What do Andrew Sullivan and Sean Hannity have in common?

Both are what I would call “tribal Catholics”. People whose primal allegiance is to the Church as a sort of flag, who couldn’t imagine themselves as anything other than Catholics at some core level, and yet who, at the level of “grasp of the Church’s teaching” are often stunningly ignorant. My take on Sullivan is already clear with respect to his various amazingly silly statements concerning the Church’s teaching on sexuality. But Hannity is often much the same. I recall one shocking show I happened to catch in which he did the standard conservative “opposed to abortion” bit but also said that a rape victim should “root out the evil seed”. This is, not to put too fine a point on it, a barbarous notion of ritual impurity and defilement that while perhaps suitable for a Sumerian morality of 5000 BC is simply completely out of touch with the last traces of Catholic thought. A baby, Mr. Hannity, is not rendered an “evil seed” due to the sins of its father. It does not deserve the death penalty because of the manner of its conception. Hannity, like most people whose first allegiance is to American conservatism rather than the teaching of the Church betrays other typical prejudices, as that whatever we choose to do in war is justified by the fact that we are Americans, that original sin does not really affect laissez faire capitalists, and that the fitting response to instantaneous failure to pass a zero tolerance policy (no matter how stupidly it will be implemented) is to call for some better “product” that “works.” In all this, I think the common denominator is tribal Catholicism: the curious tendency to see the Church as a flag, a caucus, or a consumer purchase and not a teacher. Garry “Mater Si, Magister No” Wills strikes me as another such tribalist. It’s not an altogether bad position. I prefer people with a visceral sense of loyalty to those who have no sense of loyalty at all. But I prefer even more loyal people who can listen to the Church’s teaching and receive it (“as you receive me”, says our Lord) and then trust that teaching to reform, not deform, the Church in the image of Christ and not in their own image.


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