Fr. Z, a radical Catholic reactionary, who appears to take the position (among many other strange and scandalous things) — or at the very least has seriously considered the notion — that Pope Benedict is still the pope, challenged defenders of Pope Francis in a recent post (3-4-21), after extolling the latest trendy pope-bashing book:
This is a compendium of things which – to be blunt – does not make Francis, Cardinals, Bishop look good. Quite the opposite. The book is provocative. . . .
Whether you are a staunch supporter of Francis and his crew or you are a sharp critic, …
You might be able to dismiss one or two smart people who have problems with, say, certain aspects of Amoris laetitia. You might be able to brush aside as an isolated incident when Francis says something weird to a journalist.
When you start to collect all of these things, odd sayings and teachings, reactions to them, into one volume so that you can see a picture emerging, you can’t simply brush it aside.
The cumulative force of the things collected in this book may just prompt questions. Just scanning through the table of contents and the useful index makes you go, “Whoa! There’s a lot here.” . . .
[T]his is a compendium which produces a cumulative effect.
What I would say to those who are 1000% in favor of everything that’s been going on for the last few years, and who think this is a bad book, blah blah, is:
If you think this compendium is bad, then produce your own book, respond to it. Collect into one volume your supportive open letters and explanatory essays. Let people see the cumulative effect of your no-doubt-incontrovertible position, bound to persuade.
Rather than respond with “Shut up you kooks!”, put up or shut up yourselves. [bolding in original]
Three days later, he reiterated his challenge:
I posted about the new highly critical Compendium about the odd teachings of Francis . . . In that post, I said that, if someone had a contrary view let him come up with his own compendium favorable toward Francis.
And the next day (3-8-21), again:
I wrote to those who will dislike the very existence of such a book . . . and who will summarily dismiss it’s [sic] conclusions, that they themselves should put together their own compendium, a defense of all that Francis is, has said, and has done. . . .
What I am looking for is a compendium … like the other guys did; that compendium book . . .
If [Mike] Lewis creates such a compendium (not just points to the whole site) great! I’ll acknowledge and when I have time, perhaps I’ll look at it with an open mind. If it already exists, great! Ditto.
If he does it/did it readers here and elsewhere could have something useful.
Mike Lewis began a site called Where Peter Is, which does indeed do what Fr. Z calls for: it systematically defends the pope. But the same effort was being undertaken years before that: by yours truly. Already by January 2014 (less than a year into Pope Francis’ reign), I produced the book, Pope Francis Explained: Survey of Myths, Legends, and Catholic Defenses in Harmony with Tradition.
But that was only the beginning. Since then I have more or less continually defended Pope Francis from innumerable smears and slanders and calumnies, having written (by this date of 3-9-21) no less than 185 of my own articles in my compendium, Replies to Critiques of Pope Francis. This includes detailed (and usually multiple) replies to all the major critics of the pope (especially the ones who have written books).
Moreover, I have collected another 269 articles from others along the same lines, in my compendium, Pope Francis Defended: Resources for Confused or Troubled Folks. By my math, that is 454 articles defending Pope Francis. If we add the nine chapters of my book, it totals 463 separate pieces. Is that enough of a “compendium” to satisfy Fr. Z’s challenge? He himself said such a compendium would be “useful” and “great”. Yeah, I agree, which is why I make these two available for whomever will exhibit an open mind and read them.
But that’s the question: whether the pope-bashers or “papal nitpickers” or otherwise suspicious and/or confused people will read such articles. You can bring the horse to the stream but you can’t make it drink. There is little indication that the major pope-bashers do read material critical of their views.
Hence, Steve Skojec of One Peter Five infamy blows off anything I write in this area, with utter disdain and mockery. The folks at The Remnant (e.g., Chris Ferrara and Michael Matt) do the same. Taylor Marshall immediately blocked me on his Twitter page, with my first critique of his pathetic book, and continued with personal insults, such as “haters gonna hate”: referring to me in one of his ubiquitous videos. Phil Lawler also was quite rude and insulting when I tried to engage in respectful dialogue with him, after daring (what effrontery!) to critique his book. So was (I’m sad to say) Karl Keating. I could go on, but believe me, all these examples are altogether typical.
The only exceptions I have seen to this “rule” are Peter Kwasniewski, who actually sent me a friend request on MeWe (which I accepted and sent him one in return on Facebook), and Timothy Flanders, an associate of Taylor Marshall and regular columnist at One Peter Five, with whom I have engaged in a succession of excellent and fruitful dialogues. They actually talk to people with views that are different from the ones they themselves hold and recognize very extensive Catholic common ground (just as I never deny that reactionaries are Catholics). Kudos to them for doing so. I sincerely respect that.
Is Fr. Z any different from the pope-bashers who systematically ignore any critique of their attacks? Probably not, judging by his response to Mike Lewis’ recent critique of his views. He stated:
Mr. Lewis, I never look at your site. I didn’t know it, or you, even existed until quite recently. . . .
Look. I haven’t spent time at that blog and I absolutely won’t have time to do so in the near future.
Where Peter Is has been in existence for three years. Fr. Z didn’t even know it existed. No doubt he has never heard of me, either, even though I have 50 published books (about half “officially”: not just self-published), and a blog that has over 3,200 articles and has been in existence for 24 years this month. He likely won’t respond to me, either, once he learns that I do exist, and have defended Pope Francis from the beginning (now almost eight years). I would love to be wrong about that. We’ll see! I’m always willing to dialogue with anyone, as long as they remain civil and stay on topic.
In any event, his challenge certainly has been met.