Last week, a friend called my attention to a website called “Faithful Shepherds” that was launched a year ago by LifeSiteNews. They state that their purpose is to provide a “one-stop database” about where Catholic bishops stand on certain issues and to “encourage bishops to be faithful to Christ.”
The website considers a range of issues, including homosexuality and liturgy: “Does your bishop encourage Communion on the tongue while kneeling?” is one of the questions posed. I was glad to see that they properly labeled one category “abortion politics,” although they failed to see that certainty about politics is different from certainty about morality. The weirdest item on the list is Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s testimony about which they ask “Has the bishop supported an investigation into Viganò’s claims? Does the bishop say his allegations are driven by ideology or are an attack on Pope Franics [sic]? Has the bishop said Viganò is a man of integrity?” It is odd, is it not, that fidelity to Viganò has become such a calling card among these schismatics. His screeds are so obviously a combination of score settling, innuendo and simple smearing — if you knew nothing about Viganò and nothing about the people he names and only read the texts as they are, you would be suspicious of the author.
When you find out where your bishop stands on these issues, you can click on a button to send him a postcard, thanking him for supporting the positions LifeSiteNews endorses or asking him to abandon his wayward ways. First, you are invited to make a donation of $5 or more, and then alerted that your credit card will be charged $2 for the postcard. You can also “do-it-yourself,” as they provide an email address and phone number for each prelate as well.
“For too long, lay Catholics have been without an authoritative accountability tool for U.S. bishops, especially those who deviate from the Church’s magisterium,” they write. Seeing as Francis is now the embodiment of the church’s magisterium, the fact that they applaud bishops who have criticized Amoris Laetitia and denounce those who have supported it is a bit rich.
You may be wondering how it is that Liesite News is “authoritative” as it makes open war on the Holy Father and the Magisterium. Me too. Where Peter Is has, thankfully, done the unpleasant job of wading through this dimestore Inquisition so you don’t have to. Meanwhile, Michael Lewis (also at Where Peter Is) comments on the spectacle of the Right Wing assault on the Church:
In many quarters of what has been described as the Church’s “sanity caucus,” Catholic leaders believe that the most effective way to address anti-papal extremism is to ignore it, and to avoid “giving them a platform.” Unfortunately (and Winters now agrees), they have built prominent platforms for themselves. Thanks to well-funded publishing operations and media outlets, as well as the cooperation (if not open support) of accommodatingbishops, more and more well-intentioned and ordinary Catholics have been sucked into the anti-Francis Vortex.
Those who are in public leadership of the Church and stand with Pope Francis must begin to address the dangerous narratives that have drawn in so many of the faithful. Those who have been consuming the onslaught of American Catholic media against the pope–without ever hearing the other side of the story–are not to be entirely blamed. Many of these Catholics are devoted, well-meaning, and sincere. Additionally, I know many hardworking priests and religious who are too busy in their ministry and pastoral work to consume much of this media, but their friends and parishioners have forwarded Lifesite and Crisis Magazine articles or Church Militant videos to them. After a while it has an effect.
Due to the lack of an effective response to this propaganda, we’ve reached a point where some of them can’t even conceive of a faithful Catholic enthusiastically loving and supporting Pope Francis. To them, we’re all modernist liberals who want to take down the Church. This isn’t because they’ve actually read Francis’s documents or balanced opposing views. It’s because they’ve been pulled into an ideological mindset, and are largely unaware that there’s even another side to the story.
In addition, Massimo Faggioli take a look at the historical roots of neo-Trad dissent (read the whole thing) and remarks:
If Lefebvre’s movement cannot be understood outside the context of French Catholicism, the French Revolution, and laïcité, the U.S. neo-traditionalist movement is incomprehensible outside the history of the American culture wars. A growing media ecosystem of cable TV outlets, internet channels, and bloggers acting as self-appointed watchdogs has helped nurture the movement, while acting in almost guerilla fashion against Pope Francis. For example, EWTN, the only major national Catholic television outlet in the United States (which also has global reach) has a joint publishing venture with Sophia Institute Press, which recently released a book titled Infiltration. It not only promotes anti-Francis conspiracy theories but also pushes sedevacantism much farther, accusing Pius XII of being under the influence of theological modernism. This kind of stuff has flourished since the 2013 resignation of Benedict, whose continued residency in the Vatican and periodic public signals on key issues affecting the church has had the effect of creating a kind of parallel magisterium—giving further coverage to Catholics (including clergy and hierarchy) opposed to Francis.
Nearly twenty years passed between the foundation of the SSPX and the formal excommunication; it was more than ten years between Lefebvre’s suspension a divinis and the excommunication of 1988. By contrast, only three years have elapsed since a quartet of cardinals raised the dubia against Pope Francis in September 2016. So, we’re still in the middle of things, with no way of knowing what will transpire five or ten years from now. Formal separations in the Catholic communion do not occur overnight. But in a sense, the U.S. Catholic church is already fragmented, with parts of it further separated from the papacy of Francis, and some of those also separated from one another. There’s another Synod coming up, this one on the pan-Amazon region. Might it provide the occasion for the rifts to widen more?
Last but not least is the commentary of the Holy Father himself, the white hot focus of all the hostility from the Most Wrong Demographic in the Church: self-appointed rich, white, conservative Catholic Christianists bent on destroying him and bending the Church to their will:
In an informal exchange aboard the papal plane, Pope Francis told Nicolas Senèze that he is “honored that the Americans attack me” when the French Catholic journalist presented him with a copy of his book How America Wants to Change the Pope (Comment L’Amérique veut changer de Pape) on the flight from Rome to Maputo, Mozambique, on Sept. 4.
The book describes how a wealthy and often traditionalist sector of the American Catholic church—both clerical and lay—attacks Pope Francis and notes that it is already working, with projects such as the “Red Hat Report,” to ensure that the cardinal elected pope at the next conclave is to its liking. It was clear from the context that Pope Francis was referring specifically to that sector of the U.S. church that is mentioned in the book and not to anyone else.
Mr. Senèze’s book details the opposition to Pope Francis—which Senèze says comes from “a small minority”—including Cardinal Raymond Burke, Archbishop Charles Chaput and Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò (the former papal nuncio to the United States), as well as from wealthy lay people like Tim Busch and some U.S. Catholic authors like George Weigel,together with a sector of the U.S. Catholic media.
My question, which nobody has ever been able to answer, is this: Aside from endlessly bitching, obsessing over liturgical minutiae, being wrong about war, wrong about torture, wrong about economics, wrong about the least of these, wrong about gun violence, wrong about capital punishment, wrong about support for the worst president in American history, wrong about crappy movies like “God Is Not Dead”, wrong about climate change, wrong about science, wrong about geocentrism, wrong about Maciel, wrong about Corapi, wrong about abuse, wrong about the Council, wrong about anti-semitism, wrong about racism, and wrong about virtually everything else, what is it that gives the Most Wrong Demographic in the Church such unassailable and yet utterly unfounded and unearned confidence about their God-given right to save the Church from the Pope? How are they so unshakably certain they are not the manifest fools they continually charge the rest of us (and especially Francis) with being?