Conservative Catholics are behind the times and must be silenced. Or that is how it appears to many conservative Catholics.
Recently, Daniel Panneton wrote an article for The Atlantic titled, How Extremist Gun Culture Is Trying to Co-opt the Rosary. Panneton directs his ire at Catholic conservatives, like me, and sums it at the onset.
The theologian and historian Massimo Faggioli has described a network of conservative Catholic bloggers and commentary organizations as a “Catholic cyber-militia” that actively campaigns against LGBTQ acceptance in the Church. These rad-trad rosary-as-weapon memes represent a social-media diffusion of such messaging, and they work to integrate ultraconservative Catholicism with other aspects of online far-right culture. The phenomenon might be tempting to dismiss as mere trolling or merchandising, and ironical provocations based on traditionalist Catholic symbols do exist, but the far right’s constellations of violent, racist, and homophobic online milieus are well documented for providing a pathway to radicalization and real-world terrorist attacks. [emphasis added]
In this article, I examine the current trend of otherizing conservatives Catholic, even by fellow Catholics, and show how this movement is not only unfair to Catholic conservatives, but dangerous for the Catholic Church as a whole. The slippery slope may start with so-called “rad-trad,” but it ultimately targets all Catholics, both on the Left and the Right who do not fall in line. The result, as monsignor Charles Pope recently wrote on his blog, is the full-on persecution of the Catholic Church.
Who Are Conservative Catholics?
My first article on Patheos was titled, Should You Own the “Conservative” Catholic Label? I attempted to show what conservative Catholics believe and why. While extremes exist in all groups, conservative Catholics are faithful sons and daughters of the Church. They see in conservatism the most consistent political expression their religious ethics, as far as politics can reflect religious ethics. They are not extremist “rad-trads” touting guns and rosaries who wish to overthrow the United States with a fascist theocracy. The real issue with conservative Catholics is not their “conservativism.” The issue with conservative Catholics is their afore mentioned faithfulness to Church teaching, especially regarding abortion and human sexuality. Conservative Catholics are not fascists or terrorists.
Conservative Catholics Are as Dangerous
Moreover, conservative Catholics are seen as dangerous because they will not budge on things like abortion and will not bow to modern gender ideology, an ideology reminiscent of the gnostic dualist heresy experienced in the early Church. This unwillingness to give into abortion and modern gender ideology makes conservative Catholics persona non grata and otherized. Here is the proof:
Daniel Panneton (The Atlantic)
To reemphasize from the Panneton quote above.
The theologian and historian Massimo Faggioli has described a network of conservative Catholic bloggers and commentary organizations as a “Catholic cyber-militia” that actively campaigns against LGBTQ acceptance in the Church. [emphasis added]
Massimo Faggioli (theologian and historian)
In Massimo Faggioli’s article, his ire towards conservative Catholic bloggers centers around the canceled talk at Theological College in Washington DC by Fr. James Martin SJ in 2017. Fr. Martin, a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Catholic Church, has garnered criticism from conservative Catholics (me included) who claim his inclusive approach sows confusion among the faithful. His approach of “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” while deemphasizing sexual behavior the Church views as disordered, causes confusion and a misunderstanding of official Church teaching. Faggioli states:
The cancellation does not only concern Fr Martin and the Church’s LGBT community. Actually, it should worry all Catholics. That is not only because this was the third time that the Jesuit was disinvited from giving a previously arranged lecture. More seriously, it was linked to a campaign of hatred and personal attacks against the priest. [emphasis added]
So, those who disagree with Fr. Martin and do not wish him to sow confusion among the faithful are guilty of hatred and personal attacks. He infers that this hatred extends to all in the LGBTQ+ community.
Michael Sean Winters (National Catholic Reporter)
Michael Sean Winters for the progressive National Catholic Reporter (NCR). In his review of Massimo Faggioli’s book, Joe Biden and Catholicism in the United States, Winters states:
No theologian is better than Faggioli at explaining and critiquing the varieties of right-wing nuttiness that have flourished in the vineyard of American Catholicism the past 30 years. [emphasis mine]
What is this rightwing nuttiness?
The anti-Francis wing of the Catholic Church consists of the same cabal of the anti-Biden zealots who drafted or applauded the offensive Inauguration Day statement from the bishops’ conference. [emphasis mine]
What’s “offensive” about the USCCB’s statement? In another article for NCR, he states:
He (Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, president of the conference) acknowledged there would be areas where the bishops could work with the new administration but also warned that Biden had “pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender.” [emphasis added]
Furthermore, since the USCCB mentioned “abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender” in the same sentence as “moral evils” and “threatens human life and dignity,” they diminished Biden’s victory lap on Inauguration Day. The USCCB reminded all Catholics that Biden stands in direct opposition to the Church’s teaching on those fundamental issues. For Winters, to call out these differences (moral evils), the bishops acted “churlish” and “offensive.” Moreover, this critique centers on the bishop’s affirmation of official Catholic teaching.
A Warning to All Catholics, Left and Right
Clearly, progressive non-Catholics and Catholics alike see conservative Catholics as a threat, not due to their conservatism, but due to their refusal to cave on abortion and human sexuality. These two issues are the foundation for the eventual persecution of the Church. If the Church does not change its stance on these issues, persecution will come. How? I turn now to Monsignor Charles Pope’s Stages of Persecution. I quote in part, please click on the link to read in full.
The Five States of Persecution
Catholics in particular were also accused of having neurotic feelings of guilt and a hatred of or aversion to sexuality. We were denounced as a sexist institution and called authoritarian, stuck in the past, and hung up on restrictive rules.
Stereotyping the targeted group – According to the stereotype, Catholics and Bible-believing Christians are a sad, angry, boring, backward, repressed lot. To many who accept the stereotype, we are a laughable—even tragic—group caught in a superstitious past, incapable of throwing off the “shackles” of faith.
Vilifying the targeted group for alleged crimes or misconduct – The history of the Church is also described myopically as little more than a litany of bad and repressive behavior: going on crusades, conducting inquisitions, and hating Galileo and all science. Never mind that there might be a little more to our history: founding universities and hospitals, patronizing the arts, and preaching a gospel that brought order and civilization to the divided and barbaric times that followed the fall of the Roman Empire. Our critics won’t hear any of that, or if they do will give the credit to anyone or anything except the Church and our faith. All of this has the effect of creating a self-righteous indignation toward believers and of making anti-Catholic and anti-Christian attitudes a permissible bigotry.
Marginalizing the targeted group’s role in society – To many in our secularized culture, religion is seen as something that must go. Perhaps we will be allowed to sing our hymns and preach our sermons within the four walls of our churches, but the faith must be banished from the public square.
Criminalizing the targeted group or its works – Some jurisdictions have sought to compel Catholic hospitals and pro-life clinics to provide information about and/or referrals to abortion clinics or to supply “emergency contraception” (i.e., the abortifacient known as the morning-after pill) … Many of these attempts to criminalize the faith have been successfully rebuffed in the courts, but the number and frequency of the lawsuits and the time and cost involved in fighting them impose a huge burden. It is clear that attempts to criminalize Christian behavior pose a growing threat to religious liberty.
Persecuting the targeted group outright – In Canada and in parts of Europe, Catholic clergy have been arrested and charged with “hate crimes” for preaching Catholic doctrine on homosexual activity. In our country there are greater protections for free speech, but there has been a steady erosion of religious freedom; some have had to spend long periods in court defending basic religious liberty. The trajectory points to suffering, lawsuits, fines, and ultimately prison.
In conclusion, whether you support the Church’s view on abortion and human sexuality or not, the Church cannot change its position. If the current vitriol against conservative Catholics continues, and those in power cement this vitriol into law, the persecution of the Church soon follows.
Where do you think the Catholic Church in the US currently sits on Monsignor Pope’s Stages of Persecution? How long until we fully reach stage 5?
Male and Female He Created Them ” – educatio.va. (n.d.). Retrieved August 24, 2022, from http://www.educatio.va/content/dam/cec/Documenti/19_0997_INGLESE.pdf