Mr. Reno: Though I applaud your decision to give Maureen Mullarkey’s pope-hating blog the well-deserved ax, I think it is important to note that the level of sheer malice and batshit crazy in the comboxes announcing he ouster at First Things is, like the popularity of Donald Trump among the wreckage of what was once conservatism, an indictment of the catechesis that conservatives have been getting from their manufacturers of thought and opinion over the last decade.
First Things–like the editors of National Review and the talking hairdos at FOX who have spent all summer trying to figure out how to stop the Trumpkin Frankenstein base–have nobody to blame but themselves for the creation of that demographic. That Mullarkeys and similar lunatics have been given a forum and treated as voices to be taken seriously at all in conservative media is what has helped foster the subculture that is now roaring and frothing in that combox, as well as banging at the doors of National Review like zombies assaulting a shopping mall. The sheer atavistic nuttiness on display among the Francis-haters in that First Things combox and elsewhere is the fruit of an Americanized and highly edited pseudo-gospel that FT and other conservative media has worked hard to promote. And that process goes back well before Francis.
I hope, please God, the Francis-hate is dying out since it is too chaotic and unfocused beyond rage at Francis and a few libertarian sacred cows and militarist slogans to accomplish much. Indeed, a sign of hope for me is the number of Catholics of conservative bent who have written me to say that one fruit of the papal visit has been to reveal to even conservative sympathizers how deeply anti-Catholic American “conservatism” has show itself to be in many sectors.
So I think FT has a cleanup job to do here beyond axing Mullarkey. The Party of Personal Responsibility has spent all summer simultaneously saying things like “Trump is just saying what we’re all thinking” and then trying to lay blame for the Monster it created (that is, the base of Trump supporters) on some kind of Democrat conspiracy. They need to face the fact that this Frankenstein base of blind guides supporting a racist misogynist pro-abort is nobody’s fault but their own.
Likewise, sane conservative Catholics need to stop coddling those twisting themselves in pretzels of hatred and defiance for a pope who has done and said nothing heterodox, all in defiance of the Church’s social doctrine need to repent or they need to be repudiated by Catholics of good will. It would be a nice bonus if sane conservatives beyond FT also pressured the nuts to repent smearing a good man as an accomplice to murder (which is what “Che Guevara’s Pope” means) in their zeal to declare their non serviam to the gospel. But the person of Francis is less crucial than the office of Peter and it doesn’t do to ask too much of hard hearts all at once. But the bottom line is, the enemies of Peter need to take responsibility for their actions, repent, and believe the good news–and those who have hitherto enabled them should take responsibility for the fact that they did not spring up like topsies overnight but have been cultivated for a good long time. That cultivation must end.