A famous frog once stated that, “It’s not easy being green.” During the past couple of months it hasn’t been easy being me. Last month in La Civiltà Cattolica I was indirectly accused of being part of a “ecumenism of hate.” This week in Crux it was of suffering a “convert neurosis.” If that wasn’t enough according to Jeff Foxworthy I might just be a redneck.
Two notes before I begin my thoughts on these charges. First, I apologize in advance for the biting tone and snark that will follow. It’s my struggle with concupiscence. I hope to do better. Just know that it could have been far, far worse. Second, in my twenty plus years in the Church I have never been treated with anything but warmth, respect, and love by those in the local Church here in Nashville and in Chicago. If I have not returned the same I apologize and repent for my failing. The only roughness I have received has been for my spiritual health in the confessional. That I deserved and am more grateful for than words can convey.
Unhesitatingly I plead guilty to being a man of the Right. I have been since I started to become politically aware at far too young an age. Thank you President Carter. A more precise classification today would have to rely on that new fallback status of “it’s complicated.” The political landscape described by the La Civiltà Cattolica article is unrecognizable to me. Christian dominionists and Catholic integralists in a grand “ecumenism of hate” simply does not exist. Integralism is a European phenomenon, not an American one. The authors’ knowledge of American politics seems to be based on some mash up of The Brothers Grimm and The Huffington Post. On to the three characteristics of this alliance.
Manichaeism. I’ll give partial credit for this one. It’s natural for humans to simplify disagreements to stark good versus evil. However I would point out that the political Left in the United States is far more guilty of this. As Charles Krauthamer has pointed out, “To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.”
Prosperity Gospel. Not really an American Catholic belief, unless you take it to mean a belief that because we live in a republic with a free market anyone who abides by the law and works hard has a very good chance to live well materially.
Religious Liberty. This is a danger according to the authors in that it means “a ‘religion in total freedom,’ perceived as a direct virtual challenge to the secularity of the state.” In short theocracy. While you could probably find a handful of Americans who would be up for that ,it is antithetical to the American Right. We want as little government involvement in our religion and in our lives as possible. A core of our belief as stated in Reagan’s First Inaugural is, “…government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
Now for the neurosis of the convert. Austen Ivereigh at Crux posits that converts who have a problem with some of the actions of Pope Francis may be suffering from some form of spiritual post traumatic stress disorder. Unlike Baskin Robbins this comes in two flavors. The first afflicts those who come from a background that saw rancorous splits over theological issues, primarily from the Anglican Communion. They see current disagreements in the Church as a replay of that trauma. The second is for those who came from a less fixed background and came to the Church expecting an unchanging stability. Now that doctrine is developing that feel that the Church is built on sand and not rock.
I’m not sure where that leaves me. I was Southern Baptist. One of the waypoints in my journey home (see what I did there Marcus Grodi?) was reading about the development of Christology in the early Councils. That took nearly 500 years.
My reply to Mr. Ivereigh is that we converts have all paid a price to become Catholic. For most of us it was a pittance. While Jesus warned us about the treatment we would receive, it is a kick in the teeth when it comes from fellow Catholics. Some came to the Church because we saw the truth and logic of the Magisterium, Sacred Tradition, and Sacred Scriptures buttressing each other. When the Holy Father appears to be advancing a development that is at odds with Tradition and Scripture then as a premier teacher under the Magisterium it is his duty to explain this.
You may reply that is is an “… incongruity – of those who join the Catholic Church in a blaze of Damascene fervor later announcing noisily, after a new pope is elected, that the pope is not doing what they believe popes should do.” If you will permit a convert to quote Scripture to a cradle Catholic I would point out that the first to have that “Damascene fervor” wrote the following in the second chapter of Galatians:
And when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong. For, until some people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to draw back and separated himself, because he was afraid of the circumcised. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not on the right road in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of all, “If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Pope Francis has my filial obedience and love. I pray for him as I am sure he is praying for me. I am confused. I am not saying that he is wrong. After all. “Who am I to judge?”