The Political Pope

by George Neumayr, Center Street, 304pp, £20

What Pope Francis Really Said

by Tom Hoopes, Servant Publications, 160pp, £9

George Neumayr’s The Political Pope isn’t a bad book. In fact, it’s not really a book at all. About 75 per cent of the text is block quotes, and 25 per cent is paraphrasing. It is, perhaps, the first listicle ever published in hardcover.

There’s no attempt at balance. The quotations are chosen to support the author’s thesis: that Francis is Marxist who thinks transgenderism is basically fine and wants China to overtake America on the world stage. The quotes themselves don’t point to that conclusion on their own, of course, but Neumayr doesn’t implicate himself by making such a claim. Instead, he draws on a small number of (mostly anonymous) authorities to explain the Holy Father’s thinking – and, occasionally, the Heavenly Father’s. A Jesuit scholar apparently told Neumayr that “God will strike Francis dead before he destroys the Church.”

It’s rather a fascinating study in how the most alarming trends in secular media have taken root in the Catholic press. Left- and right-wingers now have their own distinct media bubbles. They are flooded with news articles carefully curated to confirm their own bias. It is not a matter of having “alternative facts”, but of only having half the facts. And Neumayr has given right-wing Catholics 221 pages of anti-Francis factoids to reinforce their echo chamber.

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