Pope Francis is on a bit of a roll lately, last week gently telling married couples everywhere that if they have pets instead of children, they’re selfish and responsible for the downfall of humanity. Very rich coming from a self-proclaimed childless virgin! And now, in the Pope’s annual “state of the world” address given Monday before diplomats from 183 countries at the Vatican, Francis has decided to opine about “cancel culture” — the conservative boogeyman du jour that purports that powerful people who say and do bad things undeservingly lose everything, which is provably false.
The leader of the Catholic Church demonstrated a remarkable lack of self-awareness when he described cancel culture as “a form of ideological colonization — one that leaves no room for freedom of expression.” Perhaps it slipped his mind that the Catholic Church is arguably history’s foremost, greatest, and most ruthless colonizer. A brief, not-so-fun history lesson: From around the 1400s onward, unsaid numbers of people across Africa, Asia, the Americas, and really everywhere were killed, enslaved, tortured, and “converted” to Catholicism by varying European colonial superpowers. The legacy of colonization persists to this day with white savior complex-driven missionary projects in non-white countries.
Francis went on to accuse cancel culture of “canceling all sense of identity,” under “the guise of defending diversity,” which is really quite a claim, considering what the Catholic Church inflicted on the identities of colonized subjects who were denied their cultures, religions, and autonomy for hundreds of years. As a result of the enduring legacy and influence of the Catholic Church on formerly colonized, majority non-white countries, many of their governments have maintained oppressive laws on marriage, LGBTQ expression and abortion to this day. Certainly more so than hordes of angry teens cyberbullying problematic celebrities, organized religion continues to “cancel all sense of identity” for many queer and gender-oppressed youth, too.
Nearly all of the Pope’s blistering remarks on cancel culture were, in actuality, pretty transparent projection. For example, he argued that cancel culture “is invading many circles and public institutions,” not unlike how colonizing superpowers deputized by the Catholic Church invaded nearly every country in the world at some point.
“Diplomacy is called to be truly inclusive, not canceling but cherishing the differences and sensibilities that have historically marked various peoples,” Francis concluded on the subject. Sure, Jan.
Now, I’m not naive enough to believe calling out the Catholic Church’s hypocrisy is going to achieve much of anything. For years, people have been pointing out how the same institution that decries the supposed sin of abortion out of love for children has been mired in devastating child sexual abuse scandals for decades.
Still, comparing a cultural phenomenon that consists of billionaires and other powerful celebrities being mocked on the internet to the great, historical and frankly ongoing crime of colonization is really something, especially coming from the Colonizer™: the Catholic Church. At this rate, if the Pope continues down this path of absolutely zero self-awareness, critical thinking, and internal reflection, he’s bound to get his own Substack newsletter within the year and perhaps even a teaching gig at the University of Austin.