John Allen’s report on Pope Francis’s apocalyptic taste in fiction is making the rounds. The media, Allen writes, focused so much on the “breed like rabbits” quote from his airplane press conference that they missed a couple of interesting things. Excerpts:
There were two other tidbits, however, that have been somewhat lost in the shuffle, both of which are important for understanding what is more and more a defining trait of this pope — his sense of urgency.
One of those nuggets is about a book; the other, a trip.
As he has before, Francis went out of his way to invoke an apocalyptic 1907 novel by an English convert from Anglicanism called “Lord of the World.” The novel lays out a dystopic vision of a final conflict between secular humanism and Catholicism, with the showdown taking place on the fields of Armageddon.
Author Robert Hugh Benson depicts a world in which Marxism and secularism have run the table, culminating in a charismatic “savior” figure, increasingly recognizable as the Anti-Christ, who arises to lead a one-world government. Attacks on Christian symbols and believers mount, and euthanasia is widely practiced.
That’s not to say Francis believes doomsday is around the corner. However, his fondness for the novel seems to track with his belief that humanity is making some definitive choices today, from the economy to the environment, and that if we get those choices wrong, the consequences may be far worse than we realize.
Again, you don’t have to believe that there is any such thing as the End Times, in the Christian sense. But if the pope does, and if he believes they might be imminent, then that could explain some of the things he does.