Voting with the Mind of Christ #2: Dealing with Clerical Bullying

Published September 1, 2020

Catholics respect priests as a general rule. Most priests, in my experience, are humble, good, and gentle people who have genuinely sacrificed out of a desire to serve God’s people. Same for teachers, day care workers, etc.

The trouble is the Watering Hole Principle. Why are there lions at watering holes? Because that’s where the prey is. Why are predators attracted to the priesthood? Same reason. And not just sex predators. Power predators and grifters also get drawn to it and similar professions because it’s where predators can really use the power and authority of their office to push people around and grift them. Case in point:

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says 'Fr. Frank Pavone (Text LIF... 1h I'll be ready to hear the confessions of those who vote #Democrat, but we are trained that in the absence of repentance, absolution has to be withheld. 2 22 1'

This is spiritual abuse, plain and simple. It is use of the office of the priesthood to guilt people into violating their consciences for the sake of raw power over them. And the way to deal with it is to learn your faith so that you do not have to put up with this.

As we saw yesterday, what the Faith really tells us about voting is not “Vote for a Dem and you are in mortal sin” nor “Vote GOP or the Baby Gets It” but this:

A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.” – Benedict XVI

Jesus tells us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. When a priest tells you something as outrageously abusive as Pavone’s tweet, you are not being rebellious to check what he says and does in addition to his issuing bullying ipsi dixits on Twitter.

So when you research this particular priest’s background and find that he keeps hitting the road when some bishop tries to investigate the books of his grifting con organization, that should set off alarm bells.

When you find him desecrating altars with the corpses of babies in order to give stump speeches for the biggest grifting con man in US history, the alarm should sound more loudly.

When you find his own bishop condemning him for it while he offers no apology, Go to Defcon 3.

When you find that he seems to have no bishop at all and find he he is telling you rubbish like “I have a bishop but his identity is double super secret” adopt this expression about everything he says,

Justin Timberlake Stare GIF - JustinTimberlake Stare Look ...

…but especially about his attempt to frighten and bully you with lies about the automatic mortal sin of not supporting the candidate he has committed sacrilege to support.

After that, take away two lessons.

First, for the love of Almighty God, stop navigating your faith by Folk Hero.

What I mean is this: lots of conservative Catholics who don’t really know what the Church teaches tend to defer to their favorite Folk Heroes to tell them what to think and parrot, as well as automatically rejecting whatever some Culture War enemy says simply because that tribal enemy says it.

As a result bullies like Frank Pavone get treated like the Voice of the Magisterium simply because the data points Prolife! Conservative! EWTN! line up while actual Magisterial voices like Pope Francis are rejected because he is treated as an Out-Group Member, a Culture War enemy and because data points like Liberal! Social Justice! Climate Change! and Pachamama! line up to people only capable of this primitive tribalism.

There are a lot of prolife Catholics, deeply uncomfortable with Trump and inclined to reject him who stlll fall prey to the intimidation of bullies like Pavone because of this tendency to navigate by Folk Hero instead of learning how to think with the Magisterium. It comes down to “How do I deal with the sheer intimidation of tweets like that? What if I’m wrong?”

This leads to my second and most important point: The path to peace of heart is to learn your faith so that you do, in fact, know what is and is not permissible for a Catholic and don’t just have to take the word of a grifting con man who commits sacrilege to tell you. When you learn how to think with the mind of Christ you are no longer prey and can think and act with confidence and peace, even when prideblind Pharisees threaten you with the curses of God.

So: a quick primer on sin helps.

It take three things to sin: matter, understanding, and freedom. In the case of grave sin, you need grave matter.

So shooting your sister in the head is grave matter. But if you are two years old when you do it, no sin has been committed because you had no understanding of what Daddy’s gun could do and you thought it was a toy.

Similarly, if Sophie is forced to shoot one of her children because the SS guard told her he would kill them both if she did not choose one, the sin of the graveiy evil act of killing is mitigated down to zero by the radically impaired freedom imposed on her by the guard. It is the guard, not Sophie, who has committed not only the grave act of murder, but the diabolical evil of saddling Sophie with the agony of killing her child.

That is sufficient to go with from here. What has to be established is that all these criteria are met before anybody starts going around declaring categorically that voting for a Democrat is even a sin, much less a grave one.

Simply put, nothing like that can be established carte blanche concerning the act of voting, particularly in this election year without detailed personal knowledge of each and every voter. I do not deny that a given person’s act of voting might be sinful. Virtually any act, under the right conditions, could be sinful, up to and including eating an apple. But a vast number of things have to be considered and depend on each person. And as we shall see in future posts, in this year in particular, a vote for Biden can easily be argued (under the right circumstances) to be an act of obedience to God in a complex situation of competing goods.

Frank Pavone’s act of raw sacramental abuse to try to muscle the vulnerable into knuckling under to a vote for Trump is a radical assault on the sacrament of confession and the sacrament of his own ordination. On the increasingly unlikely chance he even has a bishop, I hope that bishop silences him and orders him to go do something useful to reconnect with his priesthood or, failing that, strips him of the right to his ministry. At this point, he is simply a disgrace to it.

He is not, of course, alone. You can find various clerics who will ring the changes on “No Catholic can vote for Biden”. What you do not find–ever–is the Church telling people who they must vote for. Real Catholic instruction on voting is designed to help Catholics think with the Tradition, not provide them with the List of Approved Candidates.

The trouble, as Josh Billings pointed out, is that because of the tendency to listen to Folk Heroes instead of the Magisterium, it ain’t so much what people don’t know as what they know that ain’t so.

Of which more next time.

12 Responses

  1. “ A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”

    Hmmmm .

    A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on owning as many guns of whatever type he chooses, especially guns the sole purpose of which is that slaughter of as many human brings as pissible in the shortesttime possible. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of unrestricted possession of weapons whose main purpose is murder, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”

  2. Thanks for this. I’ve come to terms with voting Democrat and will do so with a clean conscience this November, but I really wrestled with it for a time since virtually all the pro-life people in my own little bubble consider voting Democrat to be outright evil.

    What broke the spell for me was seeing the last Republican I voted for in an interview shortly after winning saying that even though he is pro-life, the choice to abort is ultimately up to the woman. When he came up for reelection, I was still told by all my pro-life friends that he was the only moral choice for Catholics.

      1. So…if I cast my ballot for the Democrat Party candidate, I’m to say I’m voting Democratic. Got it.

  3. > “What you do not find – ever – is the Church telling people who they must vote for. ”
    Well, apart from Spain in the 1930s (but then getting your churches burned down is an understandable provocation) and Malta in the 1950s (where the constitution was amended to ban “threats of spiritual harm” made to influence voters).
    But inasmuch as “we [Americans] are the world”, yep, never in the USA (as far as I know).

  4. Unfortunately, roughly once a year when ‘Fr’ Garrett Nelson, goes on holiday, he comes to our parish here, in England. We also have a really weird seminarian, John Pankratz, visit. He is so creepy you feel you wouldn’t want to leave your kids anywhere near him. I only know they’re extreme American Qatholics and part of the anti-Francis brigade from googling them after feeling they seemed deeply dysfunctional individuals on meeting them.

    For some reason, our bishop placed our parish priest – a British Qatholic – in our parish which ‘has’ (had) a bigger congregation than the cathedral (which he’s almost halved in under three years). He seems to have narcissistic personality disorder, if he’s not borderline sociopath. Somehow, I’m part of his inner sanctum, so I’m not saying this because of sour grapes, but he makes my skin crawl exactly because he fawns over anyone he perceives as powerful (and who like their ego stroked), and could be seen as an ally should anything come out about his emotional/spiritual abuse and say he was of good character. I can’t see it lasting, but I hope if anything does hit the fan, I’m called as a witness to say it as it really is, rather than how wonderful he is.

    He has two faces he shows depending on how he perceives you in terms of wealth or the power structure, and he’s even announced from the pulpit, with glee, that his rector at seminary told him he was disturbed and completely unsuitable for the priesthood, and told us, ‘But from that moment on, I was determined to prove him wrong, and God’s will prevailed as I am now standing, here before you, my wonderful flock, as your shepherd’. Sadly, his rector was completely correct. COVID has allowed him to give communion under one kind and proved an excuse to celebrate the Mass, ad orientem: what he’s wanted since he arrived as part of his mission to reinstate the ‘Usus Antiquior’ as normative.

    I was abused at school by priests, and they have a characteristic smell. These three guys – as well as our PP – give off that same stench.

    1. @ john doe

      People are attracted to the priesthood for all kinds of reasons— power, status, escape from things they would rather not face, access to Potential victims, shutting up the family as to why they aren’t married, smells and bells— every reason you can imagine. And yet, the church manages to “discern” that they are called to the priestHood by god.

      Draw your Own conclusions from that.

  5. Is there any prudent reason the hierarchy should ignore Pavone? Could Pavone have compromising information he threatened to release to the media if he is disciplined?
    He hasn’t appeared on EWTN for years, but a woman affiliated with PFL has.

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