I thought the Times of London might be pulling an early April Fool's Day prank with its report on Friday, "Medieval Monk Hailed by Obama Was a Heretic, says Vatican." But apparently the paper is serious - ANSA also carried a report on Father Raniero Cantalamessa's claim that Barack Obama praised the 12th-century Calabrian abbot during the presidential campaign: "Vatican raps Obama medieval mystic."The Times story was linked to in the Notre Dame discussion below. Given the vast implications of a connection between Barack Obama and Joachim of Fiore, we should at least start a new thread, if not the outline of a Dan Brown-style novel.Father Cantalamessa's claim is that Obama invoked Joachim's name three times during the campaign. I would be interested in seeing documentation for when and where that occurred, since I can't find any evidence of it. It appears to be a notion pushed by the mayor of Joachim's hometown amid the excitement of Obama's nomination for president last August. Should we assume that Father Cantalamessa confirmed this tidbit before passing it along as a "fact" in a sermon to the pope?F ather Cantalamessa went on to say that Obama's comments had stirred public interest in Joachim's teachings. Really? ( Opinionated Catholic has a transcript.)The implication seems to be that the president of the United States is helping to revive attention to heretical teachings that undermine papal authority.Some background: Joachim (1135-1202) was a Calabrian abbot famed for using Scripture to interpret the course of history. Popes encouraged Joachim in his writings, and Richard the Lionheart wouldn't leave on Crusade until he could consult the abbot. When he died in 1202, he was highly respected as a visionary scholar. It wasn't until 1215 that a certain aspect of his work - it involved a highly technical dispute with Peter Lombard over the Trinity - was judged heretical. Well after his death, heretical works falsely attributed to Joachim challenged the need for a church hierarchy. Father Cantalamessa denounced this "false and heretical" opposition to church authority in his remarks to the pope.Why did the Vatican preacher need to bring Obama into this? It echoes a remark Cardinal Francis Stafford made last November when he called Obama "disruptive and apocalyptic."
Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses.