may have pioneered this new style of television reportage, but the other cable news channels didn’t hesitate to join the race to the bottom.
.. Our world — of cyberbullying and chyrons, trolls and tweets — was forged in 1998. It is, as the historian Nicolaus Mills has put it, a “culture of humiliation,” in which those who prey on the vulnerable in the service of clicks and ratings are handsomely rewarded.
.. The irony of Mr. Ailes’s career at Fox — that he harnessed a sex scandal to build a cable juggernaut and then was brought down by his own — was not lost on anyone who has been paying attention.
Republicans should not hitch their wagon to any single, comprehensive bill, nor should they promise the voters a “Republican health-care plan.” Instead, they should seek to roll out a series of improvements to the health-insurance system, each with its own voting coalitions. That conclusion is supported by two observations. One, many parts of the AHCA were more popular than the bill itself, so the odds of passage — and sustainable entrenchment over time — increase as votes are broken into pieces.
.. But they can’t, any time soon, solve the basic problem, which is pervasive in education and health-care debates these days: The costs have spiraled so far out of the reach of ordinary middle-income people that they’ve despaired of paying for them from their own earnings.
.. I don’t like the fact that Obamacare added 10 to 11 million new people to the Medicaid rolls. But I also don’t think it’s wise, fair, or good to yank Medicaid coverage away from these people without a reliable way to move them to alternative affordable private coverage. This doesn’t make for good table-founding talk radio or cable news segments, but it is a fact of life.
.. The Republican answer can’t be, “don’t worry, with enough competition amongst different insurers, you’ll find a plan with premiums, co-pays, and deductibles that you can afford someday, maybe in about ten years, based on the CBO score.”
The French Elites, Comfortable with American Elites’ Playbook from 2016
.. The prospect of a Le Pen presidency upsets a kind of political positivism: the view that democracy can go only from good to better, from being a necessity to being a right. Ms. Le Pen’s election would run counter to the course of history, the reasoning goes, and therefore it cannot be.
Fox News’s Steady Nurturing of a Certain Kind of Right
.. When much of Fox News de facto backed Trump, midway through the primary season, it could hardly come as a shock: It was already obvious that the same type of person Fox had targeted for 20 years was likely to be an ardent Trump supporter.
.. Tomi Lahren, a former host on Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze, was attempting to re-create the glib, pugnacious Fox News model for a younger audience.
.. I recall a somewhat similar generational split in 2011 when easily forgotten presidential candidate Herman Cain was accused of sexual harassment and affairs. Prominent conservative voices of the Baby Boomer generation were quick to insist the accusers had to be lying and this was all part of a smear campaign by liberals. Generation-X conservative writers weren’t so eager to rush to the ramparts to insist there was no way Cain would behave badly.
.. It seemed to the older voices, Cain was “one of us” and thus deserved to be trusted and defended on faith; the younger voices weren’t quite so certain that “one of us” couldn’t possibly have done something wrong. They remembered John Ensign, Vito Fossella, Larry Craig, David Vitter, Mark Foley, Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston, Bob Packwood…