Sunday, November 02, 2003

Oh, look: Another lazy, sloppy, inaccurate and more than a little paranoid hit piece "exposing" the many-tentacled juggernaut that is "conservative" Catholicism.

Refreshing. Looking under your bed yet?

The Boston Globe Magazine does its best territorial alpha male baboon impression via this flung offering from Charles Pierce: The Crusaders.

Get it--eh, eh, eh? "The Crusaders"! As in The Crusades. You know--intolerance, greed, mass murder, rapine and intolerance! Start hissing now! Me in bold, flung sample in italics.

[Many McCloskey bits snipped. I have little use for Fr. McCloskey's my way or the highwayism. I found his glib dismissal of the impact of the Scandals to be as irritating as a fiberglass catheter. I'm also more than a little ambivalent about Opus Dei. Still, he is an actual evangelist who believes in the necessity of conversion (how un-V2 of him), and Lord knows Washington is a mission field. Moreover, he's a gifted and brilliant fellow who, unfortunately, is not quite as brilliant as he thinks he is.]

In 1990, for example, after a stormy five-year tenure at Princeton University, McCloskey was dismissed as an associate chaplain after students and faculty petitioned for his removal. They claimed that McCloskey violated academic freedom by counseling against taking courses taught by professors whom McCloskey deemed "anti-Christian," which McCloskey argued was part of his pastoral role. Advising Catholic parents shopping for a college for their children, he later wrote, "If you encounter words and phrases like 'values,' 'openness,' 'just society,' 'search,' 'diversity,' and 'professional preparation,' move on."

Considering the reception given to Francis Cardinal Arinze by the sophisticates at Georgetown, I think this speaks well of Fr. McCloskey. Plus, the phrase "academic freedom" has become a cover for all sorts of mental masturbation calculated to destroy honest faith, and does so quite effectively. See McBrien, Richard. Score one for the Fr.

Since returning to Washington to run the Catholic Information Center for Opus Dei, McCloskey has taken his mission onto Meet the Press and to CNN. He's preached it in USA Today and in The New York Times.

Kinda like McBrien, the Collar-Free Quote Machine for lazy reporters doing a "Catholic" story. Albeit McBrien has one of those different Gospels. Still, We All Know It's Sinister When Conservatives Do It.

More famously, he has brought into Catholicism several members of the conservative elite. McCloskey personally baptized Judge Robert Bork, political pundits Robert Novak and Lawrence Kudlow, publisher Alfred Regnery, financier Lewis Lehrman, and US Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, whose baptismal sponsor was another senator, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Scaife--we need Scaife! Find out about Scaife! Scaife must have converted! We get that, and it all fits together! Just like The DaVinci Code!

Huh? Bernard Nathanson, too? The NARAL guy? Sorry, doesn't fit the developing Axis of Gingrich meme.

In 2000, McCloskey baptized Mark Belnick, the embattled top lawyer at Tyco International, who responded by donating $2 million to a Catholic college and to an antiabortion group.

Enron! What about Ken Lay?!? Did Lay pope up? No? Fine. We stick with the toy train guy, if that's the best you got.

Maybe I should be thankful Pierce didn't work in a Robert Hanssen reference at this point.

McCloskey makes no apologies for his role as the apostle to the punditocracy. (One of the volunteers at the Catholic Information Center is Linda Poindexter, a former Episcopal priest and the wife of Iran-contra figure and Bush administration official John Poindexter.)

Don't you see how far it goes, man?! Iran-Contra! Dude, all the way to the top! These are the same oil guys holding back the car that runs on water, man--Open your eyes!

On so many of these issues, McCloskey seems already to have lost. In a March 2002 Gallup Poll, 75 percent of Catholics in the United States favored the possibility of married priests and of women priests. Since 1970, polls of US Catholic women have consistently shown that more than 60 percent reject the Vatican's teachings on artificial birth control. More recently, a Harris Poll found that only 24 percent of American Catholics were opposed to embryonic stem-cell research. Other recent polls indicate that support for legalized abortion among US Catholics tracks closely with that found in the general population. McCloskey has no use for the borrowed language of political polling: He thinks that 52 percent or that 80 percent or that 70 percent should just leave the church, because they've left already.

Behold, the god of political media--The Almighty Poll. Dick Morris' heart is all a-flutter. Polls are Very Important to media types. Until they reveal unenlightened trends. Then you never hear the results. McCloskey could have challenged the holy writ of the poll-results by asking a simple question--tribal or churchgoing? Turning a beloved zinger back on the reportorial community: Well, technically Hitler was Catholic too--what's your point? "Catholics" believe all sorts of....stuff.

In his unobtrusive little bookstore in the nation's capital, John McCloskey is the hot, unyielding eye of a gathering storm. He is not the mainstream

But I had to poison the well by devoting the first third of the article to developing that impression, and heaven knows eye-fatigue will cause you to blip right over this ass-covering disclaimer.

not even among the conservative Catholics who are waging their secular influence in a way they never have before, but he's the logical end to what they all believe.

Oh, all right--Screw the disclaimer. They're all alike. You know how They Are. They even look alike. You know, white and all. Look at the right margin, for pete's sake.

During the almost two years since the clergy sexual abuse scandal broke in Boston, most of the attention has been drawn to groups like Boston-based Voice of the Faithful that sprang up in response to the grim stories that seemed to be breaking almost daily. Outraged laity took to the streets and rose up in the pews, withholding contributions, demanding meetings with bishops whose authority seemed to be evaporating by the hour.

You know, VOTF. The Good Guys. Cue the applause and the William Tell Overture. Nice people who leave their beliefs at the parish doors on Sunday. Except for soup kitchens and stuff. That's OK.

For now. Until we want to start harvesting organs from the useless eaters. Then it will be a problem.

But still, the Good Guys. Not the Cthuloid Entity following The Protocols of the Elders of Rome. Speaking of which....

Obscured by all of this was the presence of an influential, deeply connected, and well-financed faction -- a counterreformation, to borrow a useful term from Roman Catholic history -- that was determined not only to prevent the scandal from being used as a Trojan horse for all manner of church reform but also to use its efforts within the church to affect the politics and culture outside of it.

Religiously-motivated people trying to affect politics and culture outside the church?!?! Oh, the humanity! Run to the hills, and start stockpiling porn and canned goods--the Papists are coming!

Wilberforce? Who he? King? He wasn't religious. And no, I don't want to talk about that Albanian nun, either.

The conservative opposition is tied in to the elites of Washington, D.C. --

Halliburton and water-powered cars, man--they've got microchip cameras in copies of Maxim. It's not Jessica Alba looking at you--it's the Pope....

McCloskey's high-profile catechumens are hardly the only example -- and its magazines and think tanks are funded by the same foundations that have been the fountainhead of movement conservatism over the past three decades. And just as the clergy sexual abuse scandal energized the reformers, it energized the traditionalists.

Where's the Scaife angle? It's around here somewhere!

Now, brace yourself--you knew this was going to happen. It's inevitable. It's a force of nature--think Yellowstone geyser--and it just has to happen in a "Catholic" story.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Let There Be Dick.

"That's where the leadership and the power of the church are right now, no question," says the Rev. Richard McBrien, a theologian at the University of Notre Dame. "These people have direct access to the papacy."

Richard McBrien has been spewing with especial incoherence since 2002. In 2003, Michigan 38, Notre Dame 0. Florida State 37, Notre Dame 0.

ND will finish out of the Top 25 again, and no bowl game. Connection?

Think about it, ND alums. Is it worth the cost?

Over his lengthy pontificate, John Paul II has allied himself with the traditionalist side of every ongoing dispute within the church.

Which explains the free hand given such Locuti of The Conservative Borg Collective like Mahony, Weakland, Untener, Clark, Adamec....

[Opus Dei Is Fluoridating Your Water!! section snipped.]

He's also lent his support to similar if less well-known organizations, including the liturgically traditionalist Neocatechumenate movement and the Comunione y Liberazione, an Italian traditionalist movement with close ties to that country's political right.

The Neocatechumenate is "liturgically traditionalist"? Ooooookay. Someone's been dropping 'shrooms into the bong, or is indefatigably lazy and/or stupid. I'll be nice and go with lazy for now.

Also note that the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy™ has gone International.

In the United States, Catholic laymen like Tom Monaghan, the millionaire founder of Domino's Pizza, have taken active roles in promoting conservative Catholicism both within and without the church. Monaghan has bankrolled institutions of traditionalist Catholicism for more than a decade.

Distressed by what he saw as doctrinal deviation at the larger Catholic colleges, Monaghan founded his own -- Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida, which joined Magdalen College in New Hampshire and Christendom College in Virginia as new traditionalist Catholic colleges. Monaghan also founded Legatus, a national network of traditionalist Catholics that is open only to top business leaders.

Ah, yes--a favorite whipping boy--the Il Pizza Duce of American Catholicism, Tom Monaghan. Something tells me he wouldn't be the Utter Bastard progressives claim he is if he just ponied up for Georgetown, ND, etc. It's not like starting your own university is the wave of the future for business types, now, is it?

Envy, anyone?

Say--ever notice you don't see Monaghan and Scaife together? Hmmm.

Wait--what's that? Sounds like digging....

The activity on the American Catholic right has been so vigorous that it has come to the attention of the various foundations that fund conservative causes generally in this country and to politicians as well. For example, papal biographer George Weigel works as a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, a think tank where Elliot Abrams once worked between his involvement in the Iran-contra scandal and his current employment in the Bush administration.


According to the records compiled by, a website that tracks the activities of conservative foundations, the center has received almost $9.5 million since 1985 from sources such as the Olin, Scaife, and Bradley foundations. Among Weigel's projects was a series of seminars that he held in various eastern European countries.



Eastern European countries--this means something. Although it's hard to connect to the Conservative Catholic-Washington-Opus Dei-Scaife Axis That Explains Everything.

You know, Ion the Rumanian waiter looked at me disapprovingly when the Trojan fell out of my pocket last week....

So when Weigel tells a Legatus gathering near Boston that "liberal Catholicism is out of gas intellectually. They haven't had a new idea in 20 or 30 years," it is not an accident that he sounds much like Ronald Reagan talking about the death of the New Deal or Newt Gingrich discussing the exhaustion of the cultural revolution of the 1960s.

Weigel=Gingrich! Of course!

Except for those differences, like being Catholic, skeptical of capitalism, not divorcing his wife on her sickbed, and being a decent writer.

Other than that, though, they could have been separated at birth!

Within the hierarchical church, at least, the reformist view of Vatican II seemed to be effectively marginalized. The American laity, however, had long seen Vatican II as a refutation of the anti-democratic pronouncements of all the old popes. They were liberated. They dissented, never more loudly than in the past two years, when they demanded accountability from their bishops over the issues of the sexual abuse scandal.

Ah, yes, the "laity." Beloved in concept, but never in actuality--they are a perpetual disappointment to their betters, both episcopal and media. The fact is most laity were bewildered and are still bewildered by what the Council wrought. Over the past two years, they've dissented all right--but across the spectrum--and most definitely not the Enlightened Laity vs. Scaife Catholicism theory advanced here. Try reading National Review or Catholic blogdom, you dipwad, and you'll see that "conservatives" have been the most outraged by it. They continue to be the most outraged by it.

As you can see by now, Pierce develops pronounced jackass tendencies as the piece progresses. They will not improve.

These were not arcane doctrinal disputes. They were grotesque secular crimes. As the dust settled, some groups began talking about the "opportunity" that the scandal presented to reform within the church. But when the organizations began to move, they found a shrewd and highly organized conservative front waiting for them, one long established within the church and wired into the centers of power not only in Rome but in Washington, too.

Mr. Pierce has enjoyed his stay on our planet--especially the, how you say, "ganja"?--but now he has to return to the Mothership. But before he goes, he's going to favor us with some more wisdom.

Up the broad staircases, in a room with great wooden doors, the bishops have come to listen at a private meeting of conservative Catholics. Just as former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan is finishing a stemwinder on openness in the church, the skulking press is asked to leave the club.

How this meeting came about is significant. Back in July, Bishop Wilton Gregory, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, had attended a meeting in Washington with several influential lay people who voiced their concerns to him and a handful of other bishops regarding lingering issues of the clergy sexual abuse scandal. Almost immediately, the conservative network reacted strongly to what it termed a "secret meeting" between the bishops and "dissenters" and organized its own meeting at the Cosmos Club in September, which Gregory and the other bishops could hardly refuse to attend. Ironically, the conservatives were being more forceful in their invitation than deference to episcopal authority might previously have allowed.

There are two possibilities here with respect to Pierce's characterization of the first meeting as a "just plain folks petitioning their bishops for redress": (1) he suffers from brain seizures requiring debilitating medication, or (2) he's a lying sack. Feel free to deploy your favorite bovine/equine scatological reference here.

Lest we forget, the USCCB didn't have Weigel, Monaghan, McCloskey, Hudson, et al., address it at its buttcovering-fest in July 2002. It gave Margaret Steinfels and Scott Appleby the honors. Maybe the numbers on the Conservative Speed Dial don't go as high up as Pierce suggests? Naaaah....

[Long American Protective Association-inspired narrative about Popery subverting the American Republic via Deal Hudson, Robert George and George W. Bush snipped.]

Consequently, when the sexual abuse scandal exploded, Catholic conservatives were not only organized within the church


Ouch, sorry. The brain suffered a BS overload and I fell out of my chair. Where was I again?

In a sense, every Catholic builds his own cafeteria now. Even John McCloskey has said that he would leave the church if, by some chance, a future pope were to change the church's stand on, say, birth control or abortion. The American church still consists of a vast middle caught between two bitterly opposed wings. The reformists are an amorphous gathering of professional types who see the crisis in the church as a failure of a management model; on the other side is a disciplined cadre that sees itself as responding to a spiritual crisis in the church that has its roots in a spiritual crisis in the culture. The battle now is clearly for the control of the aftermath.

I've noticed this developing argument of late: "We're all Cafeteria Catholics now. Sure, I'm in favor of partial birth abortions, but you're not in favor of Canadian-style health care. You're just as 'bad' as me! Pppppffthppppt!"

IOW, the "Everybody's Doing It" Defense. If everyone's guilty, no one's guilty. Sure, fine, whatever. I'll do this slowly:

Some. Issues. Are. More. Basic. Than. Others. If. Your. Skull. Is. Crushed. By. This. Guy. At. 32. Weeks. Gestation. You. Can't. Participate. In. The. Seamless. Garment. Network. Got. It?

"But what will they do," wonders Notre Dame's Richard McBrien, contemplating the post-John Paul II church

McBrien contemplates that subject a lot. I suspect that some days it's all he ever thinks about.

The influence of the Catholic conservatives within the church depends vitally on the patronage of the episcopate that has its source in Rome.

Sure it does. That explains the episcopate's responsiveness to the weekly outrages against the Faith.

The sky is very pretty on Pierce's World.

Deal Hudson does not like John McCloskey. Before saying anything about him, and nothing that's good, Hudson turns off a reporter's tape recorder.

Wait a minute! I thought the conservatives were a well-coordinated monolith. What's the phrase I'm looking for? Oh, yes, here it is:

"[T]hey found a shrewd and highly-organized conservative front..."

Someone's having trouble keeping his theme straight.

At this I'll stop. There's only so much I can take.

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