10 Years of Confusion, Political Ideology, and Scandal

Today is the 10th anniversary of the election of Jorge Bergoglio to the papacy. It’s customary on anniversaries to look back and reflect on the years spent together, but my mom also told me if I can’t say something nice, I shouldn’t say anything at all, so I’m not sure what to do today. I guess I’ll ignore mom.

The blunt reality is that the papacy of Francis, by any Catholic measure, has been a disaster. It’s not that he hasn’t at times done some good acts or spoken some good words; it’s that the overall thrust of his pontificate has been one of confusion, political ideology, and scandal. 

In the first year of his papacy Francis uttered the infamous words, “Who am I to judge?” and ever since then he has done far more to confuse the faithful than confirm them. While popesplainers have created a cottage industry trying to explain why the plain meaning of Francis’s words are not his actual meaning, most reasonable people have understood that he means what he says, even when what he says makes little sense. Further, his individual statements are not spoken in a vacuum: while one might be able interpret each of his more troublesome statements in a fully Catholic sense if we squint enough, when taken as a whole over ten years, it’s clear that Francis wishes to undermine many of the practices—and even teachings—Catholics have held dear for centuries.

There’s one thing, however, about which the pope is not confused: his political agenda. Pope Francis has turned the Vatican essentially into a political NGO. While every pope rightly should comment on politics, the office of the papacy isn’t to advocate for the latest United Nations initiative or World Economic Forum plan. It’s to proclaim the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ as found in the Catholic Church. Yet Francis seems to use his moral authority not to urge people to convert to Catholicism (in fact, he appears to abhor conversions), but to push the latest globalist political agenda, such as combating climate change or immigration reform. By associating himself—and thus the Catholic Church—with these worldly goals, he diminishes the ability of the Church to rise above political differences to point to a spiritual path to salvation.

And while the media—particularly Catholic media—want to ignore it, this papacy has been rife with scandal. Beyond the scandal of Francis’s own confusing words, there are the multitude of scandals involving abusive prelates and priests who have received preferential treatment if they are ideologically aligned with Francis. The public revelation of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick as a monster seriously undermined Francis’s stated goal to clean up the Church. Here was a man who was known as a predator by many high-ranking Catholics—including the pope himself—yet he was placed in the “inner circle” by Francis early in his pontificate. 

Countless other scandals have littered the past 10 years, but the most recent one regarding Fr. Marko Rupnik, S.J. might be the most troubling. The accusations against Rupnik are shocking, and the fact that he seems to still enjoy favor at the Vatican in spite of those accusations reveal a deeply dysfunctional Curia. Combine the Vatican’s inaction when it comes to Rupnik with its jihad against traditional Catholics and you have a recipe for a Rome in shambles.  

Confusion, political ideology, and scandal have been our continual companions the past 10 years, and there’s little reason to believe that will change while this pope still reigns. Some Catholics attempt to explain these problems away (or even claim they are good things!); other Catholics try their best to ignore them. Sadly, many Catholics have broken communion with the Catholic Church, for atheism/agnosticism, Orthodoxy, or sedevacantism. While each person is responsible for his own decisions, Pope Francis will also have to answer for these defections on his day of particular judgement. 

For my part, I still see hope in the midst of these problems. If nothing else, the misadventures of Pope Francis have allowed Catholics to more deeply understand the papacy, both its authority and its limitations. While many orthodox Catholics might have lived in a state of blissful hyperpapalism under John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Francis has reminded us that the true head of the Church is Jesus Christ, and his Vicar is not guaranteed to be faithful to Him in everything he does. 

Further, times of trial, such as we live in now, are the best times for growing in holiness. It’s widely accepted that the best way to physical fitness is to put stress on your body in various ways, whether through weight-lifting, running, fasting, or other strenuous activities. Likewise, spiritual fitness only comes through stress as well: being pushed to choose the Lord in spite of temptations to leave him. In an era of a troublesome pontificate, we must decide to follow Christ and cling to him in spite of the confusion, political ideology, and scandal that currently emanates from Rome. 

The FBI Tags TLM Communities as Homes for “Violent Extremists”

It would be understandable if someone who attends a traditional Latin Mass (TLM) parish would feel a bit paranoid these days. After all, there’s rumors that Pope Francis is planning to release a “Traditionis Custodes 2.0” soon, in which the TLM will be further restricted and celebrating any of the other Sacraments in the traditional form will be prohibited. That alone could make the average TLM-goer feel as if he has a target on his back.

But that’s just the beginning. This week it was revealed that the FBI is looking into “radical traditional Catholic” parishes as possible enclaves of white supremacy and “racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists.”  Former FBI Special Agent Kyle Seraphin released a secret report from the FBI Richmond (VA) Division that detailed how the FBI views traditional Catholics.

As someone who regularly attends the TLM, I found this report a fascinating look into the fantasy world in which the FBI apparently operates. Comparing my own parish to what is written in this document is like comparing apples to rotten oranges. The “Rad Trad” community is often accused of participating in crazy conspiracy theories, but it has nothing on the FBI’s foray into tin-foil-hat-level conspiracies as seen in this report.

The Executive Summary of the report states that “radical-traditionalist Catholics (RTC) are typically characterized by the rejection of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) as a valid church council; disdain for most of the popes elected since Vatican II, particularly Pope Francis and Pope John Paul II; and frequent anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, and white supremacist ideology.” I’m a little surprised the Feds didn’t say RTCs like to torture puppies and steal candy from babies.

Of course these accusations look like the talking points from the Catholic Left that combine a little bit of truth with a whole lot of lies. It’s true that RTCs are at least critical of Vatican II (almost all I know do not reject it as a “valid church council”), and they are also critical of Pope Francis and even Pope John Paul II (but “disdain” is a loaded word). But then the stereotypical laundry list of “antis” is simply a lazy way of saying, “We don’t like them so we’ll smear them with the latest woke insults.”

The concern of the FBI is that “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs)” will find an attractive home among RTCs because the two groups supposedly have similar views and ideologies. As the report states, “Catalyzing events in which RMVEs and RTC adherents might have common cause include legislation or judicial decisions in areas such as abortion rights, immigration, affirmative action, and LGBTQ protections.” Did you hear that, Catholics? If you (rightly) oppose the Left’s political views, you might just be a violent extremist!

Also interesting is that the FBI actually mentions a few groups. It names Church Militant in report itself, stating, “investigations have noted a growing overlap between the far-right white nationalist movement and RTCs. Illustrative of this has been the increasing collaboration of the far-right Catholic media outlet Church Militant with the America First/“groyper” movement.” Even more revealing is an appendix to the report which lists nine organizations that the Southern Poverty Law Center defined as “hate groups,” including Catholic Family News and The Remnant.

My initial reaction when I saw the SPLC list was disappointment that our sister publication OnePeterFive wasn’t included! At this point, being labeled a “hate group” by the vile SPLC should be considered a badge of honor. While I’m not overly familiar with every group on this list, I feel confident that none of them are actually hate groups.

Another sign of the sad state of this report is that multiple footnotes used to back its claims are from the far-left websites like Salon and The Atlantic. Not exactly trying to be objective, are we, Mr. Fed?

While it might be easy to laugh at this report it does reveal a sinister attitude among many of those in positions of power. At a time when Antifa and BLM terrorists are roaming our streets, the FBI thinks the 15-passenger van with the Pray the Rosary and FSSP bumper stickers is the real threat to our democracy. 

My advice to fellow TLM-goers is two-fold.

First, all orthodox Catholics, whether we consider ourselves traditional or not, should see this as a move against all of us. The so-called “Rad Trads” are just the first line of attack for the elites who wish to silence and even destroy Catholicism. Don’t fall into the error of thinking that the Feds won’t eventually turn their sights on non-traditional Catholics just because you went along when they wanted to silence traditionalists.

Second, while it’s true that our elites hate us and want to see us disappear, don’t allow that disturbing reality to blossom into paranoia and break one’s peace. If some FBI agent tries to infiltrate a TLM community, he’s likely to find generous, salt-of-the earth people (of various races and ethnicities, by the way). Perhaps if he stays long enough, he might end up realizing the beauty of the Catholic Faith and might himself eventually be tagged a “radical-traditionalist Catholic.”

[Update 2/10/23: Since this was published, the FBI has announced that they will be retracting this report as it “does not meet the exacting standards of the FBI.” In other words, they got caught.]

The Great Pat Buchanan Signs Off

Pat Buchanan—political pundit and three-time presidential candidate—announced he is retiring from writing. Buchanan hasn’t been as much in the spotlight in recent years, but those of a certain age can remember when he was almost as big of a political player as Donald Trump. And in fact, he was Trump before Trump (and a lot better, too!)

Buchanan first hit the political scene working in the Nixon White House in the early 1970’s as President Nixon’s assistant and speech writer. While this might seem a low-level job, Buchanan had a great impact on Nixon’s presidency and the Republican Party in general. It was Buchanan, for example, who came up with the phrase “silent majority” that helped bring many Democrats to the Republican fold.

After Nixon left office Buchanan launched a highly successful career as a political pundit, hosting or contributing to various radio and TV shows. There was a time when any political show worth its salt would have to include Buchanan either in their lineup or as a regular guest. He spent two years in the mid-80’s working for the Reagan White House, but in the early 1990’s he decided to run for office himself…and boy, did he make a grand entrance.

In response to President Bush (the elder) reneging on his promise of “no new taxes,” Buchanan launched his own campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 1992. At first this seemed a quixotic campaign: what Republican would vote for a TV commentator against an incumbent President? But Buchanan’s campaign gained serious momentum, and he had a strong showing in the New Hampshire primaries, forcing Bush to move to the right to compensate.

Buchanan ran again in 1996, and this time he won the New Hampshire primaries against the favorite, the incredibly bland and boring Bob Dole. At one point it looked like Buchanan had a serious chance to grab the nomination, but Dole’s establishment political machine eventually prevailed, steamrolling Buchanan on Super Tuesday.

In 2000 Buchanan ran once more, this time securing the nomination of the Reform Party (Ross Perot’s party). He garnered few votes in the national election, and his days of running for office ended as he returned to full-time punditry.

What made this former speech writer so popular in the 1990’s? In a sense, he was the “anti-Bush.” George H.W. Bush was the perfect representation of the “country club Republicans,” the rich, white men who wanted to control world affairs from the White House and cared little for the “little guy.”

However, with an influx of working-class voters into the party during the Reagan years, many Republicans felt distant from that brand of conservatism. In addition, as the Democratic Party moved more and more to the radical Left (a movement that still hasn’t slowed down), its working-class voters also felt alienated and saw Buchanan as a possible alternative.

If this sounds familiar, it should, because it’s essentially the model used even more successfully by Donald Trump in 2016. Trump, whether intentionally or unintentionally, often imitated Buchanan. Trump’s hesitation about foreign interventionism reflected Buchanan’s own foreign policy views. His support for tariffs and emphasis on helping working-class people also emulated Buchanan’s campaigns. 

Buchanan, of course, is far better than Trump, both as a person and a candidate. He is extremely intelligent, understanding complex issues and with an ability to explain them to non-experts. Further, he is a faithful Catholic who strongly believes—and practices—what the Church teaches. A Catholic could be forgiven for dreaming what the country would be like if Buchanan and not Trump had been the one to achieve the presidency.

Personally, I rank Pat Buchanan up there with Ron Paul as my favorite modern politicians. Buchanan was fearless, saying the most controversial things (he wrote a whole book attacking Winston Churchill!) without worrying about how it might impact him in the polls. He was also willing to change his views after careful consideration. He began his career as a foreign policy hawk, parroting the neocon narrative about the need for American interventionism, but eventually he recognized the folly of those views and became one of the country’s leading advocates for peace and non-interventionism. 

In recent years, mostly due to Trump’s influence, the Republican Party is starting to catch up to Buchanan’s views, and it couldn’t come soon enough. Although Buchanan is retiring from public writing, it’s my hope that the next generation of conservatives look to Pat Buchanan (and not Trump) as a model for the future of the movement. 

The Devilishly Heretical Fr. James Martin

I’m currently under Twitter suspension again, this time for offending the sensibilities of Big Gay (I dared suggest that gay men were inordinately attracted to young men and even boys). While I’m banished to the social media nether regions (no pun intended), the chaplain of Big Gay, Fr. James Martin, is at it again.

It started when the Catholic League tweeted, “It’s true that Pete Buttigieg is legally married, but that is a legal fiction.”

For those unaware, Pete Buttigieg is the current United States Secretary of Transportation. A former Catholic who is now Episcopalian, he “married” another man, Chasten Glezman, in a private ceremony at the (Episcopal) Cathedral of St. James in South Bend, Indiana in 2018. 

Fr. Martin, who opines incessantly on social media about All Things Gay, of course could not let that statement of plain Catholic (as well as natural law) teaching go unchallenged. He responded simply, “Pete Buttigieg is married.”

This is typical Martin fare. He makes a statement that he clearly wants to be interpreted in a heretical way but is written so that he has plausible deniability if by some miracle a Church hierarch should challenge it.

Remember that the Catholic League acknowledged that Buttigieg is “legally married,” but called it a legal fiction. So when Martin says that Buttigieg is “married,” without any qualifier, the most plain meaning (and the one Martin wants you to have) is that Buttigieg’s gay “marriage” is a true marriage, not just a legal one.

At the same time, Martin’s lack of a qualifier allows him some wiggle room were he to be challenged by a superior. He could just claim, “I was just talking about the legality of the marriage under U.S. law—I wasn’t saying it was the same as a heterosexual marriage!” 

In making such weaselly statements, Martin imitates that master liar, Satan. In the Garden of Eden, the devil urged Eve to eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. When Eve objected that God told her she would die if she did, the Old Snake responded, “You will not die” (Genesis 3:1-4). In a certain sense, the devil is telling the truth; after all, after Eve eats the fruit she doesn’t immediately drop dead. But of course Satan’s half-truth conceals his lie, for he knew that by eating the fruit Eve will die—she will break her communion with God and be under the reign of sin and death. 

So as we can see, Martin’s playbook is as old as mankind itself, tracing all the way back to our first parents’ Fall. His ambiguous, partially-true statement is far more effective than an outright lie; it allows those who want to be deceived to claim a Catholic covering for their deception, and it fools the naive into letting Martin off the hook.

Later Martin feigned shock at the considerable backlash to his tweet: “Surprised this got so much attention. Like it or not, Pete Buttigieg is legally married. You may disagree with same-sex marriage (or not). But @SecretaryPete is married in the eyes of the state, and his church, as much as anyone else is. To claim otherwise is to ignore reality.”

But of course Martin was not surprised—he got the exact reaction he intended by the words he used. He wanted people to believe he was putting Buttigieg’s faux-marriage on par with a marriage between a man and a woman. Perhaps if this was the first time Martin had made such a two-faced statement we might give him the benefit of the doubt, but it’s clear from his history that he uses these statements to further push for his heretical desire to normalize homosexual relations.

When dealing with the devil (or his minions) Catholics need to oppose half-truths and ambiguities with clear, direct, and fully-true statements. In this situation, we need to state directly that Fr. James Martin is a heretic who should not be allowed to continue his public ministry as a priest. If we mitigate that truth in any way, trying to defend Martin or giving him the “benefit of the doubt,” we simply fall for the trap designed by the devil himself and practiced to perfection by Martin.

Moving Epiphany: Reducing Men to Cogs in a Machine

Today is January 6th, and although in the media this day is quickly becoming the Feast of the Great Insurrection, for Catholics January 6th has always been the magnificent Feast of the Epiphany. Yet in recent years in the United States January 6th is only the Feast of the Epiphany when it’s lucky enough to fall on a Sunday.

Even though Epiphany is one of the most ancient feasts on the Christian calendar (being celebrated at least as far back as the 2nd century—even older than Christmas!), our bishops decided that it wasn’t important enough to deserve us setting aside time during our busy weeks to celebrate it. Instead, for our convenience, they set aside Epiphany itself on this day and move it to a nearby Sunday when we can (hopefully) squeeze it into our schedules. 

I understand the reasoning for this decision, even if I think it unfortunate. Our bishops recognize that many Catholics do not revolve their lives around the Church calendar and so if Epiphany were celebrated during the week, many, if not most, Catholics would simply let the day go by and not even realize it was a feast day. They would not attend Mass and the day would be completely forgotten. But if Epiphany is moved to Sunday, the thinking goes, then at least those Catholics who have Sunday Mass as part of their schedules will celebrate this important feast. 

The logic is reasonable…and completely wrong-headed.

As John Grondelski notes in a Crisis article today, the Church gives us a calendar that is not in conjunction with the secular calendar, and we would do well to conform our lives more to that liturgical calendar. Having feast days that stick out, so to speak, reminds us of the events that led to our salvation. These special days prevent us from falling into a utilitarian routine which is only based on the workweek and the demands of this world. 

When important feasts like the Epiphany fall on a weekday, we are given an opportunity to escape from the mundane tasks of this world and enter into the infinite mysteries of our Faith. We allow the infinite to touch our very finite world.

In a way, the bishops trying to fit the liturgical calendar to the demands of the secular calendar remind me of the attempt during the French Revolution to change the calendar into 10-day weeks. It was touted as being in keeping with the “new man,” who revolved around work and his duties to the State. Of course it failed miserably, as man was not made for this world, but the next.

Likewise, when we prioritize the secular calendar over the liturgical calendar, we reduce man to cogs in a materialistic machine, who cannot escape the demands of the five-day work week, even to celebrate one of the most important feasts of the year. 

Moving Epiphany to the nearest Sunday, while it may have been done with the best of intentions, sends the wrong message to Catholics. It tells us that secular demands—work, school, etc.—are more important than the demands of our Faith. It tells us that we should not re-order our lives to the Faith, but instead just fit it in where convenient. Sadly, we see that too many Catholics today have taken this cue from the bishops and do exactly that.

Moving Epiphany to the nearest Sunday, while it may have been done with the best of intentions, sends the wrong message to Catholics. It tells us that secular demands—work, school, etc.—are more important than the demands of our Faith.Tweet This

If we want to see a revitalization of the Catholic Faith in our time, we need to put the Catholic Faith first in our lives. One small way to do that would be to move Epiphany back to January 6th, where it belongs.

The Rebranding of the Latin Mass Movement

Does the Latin Mass movement need a “rebranding?”

If you ask the good folks responsible for the Mass of the Ages documentary series, the answer is a resounding “yes.” They love the traditional Latin Mass and lament the fact that less than 2% of Catholics attend that liturgy. They argue that one of the biggest reasons for that small number is the perception that surrounds regular attendees of the Latin Mass: that they are “mean” and “unwelcoming,” and overall have an insular attitude.

But if you ask many long-time Latin Mass attendees if the movement needs a rebranding, they will likely bristle at the suggestion. They defend the overall way Latin Mass goers comport themselves, and feel that an effort to rebrand is falling for stereotypes and even gaslighting from Church officials.

It’s a battle between the Latin Mass New Guard (most of the Mass of the Ages team consist of younger and relatively more recent attendees of the old rite) and the Old Guard. 

So, does the Latin Mass movement need a rebranding?

As a Latin Mass “Middle Guard”—I’ve attended the TLM for more than 11 years now, but I don’t date back to the pre-Summorum Pontificum days—I find myself caught in the middle of this debate. On the one hand, I recognize the negative perception many Catholics—and many Catholic leaders—have of Latin Mass attendees, but on the other hand, I also think much of this perception is set by those in power who fundamentally oppose the spread of the Latin Mass for reasons far deeper than “mean trads.”

First, I will admit that I’ve experienced negative influences within the “trad” world, particularly online. I’ve been labeled a “semi-trad” more times than I can count because I don’t always subscribe to the pure traditionalist line. I’ve seen faithful Novus Ordo-attending Catholics attacked by traditional Catholics for the slightest infraction of what certain traditionalists think is “true Catholicism.” So I won’t argue that there’s a problem there.

Yet I would also argue that there’s a problem everywhere, due to the Fall. I’ve seen nasty Catholics from every subgroup in the Church. Try to kneel and receive Communion on the tongue in a more liberal parish—then you’ll see mean and unwelcoming in spades. Or witness the nasty looks you get if you dare not hold hands during the Our Father (at least, in pre-Covid days). Or just see how nasty Catholics can be online talking about how nasty traditional Catholics are.

So while traditional Catholics should be more charitable and humble, so should all Catholics. I’m not convinced that it’s a problem specific to traditional Catholics.

Yet Pope Francis himself supports and endorses this negative perception of traditional Catholics every time he talks about them. In fact, he gave this perception as the reason he was restricting the Latin Mass in his motu proprio Traditionis Custodies. He also claimed that many bishops had complained to him about the attitude among traditionalists, which is why he felt he needed to curtail the TLM.

But to be blunt, this is gaslighting. First, Diane Montagna demonstrated that the bishops’ did not oppose the Latin Mass as Francis claimed. Second, it’s hard to believe that the pope would think contradicting his predecessor and causing massive headaches for bishops around the world would be the proper response to a few mean trad tweeters. 

So if, as most regular Latin Mass attendees believe, the Latin Mass is superior to the Novus Ordo, why do so few Catholics actually attend it? Is it because of a negative perception that needs rebranding?

While I won’t argue that a rebranding on some levels wouldn’t help, I don’t think that’s the fundamental issue at play. My own experience working for a diocese leads me to believe it’s deeper than that.

From 2011-2016 I worked directly for a bishop as a diocesan director of evangelization. During that time I attended the Latin Mass, and I wasn’t the only chancery employee who attended the TLM. Our bishop had invited the FSSP into the diocese to celebrate Mass at three locations across the diocese. He celebrated the confirmation of two of my daughters in the traditional form. In other words, he was obviously friendly to the Latin Mass, and he had positive perceptions of Latin Mass attendees.

That being said, he would have never allowed more Latin Masses in his diocese. Why? Again, not because he had a negative impression of the Latin Mass movement, but because he, like almost every bishop, perceived Catholicism through a modern, post-Vatican II lens. He accepted as foundational the belief that the Novus Ordo is the Mass of the Church, and that the Latin Mass, for all its beauty and grandeur, is simply a relic that a few Catholics still cling to but will eventually fade away. 

He didn’t think this out of animosity to anyone, but simply as the reality on the ground. Even if the Latin Masses grew in attendance (which they did), that would not dissuade him from his fundamental presuppositions.

No rebranding would likely change that bishop’s mind, nor the mind of most bishops and clerics. The issue is much deeper, and changing the minds of our Church leaders involve radically shifting their views about the purpose of the liturgy and even how Catholics live their faith. It’s not just convincing them that traditionalists are nice.

Again, I’m not opposed to the rebranding efforts of the Mass of the Ages team—anything to promote the Latin Mass to a larger audience is a good thing, in my mind. But it will take much more than a rebranding effort to get Church leaders to become more receptive to expanding the celebration of the Latin Mass.

Musk’s Twitter Still Silencing Catholics

The Elon Musk takeover of Twitter promised to usher in a new era of free speech on the social media behemoth.

Not so fast.

While Leftists have been throwing conniption fits about the very idea of letting people express opinions contrary to their own, conservatives have been rejoicing that perhaps now we can speak the truth without fear of banishment to the nether regions of the online world (like Parler!). And while it does seem like Musk is opening Twitter up (he recently restored Trump’s account), there are apparently still limits to what you can say on Twitter, as I recently found out.

Last March, I tweeted the following:

While I know these statements are controversial, they are all objectively true. At the very least, they are views held by millions of people today (including all faithful Catholics), and have been held by almost everyone for most of human history. Further, in no way do I call for harassment or violence against anyone.

Yet a few hours after that tweet I received a notice from Twitter stating that my account was locked for “hateful conduct.”

I was required to delete the tweet in order to restore my account, which I eventually did.

Yesterday I decided to see if Twitter has really changed since the Musk takeover. So I tweeted out the March notice from Twitter and restated the content of my original tweet.

Same result:

I realize a lot of the suspension process is likely automated, and it’s not like Musk has been in charge long enough to make systemic changes at the company, but it was still disappointing to see that controversial statements that counter the woke establishment are still not allowed on the world’s biggest social media platform.

There is an appeal process when your account is locked, but I didn’t bother back in March since I knew it would be pointless. This time, however, I decided to appeal to see if perhaps Musk’s influence has filtered down to that level.

Until then, I’ll remain locked out of Twitter, which honestly isn’t the worst thing during this penitential season of Advent.

UPDATE 12/1/22 2:20PM ET: My appeal failed:

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

You can handle the truth

“What is truth?”

So asks Pilate, in one of the Gospel’s most compelling exchanges.

For the worldly, the cynical, those without faith, truth is a moving target.

Here’s this week’s latest example:  Sam Bankman-Fried, the Democrat-donating wunderkind and “benevolent billionaire,” has come to light as just another con artist, running afoul of securities laws. His cryptocurrency exchange FTX, valued at $32 billion earlier this year, is in a free fall, investors have lost millions, and the ripple effects are just beginning.

Lies always unravel. And despite Pilate’s tragically dismissive remark – as he looked at Our Lord, who is Truth itself, and yet was unable to see it.

Truth does matter.

This is the folly of today’s journalism. Big Media pretend to be referees when they are truly players, using their reputations and authority to move people and politics according to their agenda. 

Like Pilate, it’s not truth they’re after; it’s power.

And they’re wrong. They miss how the story ends: not with humiliation, powerlessness and death, but with the Resurrection.

Turns out, worldly human power comes to an end. Truth, however, is everlasting.

And you, Crisis reader, can handle that truth.

Here at Crisis Magazine, we don’t deceive. We don’t play games. We don’t suppress uncomfortable facts or try to manipulate readers. We just tell it like it is. We’re not afraid of the truth – we’re all about it.

When you read Crisis, you are getting the most urgent news in the Church and culture from the most reliable sources in order to be well-informed Catholics and citizens. And you get so much more – you get a fearless perspective on the news, with honest, faith-informed, and finely written commentary.

If the truth is hard to hear, so be it. We will tell it anyway. In fact, inconvenient truth is our bread and butter.

That’s why you trust us. That’s why you read Crisis.

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Trump or DeSantis?

It’s the most anticipated heavyweight bout since Ali vs. Frazier. Donald Trump officially announced this week that he’s running for president in 2024, and it’s well-known that he only has one serious competitor for the GOP nomination: Florida governor Ron DeSantis (even though DeSantis hasn’t announced his run yet).

This puts conservatives in a quandary: Trump or DeSantis? The former president who brought down Roe, or the governor who faced down the Covid Regime? The man who promised to make American great again, or the one who made Florida a great place to live? 

Except to the most extreme partisans, it’s not an easy choice. Trump, after all, is the man most responsible for the fall of Roe v Wade. That is a gigantic mark in his favor that should never be forgotton. He also is the person responsible for breaking the useless establishment neocon cabal controlling the GOP (although it is trying to make a comeback). And, perhaps most tellingly, he’s the man deeply hated by all the worst people. Every enemy of conservatives considers Trump their primary enemy, and that is revealing.

DeSantis too has formidable credentials. More than any politician in the Western world, he’s the face of resistance to the inhuman and oppressive Covid regime. After briefly going along with the insanity, he quickly pivoted and fought relentlessly against the lockdowns, the mandates, and the overall totalitarianism pushed in the name of “science.” He also has been a leading fighter against the rise of wokeism, another totalitarian movement that wants to corrupt our kids and cancel any opposition.

Both candidates have their weak spots as well. Trump was not good when it came to the Covid response—he listened to Fauci far too long, pushed an experimental vaccine on the populace, and supported lockdowns even after it was clear they didn’t work. He also has Mt. Everest-sized baggage. While many of his supporters rightly point out how most of that is unfair or even based on lies, conservative voters have to decide if it makes him unelectable. The poor results for Trump-backed candidates in the recent mid-terms is not promising on that account.

DeSantis, on the other hand, as the weakness of all preliminary candidates—he’s untested on the national stage. There have been many Republican governor golden boys in the past who petered out when it came time to run for president (Scott Walker, anyone?). While DeSantis has that golden shine right now, only time on the national scene will reveal if it’s just surface deep. His views on many important topics are relatively unknown at this point. How would he handle the Russia-Ukraine situation, for example? What would he do about inflation? It’s easy to be popular when you’re only known for one or two things; the difficulty is maintaining that popularity after people really get to know you.

So who should conservatives coalesce behind? Trump or DeSantis? DeSantis or Trump?

I think the right answer, at least for now, is to punt on the issue. The Republican primaries aren’t for another 14 months, so there’s no need to rush to a decision. Heck, it’s even possible that a dark horse candidate will emerge. Let the candidates make their cases— and confront each other face-to-face. If DeSantis can survive what will surely be a brutal, scorched-earth opposition campaign from Trump, then perhaps he will be the conservative choice. But if DeSantis withers in the spotlight, then Trump likely will be the GOP nominee for president for the third time. Either way, the road to the Republican nomination will be more lively and more entertaining than it has been in a long time.

Tough News

If the midterms proved anything, it’s that we have a lot of work ahead of us in the fight against abortion, open borders, transgenderism, and the endless bullying of the Left.

We experience this bullying here at Crisis Magazine, currently celebrating our 40th year as a Catholic publisher. On multiple occasions we’ve received a surge of emails from people telling us how offended they are by one of our authors and demanding we “cancel” them.  

Not surprisingly, the names or emails of the indignant correspondents rarely appear in our databases. Which means these are organized efforts of non-Crisis readers to create torrents of criticism to exterminate a message they don’t want anyone to hear. 

If they’re doing this to us, imagine the pressure being exerted on leaders of our economy and culture. And given how, well, wanting many of these leaders have been found to be in courage and conviction, they soon find themselves celebrating biological males winning at women’s sports and beauty pageants, and countenancing surgical sex change—aka mutilation—operations for children. 

Courage is a virtue — and it’s a virtue we strive to uphold every day here at Crisis Magazine

At Crisis, we long for the return of Christendom — and we have our hand to the plow helping to bring it about with boldness and clarity. We face down the bleakness of yet another age that rejects God — and a Church that too often sits idly and impotently on the sidelines — and proclaim the truth. We are not always welcome, but we are needed

To reach who we need to with our unflinching content, we make Crisis Magazine free to readers. But it is by no means free to produce, which is why we rely on loyal readers like you to sustain our work. 

As you know, we do not launch multiple fundraising campaigns throughout the year, although research shows that such pesky approaches actually produce the most revenue. Because we want to edify and not annoy, we only run two, and now is one of those times.

Will you please help support, sustain, and grow Crisis Magazine with a tax-deductible gift? Could you sponsor the magazine for a month with a gift of $10,000? Or a week with a gift of $2,500? Perhaps for a day with a gift of $500?

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Your gift will be doing immense good for the Church and the world, and I promise you we will be good stewards of your donation.

The most important way you can give is by becoming a monthly donor to Crisis Magazine. This gives us the stability we need to operate month in and month out. In fact, it is this type of support that keeps us from having to run fundraising campaigns all year long!

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Please consider supporting us with the most generous gift you can afford. By doing so, you are supporting your Church, country, and resisting the perishing of Christendom itself. The news is tough, yes, and the time is short, but we’re a people of hope who believe in the power of human agency. Let us continue proclaiming the truth while we can.

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Understanding the Papacy in a Time of Confusion

Hello, I’m Eric, and I’m a book geek.

You see, I collect books like some people collect comics or baseball cards. And I even read many of the books I collect!

As a book geek, I get excited about a lot of books that come out, but I’ll admit I’ve been anticipating one book more than any other this year. It’s actually a book I’ve contemplated writing myself, but I’m glad someone else did.

What’s the book? The Papacy: Revisiting the Debate Between Catholics and Orthodox by Erick Ybarra. In this magisterial (over 700 pages!) work from Emmaus Road Publishing, Ybarra surveys history and theology to make a case for the papacy in the light of Eastern Orthodox criticisms.

What I like about Ybarra is that he is extremely fair to all sides. As a recent example, see this article where he explores the “Recognize and Resist” movement in light of 1st millennium Christian practice—he clearly takes into consideration all views before coming to his conclusions.

Most apologetical debate between Catholics and Orthodox regarding the papacy today is, frankly, less than helpful. Each side presents the evidence of the 1st millennium as if it’s a slam dunk for their side. But history isn’t so clear, as Ybarra acknowledges. In the preface, he writes,

When I commenced my studies [of the papacy], I had thought the case for Catholicism was far more compelling than any case for Orthodoxy could afford. As of now, I am thoroughly convinced that this debate is not concluded with a first round knockout for either side. I now sense that if Catholicism does win this debate, it only wins by going the full distance of twelve rounds and by a remarkably close call.

This is typical of Ybarra: he gives as much credit as he can to opposing arguments, while remaining true to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The reason I’m so excited about this book is that I think it addresses the fundamental issue in Catholicism today: what is the role of the pope in the Church? In an era of such confusion surrounding the papacy—What, if any, are its limits? What is our duty in following the pope?—I suspect that Erick’s book will help lay the groundwork for a better understanding of the papacy.

I’ve already started reading The Papacy: Revisiting the Debate Between Catholics and Orthodox and I look forward to working my way through it. While the tome is understandably pricey, I recommend it for anyone wanting to dig deeper into this important topic.

I hope to have Ybarra on the podcast soon to discuss the book, but until then, check out this interview I did with him last year about Eastern Orthodoxy.

The Red Wave That Wasn’t

That didn’t turn out as expected.

Pundits both left and right in recent days had been predicting a “red wave,” as Republicans would supposedly sweep to victory, reclaiming the House and Senate in overwhelming numbers, while picking up some governorships as well.

Instead, we see (as of this writing) at best some minor victories for Republicans. It’s likely the GOP will take over the House, but control of the Senate appears to be out of its reach.

So what happened? We’ll have some deeper analysis here at Crisis in the coming days, but here’s my initial reactions.

It’s always possible there were some election day shenanigans that helped the Democrats, but it’s more likely that the Republicans just weren’t that impressive of an option. Which, if you think about it, is pretty pathetic.

Every midterm election is bad for the party of the incumbent president, but in a year when that incumbent president is as incompetent as Joseph Biden, conventional wisdom would say that the Republicans should have won big. Like, really big.

After all, we’re living in an economy on the brink of failure, we’re pouring money we don’t have into a border dispute across the world, the Democrats have hitched their wagon to the unpopular practice of child mutilation, and the President himself is clearly not in charge. The GOP couldn’t beat that? Mentally-incapacitated John Fetterman should have been easily defeated in Pennsylvania, but milquetoast Republican Dr. Oz wasn’t even up to that challenge.

Ultimately, anti-Democrat sentiment couldn’t overcome underwhelming Republican candidates.

Even more disheartening are the results of the various state abortion-related ballot issues. In Vermont, California, and Michigan, pro-abortion proposals won. In Kentucky, a proposed amendment to make clear that there is no right to abortion in the state constitution failed.

Why does it seem that radical pro-abortion proposals succeed but even modest pro-life ballot issues fail, in spite of that fact that most polls show that Americans favor at least some restrictions on abortion? It’s hard to say for certain, but my guess is that the pro-abortion forces (backed by a compliant media) are expert at marketing their proposals as reasonable and pro-life proposals as extreme, even when the opposite is true.

The average American doesn’t want 32-week-old babies being dismembered, but they also don’t want 10-year-old victims of rape being forced to give birth. And the pro-abortion forces (again, with the help of the compliant media) make every proposal about the 10-year-old girl, not the 32-week-old baby. The pro-life movement is going to have to regroup to determine how best to move forward in this post-Roe world.

As I said on the podcast yesterday, these elections move the needle very little when it comes to actual policy and cultural issues, but they are a bellwether for the mood of the nation. And sadly, it looks like most Americans are comfortable with the total mess our country is in right now. While salvation was never coming from the GOP, it would have been nice to at least slow down the descending spiral for a bit.

As conservatives lick their wounds, let us remember the words of the Psalmist:

Put not your trust in princes,
    in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
When his breath departs he returns to his earth;
    on that very day his plans perish.
Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord his God.

(Psalm 146:3-5)

New Website!

Crisis Magazine has been around 40 years, which is a great accomplishment. Our website has been around for 8 years, which is more sad than impressive. Websites are meant to be updated and freshened up every few years, but unfortunately that hasn’t happened here. While the website has served us well, it’s clearly time for an update.

As you can undoubtedly tell, you are reading this on our redesigned website, which we hope will allow us to better serve our audience, helping them to navigate the crisis in the Church and the world and remain faithful Catholics throughout. 

Here are a few new features of the website:

  • Cleaner Interface: Magazines are meant to be read, and that includes online magazines. So we’ve cleaned up the main article page so that there is less clutter and more focus on what matters: the article itself.
  • Focus on Contributors: Our writers are what make Crisis successful, so we wanted to make sure they are front-and-center. Photos of the writers will be at the top of the page, as well as a link to a cleaner writer page.
  • Podcast Improvements: We’ve had the Crisis Point podcast for over two years, but I still find regular readers who don’t even know about it. This is because the old website made it hard to find the podcasts. No longer: Crisis Point, which is an essential part of our offering, will now be more prominently displayed and easier to use.
  • Shop: Crisis Magazine is part of Crisis Publications, and now you can purchase Crisis Publications books (along with select Sophia Institute Press books) directly on the website.
  • News: Crisis has always been fundamentally a commentary/opinion magazine, not a news operation. But of course our commentaries are often about the news, so we wanted to unite those offerings together. You’ll notice a “News” section of the website, which currently includes links to top stories of interest to Catholics. It is our hope that we can soon offer our own news stories as well.
  • Crisis Vault: Our magazine has a 40-year history, including 25 as a print magazine. We have digitized every print issue and put it online in an easy-to-navigate format in our Crisis Vault. This might be my favorite part of the new site.

I’m excited about this next phase in the history of Crisis, and I hope you enjoy the new web experience. As with all new websites, I’m sure there will be a few bugs to iron out, so if you see anything not working properly, let me know at [email protected]

The Present Crisis, Revisited

This month we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Crisis Magazine, and I thought it would be fitting to take a look at the original editorial from the first issue that laid out the purpose of the journal. How have things changed, and how have they stayed the same since those fall days in 1982? Let’s find out.

THOSE OF US who planned this new journal did so under the working title Catholicism in Crisis. We did so with the example of Reinhold Niebuhr vividly in mind, who on February 10, 1941, under analogous circumstances, finding existing periodicals inhospitable, launched Christianity and Crisis. There were many crises in 1941, Niebuhr wrote, but only one the crisis the intention of Hitler’s armies in extinguish Christian civilization in Europe. “Our civilization was built by faith and prayers and hard work,” he wrote “—and it was also built by fighting.”

At the beginning, Ralph McInerny and Michael Novak—the founders of Catholicism in Crisis—lay out the stakes, and they are significant: our very Christian-based civilization is under attack. Forty years later, who would say they are wrong? I’m sure neither McInerny nor Novak imagined a day where a Catholic would be attacked for simply affirming that a man is a man and a woman is a woman, yet here we are. If anything, the attack on our civilization has only intensified.

Is there a Christian minister who believes that the rights which he daily enjoys and which he takes for granted, like the air he breathes, would be his to enjoy unless these rights had been fought for by Cromwell, by William of Orange and by Washington? Are Protestants in the United States to live off the liberties which others are maintaining for them and then express complete indifference to the fate of those whose sacrifice makes the tranquil and serene life of American Christians possible? Should this become the American Protestant attitude toward the world, it would inscribe one of the darkest pages of the annals of the Church.

No one would ever accuse Crisis of quietism, that’s for sure. One of the most common criticisms of Crisis—although it’s heard less and less these days— is that we focus too much on the problems in the Church and the world. But as McInerny and Novak point out, we are in a serious fight, and one does not win a fight by pretending it doesn’t exist. 

Of course, if we only focused only the “bad news” without giving the “good news” (i.e., the Gospel of Jesus Christ), then our fight would be in vain. We must both point out the dangerous path many are on, as well as the path that leads to God. 

In 1941, the Christian Church was threatened with extinction in the North Atlantic. Today the crisis which threatens Catholicism is worldwide and far more formidable in military and police power than the juggernaut built by Adolph Hitler. While that crisis can never be far from our thoughts, it is not the crisis we have most in mind in launching this journal in 1982.

In a lesser sense, our crisis is literary. We are dissatisfied with existing Catholic journals and with — as we see it — the deteriorating quality of Catholic intellectual life. As Alasdair Maclntyre describes it in another context, too much moral “debate” has been reduced to shouting slogans at one another across partisan lines.

“Today the crisis which threatens Catholicism is worldwide and far more formidable in military and police power than the juggernaut built by Adolph Hitler.” Strong words, but what serious Catholic would deny it today? Hitler was a monster, but he was a monster we could see, resist, and ultimately defeat. Today’s enemies are often hidden in our rectories, chanceries, and even in curial offices. They seek to undermine the very foundations of our civilization and our faith, all while claiming to speak in Christ’s name. 

The Editors believe that what used to be called “the liberal Catholic tradition” has virtually disappeared in the United States. Moreover, the intellectual divisions of twenty years ago between “progressives” and “conservatives” are now out of date. Many who used to be liberal have moved decisively to the left, both in substance and in style of argument. Many, formerly conservatives, have become inventive, socially conscious and politically concerned. A new Catholic spirit is being born. It calls for a new voice.

Political terms are always shifting. Today’s progressive is tomorrow’s conservative. When Crisis was founded, most progressives were adamantly anti-war. Now they are in bed with the military-industrial complex. Conservativism has changed as well—who in 1982 would have thought that there would be leading conservatives who support “gay marriage?” 

Crisis has always been known as a “conservative” magazine, and that’s relatively accurate. At one time, it was the Catholic standard-bearer for the Republican party. But in today’s era of political disintegration, that’s no longer true. Ultimately, Crisis stands with Catholicism, as understood in the long tradition of the Church. So even if conservatives today now advocate for yesterday’s liberal causes, Crisis will have no hesitation in opposing such capitulations to the culture. 

Moreover, the crisis in which we find ourselves is one of faith and theology, especially concerning questions of the temporal order and the role of the laity.

Stated precisely, the crisis is that clerical power — not only in the bishops and in their administrative stalls — has become overweening. This is a direct consequence of so-called “Vatican II theology.” This “new theology” has four parts. Each of them weakens laymen and laywomen in their proper vocation.

Here McInerny and Novak really pinpoint the roots of the crisis in the Church: Clerics have become political instead of spiritual voices, trading in their prophetic role for a seat at the latest DC cocktail party.

First is the misuse of the “collegiality” of bishops. In itself, linked to the pre-eminent authority of the Pope, such collegiality is good. But certain institutional developments seem to us quite errant. National conferences of bishops are bringing political divisions into the church.

From the beginning Crisis has been wholly opposed to the national conferences of bishops which have always been political arms of the progressive establishment. Sadly, bishops today still often exchange their divinely-ordered roles as successors to the apostles to instead be middle-managers and social workers.  

Second is the diminishment of the clergy. Many younger clergymen stress “the priesthood of the laity” in a false way, so as to diminish the distinctiveness of their own priestly role and, in effect, merely to patronize the laity. We who are laymen and laywomen are not, and do not aspire to be, priests. We do not want priests usurping lay roles. We need, and desire, a sharper theology of differentiation.

Third is the aggrandizement of the clergy. Even as the distinction between vocations (manifested even in dress) is being fudged, clergymen are everywhere preempting lay roles. There is a manifest and tangible clericalization of the Catholic church, worse now than before the Council. More and more often, priests and bishops make political, economic and social pronouncements about the temporal order, to which the laity is expected solely to react. This is an inversion of vocations and roles. It thwarts the normal workings of grace and personal vocation. It compounds mutual weaknesses. It invites hubris.

It is a paradox that we live in a time both of clericalism and anticlerical sentiment within the Church. On the one hand, the clergy try to tell the laity what to do in areas that should be under lay authority (such as politics and economics). On the other hand, any sacramental aspects of the clergy are diminished, leading to a blurring between clergy and lay in the average parish.

Fourth is the diminishment of words of faith and holiness of life. Words like “prophecy,” “witness,” and “charism” are more and more used for strictly partisan political opinions, less and less used of authentic faith and practice. This is a species of theological imperialism, the coercion of false labeling.

The crisis in the Catholic church of 1982 is that the church seems in danger of losing its true, original, and profound identity, in order to become what it is not, an instrument of temporal power. Nearly always today, this temporal assertion of the church is leftward in its force, as in former times it was often rightward. Yet whether tilting to the left or to the right, the fundamental theological error is the same.

This is also the crisis in the Catholic Church in 2022: Catholics don’t know their own identity. Many parishes have become little more than social clubs, and many Catholics do not realize the beauty and power of the Catholic Faith, thinking it but one of many political or social viewpoints.

We do not wish merely to mourn the passing of the liberal Catholic tradition; we wish to breathe life back into it. Many battles must be fought, both to our left and to our right. We are, first of all, Catholic — our faith is dear to us. To be “Catholic” means to have a sense of community, of tradition, of faith and prayer and contemplation, and perhaps of tragedy (as in the crucifixion and death) not common to those who are “liberal” in other ways.

But we are also “liberal” in the sense that not all Catholics are. We are neither socialists nor traditionalists. Our vision of the temporal order is rather like that of Jacques Maritain, from whose Center we publish. We believe that history has a narrative form; that social progress, though difficult and reversible, lies within human possibility; and that the liberal society is an authentic, although imperfect, expression of the Gospels in political economy, made possible by the long leavening of human cultures with the faith of Judaism and Christianity.

“We are neither socialists nor traditionalists.” A lot has happened in the past few decades to make “traditionalists” less of a boogey-man than they were back in 1982. Here we see perhaps too much acceptance of the progressive doctrine of “social progress.” Catholic tradition, while it does develop, ultimately is anchored to the timeless truths of the Faith, truths which do not progress but instead call every age to conform to them.

We dread the “great, climactic battle” which Solzhenitsyn predicts on the horizon. We resist the flirtation of so many in the Church with ideas of political economy certain to diminish both liberty and productivity. We look for a return of American laymen and laywomen to their full responsibilities in the Church. We expect a “new spring,” after the present critical years.

We are clearly in the “great, climactic battle” today, and sadly that “new spring” in which McInerny and Novak yearned for has not yet come. Most, in fact, would argue that the crisis has only increased since 1982. Yet we still should be filled with hope, not because a new spring will soon come here on earth in our lifetimes, but because we know the end of the story when all crises will end and Our Lord Jesus Christ will reign as King over all. That is what the founders of Crisis wanted, and what we still want today.

Understanding the Roots of the Ukraine-Russia Conflict

We’re all familiar with The Narrative. It’s The Narrative that tells us that “love is love,” which means we must accept any and all perversities in our society as normal. The Narrative proclaims that “Masks save lives,” so we all must muzzle ourselves 24/7 in spite of no evidence it actually helps. 

The Narrative is the means by which culture is shaped and massive changes in society are implemented. Never is this more true than when it comes to war. After all, most people are naturally opposed to war—who other than a sociopath wants to see death and suffering inflicted on a mass scale? And so governments must implement The Narrative in order to gain support for an unpopular cause. That’s what’s happening here in the United States regarding the conflict in Ukraine.

Crisis Point
Crisis Point
Putin, Ukraine, and the Increasing Possibility of World War III

What is The Narrative regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? It states that the war is the result of the unbridled expansionism of Vladimir Putin, who wants to recreate—and enlarge—the old Soviet Empire. He’s a modern-day Adolf Hitler with paranoid delusions of Western aggression, a man to whom negotiations would be fruitless. In The Narrative, the West is spotless in its dealings with Russia, and this invasion occurred within a vacuum, with no history behind it.

While this Narrative, like every Narrative, might contain a few truthful elements,  it is not the whole story. In fact,  it leaves out so much as to essentially give a false story. What is the actual history behind this conflict, and what has been the role of America and the West in fostering it? That’s the subject of an excellent new book by Benjamin Abelow, “How the West Brought War to Ukraine.” 

The title might seem to indicate that Abelow is a Putin apologist, but he is no such thing. He states unequivocally that Putin is responsible for this war. But he wants to go beyond the cartoon version of the Russian president created by the Western media:

It is not my aim to justify Moscow’s invasion or exonerate Russia’s leaders. I have no brief for Mr. Putin. Notwithstanding all I will say, I believe he had alternatives to war. But I do want to understand him—in the sense of seeking to rationally assess the causal sequence that led him to launch the war.

In his short book, Abelow examines how Western arrogance toward Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union—expanding NATO to Russia’s borders, unilaterally abandoning nuclear arms treaties, placing missile installations within those new NATO countries close enough to destroy Moscow within 15 minutes, ignoring repeated warnings from Russia about Ukraine’s entrance into NATO, and assisting in a coup that overthrew the pro-Russian leader of Ukraine in 2014—all laid the groundwork to today’s conflict.

Understanding this history is vitally important for the cause of peace. Like Abelow, Catholics should not mindlessly follow The Narrative when it comes to the Ukraine-Russia conflict, but instead should seek to understand what has led to it, for this is the way to peace. It amazes me that many conservative Catholics who easily see the lies and half-truths of the Biden Administration when it comes to abortion, transgenderism, or the economy refuse to see those same lies and half-truths when it comes to the conflict in Ukraine (lies and half-truths which have led to the United States sending almost $80 billion in aid to Ukraine—money we can’t afford to spend).

In a recent podcast, I urged Catholics to look to the model of Blessed Karl of Austria, the “Peace Emperor” during World War I. Even though it was his uncle who was assassinated, thus setting off the War to End All Wars, he never gave into a war-mongering Narrative and instead relentlessly sought peace. 

A nuclear World War III would likely be humanity’s greatest failure. Although too many Western politicians and pundits today sadly equate “negotiations” with Neville Chamberlain’s “appeasement,” we Catholics should instead see negotiations as the path of Blessed Karl, one that deescalates conflict and leads to peace. In union with Pope Francis’s recent call, we should pray and fast that Russia will immediately cease hostilities, that Ukraine will be willing to open negotiations for a just peace, and that America and the West will encourage peace rather than further bloodshed and conflict.

Blessed Karl of Austria, pray for us!

The FBI Is Sending a Message to Pro-Life Catholics

The swatting and arrest of a pro-life activist on Friday sent shockwaves throughout the pro-life community…which is exactly what the FBI intended by their gestapo tactics.

When a swarm of fully-armed FBI agents attack the rural home of a father of seven who runs a Catholic anti-pornography ministry over a charge that was already dropped in the local courts, it’s not a mistake—it’s a message. You will be silent, you will comply—or you will be next.

Mark Houck is the founder of The King’s Men, a ministry that strives to help men to live virtuously and free from pornography. Each week he also prays in front of a Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia, sometimes bringing his 12-year-old son with him. On numerous occasions, one of the pro-abortion “escorts” directed vile and vulgar comments at the boy and came very close to him in doing so. Houck, after repeated warnings to the man, eventually pushed him away, which led to a lawsuit that was thrown out in the district court of Philadelphia.

That should have been the end of the story. However, the Department of Justice got involved, charging Houck with violations against the FACE Act, one of the most evil (and tragically, most effective) pieces of legislation in American history. FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) was enacted in 1994 in response to the growing—and effective—rescue movement. 

I was deeply involved in rescue at that time, and I remember well the impact of FACE. It essentially shut down all rescues across the country—rescues that were responsible for countless babies saved and for unsanitizing abortion in the eyes of the public. It was now a federal crime punishable up to 10 years in prison to peacefully and nonviolently block abortion clinic doors. Overnight, rescue was dead.

But of course pro-lifers did not give up. We continued to work for the end of abortion and the saving of babies, and those efforts eventually led to the Dobbs decision which overturned Roe v. Wade. Needless to say, the pro-abortion forces of darkness did not take that lightly, and here is their response: full-scale persecution of pro-life activists, given a legal veneer by the FACE Act.

Some pro-lifers are arguing that Mr. Houck should not have pushed the pro-abortion attacker down, or should not even have been there, but that misses the point completely. First, a father has a right and a duty to protect his children. If you move this exact same situation to another location, say, at a ballgame with a drunk fan harassing your child, then everyone would agree (and the law would support) that a father can take this action. 

Further, if pro-lifers simply stop praying and counseling at abortion clinics because of the potential for such encounters, then the pro-aborts will have already won. They purposefully instigate these scenarios to make us afraid to come. But if we give in to our fear, then the babies will have no one to speak for them.

The real story here is the overheated response of the federal government. This arrest is another step on the path to full-scale persecution of Catholics and pro-lifers. History shows that the persecution of a class of people doesn’t appear in a vacuum; it usually takes decades or even longer of priming the society to look down on a group of people or way of life. And what has the past few decades in America been if not a growing delegitimization of Catholicism and its teachings? 

We see it all around us. Big families are ridiculed, priests are mocked, and traditional sexuality is reviled. Anyone who dares to resist this trend is progressively ostracized from society and the culture at large. It begins at the level of the major media and Hollywood until it seeps into dinner conversations and neighborhood picnics. Eventually it gets to the point that a family man can be arrested and many will just say, “Well, he probably deserved it—after all, look at the way he lives.”

The forces of evil know how to take advantage of this attitudinal shift. They push a little at a time, progressively ramping up their attacks to see what is acceptable and what is not (yet) acceptable. An arrest like this, then, serves a dual purpose: first, it sends a message to the pro-life community, and second, it checks the pulse of the culture to gauge the reaction. If this arrest is allowed to stand, then expect more in the future. 

It also must be noted the role of the FBI in all this. The arrest of Houck, along with the raid of President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate and other recent egregious actions, should make clear that the FBI is not our friend. Sadly, conservatives have long supported the growing militarization of all law enforcement, and now we are seeing the consequences. A militarized law enforcement is an army ready to attack its own citizens.

Although we might have an instinctive reaction to “back the blue,” we need to understand that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies are being weaponized against practicing Catholics. I’d go so far as to argue that any practicing Catholics working at the FBI need to rethink their career and consider the possibility they work for a fundamentally immoral organization.

Fortunately, not everything is bleak. The growing persecution of Catholicism and traditional values has not been met without resistance. We see it in what might at first appear to be an unrelated news story from this weekend: the election of a new Italian prime minister who is boldly and unapologetically Catholic and pro-life (which makes her “far-right” in media parlance, of course). 

The increasing insanity of the Left has one positive element: it reveals to a growing number of “normal” people that a world ruled by the Left isn’t one they want to live in. And so we will likely see more and more victories by the Right, which is really just more victories for sanity.

In the case of the Houck arrest, we must do all we can to resist this Nazi-style attack on a family man. If you are able, donate to his legal fund. Be sure to continue to pray and protest at your local abortion clinic. Attend pro-life and other Catholic marches. Pray for the Houcks, all pro-life activists, and for their persecutors. 

But most of all: Do not be silent. Do not back down. Resist.

The Catholicism and Anti-Catholicism of the British Monarchy

With the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the accession of King Charles III, the British Monarchy is dominating the news. For Catholics, this presents some tensions. After all, the British Monarch is the Supreme Governor of the (heretical) Church of England, the mother church of the Anglican Communion, and of course is the successor of monarchs like King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I, who mercilessly persecuted Catholics, pillaged monasteries, and made Catholicism an illegal religion during their reigns. 

Because of this history, watching Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin being placed in state at Westminster Hall yesterday was a surreal experience for Catholics. On the one hand, the beautiful pageantry, liturgical precision, and moving chanting of the psalms all had deep Catholic roots. Yet this same room has seen the condemnations of both St. Thomas More and St. Edmund Campion for their defense of the Catholic Faith.

This dichotomy is deep in the English soil. The era from the reign of Henry VIII (d. 1547) up to the beginning of the 19th century was one of constant persecutions of Catholics, with varying levels of intensity over the years. Under Queen Elizabeth I in the late 16th century in particular, being a Catholic was a life-threatening condition at all times. It’s not an exaggeration to compare Elizabethan England to the pagan Roman Empire or the Soviet Union in terms of the level of persecution of Catholics. And latent anti-Catholicism still lingers in English culture today.

However, that’s not the whole story. Henry VIII could not have broken with Rome if at one point the Monarchy had not been united to Rome. And united it was. England has a long and glorious history of faithfulness to Rome and the Catholic religion, even to the point of being called “Mary’s Dowry” for its devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Church. 

When St. Edmund Campion was condemned, he harkened back to this glorious history to challenge his persecutors: “In condemning us, you condemn all your own ancestors, all our ancient bishops and kings, all that was once the glory of England—the island of saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter.”

After the arrival of St. Augustine of Canterbury in 597, England became a gem of Christendom, with many of her monarchs leading the way. King Alfred the Great fought against the pagan vikings to keep the island Christian, and King Edward the Confessor was a model of sanctity. Many English Monarchs enthusiastically supported the medieval crusades, fighting to stop the spread of Islam and regain the Holy Land for Christianity. Even King Henry VIII was a stout defender of the faith against the heresies of Martin Luther before his falling in with Anne Boleyn. 

It would be mistaken then, to simply dismiss the British Monarchy as an anti-Catholic institution that must be wholly rejected by Catholics today. Its history shows a deep connection to the defense and spread of Catholicism, in spite of the stains of the Reformation-era monarchs. 

I would argue then, that the British Monarchy is like a glorious and beautiful fruit tree, with roots extended deep into the ground. But next to that tree grew up a thick weed that became intertwined with the trunk and branches of the tree. It began to cover the tree’s beauty, and even to suck the nutrients from the tree, stifling its growth and health. Its fruit is no longer beautiful, no longer healthy to eat.

So the question becomes: do we try to save the tree, or should we just cut down both the tree and the weed? To me, it seems clear that the best path would be to extricate the weed from the tree, thus freeing the tree to be glorious again. This, to be sure, is far harder work than simply removing both. But instead of leaving an empty space and memories of a once-great tree, freeing the tree from the weed will return the tree to glory, thus attracting many to eat of its fruit.

How can this be done practically? After all, it’s not like any of us can talk to King Charles III and convince him to convert to Catholicism (if you can do that, though, please do so!). But we can work in our own sphere toward that goal.

One practical step would be to spiritually “adopt” an Anglican church in your area and pray for it each day to convert and become an Ordinariate parish. Imagine what would happen if dozens, even hundreds, of Anglican parishes converted en masse to the Church and became Ordinariate parishes. Would it lead to a rethinking of basic beliefs at all levels of the Anglican church, all the way up to the Supreme Governor himself? 

Perhaps if the majority of the Anglican church converted to Catholicism, the British Monarch would eventually even join his former congregants and himself convert. Yes, it’s a fantastical scenario, but I believe in a God who was raised from the dead, which is the most fantastical scenario of them all.

Make the British Monarchy Great Again: Return it to the Catholic Church, even if it means one convert at a time.

Weapon of Choice

The Internet is full of articles ignorant of or hostile to Catholicism, and it’s a good practice to mostly just ignore them. But sometimes you come across an article that is so ignorant and so hostile that you have to pause and contemplate whether it’s more stupid or more evil, or whether it’s the perfect combination of stupidity and evil that most anti-Catholics can only dream of.

A recent article by Daniel Panneton in The Atlantic, “How the Rosary Became an Extremist Symbol,” reaches these ignominious heights. Somehow Panneton is able to perfectly synthesize his ignorance of Catholicism with his contempt, and frankly, it’s a wonder to behold.


Aka, How The Atlantic Became An Anti-Catholic Rag

The general thrust of the article is this: so-called “radical-traditional” (aka “rad trad”) Catholics are weaponizing the Rosary and in doing so are joining with Christian nationalists in encouraging physical violence against their many enemies. I’ll understand if my Catholic readers need to take a minute to clean up their keyboards after spitting out their coffee reading that last sentence.

The howlers in this article come fast and furious and begin in the subtitle:  “The AR-15 is a sacred object among Christian nationalists. Now ‘radical-traditional’ Catholics are bringing a sacrament of their own to the movement.” First, the Rosary is a sacramental, not a sacrament. Second, Panneton’s proof that the AR-15 is a “sacred object” among Christian nationalists is a link to a leftist website making that claim (and this is common in this article: to prove his points, Panneton mostly links to other leftist sites making similar claims.)

It would be painful—somewhat like watching a middle school play where none of your own kids are involved—to go through all the problems in this article, so I’ll just hit a few highlights.

The concept of the Rosary as a weapon has a rich history in the Catholic Church; it’s not some modern invention. But this “weaponization” of the Rosary is connected to something far deeper in Catholicism: the idea that we are engaged in a war, and each of us are called to be soldiers in that war. After all, Catholics here on earth have long been called the “Church Militant” for a reason.

As St. Paul wrote in the first century:

We are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12)

Being a Catholic means being at war. If you wish to ignore that war, then you cease being a practicing Catholic.

Of course, in our modern woke world all militaristic language has become politically incorrect. Heck, even the military shies away from this language in favor of promoting the diversity of their troops (“Look, we now have black transgender disabled overweight women flying our planes!”). Any military language is sure to run foul of the woke police, so it’s not surprising that the “Rosary is a weapon” language is considered highly suspect.

Panneton further considers the growing movement among Catholics to learn how to protect ourselves and become more self-sufficient as proof that “rad trads” are preparing for war. Yet he makes no mention of the increasing violence against Catholic churches and crisis pregnancy centers, the desire to force faithful Catholics out of their jobs and even out of society for their refusal to comply with transgender or other woke ideology, or the violent, I mean “mostly peaceful,” BLM riots of two summers ago. Hmm…I wonder why Catholics are starting to feel like just maybe they should prepare for bad times?

I also find it interesting that Panneton finds the Rosary as the “extremist symbol” of what he calls “rad trad” Catholics. The term “rad trad” originated among Catholics who didn’t like traditional Catholics. It was a way to ostracize them—to say, “Look, I’m a practicing Catholic, but I’m not like those Catholics. I’m safe!” Of course, as society has gotten more extreme in its anti-Catholicism, so has the simple practice of Catholicism become radical and traditional in today’s world.

You can see this in some of the examples Panneton uses to distinguish these so-called “rad trads:” they “actively campaign against LGBTQ acceptance in the Church;” they oppose “abortion-rights advocates;” and they resist the child groomers prevalent in homosexual and transgender circles. In other words, they act like Catholics.

Catholics of all stripes need to realize that it is Catholicism itself that is a radical traditionalist movement in the eyes of the world. Instead of fighting amongst ourselves in an effort to appear more acceptable to the world, it’s time we united under the mantle of Our Lady, with the Rosary as our weapon of choice.

This Republic’s Bananas Are Getting Ripe

Last night former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate was raided by the FBI. Details are still unclear, but the purported reason for the raid was to search for classified documents supposedly stored at the estate.

This raid is just the latest in ongoing attempts to bring down Trump, attempts that began almost the minute he took office in 2016. From RussiaGate to multiple impeachments to the January 6th hearings, the Left, in alliance with the Deep State, has done everything it can to push Trump out of the way, preferably all the way to jail. Trump Derangement Syndrome has reached pandemic levels.

One cannot help but feel that this raid, however, represents a new and dangerous phase in our American experiment. It’s generally been understood that former Presidents are untouchable. Most of them likely have significant skeletons in their closet (can we say Jeffrey Epstein?), but Americans have an unspoken agreement that going after former Presidents, especially former Presidents of the opposing party of the current Administration, will end badly.

Of course, President Trump isn’t just any former president. He’s also the front-runner for the 2024 GOP nomination. And that’s why the Left can’t give him up. It is desperate to sideline him any way it can. This raid is an obvious attempt to do that; here’s U.S. Code § 2071 (emphasis added):

(b): Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.

The Number 1 goal for the Left is to disqualify Trump from running in 2024, and this goal has become an obsession, reaching insane heights. What the Left can’t seem to recognize is that their unrelenting attacks on Trump only make him more popular with his base, and even make him more popular with those who aren’t enthusiastic about him, but also don’t want to see governmental power used to frustrate the democratic process.

That’s the irony of Trump Derangement Syndrome: it attracts people to Trump. I’ve never been a big fan of Trump, as a person or as a president. However, the viciousness in which his enemies—who are often the enemies of my vision for America—attack him suggest that he has a greater ability to bring them down than I thought.

Personally, I don’t want Trump to run in 2024. But if he ends up being in jail in 2024, I guarantee I will vote for him, even if I have to write his name on the ballot. I may not be enthusiastic about Trump, but I’m far less enthusiastic about living in a banana republic.

The Liturgy Wars Have Become Doctrinal Wars

Many Catholics over the past few decades have studiously avoided the “liturgy wars” within the Church and, frankly, I don’t blame them. Too often these battles involve a lot of heat and not a lot of light. Catholic against Catholic can become quite vicious and personal at times. Better to simply keep one’s head down, bear silently with any liturgical issues at your parish, and soldier on.

Because of this prevailing attitude, many Catholics have also only been somewhat if at all interested in Pope Francis’s efforts to restrict and ultimately eliminate the traditional Latin Mass. It doesn’t impact them directly, and it seems to concern issues above their pay grade. Again, better to keep one’s head down.

The problem is that the effort to shut down the traditional Latin Mass is only one prong in a multipronged war by the pope against the perceived threat of “traditionalism.” For whatever reason, Francis seems to believe that traditionalism is one of the most pressing problems in the Church today and needs to be vigorously resisted.

Now the average faithful Catholic might say, “But I’m not a traditionalist, I attend the Ordinary Form and I’m fine with Vatican II, so what’s it to me?” Recent remarks by the pope, however, shows that this attack on “traditionalism” in the Church goes far deeper than an attachment to the old rites—it directly impacts the doctrines of the Church.

Last week on the plane back from Canada (it’s always on a plane, isn’t it?), the pope was asked about efforts to undercut Humanae Vitae and change the Church’s absolute prohibition against artificial contraception. His answer was revealing. Instead of just simply saying that this teaching would not—because it could not—change, he launched into another diatribe against traditionalism:

But know that dogma, morality, is always on a path of development, but always developing in the same direction…I think this is very clear: a Church that does not develop its thinking in an ecclesial sense, is a Church that is going backward. This is today’s problem, and of many who call themselves traditional. No, no, they are not traditional, they are people looking to the past, going backward, without roots – it has always been done that way, that’s how it was done last century. And looking backward is a sin because it does not progress with the Church. Tradition, instead, someone said (I think I said it in one of the speeches), tradition is the living faith of those who have died. Instead, for those people who are looking backward, who call themselves traditionalists, it is the dead faith of the living. Tradition is truly the root, the inspiration by which to go forward in the Church, and this is always vertical. And looking backward is going backward, it is always closed.

In other words, to think that the Church’s teaching about artificial contraception cannot “develop” is to be a “traditionalist” who has “the dead faith of the living” (and although there’s a lot of wordplay here, “develop” essentially means “change” in this context, since an absolute moral prohibition on artificial contraception can only be changed into something it is not). Humanae Vitae is simply “how it was done last century.”

So, in the pope’s eyes, you do not have to attend the traditional Latin Mass—you don’t even have to care a lick about the liturgy—to be a “traditionalist;” simply believing that the Church cannot change her fundamental moral teachings makes you one.

We are all traditionalists now.

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