Trump may be gone, but the phenomenon of the MAGA Qatholic is alive and well. A reader wrote me to ask how to do an examination of conscience about it. I gave a triumphantly inadequate seat-of-the-pants reply:
Dear Mr Shea,
As the header of my email states, I have a slightly odd request to make of you.
On the one hand, it’s a request I shouldn’t have to make because – as you yourself have stated many times – only the Pope or my local ordinary can make the juridical determination of whether or not I’m still Catholic and the goal of your writings over the years has been to tease out whether ideas are Catholic, not people. On the other hand, since I still enjoy your work (as a guilty pleasure, if nothing else) and consider your opinions to be worthy of consideration, I felt I had to ask just for peace of mind.
My request is this: Would it be possible to have a bullet-point summary of the differences between Catholicism and Qatholicism which I could use as a sort of examination of conscience?
I ask because, in reading your recent blogposts describing the unfortunate phenomenon, I figured that I – a choleric young buck who considers himself a full-bore, red-blooded Rad Trad – would come away either fuming with righteous indignation or feeling like the worst person on the planet…but as it turned out, I felt neither of those things!
While a few bits here and there did set off pins and needles in my conscience – hearkening back to the pitch-black days of my early tradversion (roughly October 2016-December 2018), in which I very nearly fell into schism after my initial disorientation wore off – for the most part, I found myself feeling perfectly disgusted at the antics of the Qatholics and feeling pretty certain that (by a singular grace of God, I have no doubt) I had either never fallen into or found my way out of most of their pitfalls.
Still, it never hurts to be absolutely sure, so if you have the time and energy to whittle things down to a manageable set of points, I would be most obliged.
Boy. That’s a tall order. I’ve never organized it into a bullet list. It’s more like with porn: I know it when I see it.
There’s a few things that come to mind immediately, such as the habit of using the unborn as human shields for beloved evils. So when confronted with some form of degrading evil a conservative loves (such a killing a mentally ill woman who was subjected to gang rapes by her father throughout her childhood), does a Catholic speak out against execution or does he say, “Oh yeah? Well what about abortion, huh?” If the former, he is a Catholic. If the latter, he is a Qatholic who uses the unborn as a human shield for the grave evil he loves. This same criterion holds for any evil the Church condemns that the Qatholic savors.
Another trait of the Qatholic is the tendency to imagine that “prudential judgment” is about whether, not how best, to obey the Church’s teaching on non-dogmatic issues (which is to say, nearly the entirety of the Church’s moral teaching).
Qatholics also tend to have a rather cloudy belief in the indefectibility of the Church and are filled with fears about conspiracies and supposed prophecies and visions in which the pope (this pope, I mean) is some sort of satanic agent of evil to be batted by their heroic selves, the saviors of the Church.
Catholics, in contrast, understand that Jesus is the savior of the Church and we are to learn from, not fight, the Holy Father, who is a good man and the heir of Peter.
Qatholics have exalted belief in Donald Trump to an article of faith. Fail to support him and you are a Fake Catholic and an enemy of the Faith.
Catholics understand that this is rubbish.
Qatholic soteriology is essentially, “Opposition to abortion taketh away the sins of the world.”
Catholics still believe that faith in Jesus and obedience to Holy Church in love is the way of salvation.
Qatholic piety tends to look to the symbolic rather than the real. It matters more if you say “fuck” than if you practice the works of mercy. The sole exception to this is Donald Trump, who actually can screw a prostitute while cheating on his third wife and still be given a pass as “Our King David” anointed by God himself.
Relatedly, Qatholic piety intensely believes that God will overlook all the evils that Trump commits and Bless America through him. But God will curse America if a Democrat sins–with the judgment we have coming to us in fire and fury.
Catholics believe that all have sinned and that God’s counsels are his own about National Destiny. We are obliged to do our consciences as best we can and not waste a lot of time making excuses for Trump’s sins. Nor are we to waste a lot of time prophesying doom for those whose vote is different from ours. Not that I can find a damn thing that justified a vote for Trump. But I don’t think it’s my job to foretell the doom God will bring on those who foolishly voted for him.
Qatholics tend to see the Church as a fortress to be guarded from invaders trying to get in and purified of “infiltrators” who need to be kicked out. Accordingly, they hate this pope, who has no interest in guarding the fortress and who left it years ago to go out into the highways and byways and bring in the poor, crippled, blind and lame. Catholics are on board with this pope doing that and are more interested in evangelization than in worrying about Taylor Marshall’s “infiltration” paranoia.
Qatholics deeply and intensely believe they are now or soon will be the victims of persecution, seeing threats everywhere and filled with self-pity constantly. They are natural suckers for nutty conspiracy theories. The election was stolen. COVID is part of the Great Reset. Vaccines are part of a plot to chip and track the human race. Francis is trying to get everybody to accept abortion and homosexuality, not to mention Amazon paganism. Qatholics see themselves always as victims with their backs to the wall fighting a desperate battle against overwhelming forces of evil arrayed against them. It’s always Helm’s Deep and they are always the heroes facing a sea of orcs.
Catholics understand that, in this country, we have it made in the shade and nobody is persecuting white conservative Catholics. Not that there is no persecution. There is. And the authors and supporters of it are white conservative Qhristians, cheering for Trump’s sadistic cruelty to brown Christians at the border, Muslims, Chaldean Catholics, and children of Christians at the border kidnapped by ICE. They understand that it is mostly poor and brown Christians who suffer from denial of food, from having to work two jobs during COVID, and from lack of health care. They don’t waste time pitying themselves and indulging in imaginary conspiracies because they are thinking about their neighbors and not themselves. They are not out protesting masks and screaming for the right to endanger their neighbors.
Catholics believe in salvation by grace through the mysterious working of the Holy Spirit in love. Qatholics believe that we are on our own and that the last great hope of salvation–raw, fascistic power to force people to be be good by law, violence, threats and fear–is slipping away with the defeat of MAGA and are dreaming, planning, and hoping for a Restoration, by violence and lies since they cannot win at the polls fairly.
This is not an exhaustive list, but a general sample of the difference in spirit between the Qatholic and the Catholic. Not sure how much it helps, but it’s the best I can do.