I’ll begin with the basics — I had no idea that Catholic socialism still existed, given its utter repudiation by Pope Leo XIII.
Still, it would appear as if the old dragon still draws breath, in no small part as a reaction to the neo-conservative moment within the Catholic intelligentsia in the United States (spearheaded perhaps by First Things) and countered perhaps by the “revolutionary Aristotelians” such as MacIntyre and Dreher.
If you are a layperson, consider four camps within Catholic intellectual circles: two on the right, two on the left. Within the right there are two camps — conservative (John Paul II) and traditionalists (SSPX). Within the left, there are two camps as well: radicals (liberation theology) and progressives (Pope John XXIII).
What is interesting here — and a worthwhile moment to pause — is the effort between some of the radicals to appropriate the language of the traditionalists, primarily in an effort to synthesize a few disparate ideas:
Distributist ethics and a rejection of capitalism.
Traditionalist language and norms.
The spirit of integralism as a check against the corrosion of a post-modern society.
A baptism of liberation theology (stick with me on this one).
A reinforced emphasis on localism and subsidiarity.
Here we go again. Courtesy of the Lepanto Institute we find supposedly Catholic leadership actively on the side of the enemies of the Catholic Church:
On November 28, 2015, Garrels posted a “#StandwithPP” overlay over one of her pictures, indicating that she supports Planned Parenthood and endorses continued government funding of the big-box retail chain of abortion stores. As is indicated in the image below, there are 36 “likes” of this post by Garrels … three of which came from other CRS employees.
Obviously, folks should be concerned about an employee of Catholic Relief Services who “likes” organizations that are diametrically opposed to the social teaching of the Catholic Church. That should be enough for concern. Full stop.
Critics will naturally raise a deeper objection — that being, how far can the Church go in stomping out “dissent” as it were. What if it were a conservative employee who say, supported the defense industry? The abolition of the minimum wage? A more restrictive immigration policy?
There are two responses to this, the first being self-evident. Rerum Novarum, the encyclical by Leo XIII that began the tradition of Catholic social teaching, does a marvelous job at dictating the ends — a living wage, centered around the family, and an open disdain for socialism and corporatism. How one gets there — whether through a mandated living wage, the free market, or a more Thomistic application of custom and social norms — remains an open topic. Namely, so long as one agrees on the ends, one is relatively safe when it comes to “dissent” on certain questions.
…but not all.
Pope Saint John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor helped whittled down the how in reaction to a seeming tidal wave of proportionalism that threatened to crash upon the Church in the post-modern age, a fight that Benedict XVI and Francis have continued marvelously, specifically the now famous cf. 75:
But as part of the effort to work out such a rational morality (for this reason it is sometimes called an “autonomous morality” ) there exist false solutions, linked in particular to an inadequate understanding of the object of moral action. Some authors do not take into sufficient consideration the fact that the will is involved in the concrete choices which it makes: these choices are a condition of its moral goodness and its being ordered to the ultimate end of the person. Others are inspired by a notion of freedom which prescinds from the actual conditions of its exercise, from its objective reference to the truth about the good, and from its determination through choices of concrete kinds of behaviour. According to these theories, free will would neither be morally subjected to specific obligations nor shaped by its choices, while nonetheless still remaining responsible for its own acts and for their consequences. This “teleologism”, as a method for discovering the moral norm, can thus be called — according to terminology and approaches imported from different currents of thought — “consequentialism” or “proportionalism”. The former claims to draw the criteria of the rightness of a given way of acting solely from a calculation of foreseeable consequences deriving from a given choice. The latter, by weighing the various values and goods being sought, focuses rather on the proportion acknowledged between the good and bad effects of that choice, with a view to the “greater good” or “lesser evil” actually possible in a particular situation. (emphasis original)
Unfortunately, we do indeed live in the world. Not everything is clean in a world of government grants, as many a grantee and grantor will cheerfully explain at Catholic Relief Services.
Yet Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia helpfully provides a little chart on how one formally or informally co-operates with evil. Whether or not it is a grant made to a heterodox organization, a grant accepted to tolerate a little evil to do a greater good, or any other form of casuistry to explain away formal co-operation, the basic premise is the same — you cannot do evil to achieve good.
The second point? Lies in a certain form of diversity among Catholic bureaucrats working within and among the support staff that seem to surround our Catholic bishops and priests.
One could rationally make the case that if a Republican (rather than a Democrat) were working on the staff of any Catholic organization, one could — perhaps rightly? — raise the question as to their personal values and leanings.
Perhaps… but the problem here is twofold: (1) Planned Parenthood is an enemy of the Catholic Faith, with the vast majority of their work shoveled into the maw of their abortion industry, and (2) among those employed by organizations such as CRS, where are all the conservatives?
The point of diversity of opinion falls unceremoniously flat when the vast majority of those employed are left-leaning and openly embrace positions directly contrary to Catholic social teaching. If one saw evidence of a true diversity of opinion? Perhaps a case could be made… but not here, because “diversity” seems to apply only in the instance of the political left, and not the width and breadth or Catholic opinion.
To the Lepanto Institute’s larger point, this seems to be a recurring problem — especially at institutions such as Catholic Relief — where decidedly non-Catholic or in many instances politically leftist anti-Catholic opinions seem to run rampant and without check.
From the perspective of the Catholic bishops, surely this has to be concerning, though the idea that Catholic bishops are basically powerless to change this dynamic is the gauntlet that CRS and others seem to be throwing down. The fog of bureaucracy does a great deal to obscure facts on the ground, while a Goodbye, Good Men scenario seems to proliferate among seminaries and staff.
Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times? That’s enemy action… and this proliferation of politically-driven leftism inside the Catholic bureaucracy is starting to become not just a scandal, but a discouragement.
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A conversation earlier this week about the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’ observation that the Catholic Church is literally a “here comes everybody” sort of institution — a living embodiment of Christ’s command to preach to the ends of the world.
So it is not without a bit of concern that many Catholics see the rise of ethno-nationalism in the wake of economic tightening, as Brandon McGinley writes in the pages of First Things:
Whatever else is said about the election of 2016, we will remember this campaign for the reemergence of explicit ethno-nationalism as a force in American politics. Rather than listing and litigating the well-publicized instances of pandering to white identity politics that have marked this campaign, let me make some personal observations that I believe are widely shared: I have seen and heard—in public, in private, and online—more unambiguous racism in the past year than I can remember from the rest of my (admittedly rather short) life, combined. I have been exposed to terms of racial abuse that I had not known existed. I have communicated with non-white Americans who are frightened by our politics in a way they never were before.
I was one of the many foolish people who thought a resurgence of explicit white identity politics in America was impossible. The politics of race is an area in which American conservatives often apply a whiggish hermeneutic: We want to believe that the politics of racial and ethnic hierarchy are well and truly behind us—that our society has evolved. This optimism has been encouraged in part by the success of salutary norms of public discourse that mark out of bounds any rhetoric that gestures toward racial supremacy. (This is not “political correctness,” but a humane response to more than four centuries of de facto or de jure oppression on the basis of race.) These norms are currently being eroded at an alarming pace.
Of course, the Catholic experience in America has typically smacked of these labels: the Irish, the Italians, the Slavs, and today the Hispanics. As McGinley observes, the Catholic Church has traditionally been on the side of the downtrodden and poor — if for no other reason than the Catholic Church has been the faith of the very same.
Many Catholics of the intellectual bent are struggling with the rise of a populism that is completely alien to the idea of “here comes everybody.” In that sense, Catholicism is far more globalist than nationalist, and traditionally has served a role that transcends nationalism in the wake of the Protestant Reformation (and earlier than this — certainly during the collapse of the Roman Empire, this was the precise political role of the Catholic Church).
McGinley argues that mainline Americans did not want Catholics in the past, and we are discovering very quickly that we are inconvenient to the political religions of the present day.
Perhaps he is right. Then again, the temptation to reduce ourselves to our little Trotskyite platoons was never an option. Rather, Catholics ought to remain and speak contra mundi.
After all, this is the Great Commission, whether we are welcomed to do so or not.
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I would like to think myself to be a fair man. Perhaps not always right — but at the very least, fair to others and willing to hear a decent argument.
So here’s your chance to convince a #NeverTrump guy as to why this pro-life, pro-2A, small government Catholic ought to vote for Donald Trump.
Arguments as to why the “other guy” is worse.
The current political climate being horrible.
How bad Obama is.
How bad Bush is.
What am I looking for? Specific, credible, concrete policy positions that Trump has held over the course of two decades or longer. Something where Trump has bled in the trenches and stood firmly on despite criticism. Convictions that demonstrate who this man really is and what he believes.
I will be honest, I do not believe Trump supporters really can make this case. One suspects (hypothesis) that the argument really centers around how much one defines themselves as anti-establishment… in which case, electing the textbook definition of a crony capitalist seems rather apposite towards the overall goal here.
VLADIMIR: You have a message from Mr. Godot. BOY: Yes Sir. VLADIMIR: He won’t come this evening. BOY: No Sir. VLADIMIR: But he’ll come tomorrow. BOY: Yes Sir. VLADIMIR: Without fail. BOY: Yes Sir. (silence)
Cardinal Sarah’s remarks at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. this week are certainly making the rounds. Of note, Sarah’s prescription for the ills of the modern age:
Before such a distinguished gathering, I offer three humble suggestions.
First: Be prophetic. The Book of Proverbs tells us: “Where there is no vision, discernment, the people perish” (29, 18). Discern carefully – in your lives, your homes, your workplaces – how, in your nation, God is being eroded, eclipsed, liquidated. Blessed Paul VI saw that in 1968 when, for the Church, he so courageously wrote Humanae Vitae. What are the threats to Christian identity and the family today? ISIS, the growing influence of China, the colonization of ideologies such as gender? How do we react?
Be faithful. This is my second suggestion. Specifically for you, as men and women called to influence even the political sphere you have a mission of bringing Divine Revelation to bear in the lives of your fellow citizens. Uphold the wise principles of your founding fathers. Do not be afraid to proclaim the truth with love, especially about marriage according to God’s plan, just as courageously as Saint John the Baptist, who risked his life to proclaim the truth. The battle to preserve the roots of mankind is perhaps the greatest challenge that our world has faced since its origins. In the words of Saint Catherine of Siena: “Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.”
Third: Pray. Sometimes, in front of happenings in the world, our nation or even the Church, the results of our prayer might tempt us to become discouraged. Like Sisyphus in the Greek myth: condemned to roll a large boulder uphill, only to see it roll down again as soon as he had reached the top. Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est encourages us : “People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone.”
Cardinal Sarah also took a moment to defend Pope Francis’ papacy against the critics — not a direct defense, but an oblique one:
In his post-synodal Exhortation on the Family, Amoris Lætitia (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis states clearly: “In no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur … proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being.” This is why the Holy Father openly and vigorously defends Church teaching on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, reproductive technologies, the education of children and much more.
Such comments should settle the fears of many a student of Pope Saint John Paul the Great, as well as perhaps many a traditionalist — as Cardinal Sarah is not only numbered among the more conservative members of the Catholic hierarchy, but also among the papabile.
It is on this similar note that the SSPX — deemed by many and even among the most strident of Catholics to be in borderline schism — is even feeling the love from Pope Francis’s pontificate. From the National Catholic Register (the good NCR):
That message was reinforced this week when Pope Francis himself hinted reconciliation could be close, telling the French Catholic daily La Croix May 16 that the SSPX are “Catholics on the way to full communion” and that “good dialogue and good work are taking place.”
According to Bishop Fellay, the Vatican is telling the society, through nuanced words, that it is now possible to question the Council’s teachings on religious liberty, ecumenism and liturgical reform “and remain Catholic.”
Note the way the baby is split here. For decades, the SSPX has declared the Second Vatican Council has never taught anything new regarding ecumenism, religious liberty, and liturgical reform. The admission from Bishop Fellay that yes indeed, the Second Vatican Council taught something definitive on all three is admission enough — and a critical step forward.
Needless to say, what is interesting here — if one chooses to attempt to read these tea leaves — is that one of two options may perhaps be developing: (1) that the SSPX will claim that the Second Vatican Council indeed taught novelties, but they are precisely that… and are in no way binding on the Catholic faithful — a dubious effort, or (2) that the Second Vatican Council did indeed perhaps point the way on these three areas, that such considerations are worthy of belief… but are in no way binding on the Catholic faithful — a curious effort.
The latter — which might sound like music to a traditionalist ear — has pitfalls when applied elsewhere… say for our more heterodox or “progressive” cousins within the Church. The only crutch the SSPX will have to lean on is the concept that has been hammered home so many times by the traditionalist set: what was Catholic before is Catholic today. Perhaps it’s better to take Pope Francis in his own words:
– Would you be ready to grant them the status of a personal prelature?
Pope Francis: That would be a possible solution but beforehand it will be necessary to establish a fundamental agreement with them. The Second Vatican Council has its value. We will advance slowly and patiently. (emphasis original)
Pope Francis also makes a delineation between Bishop Fellay and Bishop Williamson and the “radicals” so to speak (Francis’ words — not mine).
Of course, my longstanding position has been that of Pope Saint John Paul the Great — the Second Vatican Council did indeed teach instructively on ecumenism, religious liberty, and the liturgy and that this is binding on all faithful Catholics. Dissimulation on these three teachings of the Second Vatican Council is the reason why Pope Benedict XVI slammed the breaks on reconciliation talks in 2012. It is perhaps also the reason why Pope Francis re-opened those doors so soon after becoming pope.
What is interesting — and perhaps, what links healing the schism with the SSPX and Cardinal Sarah’s remarks this week — is the great task laid before us. From Sarah’s remarks:
When he prophetically announced the Second Vatican Council in the Apostolic Constitution Humanae Salutis, Saint John XXIII remarked that the human community was in “turmoil” as it sought to establish a new world order where humanity relies entirely on technical and scientific solutions instead of God.
Today we are witnessing the next stage – and the consummation – of the efforts to build a utopian paradise on earth without God. It is the stage of denying sin and the fall altogether. But the death of God results in the burial of good, beauty, love and truth. Good becomes evil, beauty is ugly, love becomes the satisfaction of sexual primal instincts, and truths are all relative.
The SSPX could be viewed as a human response to a spiritual war, a retrenchment in the past to fight the war of the future. No question, the loss of rubric and liturgy in the modern Church (and the open resistance of many bishops regarding granting permission for the Tridentine Mass to be said at the parish level — an understandable resistance, mind you, as we don’t need to develop “high” and “low” Masses within each diocese) is a painful reminder that prayer isthe life of the Church. Yet all the rubric and liturgy and devotion to the form of prayer is no substitute for the substance of the Catholic Faith…
As it has been said before, extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Without the Church there is no salvation. Both Cardinal Sarah’s challenge and the example of the SSPX’s wanderings in the modern desert are signs of the times.
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Both Rosica and his “Salt and Light TV” Catholic network in Canada have occasionally been targeted for on-line criticism, especially from conservative and pro-life Catholic organizations.
The Internet, Rosica said, “can be an international weapon of mass destruction, crossing time zones, borders and space.” He also described it as “an immense battleground that needs many field hospitals set up to bind wounds and reconcile warring parties.”
“If we judged our identity based on certain ‘Catholic’ websites and blogs, we would be known as the people who are against everyone and everything!” he said. ” If anything, we should be known as the people who are for something, something positive that can transform lives and engage and impact the culture.”
I actually have a very high opinion of Fr. Roscia and the work that he does at Salt and Light TV — especially his motivations and the inspirations stem from a deep love of the Catholic Faith, the Magisterium, the liturgy of the Church and the rubrics of the Mass.
Of course, there are a good number of Catholics inspired by Pope St. John Paul the Great’s call for “the New Evangelization” that are leading in this effort as well, inspired by the very same motivations — and always in the spirit of fidelity, fidelity, fidelity.
Yet it is disappointing to see the Crux report not dive in to the impact of heterodoxy or — as Archbishop Chaput has urged the Catholic faithful to resist — the infection of secular religions within sacred religion. This would have been helpful to read, though perhaps not helpful to those who seek to color Fr. Rosica’s thoughts.
I do not doubt that Fr. Rosica feels similarly regarding heterodox publications such as National Catholic Reporter and the coterie of arguably politically leftist bureaucrats that seem to have distorted the “social arm” and how this is impacting and confusing the laity. Those looking for the spirit of division and disunity ought to look there first…
Yet the delineation between Catholic “bloggers” asking for fidelity to the teachings of the Catholic faith (Salt and Light TV might even be among them; Church Militant comes to mind as well) and post-contemporary print media is an interesting one.
The post-contemporary print media outlets such as NCR seem putatively active in telling the Catholic faithful to surrender the teachings of the Magisterium on “abortion, gay marriage and birth control” — and women priests, women deaconesses, and all sorts of other so-called theological considerations to meet the demands of the modern age. A real tragedy, because the dissent is so often enveloped in a particular and piercing hatred of the old way of doing things: tradition, fidelity, liturgy. I have never particularly understood this, but it is easily detectable and utterly destructive.
Yet despite these voices, that Pope Francis is continuing in the tradition of his predecessors is a remarkable achievement. Continuing in the tradition of the Second Vatican Council, no less. That others continue to seek to confuse the Church as a parliament, distort the teachings of the Council, or assert that we moderns are somehow more enlightened than our predecessors? Smacks of the phantom heresy…
This new form of Catholicism Lite, a not-so-phantom hash of ideas that poses real problems for the integrity of the Church and its evangelical mission, breathes deeply of two winds that have long blown through American Christianity: the ancient Pelagian wind, with its emphasis on the righteousness of our works and how they will win our salvation; and the Congregationalist wind, with its deep suspicion that Catholic authority is incompatible with American democracy. As for the older Americanist controversy, I think the classic historiographers of U.S. Catholicism were largely right: The “Americanism” of which Leo XIII warned in Testem Benevolentiae was far more a phantom concocted by fevered, ancien-régime European minds than a heresy that threatened Catholic faith in the United States. But the problems that Leo flagged are very much with us over a century later. They are at the root of the internal Catholic culture war that has intensified as religious freedom has come under concerted assault, and as the new Americanists, who form a coherent party in a way that Isaac Hecker and his friends never did, have either denied that assault — or abetted it.
The phantom heresy still haunts the Catholic Church in North America — even today, it refuses to take form, but still patiently whispers, wants, and waits…
Nevertheless, Fr. Rosica is right to condemn the Pharisees of our day. Tone is important, and restoring all things in Christ even more so. (Eph. 1:10) To be — in the words of Fr. Rosica — “unafraid to confront the sins and evils that have marred us” is critically important in the advancement of the New Evangelization…
What remains isn’t to pit one faction against the other — progressive or conservative, as if those distinctions mattered — but to find those who are operating in goodwill; orthodoxy contra heterodoxy, fidelity contra dissent, truth contra mediocrity.
If mercy is predicated on judgment, then Pope Francis’ call for misercordiae is predicated on the existence of sin as it leaves judgment to God the Father.
We are indeed a hospital for sinners, yet neither a museum for saints nor a mass psychiatric ward. The discussion over Catholic “bloggers” or the heterodoxy of the National Catholic Reporter is in itself an expression of Francis’ call for mercy… a charity that when not employed, results in the pedophile/pederast scandals that have marred the moral standing of the Catholic Faith for too long.
Such are the times.
If there is a grand enemy of the modern age, it is the voices within Catholic media that instruct the faithful to wallow in one’s acedia, that asks the faithful to be defined by their sins rather than by their salvation. In that, Fr. Rosica is a great help to those who seek amendment rather than accommodation. Long may he strive for such goals.
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