Thursday, August 10, 2017

Are you bleeping kidding me?

A (melo?)drama in several acts...


Father Anthony Spadaro, a Jesuit priest and prominent Pope Francis advocate, authors with Reverend Marcelo Figueroa an extensive post in La Civilta Cattolica detailing the surprising ecumenism between Protestant fundamentalists and Catholic traditionalists, particularly in the United States.  Normally the response for this would be:


Not for the topic itself but rather the level at which this discourse proceeded.  Let's get it straight:  one of the Pope's closest Jesuit buddies and an Argentinian Presbyterian minister hand-picked by Pope Francis himself to edit the Argentine version of L'Osservatore Romano, co-author a piece about ecumenical cooperation in a continent neither of them come from or live in. (Let's put aside for a second the rather curious fact that there's a Protestant minister playing a prominent role in disseminating a Catholic publication...)  OK, got it--now what are the National League Central standings?  On the surface it just doesn't seem like that big of a deal.

But you know where this story leads--of course it's a big deal.  Spadaro and Figueroa waste no time in alleging a "ecumenism of hatred" between the two groups.  Both harbor deep hostilities about modern life, seeking instead to reassert a baldly theocratic order wherein many elements of progress would be reversed. The authors mention Lyman Stewart's funding of The Fundamentals in 1910-5 (overlooking the complexity of this phenomenon) and John Rushdoony's Christian reconstructionism.  These figures contribute to an apocalyptic world view wherein anything leading to dialogue is suspect and anything validating conflict with the forces of (modernist) evil are celebrated. The Scriptures say a big fight with evil is coming, so let's get to work, good guys.  Spadaro and Figueroa finger George W. Bush as particularly susceptible to this thinking.

They then name Breitbart chairman and Trump cabinet strategist Steve Bannon as a fomenter of this "ecumenism of hatred." They seem unaware that Bannon's religiosity is questionable or that in 2014 Bannon gave a now-well-publicized talk beamed to a Vatican audience.  Of course the Vatican is not a monolith (as John Allen Jr has so ably detailed in his books), but still--is a little awareness too much to ask?  Linking anything Catholic with Rushdoony and/or Stewart is, on the face, just plain wrong.  It is an anachronism for which any undergraduate scholar would be scolded.  Furthermore, the authors posit "Integralists" as if we all know what that means.  Just as the authors themselves are a little fuzzy on what exactly constitutes a "fundamentalist," the same could be said about Sparado and Figueroa's Catholic counterpart.  Google "Catholic integralism" and you get first the Wikipedia entry on the 19th and 20th century anti-Modernist movement.  (And their own article link comes up third.)  That's important because the authors never define "Integralism," nor do they distinguish what that means in the post-conciliar Church.  Instead "Integralists" loom like boogeymen in the dark recesses of the Church where the light of Vatican II just hasn't yet shone.  Again, if an undergraduate student submitted a paper with these unsubstantiated claims, a rather low grade would be forthcoming.  It's not a well-crafted argument.

No matter.  For Spadaro and Figueroa, Catholic traditionalists suspect Pope Francis of closet Marxist sympathies, while evangelicals, when they're not damning Catholic liberationists for confusing social justice with salvation, throw their weight behind alt-Right fantasies and the morally corrupt leadership of figures like President Trump.

Read all the original post here.