Australian Jesuit Richard Leonard speaks to Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications about Steve Bannon, US strategist and former campaign aide to Donald Trump, who has recently been very critical of Pope Francis. He discusses Bannon’s criticisms of the Pope, suggests a different interpretation of the Pope’s views and hopes that Bannon will be fairer in his assessment. Fr Leonard also shares his personal views on the Pope’s leadership.
Fr Leonard points out that Bannon has been part of the establishment of a school in Italy for people to be trained to counter the message of the Pope, but that he has gained less support than he initially thought, both from within and outside the Vatican. It is thought that he misjudged the situation in Europe.
According to Leonard, Bannon has been outspoken about the Pope’s views on mainly two issues: globalisation and migration. Francis believes that globalisation needs to change in terms of a more equitable distribution of resources for all and that it is better “to build a bridge than to build a wall” in relation to migration.
Bannon strongly disagrees with the Pope, claiming that he has no voice of authority on such matters and that he should focus only on dealing with the sex abuse scandals in the Church. Fr Leonard sees this view as a false dichotomy. While he asserts that the Church must do everything in its power to deal with abuse, he fully supports the Pope’s voice particularly in the area of social justice. He says it’s possible to “walk and chew gum at the same time”.
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