American Spectator writer suffers dramatic delusion; imagines he is St. Paul

Whenever a Christian wants to get angry about something, no matter how dumb or unjust his anger, he always likens himself to Jesus overturning the tables of the moneychangers.

Whenever a Catholic wants to blow off something the pope says that challenges his cherished lifestyle commitments or political allegiances he has two choices.

If he is a Progressive Dissenter, he will typically invoke “Primacy of Conscience”.  If he is a conservative or Reactionary dissenter, he will invoke “Prudential Judgement”.  Both typically mean, “Blow off the guidance of the pope or bishop because it’s irritating and inconvenient.”  Both almost never mean, “I have really given this considered thought and, though it’s irritating and inconvenient, it’s not actually counter to the Church’s teaching and is actually a rather prudent application of the  Tradition to the question at hand, so in a spirit of docility, I will try to do as the Church suggests.”  Had the geniuses who invoked “primacy of conscience” actually listened to the Church we would be killing considerably fewer than 1.4 million children each year.  Had the geniuses who invoke “prudential judgment” actually listened to the Church, there would be over 100,000 Iraqis still alive and a lot more blood and treasure still where they should be and not buried in the sand of the Mideast.

Now, when somebody wants to invoke “prudential judgment” to blow off the Pope and the Pope is, you know, not wrong and actually giving a thoughtful and humane exposition of the Tradition, it is sometimes necessary to pull out the Big Guns.  This is achieved by invoking St. Paul and the time he chewed out Peter (Galatians 2).  The basic story is that Peter, as we his frequent custom, articulated very clearly the faith of the Church (we are saved by grace, not by works of the law) but then wimped out and failed to follow through on his own teaching.  So Paul chewed him out for not living up to his own teaching.

Here’s the thing: Francis has not, in the slightest, failed to live up to the Church’s teaching in the recent interview, and still less in his actions.  What he’s done is fail to live  up to conservative shibboleths and instead insist that our moral teaching has to be situated in the context of the encounter between Jesus and the human person.  So some guy with a keyboard at the American Spectator has decided he’s St. Paul and cries out “Aux Armes, Citoyens!” as he calls for open rebellion against our “liberal” Pope. 

Dude.  I know St. Paul.  St. Paul is a friend of mine.  You are no St. Paul.  One more reason I’m as done and over with the Thing that Used to be Conservatism as I am with the Thing that Used to be Liberalism.

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  • Rachel

    Ouch, I read the article in question. Other than the media soundbite, he did not analyze anything the pope actually said. Instead, he made several nasty generalizations. I doubt this guy actually read the ENTIRE interview.

    • chezami

      When you’re St. Paul, you just Know what the pope really meant.

  • Beefy Levinson

    Pope Francis is rapidly becoming the papal equivalent of Vatican II: very few people read what he’s actually saying, but all sorts of silly things are being said and done in his name.

    • chezami

      And all sorts of Reactionary hysterics are spoken in response to things he hasn’t said, or hasn’t done, as well as all sort of hysterics aboutt things Reactionaries dislike which are not actually contrary to Church teaching, just to Reactionary aesthetics, shibboleths, and buzz words.

      • Gail Finke

        Both are happening in abundance!

    • Rosemarie


      Back in 1988, Fr. Matthew Fox penned his “dream” that the next pope would be “the first African pope*,” take the name John XXIV and call Vatican III – a “truly ecumenical Council” since it would include the leaders of all the world’s religions along with the bishops. This Council would “define the doctrine of the Cosmic Christ as being intrinsic to the faith” and basically institute all the “reforms” of the Church that Fox wanted. He also fantasized that John XXIV would dissolve the CDF and exile all the Opus Dei bishops to a two year “retreat” on an island where they would be subjected to “a critique of fascism and Christianity” and learn creation spirituality, while female bishops took over their diocesan sees.

      (This dream is contained in the Epilogue to his book, _The Coming of the Cosmic Christ_. You can preview it on Amazon if you’re interested in reading the whole thing.)

      Yes, some progressives have been dreaming of a liberal pope for a very long time. It must have seemed like an eternity when Bl. John Paul II stuck around so long, followed by the even more intolerable (to them) B16. So when Francis was elected, they apparently though the liberal pope of their dreams had finally arrived (okay, so he’s not African, like Fox hoped, but Latino still gives him minority status in their calculus). This could be why they seem to have infused him with their “Pope John XXIV” fantasies – despite his upholding the very moral teachings that they want changed.

      The MSM has picked up on this fable and retold it over and over again. Now it seems even some people of a conservative bent have been deceived by the spin. Though they are the media’s ideological enemies, they are helping it to construct a massive edifice of distortion, misinformation and fantasy about Papa Francis, that would leave the builders of the Tower of Babel awestruck. How long before the whole thing just collapses? We saw a few cracks in the building when the pope urged the GYNs not to perform abortions, but for some reason the construction project moves forward nonetheless.

      *Actually, a new African pope would be more like the fourth, but I guess Fox didn’t know that.

  • Tim H

    If the guy would have left out the Pope I think he’d have made a decent critique of the Jesuit order. Pope Francis appears to be the outlier against the stereotypical Jesuit. In fact Neumayr makes a good point about looking at all the graduates of Jesuit institutions who cannot get on board with very much of anything in the Catholic Tradition. But tying the Pope to that insanity . . . I don’t see it.
    I read the entire interview with the Pope. It was bubbling over with enthusiasm for the good news of Jesus. That is what makes an attractor for God. Pope Francis is helping us remember that Jesus is our life not the culture war.

  • Patrick

    I like when you throw out French like that.

  • moseynon

    Persons of the right, as well as persons on the left, (and everyone in between) are all subject to the sin of Pride. It is an inescapable affliction of the human condition.

    However, I can’t help but wonder if the internet, and other modern means of communication, makes us more prone to this particular sin. The ability to self-segregate, turning off contrary voices and surrounding oneself with persons who echo our own thoughts, tends to make us more sure of our own views. I wonder if we don’t become more puffed-up and outspoken because we develop an unquestioning self-assurance. As a result, we have little patience for those who do not embrace our viewpoint and even less patience for a perspective which disagrees with our own.

  • Different Patrick

    Indeed. It’s funny, though, because “prudential judgment” couldn’t justify a war of offense. You might say, “desperate times call for desperate measures”, but the measures would then be desperate. “Prudence” would be more like, “let’s not bomb anyone until someone has actually seen one of these weapons of mass destruction”.

  • PI

    FWIW, Mr. Neumayr took a similarly dismissive approach to Bl. John Paul II:

  • Chesire11

    Thank you Mark! I am so tired of hearing people invoke the primacy of an (unformed) conscience, and the prudential judgement that, “Gosh, THAT doesn’t sound like what I wanna do!” They ARE two sides of the same coin minted in the stubbornness of pride.

    I rate this piece a minimum of “3 Huzzahs” with a possible, “Hear! Hear! Well spoken, Bruce” tossed in for good measure!

  • Gail Finke

    I don’t think St. Paul ever cried “Aux armes, citoyens!”

    • chezami

      You may well be right. But God alone knows what he said as he spoke in tongues. It would appear from the piece that he said, “Beware of future Pope Francis the Liberal!”

  • Matt Talbot

    The “problem” seems to be that liberals have said nice things about Francis, liberals are The Enemy, QED Francis is The Enemy.

    What if they gave a culture war and nobody came?

    • $2346491

      Maybe we can stop seeing each other as the enemy? As Mark mentioned, conservative Catholics can be as cafeteria as liberal ones.

      • IRVCath

        Talbot it seems merely wanted to recreate the thought process, not to indulge in it.

        As for the question, sure. Of course it would irritate a lot of people who get money and power from perpetuating the cycle, like vultures over a carcass?

  • Paula Huston

    Just read the piece in question, which made me extremely sad. Not only sad, but really, really tired. So much of this over the past twenty-five years. So much harm done to Christianity because of it. Thanks for this response, which not only made me smile but snapped things back into focus.

  • Clare Krishan

    “Oh-so-pastoral Jesuits, heal thyself.” is this not just a tad odd? A little too much cognitive dissonance coming from the Editor of Ignatius (yes THAT Ignatius, the one from Loyola who founded er… the Jesuits) Insight’s Catholic World Report, a publication published by… you guessed it… a Jesuit

    Sounds like sour grapes from someone who took for granted a special relationship with Pope Emeritus Benedict (until he plumbed for bigger fish Doubleday for the first volume of his Jesus trilogy, and Random House Image Books for the third)

    Perhaps Papa Francesco, in collaborating a la ‘sobornost’, seeks to be the balm of Gilead for his international fraternity’s sin-sick soul and lead by example in collegiality, a possibility this uncouth American intellectual seems to have overlooked? Has the persistent prevalence of partisan politics poisoned our ability to communicate coherently in religious terms, where ‘liberal’ is the very property of Divine Mercy, granted freely, unconditionally; the very nature of “gift” in the Eucharist: all eat without price, drink without merit by virtue of the unique atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus.

    Beware the temptations of Jansen…

    • Clare Krishan

      … and ironically (for Jansenism’s heresy leveraged itself on the back of Augustine’s teaching on original sin) just today on Twitter the USCCB noted positively Francis’s homily habit of emphasising things in triplicate — — that IMHO echoes perfectly the epistemology of Augustine’s psychological triad of memory-intellect-will so beloved of Benedict himself, in a perfect hermeneutic of continuity with John Paul II’s Phenomenological Personalist anthropology of Trinitarian ‘communio personarum’ (humans first develop felt consciousness of past sense impressions; our thought cognizance builds on this in pursuit of happiness/aversion of suffering; with our most-highly developed faculty our conscience, our will, to make choices/sacrifices for-the-good-of-the-other in the present moment, ie to love). IOW, Francis’ pastoral style is based on the good old-fashioned theological virtues: Faith (past to mercy), Hope (future endowed by providence) and Charity (present moment open to imbued grace). What’s to fault in that?

    • carlericolson

      He’s not an editor of or at Ignatius Press. Nor is he the editor of Ignatius Insight, which I’ve edited since it was founded almost ten years ago. Nor is he the editor of Catholic World Report, a position I took over from him about two years ago (see ). Facts, please!

      Also, as editor of CWR, I wrote the following editorial re: the interview with the Holy Father:

      I think you will find that it is somewhat different in tone and perspective than the article found on the American Spectator site.

      Thank you!

      Carl E. Olson
      Editor, CWR and

      • Clare Krishan

        I stand corrected.

        The head of the Mystical Body is and always has been (and always will be) Christ, as Amy Welborn – also quoting St Paul – pithily remarked: “But if he starts functioning in too much of a 1 Corinthians 1:12 kind of way….we might need to refocus and get a grip.” (a dose of fraternal correction we Benedict-besotted may also benefit from?) Those of us with family members and Catholic acquaintances “making hay” are tasked, not to jump off the pontifex maximus but find a place of encounter, to share the gift of communio per caritas in veritate. My veritate was found wanting. Mea culpa. American Catholic ‘hawks’ may find a hero more to their liking in “The Jesuit who humiliated the Generals” ?

  • Alisha Ruiss

    Hurray for leaving behind the false framework of two sole never the twain shall meet ideologies – traditions of men – for the Tradition, the Faith that never has to sacrifice one iota of mercy for justice, of compassion for personal responsibility…and the list goes on. Amen. (As a Catholic who longs for healing and a Canadian to whom the divide has always been incomprehensible, I rejoice.)

  • Ronald King

    I read the article and the comments. I felt like I was in a dark place over there.

  • Guest

    I hope Mike Voris knocks you off your progressive professional Catholic pedestal in the coming debate.

    • chezami

      Another courageous anonymous coward heard from.