Grift of the Holy Spirit is a pretty good site

It publishes occasional pieces on, well different grifts and right wing demagogues and panic mongers in the Church. Some are extremely funny, some are surprisingly empathetic toward their subject even while seeing with very clear eyes the bad they are doing.

Most recently, they picked up on the ridiculous Panic du Jour about the phony “Liberal Threat to the Rosary“, we were discussing here, noting the hypocrisy and obliging these cosplaying martyrs (pictured below)

with this trenchant “threat”:

That radish-shaped man is Mike Braun, he’s a practicing Catholic and current Republican US Senator representing Indiana. Earlier this year, Braun expressed his view that the Supreme Court Loving v Virginia decision should be overturned, and states should be able to ban interracial marriage. He’s been asked clarifying questions on his view multiple times since, and every time he has confirmed that, yes, he thinks the legality of interracial marriage is something that should be decided at the state level, and that states should in fact have the power to pass laws banning interracial marriage if they see fit. The least charitable reading of Braun’s comments is “I am a racist and I don’t think the bloodlines should mix and dilute the purity of the white race”. The most charitable reading of Braun’s comments is “I need votes from people who are racist and don’t think the bloodlines should mix and dilute the purity of the white race” which is, morally, not really any better and, materially, identical.

So, in March, when Braun made these comments, Gunnar B. Gundersen, who often writes very good pieces for Black Catholic Messenger, wrote another very good piece for Black Catholic Messenger:

“Braun is a Catholic. Yet, unlike in 2020 when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — another Catholic — criticized Saint Damien of Molokai, no emergency response videos to Braun’s comments were forthcoming this month from prominent bishops like Robert Barron. Indeed, no statements were made by any Catholic clergy with a national profile or office. But here I was—a Black Catholic, the product of an interracial marriage, now in my own interracial marriage—targeted by a “pro-life” champion. (Braun has an A+ rating from the Susan B Anthony List.)…in the name of overturning Roe, a White Catholic US Senator is implying it is not possible to overturn Roe and preserve Loving v. Virginia (the case ruling that said interracial marriage bans are unconstitutional). At what point will the Catholic Church realize that its current political posture is demanding that Black people co-sign their self-destruction in order to be considered orthodox members of the community? In what world can they expect us to stay for that?…what spiritual nourishment is left for us to eat in a Church that counts Braun as a member in good standing? To cheer me up, some have pointed out that people like Braun are not “real Catholics”, but we will not be able to move forward until we as a Church accept that the Brauns in the Church are the ones with the power to shape it and its national politics. Pretending otherwise doesn’t help.”

Gundersen, understandably, felt as though the church didn’t want him as a member, because a prominent Catholic senator suggested that interracial marriage shouldn’t be a right, and absolutely nobody in the Catholic hierarchy, who loves pushing back against Catholic politicians, pushed back against that senator. The Catholic church is telling Gundersen, through their silence, that he’s just not very important to them. Gundersen writes for a Black Catholic media outfit and is a member of the Knights of Peter Claver, a lay fraternal organization for Black Catholics – he’s done way more for Catholicism than I have – and he doesn’t always feel at home in his own church, because his church doesn’t see any value in his race or his marriage, and thinks that Gundersen is perfectly acceptable cannon fodder if they can get more politicians who support legislative restrictions on abortion. There are plenty of Catholics who feel the same way that Gundersen does, and it is a huge problem that the church is fine with them feeling this way. 

And here’s another huge problem: Braun – who said these things, went to Mass that weekend, and probably told himself he was totally crushing the Catholic politician thing – has never felt like this. Steve Bannon has never felt like this. Michael Flynn has never felt like this. Kellyanne Conway has never felt like this. Abby Johnson has never felt like this. Steve King, who got kicked off of Congressional committees because he was too openly racist even for the Republican party, has never felt like this. The institutional Catholic church, through their public statements, policies, and political advocacy, is great at making large groups of people feel unwelcome. They do it all of the time. But one group of people that they do not make feel unwelcome are white nationalists and white supremacists. In fact, it seems like the institutional church takes great pains to ensure that white nationalists and white supremacists never feel unwelcome or uncomfortable in the church.

And so, Grift of the Holy Spirit issues the following “threat” to the self-pitying bullies eternally convinced that people like him are “coming for our Rosaries”:

Twitter fights over “they’re coming for our rosaries” are not material issues, and they’re not coming from people who are in any way sincere; they’re coming from people like Taylor Marshall or Michael Voris or John-Henry Westen whose main job is not protecting your rosary, it’s getting old people to set up recurring payments. What is a material issue is the growing group of white nationalists who feel at home in the Catholic church as they constantly talk about shooting people, and this stupid Twitter fight has inspired me to come up with a small-scale material solution to start addressing the problem: to actually come for their rosaries. I just said the guys who were drumming up hysteria about that weren’t sincere, and they’re not, but that is a severe miscalculation on their part. They don’t really believe that anyone is coming to take away your rosary, but somebody actually is. I am. Me. Tony Ginocchio. I am personally coming to take your rosary away. This will be my next big project to fix the Catholic church in America.

My plan is to identify everyone who is a violent little Catholic freak online, and then get in my Chevy Malibu that recently needed significant brake repairs, and then drive across the country to each of these people’s houses, knock on their doors, and say “Hi, I’m Tony Ginocchio, I’m here as an official representative of the Catholic church, to take your rosary or rosaries away”, and then walk into those homes and take them. That I won’t actually be acting “as an official representative of the Catholic church” seems like something they can realize after I’m gone. But I’m checking every dresser drawer, every jewelry box, every cabinet where tiny things are kept, and I’m going to get every single rosary that these guys own. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with them yet, I’ll probably end up donating them somewhere, except the $159 bullet rosary which I’ll likely put under my tire and back over repeatedly.

As I said, white nationalists feel comfortable in the Catholic church; they do not feel opposed or challenged or even mildly questioned by the people in the church with any meaningful power, they do not feel like they need to explain themselves, they do not wrestle with whether Catholicism is really the right home for them. We need to start by making them feel uncomfortable, by making them start to think “wait a second, it doesn’t seem like the church actually wants me here, if they’re sending this Tony guy to take away my rosary.” And they need to feel materially uncomfortable, there needs to be more than just rhetoric here, there needs to be a loss of something you can see and touch. In other words, they need to have their toys taken away. Specifically, taken away by me. By Tony Ginocchio, showing up at their homes to take them. And the “sorry, you made it weird, you can’t have your toys anymore” approach seems to be a good and authentically Catholic solution since it is, obviously, modeled on Pope Francis’ approach to the pre-Vatican-II Latin Mass.

To be clear, my plan – the plan where I am going to personally drive to these guys’ houses and take their rosaries away – is to be polite about this. I’m not busting down the door going “GUESS WHAT ASSHOLE”. I’m going to knock, introduce myself, explain what’s happening, apologetically offer “hey, look, I’m sorry, but this has to be done, it’s for your own good”, and then politely but firmly make my way in to remove any and all rosaries in the house. I do the same thing when my toddler has to have a toy taken away because she’s not being safe with it, and many of the men and women affected by my comprehensive Rosary Confiscation Program are almost as sharp as my toddler is, so there’s a good chance they’ll understand where I’m coming from.

Can I actually do this? Yeah sure, whatever. I can figure out how to take a sabbatical from work for a few weeks and ask my wife if I can borrow the car for a while. Twitter fights don’t change anything, but neither do Substack posts, so this is a chance for me to start doing something that more directly serves the church. I have enough authentic Catholic music to keep me busy on the drive: My Chemical Romance is back together and the new Mountain Goats album just dropped. I know what a rosary looks like so I can grab them quickly as I walk through everyone’s houses. Gas is starting to get cheaper. And hey: as completely absurd as this all sounds, it’s still more than anything the actual church is doing.


8 Responses

  1. I read the piece. I have one major complaint. Despite agreeing with just about everything in the article, the author then made the cardinal offence of misspelling Theoden in his footnote. As a Catholic and a Tolkienite, I am deeply offended. 🙂

  2. This is something that’s been in the back of my mind for a while. But the problem goes beyond mere tolerance of white nationalists and proto-fascists; the problem is that the prevailing Catholic sub-culture in the US (at least) is actively producing them as well.

    A pattern I’ve noticed with several Catholic writers I follow, including yourself, is that at some point they had deconstruct and distance themselves from many of the views they previously held. What does that say then, about the culture, the institutions and the Catholic Church at large?

    To be honest, in the current political climate, I don’t feel safe around Catholics. Stepping foot into one of your spaces, given the relatively high chances of running into someone who actively wishes me harm, is too much of a risk to my life and general well being for my taste. So given the fact that I don’t have any social or familial ties to the Catholic Church, I don’t see myself ever joining it, even if I believed its claims of divine origin and providence.

    1. Except, of course, that these people represent a minority even in the American Church, and a vanishingly small minority in the global church, which regard MAGA Catholics as a freak show. I absolutely guarantee you that there are countless parishes, even in the US, where the nutjobs you see on line have no standing. The ordinary Catholic is *ordinary* and parishes are not hotbeds of MAGA crazy. I have not had to deconstruct a single thing the Church actually teaches. My belief in the Church’s doctrine is what it ever was. Indeed, it’s what drove me to deconstruct the conservative bullshit I had drunk in. Exactly what the Faith does is free people from the degrading slavery of being children of their age–if they let it. But as MAGA Catholic hatred of this pope makes clear, that too is something they have to choose and many of them prefer their lies to the voice of the Shepherd.

    2. @Mark Shea:

      To be fair, the whole issue of MAGA-parishes might be a regional thing, but that also means that even if it represents an absolute minority, in the places they do exist, they are highly concentrated. I’m heard from other Catholic bloggers, like your friend Julie Nichols and Mary Pezzulo about how they’ve had to switch parishes.

      However, while you guys might feel uncomfortable, anxious or embarrassed in such situations, someone like myself has the added worry of wondering whether or not someone is going to follow me afterwards, provoke a confrontation so they can shoot me in “self-defense”, or just call 911 and get the police to do it for them. That’s not something I want to roll the dice on. All it takes is a single incident.

      What frustrates me about all this, is that I feel like Catholics of all people, given what I know of Catholic doctrine, absolutely should know better. So why don’t they? Why didn’t you back then? Why is it that roughly half of US Catholics, while not necessarily MAGA-crazy themselves, are MAGA-adjacent enough to support MAGA-candidates, including the MAG-man himself?

      Don’t get me wrong; I’m not mad at you, specifically. But I am frustrated at the whole system, and the institutions that support it, that seem specifically tailored towards pushing people in that direction.

      I just feel like the baseline for a Catholic even for a conservative one, should not include me having to argue for my basic humanity, you know?

      1. Because far too many Catholics let their sociology infuse their theology and not the other way around, which is the proper order.

  3. New reader here.

    I think the photo at the top is hilarious. The hand at the man’s throat is the RIGHT HAND.

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