Brief Book Review: Catholic Discordance

Catholic Discordance:
Neoconservatism vs. the Field Hospital Church of Pope Francis
By Massimo Borghesi
Translated from the Italian by Barry M. Hudock

Who should read this? Anyone who finds value and hope in the leadership of Pope Francis; American Catholics who are confused or dismayed by the fractured leadership of our American hierarchy; anyone concerned with the tensions in 21st-century Catholicism.

Why should you read this? Borghesi convincingly presents the hostile efforts of American neoconservative Catholics to undermine the mission of Pope Francis. He interprets the Catholic neoconservative critique of Evangelii Gaudium as a blatant effort to legitimize the superiority of the Western economic system (capitalism) rather than judge it. The main players in this struggle are identified and extensively quoted.

What is the main point? The book contrasts the ideological corruption and political ambition of the “theocons” with Pope Francis’s vision of the church’s mission in the contemporary world. The Pontiff believes that to understand reality (not only its lights but also its shadows), one must look at it from the periphery. Those who oppose his efforts are characterized as subscribing to a technocratic model that views humanity’s quality of life as separate from its environmental context. Francis’s notion of the church emerges as one that goes forth and whose doors are open. It is a missionary church, a church that is a field hospital.

Why does it matter? Since the 1980s, neoconservative commentators have established themselves as the authoritative voice of American Catholicism. These commentators have manipulated the messages of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Today they are attempting to discount and/or undercut the message of Pope Francis. The emergence of “theo-politics” in American society is carefully traced and its dangers explained.

Why is this book important? The book’s claim is that the division in the church is serious. Borghesi supports this claim with abundant quotes and footnotes from a wide variety of sources. The result is a clear picture of the serious threat to the Holy Father’s efforts to be faithful to the vision of the Second Vatican Council. Francis’s approach to leading the church, his critique of capitalism, and his embrace of the Gospel mandate to evangelize are clearly laid out. Borghesi achieves this by tracing the sources and development of Francis’s thinking and his spirituality, including the influence of Romano Guardini and Pope Paul VI, in order to provide a cogent narrative about his mission and vision for today’s church and the neoconservatives who opposed it.

Borghesi, Massimo. Catholic Discordance: Neoconservatism vs. the Field Hospital Church of Pope Francis. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2021. 280 pages. $29.95. ISBN: 9780814667354.

REVIEWER: Judith M. Kubicki
Judith M. Kubicki is Associate Professor Emerita of Theology at
Fordham University, Bronx, New York.

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