A short history of American Catholic Dissent

A short history of American Catholic Dissent May 15, 2019

30 years ago, libs turned to folks like Fr. Richard McBrien, Rosemary Radford Reuther, and Charles Curran as their alternative Magisteria for ignoring the Pope on pelvic stuff. Conservatives said, “The Church is not a democracy! Don’t be cafeteria Catholics.” Back then they were gaga for Oaths of Fidelity to the Magisterium.

15 years ago, the pope said “No more War! Never again war!”

Conservatives said, “Hey libs! That thing of finding an alternative magisterium to tell you what you want to hear is cool after all. We’ll listen to Rod Dreher channel George Weigel, not the geezer in Rome, Ratzinger, and all the bishops in the world, because they are ‘peaceniks’.”:

That said, religious authorities today are reflexively, and depressingly, pacifistic on this war, as if every devil can be cast out with high-minded talk and good intentions. Some of it has to do with the knee-jerk liberalism of the upper clergy in all the American churches, whose leaders are generally much more to the left on social matters than their congregations. These are the kind of hopeless naifs who take a fact-finding tour of Iraq, and return trumpeting news that the citizens of this totalitarian dictatorship don’t want war. A generation ago, their predecessors took “peace tours” of the Soviet Union, and came home denouncing America for its warmongering ways.

But there are those who truly believe that the classic criteria for a just war have not been met. The problem, though, is that just-war theory, which dates from St. Augustine’s fifth-century deliberations, is in need of updating to account for the dramatically different conditions of the present age. (For a more detailed discussion of this, see George Weigel’s lengthy First Things essay.)

In an era when weapons of mass destruction are possessed by rogue states, the very act of having such devastating weapons can legitimately be seen as an act of aggression requiring a response. This is even truer when it is known that a government supports terrorist surrogates that have sought to acquire such weapons. Must America lose New York or Washington before she is free to wage war on those who would nuke her, if they had the means?

Antiwar clerics have no answer to that question, and no responsibility for protecting populations from that fate. History will not hold bishops accountable for failing to prevent the annihilation of cities. One suspects George W. Bush and Tony Blair wish they slept as well these days as peacenik vicars.

Many divines, citing the just-war criterion that insists “competent authority” must be in charge of a just war, say that America must not act without the United Nations. Leaving aside the risibility of theologians tutoring statesmen on the rules of international sovereignty, the United Nations is very near to proving its moral vacuity, its impotence, and its incompetence as an authority charged with keeping international order.

We are told by Christian leaders that America and its allies haven’t gone far enough to resolve the crisis without resorting to military means. After 12 years of sanctions and a demonstrably useless inspections regime, and a year of intense diplomacy under the cloud of war, all with no effect on Iraq, there is simply nothing left to be done. We do not yet know how our religious leaders will react to the overwhelming case Colin Powell made this week at the U.N., in which he demonstrated conclusively that a dozen years of trying peaceful means of coercion has not worked with Iraq. But their credibility is on the line.

One antiwar argument the peace pastors use will not be swayed by Powell’s U.N. speech: that the Iraqi people will suffer terribly in the event of an American-led war. That’s probably true. But all war brings suffering to civilian populations. It’s terrible, and an army must do its best to minimize it. Yet many more people — our own — may die if Saddam is allowed to remain in power, and develop his weapons of mass destruction.

Barring a miracle (for which we all must pray), this nation is going to war. “The course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others,” the president said to Congress. One might add: Not even bishops and pastors. And, considering what some of them are saying, perhaps, Thanks be to God.

After that, it was Katie bar the door. Wanna fight the Church on torture? Raymond Arroyo will tell you it’s fine. Wanna fight the Church on the death penalty? Ed Feser will tell you it’s fine. Wanna fight the Church on the environment? Here’s some guy from an oil company. Wanna fight the Church on immigrants? Laura Ingraham is your girl. Wanna fight the Church on racism? Well Milo Yiannapolous and Steve Bannon are good alternative Magisteria for you! Love libertarianism and hate the Church’s social doctrine? The Acton Institute will protect you! Hate the Pope? Liesite, 1 Peter 5, Canon 212, Church Militant, and Vigano have your back. Really really hate the Pope? Here’s a new magisterium that will do something the libs you hate would never have dreamed of doing 30 years ago: help you call the Holy Father a heretic and pat yourself on the back as Real Catholics saving the Church.

Best part: when you imitate the liberals you used to condemn, you get to say, “Both sides do it!” and pretend that moral equivalence is your license for it.

In their lust for power, Conservative Catholic Francis-haters have become everything they once condemned.  And their one-size-fits-all rebuttal to any who question them?

“Ultramontanist!  You think the pope is infallible about everything.”

No.  I don’t.  But you think you are infallible no matter how ridiculous the charges you bring.  You seriously think you can barf up any dumb complaint (“ferula!  Satanist!”) and have it taken seriously as “proof” of heresy.  Your method is simply, “We have thrown so much mud that some of it will stick.”  And your “proof” is then, “Look at the names on this list!” followed by a demand to go along with the charges on pain of not being part of the in crowd.  It’s the logic of the Duke of Norfolk:

The Duke of Norfolk: Oh confound all this. I’m not a scholar,  but– dammit, Thomas, look at these names! Why can’t you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship!

More: And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?

"A lot of people are suffering from social media fatigue. Empty Calories. Pixie sticks of ..."

“Many will come in my Name ..."
"Unfortunately, there are the same kind of fundamentalists in the Orthodox Church as well. It ..."

Since folks found Eons to be ..."
"To your last paragraph, the rod and staff are the tools of the shepherd. Ironic ..."

A reader puzzles over criticism of ..."
"I'm a birder. I love birds.I love that birds evolved from dinosaurs.I love that my ..."

Since folks found Eons to be ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Catholic
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment