Politics

The Illiberal Catholic Catechism

Will the intolerance and ideology of Catholic Chauvinists help bring on a persecution?

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April 15, 2014
papal tiara gold MatthiasKabel / Wikimedia
In the months since Aleteia was kind enough to publish “Illiberal Catholicism” and re-publish “The Shame of the Catholic Subculture,” the phenomenon of Illiberal Catholicism has been recognized in many other venues—and a number of figures have seen fit to align themselves with the movement, ranging from pseudonymous bloggers to a professor at Notre Dame—who went so far as to argue that Hobby Lobby deserves to lose its religious freedom case against the Feds because it is part of the corrupt, capitalist order. (The professor in question is not named Douglas Kmiec—though you should look for him as President Hillary Clinton’s Ambassador to the Vatican or to Malta.)

So I thought it was time for an update, addressing the major points that have been raised by self-proclaimed Illiberal Catholics, in the form of a dialogue with a thinly dramatized representative of that strain of thought, which rejects the religious, personal, and economic freedoms championed by America’s founders, in favor of a politicized version of the Faith—a Catholic-ism that is truly an “ism,” just like socialism or fascism, which gives some disgruntled or disenfranchised Catholic Americans a pretext for their failure to defend and advance the Faith in the time and place where God saw fit to place them.


Q: Who makes you angry?

A: People who disagree with me make me angry.


Q: Why do they make you angry?

A: Because they offend the integrity of eternal truth and lead souls into eternal damnation.


Q: No. Really. Why do they make you angry?

A: Because they represent the face of modernity which places the rights of man over and above the honor of God.


Q: Seriously. There’s nobody here but us two. Turn off the Catholic Bull***t Generator for a moment. Why do they make you angry?

A: Because they have vastly more influence than I do, lead more entertaining lives, and have more opportunities for leisure.  


Q: And that is a grave injustice.

A: Pleasure, and wealth, and cultural power are radically maldistributed, and it is time for philosopher kings to intervene in the anarchic space of the Darwinian materialist Adam Smith neoconservative free market to redistribute these goods, which Aquinas said are the common property of mankind, to those of us who have been deprived of our just wages by the Judaeo-Masonic Americanists and the military industrial complex. That is why I consider myself a Distributist.


Q: By which you mean… that you borrowed $41,000 to get a bachelor’s degree in the liberal arts, and you’re still living with your parents at age 28, and you’re sick of haunting Catholic “young adults” events in the vain hope of finding a mate?

A: That is a completely irrelevant ad hominem attack, which ignores the substance of my critique. If you were to read my blog, you would see that your heretical notions derive from the decadent late scholastic embrace of the notion that man’s earthly good can be separated from his eternal destiny….

[Note: To be fair, not all Illiberal Catholics owe $41,000 for bachelor’s degrees in the liberal arts and still live with their parents. An increasing number owe $82,000 for doctorates in the liberal arts, and live with their spouses and children, teaching as adjuncts and relying on public assistance.]


Q: Do you have a job?

A: Currently there is no one willing to offer me what I consider a just wage for my labor. So I produce apologetical works via social media and other online sources, and solicit contributions to support my apostolate.


Q: So you blog all day in your footie pajamas, and think you deserve $80,000 per year?

A: The value of my work should not be arbitrarily determined by the blind forces of a materialistic market, which permits the subjective assessments of strangers to set the compensation for my labors. In a truly Catholic community that recognized the Social Reign of Jesus Christ as King, the proper authorities would know how to weigh my efforts against those of the pornographers, empty entertainers, and crassly secular commentators who are currently rewarded at an obscenely disproportionate rate for their work, which tears souls down instead of building them up.


Q: So a good government would pay you a solid wage for your philosophical writings, whether people wanted to read them or not?

A: What people want and what is wholesome and conducive to their souls are clean different things. Or are you in favor of legalizing heroin?


Q: There are many different kinds of opiates. I think that the one you are peddling is a niche variety, with limited appeal.

A: Ah, so you are echoing Marx, in calling religion the opiate of the people?


Q: Not at all. I question whether what you are peddling is religious in any meaningful sense of the word.

A: I am standing against the apostasy of the post-conciliar embrace of classical liberalism, and demanding that society submit itself to eternal Truth.


Q: Or you are simply pounding on the table demanding your own share of the pie, which if people won’t grant you freely, you want the state to take from them and hand over to you?

A: You have a disordered love of freedom.


Q: As opposed to a disordered love of power.

A: Power should serve the eternal Truth.  No one who has not studied philosophy, as I have, has any business wielding power.


Q: With the HHS mandate threatening to close down Catholic institutions, do you think it is prudent to be denouncing the one constitutional principle, religious freedom, that Christians are using to try to preserve themselves?

A: I support the efforts of Catholic apostolates and non-profits to preserve their liberty.  But I have no patience for Protestant businessmen who open up box stores in tacky strip malls in sterile subdivisions, profiting from the godless capitalist order, pretending that their businesses are entitled to the same protection as Christ’s One True Church.


Q: Do you think that Vatican II taught heresy when it said that the use of coercion by the state in matters of religion is a violation of natural law—you know, like sodomy or (even worse) contraception?

A: Vatican II was a merely pastoral council, which must be interpreted in the light of sacred tradition, not in a hermeneutic of discontinuity.

In the months since Aleteia was kind enough to publish “Illiberal Catholicism” and re-publish “The Shame of the Catholic Subculture,” the phenomenon of Illiberal Catholicism has been recognized in many other venues—and a number of figures have seen fit to align themselves with the movement, ranging from pseudonymous bloggers to a professor at Notre Dame—who went so far as to argue that Hobby Lobby deserves to lose its religious freedom case against the Feds because it is part of the corrupt, capitalist order. (The professor in question is not named Douglas Kmiec—though you should look for him as President Hillary Clinton’s Ambassador to the Vatican or to Malta.)

So I thought it was time for an update, addressing the major points that have been raised by self-proclaimed Illiberal Catholics, in the form of a dialogue with a thinly dramatized representative of that strain of thought, which rejects the religious, personal, and economic freedoms championed by America’s founders, in favor of a politicized version of the Faith—a Catholic-ism that is truly an “ism,” just like socialism or fascism, which gives some disgruntled or disenfranchised Catholic Americans a pretext for their failure to defend and advance the Faith in the time and place where God saw fit to place them.


Q: Who makes you angry?

A: People who disagree with me make me angry.


Q: Why do they make you angry?

A: Because they offend the integrity of eternal truth and lead souls into eternal damnation.


Q: No. Really. Why do they make you angry?

A: Because they represent the face of modernity which places the rights of man over and above the honor of God.


Q: Seriously. There’s nobody here but us two. Turn off the Catholic Bull***t Generator for a moment. Why do they make you angry?

A: Because they have vastly more influence than I do, lead more entertaining lives, and have more opportunities for leisure.  


Q: And that is a grave injustice.

A: Pleasure, and wealth, and cultural power are radically maldistributed, and it is time for philosopher kings to intervene in the anarchic space of the Darwinian materialist Adam Smith neoconservative free market to redistribute these goods, which Aquinas said are the common property of mankind, to those of us who have been deprived of our just wages by the Judaeo-Masonic Americanists and the military industrial complex. That is why I consider myself a Distributist.


Q: By which you mean… that you borrowed $41,000 to get a bachelor’s degree in the liberal arts, and you’re still living with your parents at age 28, and you’re sick of haunting Catholic “young adults” events in the vain hope of finding a mate?

A: That is a completely irrelevant ad hominem attack, which ignores the substance of my critique. If you were to read my blog, you would see that your heretical notions derive from the decadent late scholastic embrace of the notion that man’s earthly good can be separated from his eternal destiny….

[Note: To be fair, not all Illiberal Catholics owe $41,000 for bachelor’s degrees in the liberal arts and still live with their parents. An increasing number owe $82,000 for doctorates in the liberal arts, and live with their spouses and children, teaching as adjuncts and relying on public assistance.]


Q: Do you have a job?

A: Currently there is no one willing to offer me what I consider a just wage for my labor. So I produce apologetical works via social media and other online sources, and solicit contributions to support my apostolate.


Q: So you blog all day in your footie pajamas, and think you deserve $80,000 per year?

A: The value of my work should not be arbitrarily determined by the blind forces of a materialistic market, which permits the subjective assessments of strangers to set the compensation for my labors. In a truly Catholic community that recognized the Social Reign of Jesus Christ as King, the proper authorities would know how to weigh my efforts against those of the pornographers, empty entertainers, and crassly secular commentators who are currently rewarded at an obscenely disproportionate rate for their work, which tears souls down instead of building them up.


Q: So a good government would pay you a solid wage for your philosophical writings, whether people wanted to read them or not?

A: What people want and what is wholesome and conducive to their souls are clean different things. Or are you in favor of legalizing heroin?


Q: There are many different kinds of opiates. I think that the one you are peddling is a niche variety, with limited appeal.

A: Ah, so you are echoing Marx, in calling religion the opiate of the people?


Q: Not at all. I question whether what you are peddling is religious in any meaningful sense of the word.

A: I am standing against the apostasy of the post-conciliar embrace of classical liberalism, and demanding that society submit itself to eternal Truth.


Q: Or you are simply pounding on the table demanding your own share of the pie, which if people won’t grant you freely, you want the state to take from them and hand over to you?

A: You have a disordered love of freedom.


Q: As opposed to a disordered love of power.

A: Power should serve the eternal Truth.  No one who has not studied philosophy, as I have, has any business wielding power.


Q: With the HHS mandate threatening to close down Catholic institutions, do you think it is prudent to be denouncing the one constitutional principle, religious freedom, that Christians are using to try to preserve themselves?

A: I support the efforts of Catholic apostolates and non-profits to preserve their liberty.  But I have no patience for Protestant businessmen who open up box stores in tacky strip malls in sterile subdivisions, profiting from the godless capitalist order, pretending that their businesses are entitled to the same protection as Christ’s One True Church.


Q: Do you think that Vatican II taught heresy when it said that the use of coercion by the state in matters of religion is a violation of natural law—you know, like sodomy or (even worse) contraception?

A: Vatican II was a merely pastoral council, which must be interpreted in the light of sacred tradition, not in a hermeneutic of discontinuity.



Q: Are you saying that the state’s right to torture and execute Protestants is an infallible truth of faith or morals, which the bishops of the Church and Pope Paul VI somehow failed to recognize when they issued Dignitatis Humanae? So the Society of St. Pius X is right, and Pope Benedict XVI was defending heresy when he refused to accept them back into communion unless they acknowledged this point?

A: Dignitatis Humanae is a profoundly ambiguous document.  It is hard to tell what it means, if it means anything at all.  Remember that it states that the Council maintains the traditional teaching about the “duties of societies” toward the true religion.


Q: Are you a totalitarian? You know, along the lines of Benito Mussolini, who proclaimed, “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state”?

A: Of course not. Mussolini was an anti-clerical, whose father was a Freemason.


Q: You do realize that only totalitarians equate “society” and “state.” The classical definition of society includes the family and all sorts of other voluntary associations—including the Church, but also clubs, fraternities, labor unions, and the whole rich fabric of what political scientists call “civil society.” When the Council Fathers wrote that “society” owed allegiance to the truth, they were stating a simple fact—that everyone ought to acknowledge the kingship of Christ. They were not saying that people who didn’t fulfill this duty deserved to be tortured until they confessed, then burned at the stake and put into prison.  Since in the same document the bishops of the Church, with papal approval, said that using state coercion to override people’s consciences violated the natural law—again, like adultery or perjury—isn’t it disrespectful of a universal council of the Church to assume that their statement was meaningless, or self-contradictory, or some piece of public relations that the Church would later stuff into the memory hole?

A: You are engaged in a neo-Catholic apologetic for the Americanist Catholicism of the 1950s which no longer exists, and which led directly to abortion on demand, homosexual “marriage,” and the radical imbalance of wealth in America that denies proper compensation to those who teach the liberal arts.


Q: Who would you call the authoritative interpreter of the Council—the popes who presided over it and those who came after it, and the Catechism they published? Or a network of bloggers?

A: Perhaps we serve the role of the faithful laity, which also preserved the Church from Arianism in the time of St. Athanasius.


Q: Did a Church council ever teach Arianism?

A: No.


Q: Was the only opponent of Arianism a band of schismatically consecrated bishops and illicitly ordained priests?

A: There’s a first time for everything.


Q: What confuses me is the fact that you point to the American vision of freedom as the greatest danger to the Church, when in fact the Church’s enemies are throwing that vision of freedom onto the trash heap, in order to hasten the persecution of the Church—and the Church’s friends are citing such freedom in the Church’s defense.

A: The American notion of freedom is profoundly corrupt, and lies at the heart of all the evils we face today.


Q: Is there an alternative political theory out there that anyone, anyone at all outside of infinitesimal Catholic circles, finds attractive, that would protect the Church’s liberty?

A: That is beside the point.


Q: Hasn’t the Church historically taken whatever is true in the secular world, used it as a common ground by which to approach the unbelievers, and tried to baptize and elevate it—rather than tear it all down and start from scratch in a barren wasteland. Wasn’t Augustine a patriotic Roman citizen? Or did he endorse the barbarian invasions in some text that you have uncovered from secret archives?

A: There is no call for sarcasm. The situation was different then.  The Roman state endorsed the use of authority in defense of the Good, but merely had an imperfect vision of the Good. The American system has no notion of the Good at all.  It is inherently nihilistic, and ought to collapse. Once it is gone, we can figure out what to construct in its place.


Q: Isn’t the classical liberal notion of freedom an outgrowth of the elevated Christian notion of the person, and the deep moral significance of his freedom and his conscience? Those seem to me like good things that the Romans knew nothing about. Was Pope John Paul II merely deluded when he praised those things in Memory and Identity? Was he being disingenuous when he apologized, on behalf of the Church, for the times that Catholics had violated those goods?

A: None of those statements by Pope John Paul II were infallible.


Q: But were they wrong?

A: Profoundly wrong.


Q: So do you think Catholics should stop fighting policies like the HHS mandate by citing the Constitution’s protection of religious liberty?

A: Not at all. If such arguments help advance the interests of the Church and her power in society, then it is prudent to use them—until we can cast them aside.


Q: And reveal to our Protestant and Jewish neighbors that in fact were merely wearing a kind of mask, asking for a freedom that we never intended to grant to them?

A: Yes—won’t that be a funny surprise?  “When you are the stronger I ask you for my freedom, for that is your principle; when I am the stronger I take away your freedom, for that is my principle."


Q: Of course, since our neighbors aren’t idiots, isn’t it more likely that attitudes like yours will simply help to discredit those of us who actually support religious freedom, and hasten the persecution of Catholics—including the 99 percent of us who do accept Vatican II?

A: The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.  


John Zmirak is an author and editor based in New York City. His columns are archived at The Bad Catholic’s Bingo Hall.
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