New book about influences of Communism and Socialism on Pope Francis

I arose today to a loud PING on my phone as a friend in Rome sent me a link to a piece in the American Spectator by the hardly-ever-subtle George Neumayr about the influence of Communism and Socialism on Pope Francis.

The Spectator provides an excerpt from Neumayr’s new book on the topic released today 2 May:

The Political Pope: How Pope Francis Is Delighting the Liberal Left and Abandoning Conservatives


I’m not going to excerpt much from the excerpt.  However, this is of interest:

These biographical details throw light on the pope’s ideological instincts. Yet many commentators have ignored them, breezily casting his leftism as a bit confused but basically harmless.

I haven’t read this one yet, but I put it on my Kindle Wishlist.

It is good to know about our leaders, both secular and spiritual.  Each person is a puzzle.  No single work, or even several works, can give a perfect picture.  Pieces of their puzzle will inevitably be hard to sort out.  This is especially true when the person is still alive.

I’ve read several books about His Holiness, all offering some insights into this enigmatic figure.  I suspect that this new book will be – how to say this delicately – less than enthusiastic about Pope Francis.  However, I suspect it will also fill in gaps left by biographers and others, as Neumayr suggests.  For that reason alone, it could be helpful.  It might provide some more puzzle pieces.

Also, one of the most useful things I’ve read of late about Pope Francis is a chapter on Liberation Theology in Tracey Rowland’s terrific new book, Catholic Theology – which I warmly recommend.  Her explanation of Pope Francis’ theological starting points seem to me to be dead on target.  Every seminarian and student of theology needs this book.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Francis, REVIEWS, The Campus Telephone Pole, The Drill and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. SKAY says:

    I read the piece in the American Spectator this morning. Thank you for this post, Father.

  2. Semper Gumby says:

    At the American Spectator today there is another book excerpt- this one on Alinsky, PICO, Catholic Alliance for the Common Good etc. Neumayr also has an article from several days ago about the Holy Father’s visit to Egypt last weekend and Sheikh Tayeb of alAzhar.

    It indeed looks like Neumayr’s book provides numerous puzzle pieces that “many commentators have ignored.”

    I’m curious to see what Neumayr has to say about such things as the Dec. 2015 light show at St. Peter’s (monkeys, global warming etc.). But, prayers for the Holy Father.

  3. Rod Halvorsen says:

    For some reason I’m reminded of a story about how Secret Service technicians are trained in how to identify counterfeit money. Since the possible number of fake variations is endless, they are supposedly taught only to know what a REAL bill is. ANYTHING and EVERYTHING else is bogus.

    I wonder why that thought came to mind?

  4. Boniface says:

    Rod and others reading this, remember what St Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church, said about our proper attitude towards our popes:

    “… we ought not to raise up our heads against him, but calmly lie down to rest on his bosom… He who rebels against our Father is condemned to death, for that which we do to him we do to Christ: we honor Christ if we honor the Pope; we dishonor Christ if we dishonor the Pope.”

    She made starkly clear in the rest of the statement that she meant there are absolutely no exceptions whatsoever, under any circumstances or for any reason, to this principle of hers.

  5. hokiemom says:

    Father, the link to your Kindle wishlist for this book didn’t work for me. Is this because someone has already purchased it for you?

  6. Semper Gumby says:

    Boniface: A quote from a Doctor of the Church is always worth a read. However, you edited the sentence, which reads: “Even if the Pope were Satan incarnate, we ought not to raise up our heads against him, but calmly lie down to rest on his bosom.”

    Well, now. One might want to apply faith and reason to that “principle of hers.” In Holy Scripture and at Holy Mass we are cautioned to avoid Satan and evil.

    Pointing out Pope Francis’ ideological instincts is not rebellion or dishonor. Rather, it is how one acquires situational awareness. Cheers.

  7. Thorfinn says:

    St. Catherine of Siena was famously realistic about the political motivations of the successive bishops of Rome.

  8. Boniface says:

    Semper Gumby, thanks for your response. I thought my comments after the quote were sufficient to communicate the point you said I “edited” (I omitted it, in fact – didn’t edit it). If anything, it makes the point I was making even more strong. I left it out because in quoting it to a faithful Catholic friend days ago, with the “even if the pope were an incarnate devil” in place, meaning it as a general affirmation of the (traditional) Catholic principle of always showing deference and respect to the Holy Father, I was asked, “what, did the pope do something bad?” Sigh. No. St Catherine lived through dark times in many ways, as we do now. But mocking, ridiculing, and undermining respect for the person and office of the Holy Father, as has become a commonplace attitude in many places that should know much better, is far from pleasing to the Lord. The Holy Father has a very tough job. Let’s pray for him, not undermine respect for him – which is quite ill-placed, if one really is paying very close attention.

    These comments are not directed at you in any personal way. But I am a little troubled at your apparent implication that the words of St Catherine somehow now “don’t count,” because the image of Pope Francis has been pushed into the wrong crosshairs.

  9. Rod Halvorsen says:

    Boniface, your charity is admirable.

  10. Boniface says:

    Rod, please pray for me, a sinner, brother. I’m feeling overwhelmed on all sides these days by those who want to mutiny because they misunderstand the captain, and others because they really wish they were on (and perhaps belong on) another ship.

    The evil one encouraged dissent among liberals in the days of Humanae Vitae. Now he’s after those who respected the papacy from Paul to Benedict… based on hearsay, media distortions, selective quotation, and a few vague statements. The devil is now setting up the evil consequences to bear their rotten fruit at a later date, so let’s be watchful and aware.

    When Pope Leo XIV comes one day, will there be respect left anywhere?

  11. Semper Gumby says:

    Boniface: Interesting response. Please note, your editing of that quote is problematic. And your explanation appears a bit disingenuous. Again, there is the matter of Holy Scripture and Holy Mass that should take priority over a poorly-thought sentence by the great St. Catherine.

    The Holy Father does indeed have a tough job. That said, Catholic parents that have large families have their tough job made even tougher with a papal remark about “breeding like rabbits.” Priests have tough jobs, made even tougher by erratic papal remarks aboard aircraft or erratic theology written in recent papal documents. This list can go on far longer, but that’s enough.

    No one here is saying the words of a Doctor of the Church “don’t count,” or that we shouldn’t pray for Pope Francis. However, Communism has killed an estimated 100 million people and its utopian delusions have ruined the lives of many more. The influence of Communism on any religious or political leader, professor, or school teacher is worthy of our attention. Courtesy is due every human being, respect is something to be earned.

    Boniface, this inquiry into Pope Francis’ background is not a matter of “rebellion” or “dissent” because of “media distortion, hearsay” etc. This is about Jesus and reading- to the best of our ability- the signs of the times. No doubt St. Catherine would agree. Cheers.

  12. Rod Halvorsen says:

    Thank you Semper Gumby. Well said.

    I will attempt to be as charitable as I can possibly be.

    The very fact that this article involves the influence of Communism…COMMUNISM…on a
    reigning Pope should give pause for deep thought. Some of us who have studied communist systems and the past teachings of Popes and the Church on the topic of Communism and read the words of this Pope might be said to have some very serious concerns.

    Would that this was the only issue of concern with this Pope. But alas, it is not. These concerns are not based on flippant “judgments”, but rather are based on simple observations of positions, statements and exegesis made by Francis. The list of other concerns pertaining to this Pope is far too long to cite on this comment box.

    Indeed, we must pray for the Pope. And the Church. And the faithful who are confused. And especially for the lost who it is our calling to reach for the Lord Jesus Christ and who now have less and less reason to understand the teaching of the Catholic faith due to the state of affairs in which we find ourselves today.

  13. Imrahil says:

    Well, there was an influence of Socialism to G. K. Chesterton.

  14. Boniface says:

    Semper Gumby, please do not accuse me of disingenuity. It’s not true, and it’s frankly quite unfair and unkind, Perhaps I should have pasted St Catherine’s entire opus into the combox. My point and the quote I posted was thoroughly consistent with all that she said on the matter. She taught that one should never show any diarespect of any kind to a pope, and I’m sure that includes claiming his thinking is inflected with ideology at odds with Catholic doctrine, no? Have you studied her life and teachings in any great detail? And when a layman doesn’t care for something said by a great saint and doctor of the Church, suddenly her famous saying is “poorly thought out”? Who else, from popes to saints, will we now dismiss on our own authority?

    Secondly, nobody has the right to label a sitting pope things like “Marxist” (and I think it’s actually pretty clear he’s not, which is irrelevant) and call themselves a faithful Catholic. It sells well today, though, doesn’t it?

    The Holy Father made comments like the “rabbit” one in response to a question about a specific case. He later realized what the media had done with it, and explained himself. Many criticize his airplane interviews, but he is trying earnestly to go after the lost sheep of the non-Catholic world. It’s still worth trying, while often seeming hopeless. But nothing is impossible for the Lord. I’m not going to criticize. Its none of my business. We know the faith, and it’s our job to teach it wherever we are, in our own station in life. I am frequently asked, in my line of work, about Pope Francis and his statements. Typically I have to point out that he didn’t actually say something, or that the quote was in response to a particular question. and should be read in full, or that something much more clear and weighty that he said to the contrary of the unfortunate media-made “image” of him was left unquoted entirely.

    I refuse to judge or criticize the Holy Father. Given the times we are in, the heroicly difficult job the Pope has, and the wolves circling around everywhere. I’ve taken to adding the St Michael prayer whenever I pray for his intentions.

  15. Boniface says:

    And by the way, Semper and Rod, my brothers, let’s pray for each other. I apologize if anything I said caused you “spiritual sadness” (to use on old eastern Christian phrase). In the online world it’s easy to lapse in charity, and I see my tone got a bit testy, though the ideaa I expressed I stamd by.

    You each no doubt are about to begin your work day with its trials and the usual intrusions of the secular world into it. I know mine today, which now begins, will be especially exhausting. God bless you, stay strong in our shared faith, and may Easter joy be upon you. I will remember you and your families in my prayers at mass next time I assist.

  16. Semper Gumby says:

    Rod Halverson: Well said. Serious concerns indeed. You make an excellent point about prayers for the Pope and confused faithful.

    Boniface: No one here “labelled” Pope Francis a Marxist. Fr. Z’s post is about the influence of Communism and Socialism- a topic worthy of discussion.

    Curiously, on your own authority you decided to prioritize a flawed sentence of the great St. Catherine of Siena over the Gospel, Mass, the Catechism, and the Pater Noster. You insisted we adopt your opinion, and you then took umbrage at disagreement.

    Your refusal to “judge or criticize” Pope Francis is your right. Others have the right to inquire into the influences of Communism and Socialism on Pope Francis. That is the topic of this post and Neumayr’s book.

    If I may suggest, please try to bring us around to your opinion rather than curtailing our freedom to discuss this topic. Thank you for your admission of testiness, no worries, that happens to all of us sometimes. Cheers. And prayers.

    Imrahil: Good point. GK also may have dabbled in the occult in his youth. Fortunately, GK saw the light and later provided us with some great books.

  17. Rod Halvorsen says:

    ” let’s pray for each other.”


    “God bless you, stay strong in our shared faith, and may Easter joy be upon you.”

    And on you as well!


  18. albizzi says:

    Is it a sin to have doubts regarding the validity of the renunciation of Benedict XVI, and therefore regarding the validity of his successor’s election to papacy, not speaking about several infringements of Universi Dominici Gregis during the last conclave?
    A friend of Benedict XVI since long, Mgr Luigi Negri, archbp of Ferrara (Italy) recently stated that Benedict resigned under huge (“enormi”) pressures, thus sowing (or confirming) strong doubts regarding the sincerity of his health’s concerns he gave as pretense for renuncing.
    Sometimes I wonder whether my prayers for the Holy Father are not missing Francis but instead go straight to Benedict.

  19. Boniface says:

    Rod, thank you!

    SG: yes, George Neumayr is labeling the Pope a Marxist. He has written articles containing such choice phrases as “the unholy alliance between Pope Francis and George Soros.” Faithful Catholics do not speak of popes this way. Many saints have written on this. If you don’t agree, I can’t help you.

    In the first place I made the point that St. Catherine of Siena taught that we owe our affection, loyalty, and fidelity to the Holy Father. You accused me of editing her quote and distorting her meaning (and being disingenuous), but the part I left out only made my point even more strongly! So what the problem was supposed to be, I don’t know. I didn’t include it (as unnecessary to make her/my point), since it might give the impression I was saying there was something “diabolical” about Pope Francis (as my poor friend had unfortunately concluded in a recent, separate conversation that I mentioned – a sad reflection on the current climate).

    Here’s the complete quote:

    “Even if the pope were Satan incarnate, we ought not to raise up our heads against him, but calmly lie down to rest on his bosom. He who rebels against our father is condemned, for that which we do to him we do to Christ; we honor Christ if we honor the pope; we dishonor Christ if we dishonor the pope.”

    I don’t think you are understanding what St. Catherine said. I think it’s clear she wasn’t saying “follow the devil” – as our faith obviously condemns, right? In her times people criticized popes and found excuses for selective listening or obedience, as people have done to recent popes and the current pope. But as a rhetorical point, she meant no matter how “bad” or evil or wrong or flawed you think a pope is – hence the over-the-top extreme example of the devil secretly taking the form of a pope – nobody is excused from owing him heartfelt loyalty, which is really given to Christ. It’s one of the essential items of what makes us Catholic.

    Someone (who is an actual socialist, unfortunately) with whom I’m acquainted asked me a while back if I “liked” Pope Francis. “Yes,” I said. “Know why?” I added. “Because he’s the Pope.” Liking or disliking popes is not a prerogative of mine.

    In case it matters, which it shouldn’t, I am a “hard core” conservative and almost exclusively attend the extraordinary form. I publicly defend the Crusades and everything of that kind. I believe Marxism is a gravely evil ideology. But as a Catholic I defend, am loyal to, and strive to love the Holy Father(s). That includes not saying snarky or taking “wink wink” underhanded verbal swipes at him, no? I do hope all this makes sense.

  20. Semper Gumby says:

    Boniface: You wrote: “Liking or disliking popes is not a prerogative of mine.” That’s fair. It is also fair for Mr. Neumayr to inquire into Communist and socialist influences on a pope. Referring to an “unholy alliance” is Mr. Neumayr’s prerogative. And First Amendment right.

    It is also reasonable to not view this topic through your personal lens of “liking” or “disliking” Pope Francis, or “snark.” Rather, this topic could also be viewed by faithful Catholics as an effort to read the signs of the times. Perhaps Divini Redemptoris may be helpful here.

    In July 2015 Bolivian President Evo Morales gave a hammer-and-sickle crucifix to Pope Francis. News reporting stated that Pope Francis never intends to use that item at Mass. However, Pope Francis was quoted as saying that he was not offended by that item, and that he viewed that item as protest art. Faithful Catholics can disagree on the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the Pope’s comments, particularly in light of the millions of faithful Christians killed by Communist regimes and who would not be amused by that “protest art.”

    My observation that you emphasize a flawed sentence of St. Catherine of Siena over the Gospel has yet to be addressed. Perhaps Fides et Ratio may be helpful here. Cheers. And prayers.

  21. Thorfinn says:

    “She taught that one should never show any disrespect of any kind to a pope, and I’m sure that includes claiming his thinking is inflected with ideology at odds with Catholic doctrine, no?”

    No. How can it be? Surely a Pope’s thinking can have elements at odds with Catholic doctrine. There’s no guarantee that a Pope’s mind is infallible — talk about being at odds with Catholic doctrine! No, no, no. St. Catherine wrote to popes expressing her confidence that they of course wanted to do the right thing in accord with the will of God but — but — clearly warned — ahem — that the courses they were choosing, their thinking — and of course she hoped this was not the case — might be rather too greatly influenced by secular politics. Rhetorical courtesy aside, the implications were clear.

    Now, one may debate the proper forum & tact for discussing various influences on a Pope’s thinking and whether Mr. Neumayr’ s latest work measures up — but who take take seriously the claim that the entire subject is off limits?

  22. chantgirl says:

    Boniface- The conflict comes in when we perceive that following the Pope along the path he is treading may actually lead us to deny Christ. In that case we must love and pray for the Pope, but refuse to follow him on a path to possible perdition. Unlike Muslims, Catholics are not expected to check their brains at the door to follow their religion. Christ advised us to be wise as serpents, and to discern the signs of the times. Many people are trying to make sense of Pope Francis at the moment, and looking into his early formation experiences could be very illuminating, just as Pope JPII’s experiences of fascism and communism formed him. Acknowledging reality is acknowledging the truth.

    Albizzi- I’m not a priest or theologian, but again, I don’t think Christ asks us to disengage our intellect in following Him. It wouldn’t be the first time in the Church that the faithful were confused about who the Pope was, although I pray it will be the last. I personally think that there are serious reasons to question the validity of Benedict’s abdication, and serious reasons to question Francis’ election, but it is way beyond my pay grade to figure it all out. Our family prays for “the Pope” every night during prayers, whoever he is. God knows and he will direct our prayers accordingly.

    Finally, while Catherine of Siena loved and honored the Pope, she did not shrink from admonishing him when dire circumstances called for fraternal correction. (I am not saying we are all qualified to admonish the Pope; I am just saying that it is possible to admonish and honor at the same time).

  23. Supertradmum says:

    I pray for the Pope daily to be free of Modernism…I suggest if all good Catholics did this, he would end up a saint.

  24. Nancy D. says:

    “[8] But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.”
    [Galatians 1:8]

    Prior to being elected pope, Jorge Bergoglio condoned same-sex sexual relationships as long as they were according to Jorge Bergoglio “private”, did not include children, and were not called marriage.

    To deny the Sanctity of the marital act is to deny that God, The Ordered Communion of Perfect Love, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Is The Author of Love, of Life, and of Marriage, and thus deny Salvational Love, God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy.

    To deny that God Is The Author of Love, of Life, and of Marriage, and thus deny Salvational Love, God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy, is apostasy.

    A “modernist” pope is a false pope who could not have been validly elected.

  25. Nancy D. says:

    Pray for Holy Mother Church.

Comments are closed.