Maureen Mullarkey has given vent to another in a long, splenetic string of anti-Francis bloggage. She has much breath for that kind of thing. In this one, she accuses the pope of colluding with President Obama in order to destroy freedom across the globe. No joke, dear reader. The short of it is, it was posted at First Things, R.R. Reno took it down, wrote a post to the effect that Ms. Mullarkey will no longer write for his site; after which, the post appeared at 1 Peter 5, and Ben Domenech at the Federalist declared that, whatever Mr. Reno does, Ms. Mullarkey is welcome to publish her filth with him.
Now, anyone who has followed me on Facebook knows the low opinion I have of 1 Peter 5 in general and Steve Skojec in particular. I have made no secret of that. But I sense that Mr. Skojec’s ideal is for his site to be a reputable place for Traditionalist voices in the Church. However much that may be true, the anti-Francis rhetoric and vitriol there, including from Mr. Skojec himself, hurts that goal and injects poison into the discourse and stirs schism in the heart. For him to give a platform to someone as unwell in her hatred of the pope as Ms. Mullarkey only gives his site the less repute.
Shadows on Her Wall
As an example of how deranged Ms. Mullarkey’s blog post is, consider these three statements. (I promise I’m not going to fisk the whole pain-aching thing.)
She says the pope’s visit to America was a “Roman candle of demonic sanctimony.” The pope is of his father the Devil.
She accuses the pope of colluding with Obama to destroy freedom around the globe. The pope is “tightening the screws,” possibly to screw us all.
She compares the raised arms of priests taking cell phone pictures of the pope to the raised arms of a Fascist salute. Those who wanted a picture of the Holy Father are masses as duped as those who shouted “Heil!”
All this is madness so mad it is hard to know how to respond to any of it. How do you reason with unreason? Honestly, dear reader—that I should have to point this out is a sign of how far public discourse has sunk—this is the kind of stuff that deserves, not a platform, but a padded room. Mr. Domenech says that pungent opinions are opinions and should be heard, but this wanders so far off the spectrum of defensible opinion one wonders what lunacy he wouldn’t print. Or Mr. Skojec.
Where is the evidence for any of this? Is it too much to to ask that an opinion, especially one as wild as this, have facts to back it up? Ms. Mullarkey gives none. She cites no source, no text, nothing. In fact, her column is not an argument, or an exercise in reason or logic, but a self-indulgent vomit of bile and infected pus. It’s an achingly long pile of one tendentious sentence after another with no anchor in cited fact. As thus:
Catholics are doubly burdened. The intellectual squalor of our secular administration is mirrored in a preening Vatican faction that adds moral indigence to the equation. The modern state is exempt from any mandate to lead us toward a transcendent end. That is the work of the Church—an unsurpassable, crowning mission addressed to the poor and the prosperous alike. But this pontificate makes an idol of The Poor, an abstraction by which it justifies its own rancor toward the developed world. It gives evidence of a mind fed on tracts by statist ideolaters who muddle distinction between the material and the transcendent. Worse, it squanders the moral authority of the Church on an unholy alliance with corrupt or rent-seeking regimes that relinquish their own responsibility for the conditions of those they govern. It is an ominous confederacy that denies moral agency to all but the West.
Wild is the wind. One gets the sense, from reading this tiresome bore, that she has fallen in love with the loud bang of her own beaten pots. But she can do no more than bang pot after pot, as though the question she asks herself is not, “How do I know this? What facts back this up?” but, “How can I outbang myself?”
She doesn’t see facts but fears. She sees the bogeyman of bad dreams. She starts at shadows on the wall.
A Little Impaired
But I didn’t really want to talk about Ms. Mullarkey. What I really wrote this post for was to say a few words about the eighth commandment. Or rather, to say a few words about what the Catechism says about the eighth commandment. You know, the one that says thou shalt not bear false witness. This is a very serious matter.
2477Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:
of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;
of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.
2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.”
I am sorry, but I must say this. I see the above far too much on social media among Catholics in St. Blog’s Parish. It is so bad that some good people, who have strong and worthy voices to share, hold back from conversations because of the sheer vitriol of them.
It poisons our witness to Christ.
Let me say that again: It poisons our witness to Christ.
We all have sin, but the fact that we all have sin is no excuse to wallow in it like swine who love the mud. There is such a thing as a firm purpose of amendment.
When Ms. Mullarkey says, with no evidence of any kind, that the pope is colluding with Obama to destroy freedom, I’m sorry, that cannot be defended as just a “strong opinion.”
When she compares a crowd of priests—priests—taking cell phone pictures of the pope to the duped masses raising a Sieg Hiel, merely on the basis of a visual similarity, I’m sorry, it cannot be defended as just a “strong opinion.”
(It’s also insanity of the kind that says, Hey, the Infant of Prague looks just like a statue of Buddha! See, those Catholics are pagan!)
If detraction and calumny “destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor,” how much worse is it when you commit calumny against the pope—no mere neighbor but our father.
I don’t mean you have to like or agree with everything the pope says and does. But you owe him enough respect to knock it off with the irresponsible, groundless, petty, ugly, bitchy, gossip-mongering, tremulous, distorted, calumniating, sinful accusations. Stop it. It poisons the Church and kills charity and unity.
We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are all a little impaired. But there is a confessional in every parish, and I respectfully suggest that Ms. Mullarkey visit one.
I Should Get Some Sleep
Mr. Skojec has doubled down at 1 Peter 5, defending Ms. Mullarkey’s “mastery” of “unpretentious” English. I frankly don’t see that. The English teacher in me tells me different. Hers is not good writing. It’s a performance. It’s a dumb show. It is writing that loves to gaze at itself in the pool and seems ready to jump in after itself and drown.
That aside, the real point of Mr. Skojec’s defense was to disguise calumny as bravery and say, “Give us more.” He describes the current papacy as “the crushing weight of an overwhelming foe.”
But no. That is the kind of thing that atrophies the repute he seeks. Pope Francis is not the enemy. Sin is the enemy. Hatred is the enemy. Calumny is the enemy. And sheer atrocious and fevered verbal accusation without evidence is the enemy, not just to charity but to reason and truth. We write to seek truth, not to prove how verbally clever we are, or to stir pots for the mere sake of the stir. To do that is to lack both decency and repute.
When I have written about Pope Francis Derangement Syndrome, and have sought to clarify the pope’s words, I have, in every case, quoted from the primary documents. I have tried to understand them in the light, not of novelty, but the consistent teaching of the Church. That is how you reason. That is how you seek truth—not rumor, not innuendo, not fear, not shadows, not bogeymen, but truth.
If there is schism in the Church, it won’t be because of the pope but because of those like Ms. Mullarkey, who have in this way poisoned the discourse and poisoned souls. If you want evidence of that, just look at the comboxes on these posts and these sites. They are sewage.
A personal note. I don’t enjoy writing this series. I get e-mails all the time from readers who enjoy it, and I’m glad for that. But I started blogging because I wanted to write about apologetics—things like sola scriptura and Purgatory and Mary and the Church Fathers. And I have found myself spending more time than I wanted to defending the Holy Father against silliness that is evident as such if only you read the actual transcripts and documents and compare them to what the Church has always said.
I have felt it necessary, and I will continue to do so if need be. Unity is in Peter, and Francis is Peter. That’s why I do it. When you speak calumny against the pope, you speak calumny against Peter, and against the Chair of Peter. Truth and faith matter, not rumor and fear.
But most of the time, writing these posts, I’m tired. I should get some sleep. Tomorrow might be good for writing something.