I arrived in Rome this week in anticipation of another defining liberal moment of this pontificate: the Pan-Amazon Synod, Pope Francis’ latest pretext to fiddle with Catholic discipline and doctrine. I haven’t been to the Vatican in some years. It was hardly a golden age under Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but at least back then Vatican City had recognizably Catholic features. Now it looks like the United Nations Plaza.
As I walked down the hill to the Vatican, from the convent turned inn where I am staying, I noticed graffiti about “comrades” on the walls surrounding it — walls, by the way, far more imposing than Trump’s. One would have to be a criminal with Olympian talents to scale them. Yet what’s the first sculpture one encounters in St. Peter’s Square? A depiction of illegal immigrants, unveiled recently by Pope Francis. The immigrants are huddled together on a kind of ark — certainly not Noah’s, for the sculpture contains almost no religious content, though some interpret a Hasidic Jewish couple on board as Joseph and Mary. The sculpture looks completely out of place, plopped randomly near the arms of Bernini, which now appear more like the forearm of George Soros.
A visit to the Vatican was once an awe-inspiring religious experience. It now feels more like a trip to Disneyland. It exists primarily for tourists, not pilgrims. It is a bazaar of camera-snapping Asians, cackling Germans, thieving vendors, gum-chewing priests, and trysting middle-age couples. The overwhelming impression it leaves is that Catholicism is a religion of the past, not the present or future. Whatever the future of Islam, at least Muslims have enough regard for God to keep Mecca and Medina from turning into Touristville. Not so for FrancisChurch, which is hastening the death of Catholicism by self-indulgence, if not suicide.