Pope Francis on Tuesday once again lambasted what he called “ideological colonization,” which he described as both cultural and spiritual, intolerant of differences, and capable of persecuting even those who believe in God.
Francis has used the term “ideological colonization” to describe what he sees as a form of oppression of developing societies by affluent ones, especially the West, through imposing an alien worldview or set of values on poorer societies, often by making adoption of those values a condition of humanitarian or development aid.
The pontiff also denounced “killing children,” which he said at first was “a sin” while “today it can be done,” presumably referring to abortion, which today is legalized in some form in roughly 60 nations around the world.
The pope’s words came during his morning homily on Tuesday at Santa Marta, where he said that there are three main types of persecution today: religious, political-religious, and cultural.
The third, he said, occurs when “a new culture that wants to make everything new,” imposes itself, cleaning away the traditions, history, and religion of a people.
As is customary, the Vatican didn’t release the pope’s homily, but sections of it were reported by Vatican Radio.
Francis’s homily turned around the first reading of the day, from the book of the Maccabees, which tells the story of Eleazar, a wise man who refused to eat pork, choosing to be executed than to even pretend to eat it and eating something else instead.
The last thing Eleazar said before being killed was: “The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that, although I could have escaped death, I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging, but also suffering it with joy in my soul because of my devotion to him.”
According to Francis, Eleazar faced a cultural persecution, and was condemned to die for his loyalty to God.
The pope noted in his homily that the cultural persecution in the biblical passage began in the first reading of the previous day, also from Maccabees. Seeing the power and beauty of Antiochus Epiphanes, some among the people asked the king to give them “the faculty to introduce the pagan institutions in the nations.”
Not the ideas or the gods, but the institutions, Francis said. Hence, this people that grew around the Law of God, introduces a new culture, “new institutions,” that delete everything else: “culture, religion, law.”
Yet there was some resistance among those of the people who wanted to respect their traditions, such as that of Eleazar and other martyrs.
A persecution born from an ideological colonization destroys, the pope says, it “makes everything equal, it’s not capable of tolerating differences.”
The pope described Antiochus Epiphanes as the “perverse root,” one that is introduced to make the “new, pagan, worldly” customs grow among the people of God.
“And this is the path of the cultural colonizations that end up persecuting even the believers,” Francis said. “But we don’t need to go too far back to see some examples: let’s think of the genocides of the last century, that were a new, cultural thing: ‘All equal, and these who don’t have pure blood, out’ … All equal, there’s no place for differences, there is no place for others, there is no place for God.”
Thinking of the youth, the pope continued, Eleazar gave his life for his love for God, and becomes a “root for the future.”
Not everything that is new is bad, Francis said, “it’s enough to think of the Gospel, Jesus,” but it’s important to discern: “Does this novelty come from the Lord, the Holy Spirt, the root of God, or does this novelty come from a perverse root?
“First it was a sin, you couldn’t kill children, but today, you can, there’s not much problem. It’s a perverse novelty,” the pope exemplified.
God’s novelty, Francis argued, is never “negotiated,” and looks towards the future, while ideological colonizations look only to the present, negating the past and ignoring the future. “They live in the moment, not the time, and for this, they can’t promise us anything.”
This attitude of erasing differences, the pope said, is “blasphemy against the Creator God,” because it wants to change God’s creation. In the face of this, Francis said, there’s only one medicine: “the witness, that is, martyrdom,” such as that of Eleazar.
“I live like this,” Francis said. “Yes, I dialogue with those who think differently, but my witness,” is “according to the laws of God.”
The pope concluded his homily saying he hoped the example of Eleazar can “help us all in the moments of confusion in the face of the cultural and spiritual colonizations that are proposed.”
Francis has a long record of denouncing ideological colonization, especially one form he believes it often takes, which is the imposition of “gender theory.”
“A great enemy of marriage today is the theory of gender,” Francis said in Georgia in Oct. 2016.
“Today, there is a global war trying to destroy marriage… they don’t destroy it with weapons, but with ideas. It’s certain ideological ways of thinking that are destroying it…we have to defend ourselves from ideological colonization,” he said.
During a press conference with journalists on the way back from Georgia and Azerbaijan, Francis was asked about that speech. He shared the experience of talking with a French man, who, like his wife, was Catholic. The man told the pope about asking his 10-year old son what he wanted to be when he grew up, and the child answering “a woman.”
“The dad remembered that in the schoolbooks they taught gender theory. And this is against natural things,” the pope said, before distinguishing between people who have “this tendency, option and even change sex,” from “teaching in school about this, to change mentalities.
“This is what I call ideological colonization,” Francis said at that time.