A Fine Time for Crackpots

A Fine Time for Crackpots November 17, 2020

I am aghast at just how bizarrely people are behaving right now, especially in the Church.

As a Catholic blogger, it’s practically my job to be aghast at my fellow Catholics. But this past few weeks has been especially off the wall, in an exhausting way.

I’ve been marveling for ten days straight at Taylor Marshall’s rants about how the election was rigged. The best thing I can say about his rants is that he has a jaunty taste in sweaters, as you can see in this screenshot used in accordance with fair use principles for the purpose of review:

One of the other rants I saw was calling for “Jericho Marches” around courthouses nationwide, walking round and round the buildings saying prayers until, I suppose, either the courthouse or Taylor Marshall falls down. And then he was in Washington at the so-called “Million MAGA March,” which the Park Service reports was attended by just over eleven thousand actual MAGAs. He was reading a letter full of conspiracy allegations by Archbishop Vigano, a known crackpot and one of the people whose neglect of duty enabled McCarrick, to a rapt audience. One or another of the interchangeable Gordon Brothers was also in attendance at the MAGA march, waving flags and looking incredibly silly.

EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, a conspiracy buff himself and a fan of both Vigano and Donald Trump, has devolved into insulting bereaved men about their deceased mothers on Twitter:

My longtime nemesis Father Frank Pavone is in particularly rare form, calling for violence and dog whistling about “Western Civilization:”

On one level, it’s laughable how far out of touch with reality Pavone has become. On the other, we need to remember that his organization, Priests for Life, runs the Rachel’s Vineyard charity which claims to counsel post-abortive women. He has access to vulnerable, traumatized people and could do serious harm. It’s not funny in the least.

I know those are just cranks. They’re not people I would go to for level-headed takes on anything. But still, I find the nonsense tends to trickle down, and it’s trickling down badly enough to destroy the ceiling right now. I keep seeing comparatively normal people, either afraid that Trump will somehow still steal the election or fretting that Biden actually did. And they think this has something to do with being a Catholic.

There isn’t any evidence that Biden didn’t win; it’s all conspiracy theories. Every single court case challenging the election results has been thrown out because Trump’s lawyers aren’t even trying to provide any evidence. There’s nothing there. But we’re all supposed to mindlessly believe and place our trust in a fascist thug who violates every one of the ten commandments, because… I don’t know. I guess because he’s against abortion? Despite the fact that he’s joked about trying to get Marla to abort Tiffany, and he was pro-choice before he conveniently decided to run for president as a Republican? Not to mention, he rarely mentions or does anything about abortion laws, and he has in fact driven abortion rates up? And we’ve seen in real time how his gross mishandling of the pandemic jacked up abortion rates even further? Who’s the pro-life hero again?

I don’t admire Biden for much, but at least he went to Mass on Sunday while Trump tweeted conspiracy theories from the golf course.

As for us Pezzulos, our diocese is still dispensed– which is a good thing, since COVID-19 cases went up by 33% the last weekend alone in Jefferson County, and hospitalizations nearly doubled. There’s only one hospital here. The ICU is probably already overwhelmed. We don’t dare go to Mass because the churches are only begging people to mask up instead of enforcing it.

A sizable number of Catholics in my neck of the woods seem to think it’s a mark of their faith to be reckless during a respiratory pandemic. They brag about how they trust GOD rather than the CDC, as if God didn’t want them to care for their neighbor’s health. Their pigheadedness is the reason I’ve only been able to receive Holy Communion once in the past eight months. Once in awhile they devolve into completely bizarre conspiracy theories about how mandatory masking is testing the waters for mandatory veils or something. And to be fair, I also know lots of Catholics, probably the majority of Catholics, around here who actually ARE masking and social distancing and doing everything they can out of respect for everyone around them. Some of the houses being the most creative with having fun while still staying six feet away from trick-or-treaters two weeks ago, for example, were my Catholic neighbors. I am deeply thankful for those people. But the holdouts who still treat COVID-19 as a conspiracy are dragging back any progress we could make.

I’m not exactly famous for being calm at the best of times, but I am increasingly annoyed just now.

I tried not to vent my annoyance this Sunday, as we tuned in to a livestream Mass to pray along again. I was attempting to have a prayerful day and make the best of things, believe it or not. I wanted to set aside all earthly cares and take refuge in the liturgy, even though I couldn’t be physically present at the liturgy.

Everything on the livestream Mass was lovely, comforting and meditative at first. We’d selected a church in a different state, which has big colorful mosaic icons behind the altar and beautiful chant music. I was starting to feel able to pray in spite of all my stress. Then the priest began his homily.  It started with a few statements on the parable of the talents, and then he said “You may disagree with me if you wish,” and we were off to the races. He ranted that it was painful to him that the United States did not have freedom of speech anymore, it had been taken away by demonstrators, and it did not have free and fair elections but the election had been decided by the media and was a fraud.

I didn’t get to hear any more of the homily, because Michael dove for the computer and muted the livestream just then. The priest went on for another ten minutes while we talked about the actual Gospel with Rosie. You know, the Gospel, the thing priests are supposed to preach on and Catholics are supposed to follow instead of conforming ourselves to the world. The Gospel this weekend was about how God gives every one of us the means to fulfill our personal vocation in life and we should live it without fear.

When the priest finished his homily and walked back to his chair, we unmuted and watched the rest of Mass. That’s one trick you can play with a livestream that you can’t do in an actual church– one silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic I suppose.

I did not get my peaceful and meditative Mass.

I’m not having a peaceful and meditative week, either.

This is a rough time to be a Catholic.

I don’t know if any other times have been easy, but 2020 is rough in a unique way.

I just want to encourage everyone that someday, somehow, this whole farce will be over. Someday, the wicked will prove wicked and the nuts will prove nuts. All of these bizarre people, the conspiracy theorist attention hogs and the Typhoid Mary plague spreaders and the priests who misuse the authority entrusted to them to stump for a fascist, will be recognized to be every bit as bizarre as they are. Future generations will look at all of this as we look at old black and white photos of German Catholic bishops Sieg Heiling the Fueher.

I’m not saying that the future will be perfect. I’m sure the next generation and the generation after that will have their own set of weirdo cranks who pose as the True Real Catholics and laugh at the rest of us as fakes. But this particular crew will look like the fascist toadies they are.

It’s just rough, that’s all. And it’s going to be a rough couple of months. It will probably be the roughest couple of months we’ve suffered through yet. But the things that are true remain true and the things that are false remain false. God still holds the world in love, though it doesn’t seem like it just now.

Let’s all just try to get through this as gracefully as we can.

Image via Pixabay.

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross.

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