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.
Permit ME, your resident gay activist and atheist, to explain to your correspondent the difference between a Catholic and a Qatholic. Or more accurately, i won’t explain it, i’ll let Bishop Strickland explain it.
Nice. Tyler is now taught a faith entirely devoid of logic, and in all likelihood entirely devoid of faith as well.
Look on the bright side. What he lacks in faith and logic, he makes up for with his lacks of compassion. Trifecta! .
Superiority complex: They need to squint to look down at all of the trash and refuse that God will THANKFULLY burn up.
Tabernacles of the Gnossis: ( God revealed the secret sauce recipe!)
Always pimpin’: Padre Pio & Fatima. They own that. They have been deputized to insert a quote from either one when they start feeling uncomfortable, like when the brown people, immodest women, or the homos start ASKING for TOO MUCH.
God’s elite favorites: God made them whiter and richer than the next guy because He likes (blessed) them more.
Voodoo: “If I can only say 100 more rosaries, God will bend to my will.”
Voodoo yes. I saw a much more appropriate vision of God today in a documentary about the few remaining Turkish manufacturers of handmade carpets. ”Every carpet has at least one imperfection we leave as it is, because perfection belongs to Allah alone”.
Oh. no. You had to bring up Turkish hand knotted rugs.
Someday I will have to tell you about how mine almost met an ignominious end in the family dumpster. It has to do with a daughter who was unable to live in NYC under lockdown, the puppy I went to the ends of the earth to supply her with, the fact that she came to shelter with us anyway, and the fact that no good deed goes unpunished.
I’m sure there is a lesson in there somewhere.
I once proposed to my kids that the only reason God allows us to have children is so he can let us take a walk in his moccasins. They laughed malevolently and said, “see?–You are identifying with God.” –I had probably just gotten finished making them a huge plate of tacos with handmade salsa and guacamole.
The qatholic sees 1 Corinthians 15:22 as terrifying and looks for reasons to kick you out of the barque, like an accuser; rather than looking for loopholes to make sure I get to stay in and survive the torrent.
He demands an accounting from the poor as to how they carry their burden rather than working towards means to lighten the load and help shoulder the weight
He sees violence in this country and refuses to acknowledge our complicity
He sees Ferguson MO and is happy for its potential as a pretext for state violence
He sees Mother Teresa’s arms wrapped around my father, dying of aids, and decides she’s a saint in spite of that moral weakness
He feels safe because we have nukes
He thinks St Ambrose is a commie for declaring it thievery from the poor to keep a second coat in the closet when he shivers out in the cold
He never imagines that his life depends on the mercy manifest when Pope Francis says: who am I to judge