Mind -- I'm not talking about intelligent, informed, factually accurate posts that produce headlines that speak the truth in rational language and that articulately debate this or that Vatican position.
I'm talking about pre-cooked memes with photos designed to make the pope look sinister and headlines tuned to exploit any latent anti-Catholic prejudice in the viewer.
I'm talking about people who don't read Vatican documents, and yet spout off opinions about material that they have not read and refuse to read. Posters don't inform themselves about actual events. And posters spout off,
"HOW COULD THE POPE SAY THAT YOU CAN'T BE A CHRISTIAN AND MAKE GUNS OR DRIVE A CAR AND HOW COULD HE ELEVATE ISLAM TO STATUS EQUAL WITH CHRISTIANITY!!!!???"
Typing in all caps because a lot of less informed internet posters do type in all caps, thinking that typing in all caps magically transforms lies into truth.
I had to unfriend someone I had liked because he posted one anti-pope meme after another. The last one by him I saw included the rather lowbrow headline, "The Pope Is a Dope."
I mentioned this publicly. And so this morning I received an anti-pope article in my inbox, rather than on my Facebook page. Clever!
The Gatestone Institute published "The Scorpion, the Frog, and the Pope," by Susan Warner. In one of her opening paragraphs, Warner writes,
"The history of the Catholic Church is a two-thousand year old story of anti-Judaism, conspicuous by frequent massacres, murders, forced conversions, torture, pogroms, expulsions, demonization and other unspeakable acts of violence and offense."
This is, of course, hate mongering propaganda, not respectable and representational history. Of course nominal Catholics, even some genuine Catholics, and people who aren't Catholic at all have done very bad things, in specific locations, at specific times, in response to specific local conditions. Good Catholics are ashamed of these crimes, that go against our teaching, and we repent of them and make amends. At the time that these crimes were committed, there were Catholics who stood against them.
What Warner does not mention is that popes, other church leaders, and lay Catholics often stood up for Jews, taught tolerance of Jews, had Jews as friends, and came between Jews and other sinful, aggressive, Catholics and others who were attacking Jews.
No Polish reader needs me to remind him or her of Catholics Jan Karski, Maximilian Kolbe, Irene Sendler, Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma, and Witold Pilecki, but these heroes are not alone. There are many more.
We Catholics are deeply ashamed of, and deeply regret, the attacks on Jews that happened during the First Crusade. How many Catholics know that good Catholics attempted to protect the Jews under attack, including the Archbishop of Cologne? One could mention many such examples.
One really needs to read a responsible history of the Catholic Church to understand hate mongers like Warner -- but how many people will do that? Too few.
In the meantime, to see just how twisted and inflammatory Warner's opening paragraph is, let's edit it a bit.
"The History of Judaism is a four-thousand year old story of anti-Goyism, conspicuous by Jews, when they were in the majority, persecuting early Christians unto death, praying for their utter destruction -- the Birkat ha-Minim -- and teaching that Mary was a whore, that Jesus' father was a Roman soldier, and that Jesus is boiling in excrement in Hell. Jews have demonized Christians."
Unfortunately the isolated facts in the above paragraph are true, but no responsible person would begin an article meant to be read by the general public with that paragraph. It focuses on isolated, ugly facts, and leaves out the millions of Jews who have been tolerant of Christians, friends to Christians, helpful to Christians, etc.
It leaves out the foundational Jewish teachings that teach respect for difference. It leaves out the majority of good people today who want to live together in peace.
I don't know what's behind the hatred for Pope Francis, but I am deeply troubled by it, and I'm concerned about how far it will go, and in what direction.
You can read Susan Warner's anti Catholic hate mongering at the Gatestone Institute here
Some less offensive Pope Francis memes: