This book was a very accessible and enjoyable read, largely, I suspect, because in it the author took to task a number of writers who have claimed that Pope Francis is either illegitimately elected, a heretic, or The False Prophet from the Book of Revelations. And sometimes all three!
Peter Bannister doesn’t, however, start with attempting to address the various accusations of these writers, though he does summarise them and refute them quite readily. The thrust of Bannister’s thesis is that these writers put forward positions, assertions and theses that are logically incoherent and inconsistent, and for that reason above all they should be ignored. In doing so, Bannister takes a broader swipe at the way in which the internet and social media, morally and intellectually neutral in and of themselves, have been used by the populist conspiracy theorist types to propound and propagate theories (of many ilks but in the context of this particular book against the current Roman Pontiff) in ways that are not easily combatted by those who seek to engage with them on the basis of solid, intellectually sound methods.
I found myself thoroughly enthralled by Bannister’s work and the legitimacy of his argument. It struck a chord in me because of my own belief that the approach used by the likes of the writers Bannister examines while attractive and popular is, in fact, detrimental to public discourse because it lacks its own interior consistency and logic.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who cares about the nature of public discourse.
From the blurb:
Like him or loathe him, Pope Francis is nothing short of a global social phenomenon. Within the space of less than three years since his election in 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio has divided public opinion inside and outside the Catholic Church as have few religious leaders of modern times. For some he is a breath of fresh air and hope for contemporary Christianity, calling the Church and the world back to the radical simplicity of the Gospel. For others he is variously a dangerous heretic, Marxist infiltrator or even the False Prophet of the Book of Revelation. In this book, interdisciplinary researcher Peter Bannister explores these diverse Francises as portrayed by his detractors, both popular and highbrow, that have taken hold in the popular imagination in a climate marked by conspiracy theory, urban legend, purported apocalyptic prophecies and the anarchic world of internet publishing.