Long ago, before conservative American Catholics devolved, for the most part, into a sect bent on attacking the Magisterium, creating schism from the Holy Father, and turning the Church in the US into a wholly-owned subsidiary of a political party that is now entirely a Cult of Personality devoted to a traitorous mob boss and aspiring dictator, they used to love to go around repeating things like this:
Chesterton, being a faithful Catholic, always meant by this that when he and the Magisterium did not see eye to eye that he was the the one who needed to blink, needed to assume that he was in the wrong, and needed to therefore re-evaluate his position rather than assume the Church had suddenly become the puppet of a vast conspiracy while he, and all those who fawned on him and fed his ego, were right. The Thing that Used to be Conservative Catholic Culture in the US taught me this and I learned it well and still believe it–even when, 25 years later, that Thing has turned into the demented servant of an ideology foreign to the Catholic tradition and filled with a mad dream of saving the Church from the Pope and making it the docile servant of the MAGA Freak Show.
The good people over at Where Peter Is hold a worldview like mine and they too are astonished at the hubris of propaganda rags like First Things, which now regularly takes it upon itself to stoop down from Sinai and tell the pope to get in line with GOP priorities. Recently, WPI wrote a piece (“The US Church Does Not Understand Pope Francis“) that sought to both lampoon this hubris while educating the victims of such brainwashing. Here’s a bit of it, but do read the whole thing–and the rest of Where Peter Is… then bookmark them:
Someone has to say it publicly: The Catholic Church in the United States does not understand the Holy Father and is doing itself great harm.
This sentence isn’t entirely original. It’s the inverse of the opening line of a June article by Jayd Henricks in First Things, who claims that Pope Francis has a distorted understanding of the situation in the US Church. Specifically, he objects to the pope’s statement in May (published June 14 in La Civilta Cattolica) that there are many Catholics here who are obstructing the implementation of the Second Vatican Council. Francis told a gathering of editors of European Jesuit journals, “Restorationism has come to gag the Council. The number of groups of ‘restorers’ – for example, in the United States there are many – is significant.”
Henricks opines in his article, “The Holy Father’s remarks are baffling to just about anyone, other than the ideologically blinded, who knows the Church in the U.S.” Henricks then presents a litany of examples intended to refute the pope’s statement. He argues that no US bishops and very few priests reject the council. He suggests that right-wing extremists such as Fr. James Altman and those affiliated with Church Militant don’t reject it either. He goes on to point out that the reformed liturgy is celebrated 99 percent of the time, and with contemporary music – as if this is evidence of the Council’s widespread success and implementation in the US.
Many of his assertions trivialize what it means to embrace and implement the Council. Going to a guitar Mass every Sunday doesn’t turn one into Henri De Lubac or Cardinal Bea. Nor does simply paying lip service to the Council mean that one has embraced its teaching and purpose. And despite what Henricks claims, the list of “restorationists” among prominent Catholics is long and growing. It includes a large number of former “JP2 Catholics” who have since become redpilled on reactionary traditionalism. They include Philip Lawler, Tony Esolen, and Eric Sammons, each of whom proudly declared that they are indeed restorationists following the publication of the pope’s words.
Furthermore, a simple Google search would have confirmed that Fr. Altman has indeed gone on the record about his opposition to the Council, at least in part, telling a gathering in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, “Do you know (they probably don’t like me to say this) but there was a change in the ordination of a bishop [from] back before Vatican II? It went from being an ordination—a consecration to the fullness of the priesthood to being an ordination of, like, an executor (I don’t have the precise word) but it went from being “one of us but with this great grace, the fullness” to being a tyrant. And we’ve seen how that has played out since Vatican II. You can look at the Vatican II documents… People say, well, there’s nothing wrong with the Vatican II documents. Well, first of all, Nostra Aetate – bad news, bad. And I think it’s 15 through 18 in Lumen Gentium… there’s some sketchy stuff in there that leaves it so broad, so ambiguous it’s open for interpretation.”
True, virtually none of the US bishops are publicly on the record stating their opposition to the legitimacy of the Second Vatican Council (with the possible exception of the 99-year-old Corpus Christi emeritus Bishop Rene Gracida, who apparently penned the foreword to a book entitled Vatican II: The Launch into Apostasy written by a David Martin, who is described as an adherent of the condemned Marian apparitions in Bayside, New York, in which the Blessed Mother allegedly declared that children born as a result of in vitro fertilization have no souls and that Pope Paul VI was replaced with a body double in 1975). That said, many in the US Church, including bishops and priests, openly support Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who rejects the council, and Kazakhstan auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who has argued that the documents of Vatican II contain doctrinal errors.
And that’s what this gets back to. Just as the issue for the insane right in the US is not Roe, but the destruction of virtually every advance back to the 14th (and even 13th) Amendments, so the issue for the Reactionaries in the Church is not Francis, but the Council itself. The goal is the return to an imaginary era of hegemonic political and cultural power, not communion with Jesus Christ. It is a vision of the Church rooted not in saintly obedience, but in aesthetics and in the crushing of perceived enemies who are not Pauline principalities and powers, but all too flesh-and-blood human beings:
It is a fantasy, of course, and will never succeed in destroying the Council or replacing the Magisterium. The charisms of infallibility and indefectibility will see to that. But that is not to say that people in pursuit of fantasies such as the Purity of the Master Race or the Triumph of Pure Communism can’t hurt and kill a lot of people before their dream falls apart. Vigano and his idiocy about the Great Reset and the Vast COVID Conspiracy successfully helped kill a million Americans. MAGA Catholics have contributed to an enormous hemorrhage of young Catholics out of the Church. Amazonian Catholics guilty of nothing but seeking the sacraments have had to endure slander and humiliation from Reactionaries in the US and Europe in addition to genocidal murder and oppression from pious Bolsonaro thugs.
In short, the whole “Francis Does not Understand Precious Narcissistic ME” nonsense from the MAGA sect at war with the Church is rubbish. US conservatives are not the Center of All Things: Christ is. And the Magisterium’s task–particularly when confronted by a sociopathic narcissistic sect of US MAGA conservatives who have been so wrong about so much so many times for so long that only an absolute fool would trust their judgment about anything in the whole wide world–is not to move with that massively selfish sect, but to move that sect; to tell it where it is wrong when it is supremely and arrogantly sure that it is right about everything.