A reader is troubled with me

A reader is troubled with me May 16, 2017

He writes:

I’m a casual reader of yours and a fan of much of what you have said on many topics. With all due respect, however, I think you’re finding it increasingly difficult to see the difference between a differing opinion from your own on public policy and heresy. Even when I agree with you on a particular topic (like your recent post where feeding kids at school should clearly trump a so-called “principled” stand on public spending), I find myself thinking about how similar you are to Michael Voris, whom you seem to despise, at least publicly. If there are two people that more perfectly exemplify the boy who cried heresy, I can’t help but find myself hoping they never gain the audience that the two of you have.

First things first, I hear you.  What you are hearing (and it has been a focus of intense prayer and repeated confession by yours truly) is anger.  It’s a huge struggle for me (and for Voris by the way, who I do not despise and for whom I feel an increasing sense of empathy and pity since we both are faced, in different ways, with anguish).  The issue for me is not, typically, that I think the people I argue with are heretics.  It’s something a bit different: I sense a deep and growing hostility to the Spirit from Trumpian Catholics and I don’t know what to do about it.

I’ve talked about this in the past, but perhaps you’ve missed it, so let me try to explain.  The Church calls us to docility.  In other words, our first response to the Church should not be “Prove it!” or “What’s the least I have to do in order to be saved?” but an eagerness to listen and obey.  I used to believe that “faithful conservative Catholics” were characterized by this and, since I wanted to be that way, I self-identified in that way.  But the past 15 years (and especially the past four years and even more especially the past year) have been a traumatizing voyage of discovery that this is a lie for the bulk of so-called “faithful conservative” Catholics.  I watched for years as “faithful conservative Catholics” labored to defy the Magisterium on such issues as Just War and, most especially, torture.  And the curious strategy they used was a) to declare that “prudential judgment” meant you could ignore the plain teaching of the Church and b) you could always appeal to your Precious Feet Pin as a talisman granting you immunity for blowing off the Church’s teaching when it got in the way of your politics.

With the election of Pope Francis, this ramped up more and I began to notice something else.  Again and again the claim was that the Five Non-Negotiables should occupy all our time and energy, not “social justice warrior” stuff (meaning “all the rest of the Church’s social doctrine”).

Fine, said I.  Let’s focus our energy on abortion and such like.  But here’s the thing: in practice, that’s not where the time and energy go for the allegedly prolife Catholic conservative in most cases.  Instead, that time and energy goes to fighting the Church and, in particular, to fighting Francis, not to defending the unborn.  Just as the bulk of the time and energy ten years ago went to defending a war that met no criteria of Just War and to sneering at two popes and the bishops of the world for their “ivory tower” thinking, so an enormous amount of energy now goes to defending a draft-dodging sex predator who mocks POWs, spits in the face of a Gold Star family and, most recently, openly confesses to obstructing justice.  Why is defending any of that filth (or the literally hundreds of other lies he has told) the #1 priority of “prolife” Catholics?  Because the real #1 priority is not stopping abortion but defending every lie, cruelty and incompetence of the Party of Trump.  Indeed, one of the most beloved strategies of the “prolife” Christian is to use the unborn as a human shield in defense of every culture of death priority the Right advocates.

And the result is already being felt.  The Church is bleeding to death as Millennials–who see what a whorehouse Trumpian Christians have made of the Faith–are fleeing.  It’s why the ranks of “Nones” are swelling.  Trump took the Religious Right to the top of a high mountain and showed them all the kingdoms of the world, saying “All this will I give you if you bow down and worship me” and they went for it in droves.  Indeed, they are still over the moon for him as his AG stuffs the world’s largest gulag with more prisoners and profits from it personally.  The adore that the Party of Trump wants to kick 24 million people off health care.  They think it is fantastic that the EPA is gutting environmental protections.  Cruelty is a feature, not a bug for these people.  And so is stupidity.  Truth is not a matter of words corresponding to reality.  Truth is simply and solely a matter of what approved Culture War Leaders saying it is.  It’s a triumph of nihilism. And yeah, it makes me mad as hell to watch it and watch supposed disciples of the Way, the Truth, and the Life leading the charge for lies while they spit in the face of the Holy Father and call him a Commie.

That’s not to say I don’t have a lot of respect for you as a writer. I do, and I think you’re spot on in a lot of your criticisms. In my view however, admonishment and public excoriation are two different things and when I read your stuff it makes me put my defenses up even when I agree. I think it’s the constant feeling of anger that I’m sensing that turns me off, whether that’s how you mean it to sound or not. With all of that said, I’m just a young, pro-life, conservative, Catholic never-Trumper who is just trying to learn so I have a questions that I hope to get answered. I just want you to know that despite the above criticism, I know that I may be utterly wrong (or at least mildly ignorant) and I am truly interested in learning from your answers if you have time and are willing to give them.

I appreciate that.  I’m a work in progress here and I’m flying blind. Nothing prepared me for the reality we face: that all the stuff about the dictatorship of relativism and post-modernism that was discussed as *theory* by the Left 20 year ago is now being implemented in reality by the Right–and especially the Christian Right–in this hour.  I know that anger has limited success in reaching people on the Right.  But at the same time, I don’t know how to speak the truth about the filthy lies Christians are telling in their defense of this liar without hurting feelings and I don’t know that I think feeling don’t deserve hurting.  The Trumpian subculture in the Church is a massive stain on the her witness and the insult and affront she presents to the Least of These in the name of Jesus is a colossal scandal.  The main reason I write is not to affirm butthurt narcissists in their okayness when they blithely send a Honduran mother and her five year old to their doom.  It’s to tell people rightly scandalized by the casual cruelty of Good White Christian Trump supporters that the Church that is actually in union with the Holy Father denounces and detests this evil done in the precious Name of Jesus and that not all Catholics consent to this second betrayal of Christ in his little ones.

How would you describe your method of evangelization as far as your online presence goes and how would you describe your success in evangelization in general? I don’t necessarily like the worlds “method” and “success” because they seem too formulaic but I think you’ll understand the question regardless. I ask this because I’m trying to shape my own way of going about the universal call to mission so I’m curious as to what you think works and doesn’t as you do it for a living.

My method is to leave the ninety and nine Good White Christian Trump supporters and, following the lead of Pope Francis, to go to those on the peripheries: the poor whom Christ blessed being trampled by the brutality of Christians in the thrall of the Party of Trump as they kick millions off health care and lie that there is not even a right to health care despite the clear teaching of the Church to the contrary; Catholics of color scandalized by the thumping racism of their Trumpified brethren; non-Catholics and non-Christians stunned by the cruelty and selfishness of the Trumpified Church and yet attracted to the witness of Francis and trying to make sense of the Church’s teaching and the mystery of those who announce themselves Real Catholics[TM] while spitting on almost all of that teaching in favor of a lying sex predator and crook.

I really struggle with all this because I am perfectly aware that anger is a sin and I am flummoxed by stuff like Paul’s advice to “be angry and sin not”(whatever that means).  I take it to confession constantly and and ask for advice and counsel because, as a I say I feel like I’m flying blind.  I find it extraordinarily hard to endure the sort of people who, in one breath blithely tell me that families ripped apart and deported over some jot or tittle in paperwork had it coming but the really serious thing is how butthurt they feel because somebody said a cross word to them about their casual inhumanity.  I’m aware–acutely aware–that contempt is a sin and a gravely serious one.  I’m also aware that I feel it deeply and have succumbed to it repeatedly.  It is a frequent subject of my prayers, because I feel torn between no giving in to it and wanting to say honestly to God what I feel and not lie to him.  I honestly don’t know what to do.  My goal is to change minds of those who advocate what I regard as vile evil but, failing that, to at least console those who are scandalized by such evil that they are not alone and that the Church is with them, not against them, as they face it.  I try to get feedback (and letters like your are part of how I navigate).  But it’s hard.

Thanks for reading this and for whatever time you’re able to share with me.

I hope this blather helps give some sense of where I am.  God made man to serve him wittily, in the tangle of his reason.  Mine is pretty tangled.


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