Mea Maxima Culpa

I’ve been praying about this for some time and the events of last week finally compelled me to write this.

It’s not a big secret that I have been horrified by the rise of MAGA Christianity and the profound antichrist evil I believe it to be. You guys have heard me rail against it again and again. Far more than the damage it has done the US, I mourn the deep damage it has done to the witness of the Church which is the primary sacrament and has a mission to assist in Christ’s salvation of the world I believe Christians in the US are in desperate need of metanoia–of turning around and, above all, of taking full responsibility for our part in doing the ecclesial equivalent of dipping the Eucharist in sewage and then being upset that normal people are refusing to receive at it our filthy hands.

To do that with any integrity, however, requires doing what God teaches us to do every single time we come to worship: confession of our own sinfulness and the admission that I have sinned, in my thoughts, and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do through my fault, through my fault, through my own most grievous fault.

This is difficult to do for various reasons.

First it is often hard to pin down clearly where sin leaves off and ignorance begins. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” says Jeremiah. One is inclined to cut oneself a lot of slack in self-examination with “I was young and dumb” excuses. But there is a passage in A Christmas Carol that I find to be a tonic against such BS:

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides—excuse me—I don’t know that.”

“But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.

The sins I mean to discuss were, yes, partly owing to ignorance. But I might have known it had my pride not blinded me from seeing and deafened from hearing those around me who somehow managed to know what I somehow managed to miss. In the end, the reason for my ignorance was my arrogance. Mea culpa.

Second, it is difficult to discuss this because I know a certain kind of person will inevitably call it “virtue signaling”. Virtue signaling is what Jesus refers to when he talks of doing good things in order to gain man’s praise. He has nothing against being seen doing good things to gain God’s praise. Indeed, he commands it, telling us to let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and praise our Father in heaven. But when we do it merely so that others hail us, then we “have our reward” and no spiritual benefit will come to us. God will have to judge which I am doing here, whatever people think.

Third, and very difficult is figuring out how to make amends, which I suspect is a lifelong project and never finished this side of the grave. I have some ideas, but the first idea I have is to write this piece. After that, I’m kind of playing it by ear.

What I want to discuss is simply this: my part in creating the conservative Christian MAGA horror show that now rampages across our country, threatening life and limb, spreading Pandemic, crying with self-pity, raging against the Pope, the Church, its neighbors, and brandishing aloft the banner of the unborn, Jesus, guns, hatred for gays, “the family”, and “religious liberty” while it lawlessly destroys both the US and the Church’s witness.

I do this because I cannot speak with full integrity against it until I own up for my part in creating. it. So here goes.

For the past 20-odd years (up till 2016) I was a minor, but nonetheless real public figure in Catholic circles. I didn’t set out to become one. I started writing about the Faith because I believe it and find it fascinating and because I have always felt an obligation to bear witness to it as best I can. I made the happy discovery as a clerical grunt working first at the University of Washington and then at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center that I could supplement my income doing something I loved: telling people about cool things I was learning as a relatively new convert. I had been received into the Church in 1987 and in the early 90s started fitfully submitting pieces here and there about this and that, which I was pleased to see accepted. They were always about some piece of Catholic teaching I found new and liberating and my motivation was fired by the only thing that has ever been the pole star of my writing: the pleasure in watching the lights come on for somebody else. Nothing makes me happier than when somebody writes or says to me, “I never saw that before! That is so cool!” (I actually studied to be a teacher for while, but found that writing gave me more pleasure because my audience was self-selecting and wanted to learn what I was teaching, unlike the state-enforced kids sullenly fighting to resist the student classes I taught in my Teacher Training program.)

So by the early 90s, I was quite content working away as a writer. A writer/teacher/evangelist, mind you, not an “apologist”. Others have called me that, but I never called myself that, for a number of reasons.

The first is that apologetics is and always has been the handmaid of evangelism. Evangelism is the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. Apologetics is the work of clearing away the roadblocks of reasonable objections to that good news. If no objection was made, no apologetics are necessary.

Why does that matter? Because if you start with apologetics and not evangelism, you tend to start with an adversarial rather than love-based relationship with your reader. Something I noted early on was that the apologetics subculture tended to attract young, unmarried males who were looking for a fight rather than joyful apostles who wanted to holler good news to the world on Pentecost morning. They saw their neighbors as threats and enemies to be defeated, or else as fellow soldiers in what was essentially a conflict with foes, cold now but eventually to be hot, with neighbors who were a latent threat.

That bugged me. But at the same time, I myself did it, through my own most grievous fault. I often took the posture of the adversarial Catholic, talking about the foolishness of moderns, speaking lightly of the stupidity of the liberals or the Protestants, and mocking the ignorance of those who did not see the truths I was writing about. It was a strategy for helping to ensure a sense of camaraderie with the Catholic audience I was writing for, but it helped as well to foster the growth of the single greatest poison now killing the US Church.

That poison is the deep, deep belief in our marginalization, victimization and persecution, behind which we hide while we defend and advance our own persecution of others. Conservative Catholics, with the help of my tutelage, constantly speak as though they are, or are just about to be, martyrs at the hands of shadowy liberal enemies. I taught them to think that way for years, because I firmly believed that the day was soon coming when godless liberals would finally gain a definitive upper hand in our culture and use their power to crush the Real Catholics[TM], namely those of us who were prolife and loyal to the Holy Father. It was all very simple back then and I was sure I knew the future. Conservative Faithful Catholics on one side of the coming culture war; gays, libs, moral relativists, mealy-mouthed Clintonian parsers of words on the other. I took it for granted conservatives would be the martyrs and the libs would be the persecutors. And I helped instill in conservative Catholics the deep attitude of the defiant, mocking, victim martyr who sneered at his liberal persecutors as they slowly worked toward the day of our final showdown. It never occurred to me to see them as actual Catholics. I was the real Catholic[TM], as were the rest of my Faithful Conservative Catholic readership.

Mea maxima culpa.

With that blithe assurance of my soon-to-be persecuted heroism was my monomaniac commitment to only one public issue in the Church’s wide-ranging social doctrine: abortion. I remember writing a piece in the 90s proudly boasting of being a one-issue voter. I didn’t write too much about political stuff. My focus, like the focus of most converts from Evangelicalism at the time, was on the quarrels between Evangelicalism and the Catholic faith. This is pretty typical for converts. You want the family you left behind to understand why you have taken up with this strange new family. So you spend a lot of time dispelling urban legends and myths about “Mary worship” and “salvation by works” and translating jargon like “merit” and “indulgences” and showing why sacred tradition makes sense and the doctrine of the Eucharist is biblical. Along the way, you affirm what can be affirmed in common, including opposition to abortion. But precisely for that reason, you tend to be blind to the things that conservative white American Christians don’t see, or fear, or distrust–such as racism, or contempt for the poor, or bellicose nationalism, or misogyny, or hatred of gays. All of which I did.

The result, which I only fully realized with the rise of the monstrous, racist, and deadly MAGA “prolife” movement was that I, through my own most grievous fault, helped to inculcate the belief that, just so long as you opposed abortion, “prudential judgment” meant you could let virtually all the rest of the Church’s social teaching slide and even oppose it when it “helped the libs”. Only belatedly did I face the fact that what I helped condition Catholics to accept was the idea that “opposition to abortion taketh away the sins of the world”. My focus was on getting all the dogmatic ducks in row. But those little spots where conservatives might do life differently when it came to racism? Feh! Or the Church’s teaching on liberal-sounding 60s jargon like “structural sin” or the “preferential option for the poor” or the “dignity of women”? All that Peace and Justice drivel was for the Kumbayah types.

So, for instance, I remember to my shame pontificating on my old blog some 15 years ago about how, really, let’s face it, racism is over in the US. Blacks whining about it were simply “infantilized” and needed to learn how to take responsibility for their problems and not blame white people.

I also remember writing in a similar vein about gays, but heaping on top of that a shameful comparison to Nazis, fascists, etc. The thought of regarding them as human beings made in the image and likeness of God was present to my mind as a sort of theological theory, of course, but at a practical lived level the truth was I spoke to and about them as problems or threats first, not as human beings. The first message I always broadcast was not the fundamental truth that God loved them and they were made in his image and likeness, but the fundamental truth that I wanted them to live according to a moral code they saw no reason to obey thrust upon them by people they had not the slightest reason to trust–people who constantly telegraphed their disdain even for the gays who were Catholic and did try to obey Jesus. I helped communicate that message of contempt. Mea maxima culpa.

And all the while, I was, with incredible slowness to comprehend, still making excuses for what I should have seen was the rapidly growing cancer of Conservative American Catholicism’s break with the Faith.

To my shame, the warning bell was not zealous Catholic support for a completely unjust war that met not one criterion of the Church’s just war teaching and was condemned by two popes and all the bishops of the world. Nope. My fellow conservative American Catholics said you could ignore all that because that act of mass murder was a “prudential judgment” and I went along with it through my fault, through my fault, through my own most grievous fault.

It was only when the grave, intrinsic evil of torture arose and I was shocked to see conservative Catholics first defend and then become the dogged, entrenched leaders of the defense of torture that I began to dimly perceive that all was not well. I kept thinking the problem was poor communication until I was forced to realize that, no, they loved it. Only then did I, with snail-like slowness, start to think that, just maybe, the babykilling liberals who I was sure loved abortion and didn’t know anything about the Faith might somehow have accidently made a good call here, probably because God uses ignorant pagans to humble his saints and teach them. God, what a prick I am!

You might think I could have learned that lesson a bit earlier with the priest scandal when it was the godless libs in the Church and the liberal media who brought to light the ballooning scandal in Boston and with Maciel and the Legionaries and Pope John Paul’s failure to act. But no. I did not think with the Church’s teaching or Tradition (aka, the mind of Christ). I thought with bureaucrats, with the mind of institutional ass-covering and, above all, with the partisan mind that thought first, not of victims, but of the question, “Does this help liberals or conservatives?”

Far too late was I to internalize the teaching of Holy Church that “Man is the only creature on earth whom God has willed for his own sake” and therefore to acknowledge that no mere human system–including ecclesial systems–takes priority over the dignity of victims. I helped further the cancerous idea, still poisoning MAGA Catholicism, that the trouble was gays and liberals and the solution was straight conservatives. Not for years did it finally occur to me that the problem was abusers, gay and straight, and enablers, liberal and conservative. Mea maxima culpa.

As the torture debates went on, i noticed for the first time something that bothered me but I could not articulate why. The apologists for torture kept talking as though opposition to it was, somehow, support for abortion. “Why should I care what happens to hairy terrorists when a million babies a year are aborted?” was the argument. Yet to me, opposition to torture was a corollary of opposition to abortion. The arguments for both were the same: let us do evil that good may come of it. I could not understand how conservative Catholics didn’t see it.

And yet, as time went on, I realized that every argument I made to rationalize GOP assaults on the poor, on the death row prisoner, on refugees, on the underpaid worker, on victims of unjust war, on the sick, the elderly, and the marginalized was doing the same thing. The contract we made was simple: support the GOP no matter what because soon and very soon they were going to magic away abortion. Do evil now because the Great Good would come soon.

That was the essential argument of the “five non-negotiables” Catholic Answers taught me to “focus on”. And in the end, that Faustian Bargain to which I gave assent in 2004 ended as all Faustian Bargains end, with the soul enslaved to evil–evil I helped Christians enslave themselves to. For far too late, I realized that the goal of every conservative Catholic argument against Church teaching was not to defend the unborn, but to use them as human shields for the real goal: defense of unjust war and torture, rejection of health care, cutting help for the poor, you name it. If the Church taught it and the GOP hated it, then out came the unborn and the cry went up that we have to focus on abortion, not on these evils the GOP wanted to further. The apotheosis of this was when Fr. Frank Pavone took my old rhetoric about being a “one issue voter”, put the corpse of a baby on the very altar of God and offered a 45 minute stump speech for Trump in 2016. I paved the way for that through my fault, through my fault, through my own most grievous fault with my proud “I’m a one issue voter” babble two decades earlier.

With that went something else, my casual slander of Catholic Democrats as both accomplices to abortion and hungry for the approval of sinners. For years and years I casually spoke of Catholic Democrats as essentially not caring whether the unborn lived or died. It never occurred to me to take seriously the idea that Catholic Dems really opposed abortion, but were attempting a different prudential calculus to address and prevent it. They were libs. They were dumb. They didn’t know the Church’s teaching or they didn’t care. Only Faithful Conservative Catholics did. We held the copyright. They were friends with the World. We were the hardy saints who faced persecution and did what was hard–all while we were blowing up Iraq and, for my part, turning a blind eye to the building tempo of racism in the Obama years. I didn’t see it at all. I didn’t believe it when liberals said it was plain as a pikestaff. I dismissed it as the “race card”, played to justify their being “soft on abortion”. Sure a few fringe kooks went in for birther silliness. But, as my friend Scott Eric Alt put it, I spent those years as I had spent my entire life, smiling patronizingly at liberals and people of color and saying “That’s not what we’re about” when they warned again and again that conservatives and conservative Christians had a huge and glaring racism problem. I knew better, because I was white and I had no racism issues and, sure, some toothless hick might, but who knows better about racism, infantilized hyper-sensitive black people coddled by liberals or me? If I needed the opinion of people of color about their experience in white America, I’d give it to them.

Can the mouth of an ass like me even bray the words Mea Maxima Culpa?

Then came Trump and the orgiastic outpouring of race hatred that was his core support and his message to America. The Nazis. The KKK. The Wall. The massacres at synagogues and the manifestos from the nuts quoting him verbatim before still more massacres. The Nuremburg rallies and the fascistic calls for and praise of violence by Trump. The very fine Nazis and the Mexican rapists and the judges who can’t be fair because they are Mexican and the Muslim travel bans and the condemnation of black “sons of bitches” and the sadistic family separations coupled with lies, lies, lies, and excuses for all this filth from Pavone and Heilman and Ruse and EWTN and Arroyo. And I passed from “But that’s not what we’re about!” to the astonished thought, “Holy shit! That is what we’re about!” and the realization that when the people you have dismissed as dumb, ignorant liberals for years are looking at you with a raised eyebrow and saying, “See?” you have a choice. You can arrogantly pretend they got lucky or you can rethink your life and see what else they were right about and learn something.

During the Obama years I tried very hard to pretend I was above it all with the favorite tool of the MAGA cult: the “Both Sides” Moral Equivalence pose. This is the pretense, beloved by pious conservatives like me, that since “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” you can therefore defend every filthy evil conservatives commit by pointing to some evil committed or permitted by liberals. The trouble was, I eventually came to see that the end point of this strategy always favor the greater evil. So “But abortion!” is the mantra of the conservative who defends, not the unborn, but GOP evil while doing nothing about abortion. The GOP, which is 100% responsible for establishing and entrenching our abortion regime with Roe and Casey dangled the unborn in front of us for years and accused the Dems. But they never acted except to teach us defend unjust war, torture, racism and the other horrors I have mention above. They got our souls ad gave us nothing in return.

And I helped. I partcipated in this during the Obama years, pretending that the gathering freak show of the Tea Party and its racist birther weirdos, while a little troubling, was nothing compared to Obama–because abortion. Ignoring the fact that Obama’s actual policies were, in fact, reducing our abortion rate, I bought the “Dems are all babykiller” stuff hook, line, and sinker and turned a blind eye to the 1/3 of Dems who are consistent life ethic Christians. My Both Side Moral Equivalence arguments refused to see it just as they refused to see the surge of racism in the GOP. Sure there was a deluge of Obama bone-in-the-nose memes and Michelle-the-ape stuff. But this was the work of “lone nuts”. Only brown people, especially Muslims, formed conspiracies. Bad whites told us nothing about the growing networks of white domestic terror. They all acted alone. Only lefties were terrorists.

During that time, the big threat was Big Government. Obama was going to grow Big Government with his evil plan to give us health care. Sure the US bishops had been calling for it for a century. But Big Government! Liberals! Abortion! The real reason for it all was so that liberals could kill us with Death Panels and spread abortion! Because they were the Party of Death. We believed in Life! I was prolife! To support liberal stuff was to support death! So I went along with conservative claptrap against Obamacare and talked as though this was the clear Catholic position. Somehow, opposition to abortion required letting sick people die. And as long as there was one single abortion anywhere in America, all other moral progress needed to be held hostage to it. And I agreed. I went along. I was complicit.

Ten years later, I now ruefully see that this was one of the many examples of how this political cultus projects on its victims and enemies its own evils. The people who talked about Death Panels are the same people now saying that granny needs to get COVID and if the weak be like to die they had better do it and help decrease the surplus population. I helped that happen and went along with it, because it was important to protect the Party of Life for the day when it magicked abortion away. Yet again, I sided with the people saying, “Let us do evil that good may come of it.” I did that through my own most grievous fault.

In addition, something else I participated in a lot was simply the Right Wing Noise Machine habit of majoring in minors. I went along, for years, with conservative media’s endless diet of panics du jour and hyperfocus on dumb, symbolic crap just to keep conservatives swimming in an ocean of trivial contempt for their increasingly dehumanized enemies. I wasted my time getting worked up about whatever crap Limbaugh or FOX said we should mock or worry about on a daily basis. Midnight basketball. Feminazis. Homeless updates. Some campus kerfuffle or other. A starlet saying something dumb. Obama’s 57 states gaffe. Tan suits. Latte salutes. Hillary’s emails. Mom pants. Terrorist fist jabs. Michelle’s bare arms. That guy in pajamas talking about health care. A thousand other trivialities for 20 years that filled the minds of conservatives with aggrieved piffle about nothing. I circulated it. I laughed along with it. I accepted the narrative of the Conservative Inner Ring that, say what you will, libs were contemptible dummies, not human beings and certainly not people from whom I might learn a thing or two.

In the same vein, I was oblivious to the Right’s love of the gun cult for years. I went along thoughtlessly after every gun slaughter repeating the mantra that it was “too soon” to talk about gun violence. I even did it after Sandy Hook, God forgive me. I believed the lie that those who spoke against the gun cult were “exploiting tragedy” for whatever it was libs exploited gun violence for. It took the horror of Sandy Hook to finally shock me into realizing what I had been defending. Too late I realized that “libs” were simply acting like Normals and trying to stop the next slaughter. Too late I realized that the uniform response of the gun cult to every slaughter was not the public-spirited “Dear God in Heaven, what can we do to stop this from ever happening again?” but the narcissistic cry “Don’t blame me! Don’t touch my gun! It’s too soon to talk about this. MOAR GUNS!” I look at my complacency for years in the midst of this sociopathic narcissist cult and feel nothing but shame for ever having gone along with it.

The same with my cowardly capitulation to the conservatives at war with the entire scientific community–and then the Holy Father–about climate change. For years, I hung back from challenging them out of timidity at opposing the Party of Life and Real Catholics[TM]. Only when Pope Francis spoke to the issue did I finally work up the gumption to speak. But by then, the cancer of science-denial and ignorance was well-established–a cancer that has now combined with the conservative Catholic narrative of imaginary persecution to turn MAGA Christians into selfish engines of plague all across America as they spread lies and pandemic with their conspiracy theories, nonsense, violent stupid protests, and the general death of body, mind and spirit that is the legacy of the MAGA cult. I helped lay the groundwork for that by going along with GOP BS. Pope Francis could see the problem. Why couldn’t I? Because I was a coward who, like Scrooge, might have known, but chose not to.

This piece is pretty long because I was trying to be thorough. I hope I have gotten everything, but I think I should add one more point before I sign off. It is simply this: I don’t love them, the MAGA folk, I mean. That too is a failure and a sin. Some days, I simply have to go take a walk and vent at God about how much contempt I have for them. I figure he already knows, so I might as well be honest rather than pretend. I have been to confession about it more times than I can count. I will myself to forgive because its about will not emotions.

But love? I’m not there and that is ultimately my fault too. If I were a saint, I would love them because that is the real measure. Sure there are lots of reasons to despise these people. But in the end, none of that matters really. I should be like Christ, but I am not, through my own most grievous fault. And that too sends out ripples of consequences because my loathing gives other people permission to loathe them too, which is not really what I want my life to be about. I want it to be about the gospel and the joy of discipleship to Christ. May he forgive me and help me get there someday, because I will never make it if he doesn’t.

And I hope that all the victims of my sins will at the very least not take harm from them and, in the Providence of God, grow through contemplation of my failures.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. For these and all the sins of my life I am truly sorry. God grant me true contrition and a firm purpose of amendment and help me to make reparations for what I have done.


74 Responses

    1. One of your best columns ever, Mark. Thank you for writing it.

      I have a lot of thoughts about this, and maybe I’ll have enough time to write everything down. First, you’re being somewhat hard on yourself. Maybe deservedly so, but maybe not. I’ve never been too fond of being called a brown shirt and the fascist myself, especially since for the 50 years i’ve been making the point I have only ever asked for the same rights and the same treatment from my government as anyone else, and for organized religion extend to me the same courtesy and respect And to treat me exactly the same as they treat everyone else that they believe is going to burn in hell forever for their sins. But some people have been up for so long it looks like down to them if other people are up there too.

      ire aside, However, maybe you are being somewhat hard on yourself. We all have a journey to make, and some people are better equipped to travel than others. “Young and dumb” actually covers a great deal of it. Young and arrogant also covers it as well. You learn the art of being humble as you get older. I don’t much care for young me, but I wouldn’t be the me I am today if I had not gone through being that young man that I don’t care for her very much. I wasn’t bad, I just wasn’t very good. So you went through the same process, and eventually you figured out the younger version of you had a lot of work to do. I’m glad that you did.

      One of the reasons, perhaps a major reason why you were that way when you were younger and a much better man now that you’re older is that all of the thoughts you had as a younger man worried because none of it was actually affecting you. White, heterosexual, Christian, sis gendered males are some of the most privileged people on earth, but to listen to them whining about how badly they are treated provides the only justification they can have for all of the bad things you have been describing. One of the things I have seen clearly in watching the nightmare of the last four years is how often conservatives don’t seem to care about anything happening to other people until it happens to them. Then they care. “I never thought the leopards would eat my face!”, set the lady who joined the leopards eating peoples faces party. Senator Rob Portman, for example, was very anti-gay until his own son came out to him. Things changed for him when it did.

      One of the things that taught me to have empathy for others and to care about politics, morality, religion and society was coming of age as a gay man. I wouldn’t call myself a leftist by any means, though I might be slightly left of center on a lot of things and slightly right on center on a lot of other things. My experience as a gay man taught me to be a better man. as I’ve said many times on these very pages, I’ve been listening to this crap for 50 years. And every bit of it is crap. Just because it hides behind the banner of “sincere religious belief“ doesn’t Decrapify it. Why would I want to direct that at other people for yet another bogus reason?

      “ That poison is the deep, deep belief in our marginalization, victimization and persecution, behind which we hide while we defend and advance our own persecution of others.” Welcome to my world as a gay man. Welcome to the whited sepulchers I have written of before. And welcome also to religious megalomania. A few years ago, I had a long, long discussion with a very intelligent, very well educated, and very Bible literalist protestant woman. She was going on and on about my persecution Of her and all good Christians simply by demanding equality from the law and courtesy and respect from the church. But far more interesting to me, she also went on and on about the “pruning of the vine“, where all the vegetative trash would get cut away from the wonderful vine of the pure believers, like herself. That was what she was certain of: that she was saved and loved by God, where as I was… Not. She would allow God to love me just like he loved her. Just with the glare in her eye and her lips very, very tightly pursed.

      What I’m taking away from your column mostly is that you finally understand what I have said here, many many times: The end product of the fornication between church and state is not holiness. It cannot be. Because what the fornication of church and state is really about is what it has always been about, for centuries, not just decades or years: power, money, dominion, and in the age of Trump especially, but not particularly, REVENGE. Revenge on uppity colored people, Uppity f*gs, uppity women, uppity liberals, uppity Jews, uppityMuslims, uppity anyone.

      From my essay on the election: But therein lies the answer as to how we got to this point. Not to put too fine a point on it, but nearly half the this nation is ethically crippled, reality challenged, intellectually deranged, educationally debased, empathetically destitute, morally lazy at best and morally bankrupt at worst. No nation has ever survived this, nor can it, unless the other half stays vigilant and active.

      Why are they this way? I think the answer is found in ONE word: DESPITE. In his most Catholic books, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson writes about DESPITE for three very long, excellent novels. It is the essence of evil. Loosely defined: “I’m better than you, and so whatever I do, you simply don’t matter. I will make sure that you know it.” So, another word for it is CONTEMPT. It has a lot more meanings than just that, but that is what LBJ was talking about when he said: “I’ll tell you what’s at the bottom of it. If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

      Thanks again for writing what you wrote. I know it must’ve been very difficult for you.

    2. I get it. This past year really brought it home. I’m where you were 10’years ago. I respected your high intelligence, but was turned off by the insults and cursing. Reading this article has been an amazing eye-opener. I hear the love and humility. I feel my self-same regret and shame. I pray for God to work in all our hearts and His kingdom come.

  1. I did not read or know you in these days. For me, it’s quite hard to imagine you ever were *that* kind of conservative Catholic.

    If I may offer – at the risk of you thinking I’m a MAGA apologist – one piece of advice: if the ”pro-life Democrats” you are referring to are the ”safe, legal and rare” type, then I’d urge you to steer clear of them. Their is not the stance a Catholic should take on this issue.

    1. As a pro-life Democrat, I don’t know what you are talking about. Most of us believe that abortion is a tragedy and morally wrong. We believe that being pro-life, however, is much more than preventing abortions. I am a womb to tomb pro-lifer! Let’s make sure struggling folks are helped from the time they are fetuses, while children, when desperate parents/adults, into their old age. Jesus gave us the example of reaching out to those on the margins of society. Christianity is not a social club, but a hospital for us sinners. God bless!

  2. Artevelde : I am constantly surprised by this ignorance. You are truly not aware that there are truly pro life liberal Catholics?
    -oppose the death penalty and abortion
    -practice NFP and are regular communicants
    -teach our children to love the poor in giving our first fruits of time and money, not just wait for it to “trickle down”
    -advocate for ‘strangers and sojourners” of all kinds, documented and undocumented alike.
    -believe in practicing peace, not owning guns or otherwise”training for war”.

    We do exist, I assure you.

    1. @Csd

      I’m puzzled: why would you think my remark was aimed at you? Your own remarks seem to suggest that neither the death penalty nor abortion should be legal. If that is correct, why would I have I any beef with that?

    2. I never comment on these things, but I just wanted to say I love your phrasing of giving the “first fruits of time and money”. I had never thought about it that way.

  3. First off, you aren’t alone. There are a LOT of us that walked a similar path.

    I’ll never forget the moment where I realized that nearly everything the left said about the right was…right. It was beyond sobering.

    It is to my eternal shame that even as late as 2012 I was still voting for Republicans on the abortion issue alone, even though I clearly knew by then that they had been deeply morally compromised. I actually ‘wanted’ to vote for Obama, but felt obliged to vote for Romney because I’d been so well ‘trained’ to only vote for a pro-life candidates (though that vote fills me with less shame than many others due to Romney’s integrity).

    In any event, I’ve been reading you since nearly 2000, and if it weren’t for your strong push back on the torture issue (you are not giving yourself nearly enough credit for that), I am not certain I would have found my way out of the moral swamp the right was creating. You truly were a rare light of clarity in those days, and have been ever since.

    What I will never figure out, is how, after the lies justifying the Iraq war came to light, so many more people didn’t begin asking the simple, clarifying question some of us did….’If they lied about this, what else might they be lying about?’ It was a long road out that took many years, but it began there for many of us, and should have, for many more.

  4. “I also remember writing in a similar vein about gays, but heaping on top of that a shameful comparison to Nazis, fascists, etc.”

    Yup, I read your blog a bit in those days, since I was a Christian back then, too. I believe your exact term for gays was “gay fascist brownshirts.” I am ashamed to say that, at the time, I thought those words were reasonable.

    Mea Maxima Culpa.

  5. Well, I thought I left a comment earlier, but I don’t see it. It wasn’t too controversial, so maybe I just did not hit the right buttons. I am still not good at any computer stuff. I am just mentioning this because I will leave the same comment again, and if somehow the first one turns up that is why I have two.

    Thank you for this.

  6. Now it says “your comment is awaiting moderation.” Could you tell me what I said that seemed bad enough to need moderation?

  7. Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15:7


    Your atheist friend Neko

    1. Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but she who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:21 (Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, adapted).

  8. Well, thanks for this Mark, you’re a good man. You weren’t alone on that journey, and aren’t alone now.

    When my Dad died my brother went through all of his stuff and seized upon a personal letter from Reagan. He was commiserating with him about the welfare state. My brother photocopied it and had it framed handsomely for all of us.

    I’ve been watching a documentary on Reagan that just came out. If you are as terrible (I was going to say “ghetto” mea culpa) as I have become, and say “Holy shit!” with as much frequency (my little daughter says, “Mom! Words!”). You will be tempted. It’s hard to watch towering figures crumble like the great OZ, and even harder to have been fooled.

    I still think liberal democrats and sissy Republicans all work for the same boss: Mammon. Biden hails from a tax haven state. I’m waiting for ALL of them to cull the herd at some point. Cooking the world with greenhouse gasses fits the bill. does that make me a conspiracy theorist in recovery still?

    If I ever get around to seeing a therapist about it all, I have no doubt that PTSD will figure into it all. –I guess I just don’t want to know concretely. The unfulfilled novelist in me often pauses and reflects upon the stupendous evil of it all –most dramatically the antichurch that mimics and impersonates the real one. So, so evil.

    And then there is the welfare state, and ALL of the people in my TRUMPY Reaganite family that think work is for brown people, and beneath them.

    God help me, I have no tribe.

  9. It was kind of a half-joke.

    The last 20 (40!) (50!) years have provided us with ample material for an identity crisis.

    (The Unabomber was a social misfit who lived completely *alone* in a small cabin in the forest of (I think) Montana. An isolationist. The federal investigation to find and capture him was the most costly in the history of the U.S. Look up his Wikipedia page, it’s pretty fascinating.)

    My point was that most of us find comfort in having a sense of belonging to a political party/movement. We feel strength in numbers and most at home with like minded souls. A great collective of what appears to be good people makes us feel safe.

    Being a part of the conservative “party of life” was like watching or reading one of those psychological thrillers where the credentials of the good guys was set up so well and so convincingly that when jarring little clues first start appearing –you absolutely discount them because you think it couldn’t be possible.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think that the good guys became bad guys and the bad guys became good guys, I just think evil sometimes dresses itself so well that it goes undetected for a while until someone from the party that we deem undesirable demonstrates qualities that are more Godlike: *lifegiving*. It can be a revelation. But the older I get, the more leery I feel about “movements” in general. Movements are supposed to shed light upon a particular evil like racism or discrimination against *anyone* certainly not a bad thing! but as Mark points out the corollary temptation is how a movement can quickly devolve to *punishment* and revenge for people we perceive as adversaries, instead of the great children of God.

    I’m going to stick to the Mother Teresas of the world who talked less and rolled up their sleeves more and will (ahem!) try not to find any pleasure in *anyone* who would want to bi*ch slap the atheists that want to sh*t on her life work.

    **I cuss a good deal more now as a form of revenge for my mother who was handy with a dove bar/toothbrush combo. She never cussed in her life but voted for Trump.

    1. It’s a fine line, I agree. Basement dwellers tend to eventually develop some pretty unsavoury political ideas. One can’t avoid being ”educated” in some way, I think, and an internet brainwashing doesn’t do anyone any good.

      Still, I think cultivating personal friendships that transcend political and religious differences is a duty. Agreement is not necessarily required to share a glass or a good meal, or the company of friends.

      1. Oh my goodness yes. Sharing a table with the “other” melted every prejudice I didn’t know I had, until it melted away.


  10. **oh, and a good deal of the anger I still need to work out is that Trumo WASN’T evil that was dressed up well. To quote Mark, their dimestore antichrist was so shoddily dressed up it was visible from space. It was like a beautiful woman dating an ugly, toad-like man with money and bad manners.
    –wait, that happened too.

    1. When talking about this specific woman dating and marrying this specific man occupying the white house, ”beautiful” is not the word that comes to mind. One of the most grotesque spectacles of wartped masculinity are those c

      1. (continued after spasmodically pressing ”post comment) artoons where Melania Trump is depicted as a true American beautiful lady and Michelle Obama as a .. primate.

      2. For a second there I thought you were calling her the “c” word!

        If your thought is that beauty means a whole lot more than the physical appearance than I agree. Melania is pretty. She’s like a raccoon that never intended for the public eye to see what she was up to. Poor thing. I hope all of this doesn’t destroy her. I don’t know your age, and don’t know if you watched it unfold, but I think another “nobody” that was thrust into the public eye–princess Diana– managed to grow up and do some pretty great things after the great-powers-that-be failed her miserably.

  11. Mark–

    This is might be a topic for another day, but–
    I was just thinking about the great power that those who write well, and present thought provoking content wield. With the age of the internet, we saw that such content can be passed along at lightning speed. Putin was quick to harness this energy to attack our country’s Democracy.

    I can’t say that I didn’t feel a great deal of schadenfreude when Trumpy had his Twitter account and social media platforms suspended, but I also couldn’t help but feel this *utter* contempt for Zuckerberg who first got cozy with Trump, and then quickly flipped sides.

    There is a fascinating podcast called “You’re Wrong About” which explains how the older generations of Christians in America were masterfully manipulated in their Facebook Feeds with algorithms to keep them hooked and enraged. Zuckerberg new full well how addiction works, and he didn’t do a thing to stop it, even though it fueled the creation of a monster.

    I think he is also criminally liable for the death and mayhem that is happening.

  12. Mark, thank you for this. You’re not alone in your thoughts, awakening, and missteps. As a Catholic writer, I cringe to think about some pieces I wrote several years ago that were frankly impervious to rational thought and had a laser-beam focus on being anything but a baby killer. This pandemic and all of the unrest Trump and his unwavering cult has brought into the world has been tough, but it has also been revealing to me and set me on a path toward being the kind of Catholic and human being I want to be and I want my children to be.

    Also, you are the only person I’ve seen write about how the same people who condemned and feared Obama’s death panels are okay with a huge swath of the population dying of Covid (it’s inevitable, a price some will sadly have to pay, yada, yada, yada). I’ve brought up this parallel and have also pointed out how so many supposed prolife people have embraced pro choice rhetoric during the pandemic. It’s my life, my body, and my health; no one is going to tell me what to do and I certainly won’t allow any government intrusion even if it might save a life. Any time I draw these parallels, the ad hominem attacks ignite. I am accused of myriad things: being a baby killer, not being a real Catholic, being an elite (I’m an ordinary mom of 5 whose primary job is hazardous waste removal expert), or I just lose innumerable followers (even if I simply post a photo of one of my family members wearing a mask I inevitably lose followers). It’s been infuriating as well as extremely disheartening to likewise witness many Church leaders standing by Trump while condemning Catholics who vote for democratic candidates. At any rate, thank you for this humble, wise, and enlightening piece. I do think they’re are more of people who share your views here than might seem evident, especially on social media where groupthink rears its ugly, dangerous and polarizing head. There’s a certain tribalism where people get off on belonging to something, and some of us may feel really alone. But there are plenty of Catholics who share our views and have realized that we must advocate for pro-WHOLE-life. Solidarity!

    1. Yes. The apotheosis is mask protestors literally shouting “My body! My choice!” to rationalize their contempt for the people they endanger with their deadly selfishness.

  13. Thank you so much for writing this. My heart and brain are quite full after reading this. I was raised in a conservative, nominally Catholic, house hold and first became active in the Church in my early 20s after going through RCIA. Even though I was baptized Catholic as an infant, I feel that I have much in common with converts as I had many year of typical formation that I missed. As I have learned about the Church and its teachings, I have also (through a series of events, some related and some non-related) become much more liberal than my parents. I am still quite moderate, but I have been struggling greatly with this question for a few years. Because I was not confident in my faith, and I was surrounded by older Catholics who are very much the MAGA-type, I felt like there was no place for me. Attending Church (regardless of COVID) has become very hard for me because I have internalized that message that you cannot be a Democrat and a Catholic. All of my friends are one or the other.

    But through the last four years, I have become more confident in my faith and understanding, and have been thinking for myself a lot more. One resounding idea that keeps coming back to me and pushing me forward is the realization that there are many, many people who consider themselves pro-life. Their idea of pro-life, however, means that they are quite concerned with a baby as long as it is in the womb. After that, though, their interest wanes. Especially if the baby is black or brown, or grows up in poverty and ends up with no health care, a poor education, or goes to prison. The people who Jesus most exhorted us to help are the ones that get marginalized repeatedly.

    I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, have the answers, and I have a lot of work to do. But I feel like I am on the right path, and your writing has helped to bolster me in a time of great spiritual need. I strongly oppose abortion, but I believe that if we are going to tell women that they have to carry their baby to term, we have a responsibility to help with that. We need to applaud women who bear a child rather than aborting, even when she knows she will have to raise the baby on her own. We need to be there for her instead of judging her as a poor single mother, or judging young parents. I would like to see us create a place where women feel that they have viable options when they become pregnant, and that they do not have to have an abortion.

    But I want to carry that on – where we make sure that people have access to medical care and education that will not bankrupt families. Where we can provide safe havens for people who are fleeing oppression, abuse, and danger. Where we can recognize what are needs for us and what are luxuries, so we can better give of our own treasure to those in need without stopping to assess whether or not they are “deserving.”

    That was a lot more than I thought I was going to say, when I really just logged on to say Thank You. You have had a long and complex journey and I am so grateful for you sharing your journey and acknowledging how you have changed. That is a great gift to us all and I am so happy to have found your post.

  14. You changed my mind on torture, back then, and that helped me start to look at a lot of Culture War stuff differently. Since then, I have made a conscious effort to think with the Church, and leave behind narrow, American political tribalism. I’ve also learned to be wary of my own unexamined assumptions and biases. I try, anyway. So thanks, and God bless you.

  15. Mark, it has been a long time since I commented at your blog. Years ago, some exchanges that I had in the “Catholic and Enjoying It” comments a very hurtful turn for me, and I felt the need to cease commenting, for my own emotional well-being, but I want to thank you, very much, for this piece. You and I have traveled similar trajectories. I see much of my past in what you describe of your past.

    In terms of where I am now, as much as I do oppose the dangerous things that I see from too many others, both inside and outside of the Church (i.e. Trumpism as a cultic near-religion, weaponized, politicized, anti-mask Covid mentality, cynical political use of abortion to manipulate voters, bashing of Pope Francis on so many issues where he is only trying to do good, etc., etc.), the vitriol in my own heart is what most scares me, because in the past, so many times, I have damaged others, and put my own soul in peril, with that vitriol, especially when I believed that I was in the right. Even if, or when, I actually was in the right, that vitriol was poisonous. There may be times, now, when I am not as confrontational as I should be with certain things that I see. (I do try to consistently call out evil though.) I just know that there have been far too many times, in the past, when I have been so polemical, and arrogantly so, that whatever good I was trying to do was likely greatly diminished, if not actually negated, by my approach. Mea Maxima Culpa. By the grace of God, I’m trying to do better. Thank you for helping me with your words here. Please pray for me, brother. I am praying for you.

  16. My beliefs from 20 or 30 years ago make me cringe now. I was once firmly in the conservative camp, until little by little, over time I began to break out of it and think that maybe the liberals were right about one thing or another. Now all I can see on the right is a cesspool. It’s good to read the stories of other people who’ve made the same transition.

  17. I started reading you a lomg time ago. You and Father Zuhlsdorf. I could count on both of you to be orthodox and neither of you has disappointed me in that. When you lost your steady work in 2016 I worried for you. I stuck with you and worried for you even more through the really dark and hate filled days that followed when you could not find a charitable word for anyone on the right and became an all to effective counter witness. Up until you unfriended me because you mis interpreted something I wrote, I don’t remember or particularly care what anymore. I don’t know what has happened to you in the mean time, but this sounds much calmer and rational than that raging provocateur, and I am glad to see it. I trust we would still agree on matters of faith and suspect we would differ on how that is best lived in the political realm, but it is good to know that the guy I trusted and sometimes argued with is still at it and trying to get better at this Catholic Christian thing. Pax vobiscum.

  18. It takes a lot to admit mistakes, and especially those which a person heavily invested in.

    I think far more important than “told you sos” is the realization that we did not arrive at a place of terrorism and insurrection as a sudden aberration. It is the wretched and inevitable harvest of a toxic ecosystem we have been cultivating for about a quarter century. This is not a time for recriminations or finding reasons to push away potential allies over past squabbles.

    I’m not sure we can beat this thing without resorting to China security state measures. This is not a fringe minority we’re up against. It’s the majority of what used to be the conservative movement, and some number of young radicalized leftists have also concluded that it’s time to resort to means beyond the law. We are facing an actual terror movement inspired by a U.S. president, who, even after leaving office, is likely to continue and who has inside knowledge of the nation’s security means and methods. Our only chance will be if essentially everyone sane of any political and religious stripe pulls together.

  19. Good on you for your honesty, Mark, but do keep in mind the clear daylight between, eg, “There is no justification for joining ISIS and taking sex slaves, or for joining the IRA and planting bombs to kill civilians” on the one hand and “Therefore there never was any discrimination against Muslims or Northern Irish Catholics – all their complaints were a big lie, right from the start, and just a pretext to justify their lawless violence.”
    In other words, a cause may degenerate and go bad but that in no way proves that it “was always evil from the beginning”, any more than the murders of Betty van Patten or Yankel Rosenbaum somehow retroactively discredit Rosa Parks, or the crimes of the Khmer Rouge prove in hindsight that the Ludlow massacre of 1914 was justified.
    Beware of the sound of very long bows being drawn.

  20. This is an extraordinary piece. I am one of those gay liberal Catholics and i grieve with you at the terrible pass that we have reached as a church and a nation. I urge you not to torment yourself too much. You were hardly alone and you have been willing to take a hard look at yourself. That is surely not nothing. Even in a moment of darkness you are on a path to light and I pray that you will get there soon. Hang in there.

  21. Mark, I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this incredibly important public confession of yours. Not only is it crucial that the fractured and confused Catholic body start to hear truth from those who’ve been pushing the false and destructive narrative that has been promoted for so many years by now, it’s really important that they hear exactly what that strategy was and how it was deliberately employed. This way, it’s a lot harder for them to dismiss what you have to say as coming from one of the “defectors” or “heretics” who have now turned on the Church by daring to challenge the pro-life zealotry in service of right-wing politics. If they really seek the truth, they will recognize it in the details you’ve shared here. May God bless you for your good and brave work on behalf of the faithful.

  22. Have you listened to Taylor Marshall? He’s great. He can certainly debate the Conservative Catholic position with you.
    God Bless

    1. He is an utter crank and a false prophet whom only a fool would trust. His Infiltration book is absolute crap His “Jericho March” was a huge exercise in false prophecy worthy of the prophets of Baal, and his war on the Holy Father and on Amazonian Catholics is a stain on the honor of the Church. I beg you to stop being taken in by such visible-from-space cranks and quacks.

      Read and learn:

      1. You should invite him to a debate on these subjects especially the Popes stance on lauding pro abort politicians. I mean you must agree to that right? Taylor Marshall has a really big audience you could reach and he is so terrible and ignorant you should have no trouble defeating him. Make it public please! You are so good at writing your mea culpa on this your own blog but you could reach a whole new audience!

      2. No. I should warn people away from quacks and frauds like Marshall. Marshall instantly blocks everybody on twitter who offers the slightest challenge to him. Instead of challenging *that* you come here and pester me to demand a debate with a guy who won’t even let me reply to him. You should ask yourself why you do that instead of challenging him.

      3. Do not go near Taylor Marshall with a ten foot pole. I saw someone encouraging Bishop Barron to engage with him & he refused point blank. All that would do is give him a respectability & oxygen he doesn’t deserve.
        Brilliant article Mark, one of the best I have ever read. I used to read you years ago but got put off somewhat by the stridency. I myself have spent many useless hours defending the indefensible & getting into online spats. Thankfully the Holy Spirit guided me away as he has done you.

      4. @ tom

        Taylor Marshall is the proponent of an idea that there exists a centuries-old plot, hatched and promulgated by the Masons, the Communists, and other nefarious organizations, but especially MY effin’ favorite— TEH GEYZ (cue scary music). It is simply one long conspiracy theory that postulates far more intelligence, stick-to-it-iveness and organization than any of those groups have ever demonstrated. All of the masons I’ve ever known were dullerthan cotton atockings. And for TEH GEYZ, it would probably also require a time machine.

        But why not? That’s the great thing about conspiracy theories. All of the evidence against the conspiracy is in fact evidence of the conspiracy. You can’t lose. The sister of one of my friends lives in New Orleans. She’s very sad that the former occupant of the White House lost, and is certain that the election was stolen from him. When you point out the 63 to one court cases that he lost, she either says that the courts are part of the conspiracy or the courts didn’t get the evidence, NOT EVEN FROM THE FORMER OCCUPANT OF THE WHITE HOUSE’S OWN LAWYERS.

        But as I said, she’s really sad that the former occupant of the White House lost. She admits that he’s a ConMan of the first order, but she feels that is mitigated by the fact that he’s honest about it. Funny enough, she also claims that Joe Biden is a ConMan, only that he’s very good about covering it up. How does she know this? What does it mean that he’s really good at covering up that he’s dishonest, but she knows all about it? It proves how clever he is.

        You may be confusing Taylor Marshall’s charisma with Taylor Marshall’s brain or TaylorMarshall’s Character. We just went through four years of that with a man whose sole qualification for power what is his ability to con common people into believing that a putative billionaire was their friend, and a fornicating, adulterous self proclaimed sexual assault her was a man of “good christian character”
        You may also be confusing thefact that Taylor Marshall has a platform with the question of whether he actually has anything of value to say. Also a characteristic of the former occupant of the White House.

  23. You gave three different responses;
    1. No you shouldn’t debate him, you should warn people away
    2. He blocks people who challenge him. Has he blocked you?
    3. I shouldn’t even ask for a debate between your opposing views, I should challenge him myself.
    Well, which is it?
    I was hoping for a reasonable response not you tripping over backwards to hide. I guess you did answer my question.

      1. No. You weren’t. You were hoping to say, “Let’s you and him fight” and to defend a quack and a crank who is massively wrong and absolutely closed to any challenges to his ignorant ipsi dixits. You were also here to accuse me of being a coward, because you are a troll who has clearly already decided the Marshall’s stupid claptrap is Deep. You do not know the first thing about the faith, which is why you side with the ignorant demagogue against the Holy Father.

  24. You are right I was hoping to hear you defend yourself but I haven’t sided with anyone in a debate which never happened. Your unhappiness and fragility is apparent in your responses though. You started with name calling…seems like a weak position. My first impression of your “mea culpa” was that it was a disingenuous vehicle to attack more conservative Catholics. I was right. You are a pompous fool who can’t recognize truth or Catholic teaching. I’m sorry for you and hope you convert. God Bless

  25. The reason I left the Church was confusion about and fear of the conservative Catholic words, attitudes and behavior that showed profound disregard for others. Thank you, Mark, for your eloquence and honesty. I have not yet been able to ask God forgiveness for my contempt of conservative Catholicism.

    1. The key is to keep your eyes on Christ and to remember that the MAGA freak show is a small and local phenomenon largely confined to the American Church. I hope you stay and be a light for all those who are seeking the gospel of Jesus in this current hour. This freak show will, like all the things of hell, pass away. It is our appointed task in this hour to fight against it. God will bring good out of this cross as he always does, if we bear it with Jesus faithfully. Remember, forgiving our enemies does not mean having to lie to ourselves that they are not enemies. It just means handing the burden of judging them over to God. It’s hard, but doable with the power of the Holy Spirit.

  26. Your post is a ray of hope. I’ve been following US Catholic blog posts from the UK and been dismayed and concerned about how so many Conservative Catholics, including the committed and devout, seem to buy into such fascist beliefs without noticing how hypocritical and demeaning of other people they are being. It’s baffling at best and terrifying at worst. America is looking pretty broken from here especially after the lack of accountability of the former president’s role in the Capitol riot and the last few years of politics. Whatever happened to tolerance and agreeing to disagree without aggression. It’s not easy but how many truthful things are easy? May God help us. I appreciate your honesty and courage. I pray for America. Spiritual discernment is so important and takes a long time to grow. Thanks for writing this.

  27. Mark, thank you for writing this. All of the conclusions I came myself prior to meeting you were confirmed by what you wrote in here. Although our writing styles are different, and you have published a lot more than I have, there are some profound similarities and similar conclusions. Thank you for helping me see the fuller truth about the GOP and Trumpism. My eyes are still opening. God bless

  28. This is so fascinating, Mark. I feel like I’ve had an opposite experience. I was only 13 when 9/11 happened and didn’t become Catholic until 2019 (I was evangelical), but since 9/11 I became critical of the Christian right wing that used opposition to abortion to gloss over the other social ills you mention. Throughout my teens to mid-20s I was a moderate-liberal Christian, and even after becoming somewhat more conservative as a Catholic, I still kept distance from the MAGA crowd and was no fan of Trump.

    Everything changed after March 2020. While in RCIA, I had understood that our sacramental union with Christ was worth dying for and I had deeply leaned on the example and intercession of the martyrs just to become Catholic (which involved giving up my job and the respect of a lot of people). Now, in 2020, most of the Church seemed to send the message that our sacramental union *isn’t worth dying for* and that the temporal is more important than the eternal. I felt forced, against my will, to violate my conscience by being complicit in what to me seemed like a mass apostasy in fleeing from the Holy Sacrifice. I felt complicit in a betrayal of the Lord forced upon me by our own people, and the trauma effects are lasting.

    What stood out to me and made me want to comment here is your admission that you’ve gone to confession to work through how you respond to Catholics like me. Mark, I’ve had to go to confession to work through how I respond to Catholics like you. I’m not a MAGA cheerleader or an engine of plague. I’m just someone who prioritizes our sacramental union with our heavenly bridegroom over everything else as I thought we Catholics were supposed to do, and I never want to experience the trauma of having my conscience violated again and having that trauma justified by people I thought were my own brethren.

    I loved what you said about wanting to imitate “joyful apostles who wanted to holler good news to the world on Pentecost morning.” That’s what I want, too. I too want to be joyful about the gospel and discipleship to Christ, and serious enough to die for it if necessary. If we can agree on that, I think I could love you. Maybe. We probably won’t solve all the hurt in this comment section, but I think and hope that there’s probably more we agree on than we don’t. I do hope we’ll all be healed and reunited in heaven.

    1. Being willing to protect your vulnerable sisters and brothers from death is not “mass apostasy”. It’s obedience to the commandments. The temporary measures taken to safe and preserve innocents from an agonizing death were not “mass apostasy” either. They were sane public health measures approved by the shepherds of the Church from the Holy Father down–the ones about whom Jesus said “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven” and about whom he says, “He who listens to you listens to me”. Don’t be more Catholic than the Pope. Happily, we are out of the wood for the moment (though more outbreaks may occur). “I will get my Eucharist no matter who I need to kill to do it” is not the Faith. “I will die for you if that is what it takes to obey Jesus” is.

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