The Thing that Used to Be Conservatism Puts out a Hit on Francis

The Thing that Used to Be Conservatism Puts out a Hit on Francis December 5, 2013

in which we look at some of the emerging strategies that are being deployed as Rush Limbaugh and FOX declare war Francis and Catholic Social Teaching.

Some people think FOX and the secular Right “value people of faith”. They do, exactly as the butcher values the lamb. Now that Shepherd Francis has begun alerting the lambs to the plans the butcher has for them, the butcher is getting veddy veddy angry and demanding the lambs choose between the pope and the Thing That Used to Be Conservatism.

This is a moment where I am particularly relying on the truth of Our Lord’s words about the Spirit’s eagerness to protect us lambs from the wolves and hirelings:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. (John 10:1-16)

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  • Rosemarie


    (I’m posting this here as well as in another combox below)

    OTOH, the same Fox News website that has supposedly “declared war” on Pope Francis also posted this more *positive* opinion piece about the pope just the day before the negative piece:

    …as well as this *news* item (not opinion piece) which is quite positive as well:

    I’m not seeing a war against the pope here. I’m seeing a news outlet allowing people to post different opinions on a topic – some negative but others positive. Which is what news outlets do. Why demonize them for doing what the news media is supposed to do? Yeah, the Shaw opinion piece was boneheaded but it was just *opinion.* It doesn’t necessarily reveal some hidden agenda on the part of Fox News.

    • Elmwood

      Fox news mostly represents the interests of the GOP and big business. These Catholic Fox news employees, allowed a political agenda to inform their faith, rather than the other way around. The Acton Institute is guilty of the same thing (incidentally, Lord Acton supported “liberal” market policies of “invisible hands” and “laissez faire” economics).

      In these same articles, they complain about the cafeteria styled liberal Catholics and yet do the exact same thing by ignoring or outright rejecting Catholic social doctrine. We can’t be critical of the pro-choice Catholic democrats and not be critical of the pro-war and pro-rich agenda of Fox news and the GOP which is being promoted by these Catholics.

      • Rosemarie


        You can attack Shaw’s ridiculous opinion piece all you want. It’s his opinion and he is wrong. You’re right that this is just another form of cafeteria Catholicism.

        I just don’t see any evidence that the piece is part of an alleged “war” on the pope waged by Fox News. You’ll need to bring up a lot more damning evidence, to counter all the positive stuff they’ve posted about him, to convince me of that.

        • Elmwood

          They are only at war with the Holy Father when he speaks against their agenda: pro-war, pro-rich.

          • Rosemarie


            I don’t think a single opinion piece is enough evidence of such a war against the pope. News outlets post opinion pieces; it’s something they do. No need to read a whole conspiracy into it.

            • chezami

              Which is why I pointed to Rush’s ipsi dixits and, most especially John Medaille’s observation that the right wing echo chamber has made it a matter of dogma that EG speaks of “unfettered capitalism” when it the words never appear in the document. The point is that the Echo chamber is full of people quoting each other to shout down the pope and nobody reading the pope. The hivemind has settled on the narrative. It has no interest in facts.

              • Rosemarie


                There is indeed an echo-chamber; Breitbart is definitely part of it. And Adam Shaw must have spent too much time in that echo chamber. I didn’t read or hear what Limbaugh said but I don’t care much for him anyway. If he actually thinks the pope is a Marxist then he is wronger than wrong.

                Still, I’m not yet convinced that the Fox News Channel has a secret agenda to oppose the pope and sever Catholics’ loyalty to him. I’ve seen more positive or neutral reporting on him there than negative. The Shaw piece is malarky but he’s entitled to his (wrong) opinion and news outlets often present different opinions. That’s all I think it is, and an attempt to read a more sinister agenda into it makes my allergy to conspiracy theories act up.

              • peggy

                “54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which
                assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably
                succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This
                opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and
                naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the
                sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system….”

                This statement suggests that Francis does not agree with “free markets” and doesn’t agree with the idea that a rising tide (expanding economy) lifts all boats (yields widespread prosperity at all levels). (But not all boats will be of the same size.) That theory is what is derisively called by those on the left as “trickle down” economics. Francis’ use of progressive terms and an apparent derision of markets as well, are of concern and debate. And, contrary to the HF’s assertion, the facts have proven that market economics and yes, “trickle down” effects have lifted people out of poverty and have yielded widespread prospserity…not that are rich or make the same amount, but that all do well and do more than subsist at all levels. Markets are made up of people making economic decisions uncoerced and unrestrained by govt. (That is not an approval of immoral lines of business, however, or of dishonesty in business.)

                One thing you have not mentioned, which Fr Z has, is that the “inevitably” may be a mistranslation from Spanish to English. A reader of his says the proper English should be “not alone”. Now, that changes what the HF intended and leaves wiggle room for thought.

                • HornOrSilk

                  “Trickle down economics” is not the same thing as free market. Actually, capitalism is not the same thing as free market. This is one of the many equivocations of the American right which is entirely false and destructive of body and soul for so many.

                  • peggy

                    Agreed that free markets and capitalism are different things. See my comment in an earlier thread on this. The tea party and GOP establishment are distinguished by tea party’s favor of market economics and GOP’s favoring of larger capitalized companies’ interests, status quo.
                    The American right is much more diverse than you think. You’re putting them all in one box. ANd some are informed on economic and philosophy matters re: rights of man, etc. Most TV and radio talking heads are not among those with academic or professional credentials to speak to these issues clearly beyond their own ideological points of view. Read what real economists would think and propose, not what a TV host or hack opinion writer says.

                  • peggy

                    Well, there is a foundation called “Free to Choose” Foundation, named after Milton Friedman’s book (with his wife) of that title. He also had a great PBS series based on that book. That foundation yearly gathers global stats on economic freedom and resultant income levels and standards of living in countries around the world.

                    Market economics is about the freedom of the individual to direct his own choices, rather than central planning or govt fiat regulations anywhere in between. All people benefit from economic freedom in a nation. Now, if you’re still sitting on the couch watching tv, your life won’t change much, but you may benefit from lower prices when you shop.

                    The current bad stats in the US are the result of an anxious market and business owners fearing Ocare regs–now we’re seeing the consequences of reduced hours, small raises as premium costs go up for employers and employees. Other employees lost the inexpensive coverage businesses could once offer part-timers. Such “substandard” coverage is no longer permitted by O. Other regs such as EPA rules are stifling. The O admin is regulating us to death: resale of toys at garage sales, run-off from Amish farmers, etc. Immigration policies under both parties have hurt citizens in IT and other lines of work where immigrants will accept lower wages. Just google. This is an admin that stifles economic growth. The ’08 downturn was the result of bad mortgage policy, not free markets. I do not expect a market turn around until 2017, when the man and his minions leaves DC.

                    Free to Choose: I also discovered there is a new documentary putting a human face to those stats around the world.


                    • Alma Peregrina

                      So, your “proof” amounts to stats provided by a capitalist foundation created for the sole purpose of advancing a capitalist agenda.

                      So “Free to choose”, huh?
                      You almost had me fooled. For a second, I thought you were talking about abortion. If it were so, you would be providing links to the stats from the Guttmacher Institute, proving that legalizing abortion magically reduces it.

                      But since we’re not talking about treating your unborn baby like discardable junk, and about treating your employee like discardable junk, I guess it is, all of a sudden, OK for you to use such biased stats.

                      Now back to reality.
                      I had Statistics when I studied for my MD. If there is one thing I learnt is that there are lies, damn lies and stats.

                      So, no. No amount of stats will ever convince me against my first-hand experience.

                      And what does that experience tell me? That a plutocrat will never, ever, share his wealth, no matter how much he/she has in abundance. So trickle down economics is ludicrous on the face of it. You can never magically reduce poverty by disobstructing greed, just like you can never magically reduce abortion by disobstructing sex.

                • Marthe Lépine

                  By the way, could you please give me a few examples of that “widespread prosperity at all levels”? I am sorry, but from my vantage point north of the US, I find it difficult to see much of it among the millions of unemployed workers, including veterans, and those employed workers whose wages have been stagnating, as well as that disappearing middle class. I would like to see some tangible examples (with names and location) of all those benefits before I allow any credibility to “trickle down economics”…

                • Alma Peregrina

                  Peggy said: «And, contrary to the HF’s assertion, the facts have proven that market economics…and yes, “trickle down” effects have lifted people out of poverty and have yielded widespread prospserity»

                  Adding to what Marthe Lépine says down there in the north of the US, let me just say that in Portugal, those “facts” haven’t been proven as well.

                  As a physician that tends to terminal sick people, I have, on the other hand, seen the FACTS that Pope Francis talks about. Namely that trusting in the goodness of those wielding economic power is, yes, completely naïve.

                  If a plutocrat has to decide between paying one more wage or cashing in a little more to his bonus-spreading ultra-rich share-holder friends… he will not, by the goodness of his heart, redistribute wealth to the poor needy worker. In fact, he will gladly discharge him/her.

                  If a plutocrat has to decide between helping a cancerous patient and having an extra dollar in his pocket, he will send that sick person to a long, slow, painful death.

                  Those are the facts. All else is ideological la-la-land.

          • peggy

            Whose agenda is “pro-war, pro-rich”? I can see why you may say “pro-war” of some in the GOP, like McCain or Graham. And some conservative establishment guys are too. I think the rank and file had their fill of war, however. “Pro-rich” is such a caricature of both the GOP and the conservative movement. The Left has their “rich guys” too, ie Buffett, Bill Gates. In fact most wealthy people are quire liberal and Wall St is run by Dem supporters. So, calling out the rich is not a real argument. In fact, the middle class gets eliminated by redistribution, not the wealthy.

  • peggy

    Listen to or read transcripts of what Limbaugh said. Today he discussed the furor that has resulted. I did not hear all of what he said today. Mark, you deal in sensationalist headlines as much as any secular or ideological media outlet does. He has not launched his attack on the pope. He doesn’t understand the HF’s position and views. He does think they’re wrong. Now, Rush may indeed be out of school as a non-Catholic, but he thinks Francis’ views are beyond what Rush understands Catholicism to be about. He has not mocked or caricatured the Holy Father in any way. He has not launched an attack on the Holy Father. He was quite puzzled and disappointed by what he read. In any case, many Catholics do not share the Holy Father’s views on the economic problems of the day and the remedies he seemed to espouse in the exhortation. There is no obligation in Catholic social teaching to espouse a particular solution to an economic/social ill. The folks from the Acton Institute offered respectful disagreement as well.

    Goon on Rosemarie to note that FOX offers several points of view on its web site and shows and is not on an attack against the Holy Father. The Holy Father’s words are remarkable and newsworthy, and not every one agrees with him. The Church and pope have no infallibility on matters of economics.. Those who disagree are not cold hearted people who do not care for the poor.

    • chezami

      Limbaugh’s remarks are only dealt with in a prefatory way. The piece is primarily a fisk of the godawful hit piece FOX ran yesterday.

      • HornOrSilk

        Plus, Rush is just doing spin.

      • peggy

        First correction: “GOOD” on Rosemarie…

        I do agree with you that the Andy Shaw piece was indecent and disrespectful to the Holy Father, but that doesn’t make all disagreement on these matters disrespectful, and as Rosemarie showed, it doesn’t mean FOX is on the attack.

        Any pope’s words are newsworthy. This pope has said something particularly remarkable and controversial, frankly. That is newsworthy and fair game for respectful public debate.

        I don’t watch FOX much. It’s been the same old agenda for many years now. Nothing new since, what about 2004 or so? I don’t know what Shep Smith said but he can be provocative and agenda-driven. I don’t like him much.

        • Dan C

          What about Caritas in Veritate? This pope is no outlier. He just commands attention.

        • chezami

          I never said all disagreement with the pope is wrong. However, FOX is absolutely on the attack. You don’t publish “the Pope is a disaster” “God help us” and “you elected the wrong guy” as polite disagreement. You publish it when you are a ham-fisted ideologue looking to whack an enemy with a meat cleaver. This signals a sea change in the relationship between the Church and the Manufacturers of Goodthink at FOX.

          • peggy

            They publish one particular point of view that was disrespectful. Maybe they should not have, but we believe in free speech. That does not amount to a war on the Holy Father.

            • chezami

              Correct. It amounts to a *declaration* of war. There will be a lot more where this came from as the pople continues to challenge some of the most sacred dogmas of the Hannitized mind.

              • peggy

                I guess that’s your conclusion. While I do NOT hold FOX as some sacred scripture or teachings, or even right about most things, I don’t agree with your conclusion.


              • CatholicJames##Scott+~

                So far the only dis of the Pope I can find from Hannity is against JP2 during the gulf war(the same thing your buddy Rod Dreher was doing BTW if memory serves) but still I doubt the source since it is from a liberal website.

                I can’t confirm he has said anything about Pope Francis.

  • Dan C

    I think political and economic conservativism has to square its values with the clear declarations of the popes over the decades. This pope commands attention, so the appearance of being an outlier is really just perception.

    What he has done is place the care of the poor and justice for the poor- something deep in the Judeo-Christian tradition, as old as the psalms- as the way of Evangelization. I think, considering my non-Catholic FB friends and their comments about this pope, the message is being heard very differently. The next thing he has done that is novel is place the poor at the center of evaluative schema for economic systems. They are not a “oh by the way…” downstream consequence. Not are they blended into a scheme in which “the human person” is the central focus of evaluation. Nope, the poor are at the center.

  • CatholicJames##Scott+~

    Wrong target! Shoot Breitbart! Shoot Rush! Fox has one negative opinion piece by the Judas Shaw but a bunch of neutral & or positive pieces. Breitbart only had one positive piece.

    People who don’t watch any TV or FOXNEWS **cough** Mark Shea**cough*. Should defer to those of us who do.

    I love you Ro.

  • I don’t think Fox is “declaring war”, but Catholics need to be smart here: There is a significant set of the conservative movement (not all of it, but some very influential voices) who have views on economic matters that are blatantly at odds with the Gospel. Most of them don’t really care about social views as it is, unless it is to further an agenda. (Look at Rush’s love life, and tell me that he honestly cares about social issues.)

    Going all in on Bain during Romney 2012 (any criticism of Bain is a criticism of capitalism itself!) should have alerted people to the fact they espouse a capitalism that is pretty tough to reconcile with the Gospel. They could ignore Pope Benedict. (Or in the case of George Weigel, basically call him a senile rube) Francis doesn’t care to be ignored.

    That doesn’t mean we need to embrace statism. It does mean that Catholics need to start using their mental muscles to figure out an alernative.

    • CatholicJames##Scott+~

      You da man!

    • Stu

      Sadly, the “declaring war” mantra detracts from having a real discussion that might actually promote introspection on the part of those who need to flex their mental muscles.

  • Stu

    Seems relevant…

    “The joke that these erstwhile conservatives do not get is that the old name for capitalism is “liberalism”; the term “capitalism” itself was the Marxist epithet for the liberalism which Marx despised. But as liberalism came into ill-repute during decades of economic turbulence at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, “liberalism” rebranded itself as “capitalism” and was sold as the content of a new “conservatism.” This may have been the greatest marketing trick since Tetzel’s sale of indulgences; certainly liberalism obtained an indulgence along with a new lease on life and a new home in politics.

    The nominally “conservative” Republican Party has therefore internalized the individualist-communitarian dichotomy; in this ideological schizophrenia, collectivism must always win. Capitalism, despite the disingenuous defense given by its supporters, is neither pro-market nor anti-state. It always seeks to replace free completion in the market with the rule of monopolies and oligopolies. And it is always in the self-interest of the monopolists to have a large and pliant government that can serve their interests. The higher the piles of capital, the thicker the walls of law and government necessary to protect them.”

    -John Médaille

    See more at:

  • Veronica

    This is just what I needed to finally break away from Drudge et al. I was wondering why he posted “Rise of the Next Obama” above “Obama Danger to Constitution” articles. I knew about Rush, read the silly Fox piece earlier (WRETCHED, worthless writing, IMHO) earlier…thank you, Mark for staying on top of this. These guys don’t have my interests at heart, or those of my loved ones…which is the salvation of our everlasting souls. Nail in the coffin, I’m done supporting these ppl w my clicks!

  • The Deuce

    I linked this on Facebook today, and have been defending Francis on it.

    But… but… I do think there is a legitimate case to made against Francis’ economic remarks, and the possible harm they could inadvertently contribute (most especially to the poor, and the ability of Christians to minister to them), which Theodore Darymple basically makes here:

    • CatholicJames##Scott+~

      I read and re-read the short couple of paragraphs he wrote on “economics” & it is clear he is not writing on economics but on the primacy of morality and our moral duty. He is writing about a world that tries to act without God.

      Trickle down economics ALONE doesn’t solve the problems in society but moral men do.

      Let me put it to you this way. It would be better to live in a Monarchy ruled by moral men then a democracy where the majority where Godless.

      A Godly New Deal social democracy would be better then Reaganism ruled by godless men & vice versa.

      I say this as an old devote of Reagan but I think Ronny would side with the Pope.

      Even the founding Fathers of America said our constitution was written for a moral people.

      Even they knew without the moral foundation in the hearts of men even Constitutionalism would be doomed.

  • CatholicJames##Scott+~

    If only we could break the conservative wannbe critics of Pope Francis of their pelagianism they would see the Pope is not at war with Capitalism or conservative theory(he is not at war with New Deal liberalism either or for it).

    He is for a Christian Gospel that lives in the heart of men. Such men would share their wealth with the poor and believe themselves obligated to do so from a higher power then the mere civil government.

  • GoodBerean

    FORGET, PLEASE, modern “conservatism.” It has been a failure because it has been, operationally, de facto, Godless. In the political/civil government realm it has ignored Christ and what Scripture says about the role and purpose of civil government. Thus, it failed. Such secular conservatism will not defeat secular liberalism because to God they are two atheistic peas-in-a-pod and thus predestined to failure. As Stonewall Jackson’s Chief of Staff R.L. Dabney said of such a humanistic belief more than 100 years ago:

    ”[Secular conservatism] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn.

    “American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth.”

    In any event, “politics,” for the most part today, is whoring after false gods. It will not save us. Our country is turning into Hell because the church in America has forgotten God (Psalm 9:17) and refuses to kiss His Son (Psalm 2.) See, please, 2 Chronicles 7:14ff for the way to get our land healed.

    John Lofton, Recovering Republican
    Dir., The God And Government Project
    Active Facebook Wall