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Liberal angst runs high in America, so it is perhaps inevitable that the Washington Post should turn its fire on a construct of its own imagining, the until now unknown figure of ‘Breitbart Burke’ a’renegade cleric … undermining Francis’s reformist, compassionate papacy’ and one who is ‘using his position within the walls of the Vatican to legitimize extremist forces that want to bring down Western liberal democracy, Stephen K. Bannon-style.’ The Post has extended its ‘culture war’ to the Catholic Church. An executive editor of the New York Times admitted recently that the media there and in Washington ‘do not quite get religion’ – and goodness me does the Post article exemplify that fact. ‘Breitbart Burke’ wants, we are told, to reassert ‘white Christian dominance’. Sadly, there would be no use reminding the author that the most traditionalist parts of the Church where the Cardinal enjoys most support are in the ‘global south’, and I would conjecture that if one were to mention the name ‘Cardinal Sarah’ to her, she’d go off on one about women and the Church.

It is, she tells us, Islamophobic to think that “capitulating to Islam would be the death of Christianity”; perhaps she is unaware of the fact that most Islamic States in the Middle East have a zero tolerance policy on the building of Christian Churches in their territory? It may well be that someone should explain to her that Egypt still has a sizeable Christian population and used to be wholly Christian; her homework, should she care to do it, would be to discover why it is no longer so, and what happened to the Copts, and what happens to them every day? That the Cardinal understands that Islam is not represented only by those who attend ecumenical gatherings and write for liberal Western media sources, no doubt makes him aware of the answers to questions the journalist is unaware exists; but it does not make him an ‘Islamophobe’. The fact that he does not join in the neo-liberal war-drums calling for a confrontation with Putin, does not mean he is excusing Putin’s actions in the Ukraine.

Unhindered by a regard for facts or a knowledge of history, the author goes off onto a spectacular rant about the parallels with the 1930s ‘when ethnic nationalism was sweeping Europe under Mussolini and Hitler and when fascist forces infiltrated the highest echelons of the church’. She does acknowledge Pius XI’s protests against Hitler, but argues that it was not focussed on the Jews. The Church protested against persecution, full stop – all persecution. It felt, as it feels now, no need to virtue signal by mentioning only those whom the left things worth mentioning. If she really thinks that the rhetoric used by Burke has anything in common with the virulent anti-semitism of the Nazis, I suggest she learns German and digs out some old copies of Der Sturmer

She tips her hand, naturally, when it comes onto the subject of killing unborn children in the name of the ‘rights’ of women – or abortion, as it is called. Putin’s real crime in her eyes is not the Ukraine, which she does not mention, but his support for ‘pro-life causes’. It is ‘fascist’ to favour the preservation of life in the womb. It is to run a ‘far right’ ‘insurgency’ to advocate adherence to the teaching of the Church from the beginning, and to the very words of Our Lord and Saviour.

If the Post wanted to prove that the Washington.New York media does not understand religion, it has succeeded perfectly. If it wanted to show why no one should believe a word it says about ‘fake news’ it is doing a splendid job. If it really thinks that piece is an example of well-informed journalism, I suggest it takes out a subscription to the Catholic Herald and pays a fee for using some of its well-informed articles. As it stands, it is simply an example of how the hysteria over Trump has led to an over-reaction of massive proportions. The saddest thing of all is that it will, alas, prompt some Catholic sources to wonder whether the fact that such a journalist seems to be promoting Pope Francis, is not another reason to distrust him. The article has the words ‘far right rot’ in its strapline – the words ‘far left rot’ more accurately describe it.