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Pope Francis is no John Paul II. This past weekend, an image of Pope Francis with Nancy Pelosi called to mind a famous image of Pope John Paul II with a Nicaraguan priest and Daniel Ortega. Ernesto Cardenal was a Roman Catholic priest serving as the minister of culture in the Marxist government. He and the dictator in designer glasses, Daniel Ortega, expected a great visual as they welcomed the Pope on the tarmac. Nancy Pelosi expected the same from Pope Francis. History did not repeat itself, and this pope appears to be steadily undoing the work and teaching of his prominent predecessor.
Not only was Ernesto Cardenal wrapping up Marxism in priests’ robes, he was part of a small group of leftist clerics who were collaborating with Ortega in the Sandinista government’s suppression of the official Catholic leadership. Pope John Paul II invoked “dark ages,” referring to the anticlericalism of the Mexican Revolution and other leftist Latin American movements earlier in the 2oth century. In this context, John Paul confronted the errant priest and the priest’s real boss, the dictator in designer sunglasses.
When confronted with the subversion of sound Christian doctrine by socialists, appending “liberation” to “theology,” John Paul responded forcefully both in official writings and in his wise use of the media. He avoided giving the Sandinistas and their heretical pet priest a world media victory, instead generating an unmistakable photographic image of the Church rejecting liberation theology. Caring about a priest, or any other member of the body, who has persistently strayed and refuses correction, means more than another gentle conversation.