(Picture: Giovanni Battista Bugatti: chief executioner for the Papal States during the 19th century).
Fr. Dwight Longnecker is one of those fellows who started out evangelical, jumped ship for Anglicanism, and then swam the Tiber. He regularly spouts off Roman propaganda that flies in the face of historic fact and whitewashes the messiness of his own church and gives a false impression of the piety and holiness of his revered institution. Not surprisingly, Longnecker defends his pope’s politics against left and right because, you know, Francis just sat down in the middle of the road and we know the only thing you find there is roadkill (fellow wardog Clearly Mad pointed out yesterday). But the pope is Christ on earth for over a billion Catholics (no small amount of influence there), so when his holiness spouts off silly things, of course Longnecker must follow him into the breach of sophomoric claims about history, politics, and justice.
So it’s of little surprise that Longnecker stuck his neck out too far at Patheos the other day.
Toot the horn, bang the drum – Pope Francis is in town, and he’s got something to say. Because, like any self-styled intellectual you meet at your friend’s weekend party, Papa Frank has an opinion about everything. It seems like he even has opinions about his opinions – and everyone else loves to dissect his opinions. All of this, to him, seems like it’s worth a chuckle and a shrug. But to his critics, he’s an arbiter of destruction, a loose cannon, an anti-pope. He’s a socialist, a Marxist, a liberal. Or, from his followers and admirers, Frankie is a model of charity, a friend of the down-trodden, a breath of fresh air after almost eight years of stuffiness and Emperor Palpatine-esque brows under Benedict XVI. For some, Pope Francis’ ascent to the Seat of Peter wasn’t just announced with white smoke and a hearty “Habemus Papam!” but with Flyin’ Padre Pio and the Blue Angels sonic-booming over the Vatican, sprinkling the ecstatic throng with confetti and free Fit-Bits.