Catholics Who Favor Theocracy Are Imitating Not Christ but the Muslim Brotherhood
For some years I watched in alarm as more and more Catholics abandoned the only good thing to emerge from the liturgical and organizational wreckage of Vatican II. Namely, the Church’s return to its ancient embrace of religious freedom. That was the Church’s stance from the age of the apostles until the reign of the Roman emperor Theodosius (379 A.D.).
There is no hint in the Gospels or in apostolic tradition that Christians were secretly waiting for the chance to take power and silence heresy. So that idea is a late fourth-century innovation. As the scholarly tome I edited by Benjamin Wiker and Scott Hahn, Politicizing the Bible, makes clear, popes who wanted to use the State to silence heresy had to reach back to the Old Testament, and claim that they wielded the powers of Moses.
In one place after another, I’ve seen some Catholics dismiss the writings of Pope John Paul II or Benedict XVI on freedom of conscience as “Americanist” heresy. I’ve seen the religious freedom which U.S. bishops gratefully praised for centuries damned as the fruit of “liberalism.” And seen writers like Patrick Deneen, Michael Hanby, and Rod Dreher agree with Justice Anthony Kennedy’s concept of American freedom. That is, as an empty and arbitrary exercise in making up meaning. Free permission to interpret “the mystery of existence” to serve one’s greed or glands. This despite the massive documentary evidence that our Founders (even the Deists among them) considered liberty impossible without the virtue instilled by religion.
I wrote multiple essays warning about such ideas spreading in schools, journals, and institutions which used to champion ordered liberty. For my trouble, I was pooh-poohed and waved off. Those whom I dubbed “illiberal Catholics,” who now go by “integralist,” were just a band of harmless cranks. So I heard again and again.
Intolerant Catholics Now Out and Proud
No one’s saying that now. First Things has published multiple essays openly championing an intolerant Catholic state. Patrick Deneen’s book, Why Liberalism Failed, emerged to wide acclaim. More and more integralists are coming out of the closet.
And I think I know why.
When the Ottoman empire collapsed, then Turkey abolished the global caliphate, Sunni Islam lost its worldwide central authority. Most Muslim nations ended up as Western colonies. Their young people increasingly turned to secular ideologies instead of their faith. In response, the activists who founded the Muslim Brotherhood rejected every attempt at peaceful coexistence with modernity and reason. Instead, they called on Muslims to weather the crisis and reverse the fortunes of Islam by enacting its most intolerant doctrines.
We have, with Pope Francis, witnessed the effective collapse of the papacy. At the moment, it no longer serves its purpose of safeguarding doctrine and Catholic morals. Instead it has become a transmission belt for heresy, and a tool used to punish the orthodox. The moral and intellectual chaos that followed Vatican II has returned.
Or rather, we see that it never left us. The restoration of order attempted by popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI proved a tragic failure. The men they appointed as bishops to clean up the mess turned out mostly tolerant of heresy, sodomy, and worldliness. Bishops like Wuerl and Dolan, we learned, had merely talked a good game, to climb the greasy pole to power.
Answering Chaos with Panic
And now some Catholics are responding like radical Muslims in the 1930s. They’re turning to our own version of sharia. Responding to the weakness and chaos of the Church by insisting that it can only thrive when it wields political power — exactly as the Muslim Brotherhood claimed about Islam. There is no stable middle ground between getting persecuted and persecuting others. If you won’t be the hammer, you will end up as the anvil. Or so they say.
Those of us who lazily deferred to papal statements on economics and politics as if they were infallible (or probably kinda sorta infallible) have stopped dead in our tracks. You can’t go around trusting whatever the Vatican says. Not when a pope is calling for open borders. For massive world government controls over the economy in the name of the climate. And a total rejection of the death penalty — which goes back to the Covenant of Noah. Not when one of the pope’s official spokesmen, Fr. Thomas Rosica, openly says that this pope, Francis, has unique authority to override Church doctrines and even the Bible. …
It’s time to slam on the brakes. To go back and see where we went wrong. Could it have been at Vatican II? Might everything that council said be worth rejecting, including its embrace of religious freedom?
The Relentless Drip of Scandals
At the same time, the scandal of sex abuse coverups has emerged as far from solved. We see the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., Theodore McCarrick exposed as a child molester. A former papal nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, named many powerful current bishops as McCarrick’s enablers or proteges.
European bishops are pushing for radical changes in Church doctrine and practice. Gay activist theologians are demanding blessings for same-sex unions. Feminists want women ordained as deacons (the last stepping stone to priesthood). Churches are closings by the hundreds in former Catholic heartlands in Western Europe.
We’re back in 1978, as if John Paul and Benedict had never reigned at all.
It Worked for the Muslim Brotherhood
Hence the rise of the integralists, our very own Muslim Brotherhood. They tell us that American Catholics’ modus vivendi with the Constitution was always a crass compromise of our principles. That “error has no rights,” and a good government would rightly close Protestant churches, schools, and publishers. That Pope Pius IX was right to kidnap a Jewish child, whom his parents’ maid had baptized, then raise him as a Catholic. That the Church will never stop appointing gay predator bishops or embracing pro-abort politicos until it once again wields a coercive sword like the state’s.
No, it doesn’t make rational sense. But then, the Muslim Brotherhood was just as wrong on the facts. The decline of Muslim countries was not the result of excessive tolerance for religious diversity, either inside Islam or outside it. However, making that claim helped the Brotherhood grow as a movement, and spawn dozens of jihadist and terrorist allies. In that sense, the false claim worked. I think that some integralists have pursued a similar course. To use the present anarchy to win converts for theocracy.
Time for the Church Police?
There’s zero causal or logical connection between the Church’s embrace of liberty for Protestants and bishops’ embrace of libertine homosexuals. What’s more, at a time when heretical bishops are actively persecuting faithful priests and fleecing faithful laymen, it seems almost insane to call, as Thomas Pink wrote in First Things, for bishops to have the power to imprison any baptized Christian for heresy. Imagine if cardinals McCarrick, Mahony, or Law had wielded such power. Would the sex abuse crisis ever have even gone public? Or would victims have found themselves locked up?
The sex abuse crisis was largely the fruit of clergy covering their colleagues’ sins at laymen’s (and their kids’) expense. The last people any of us should want to wield political power right now are bishops. If the State were officially Catholic right now, Pope Francis and his minions might be using its powers to silence the faithful remnant. Indeed, Francis called on Facebook and other social media to bury orthodox Catholic articles as “fake news.” Imagine if he could rely on literal, legal censors.
But on an emotional level, you can see what’s going on. The Church is in chaos. Men we trusted, who seemed like solid Catholics when the wind blew the right way, now sell us out. Or at any rate do nothing.
So let’s go back to the most hard-core, anti-modern, intransigent stances we can. That will rally the troops and bring back order. Or at least will let us feel better, as we watch the ongoing collapse.
The Last Thing We Need
I won’t rehearse here the case I’ve made as to why integralism is false. You can go read it here. Better yet, read this learned essay by Lawrence King and Robert T. Miller, which vindicates almost every point I’ve made (in my amateur way—my Ph.D.’s in literature) over the past few years. It says, essentially, that none of the papal statements calling for an intolerant Catholic state were infallible. So later popes and a council could reverse their claims.
What’s more, to claim that the past five popes, the official catechism, every living bishop in union with Rome, and the last ecumenical council, all taught heresy is to discredit the Church itself. To claim that the Church still secretly teaches one thing, but a string of popes quite another, makes the papacy into a joke told in very poor taste.
We’re not Islam, thank God. We don’t rely on religious police to compel the human conscience. We don’t need the coercive power of the State. In fact, what’s corrupted the Church more than anything else in the past 50 years has been how much money and power churchmen have wielded. It attracted to the priesthood and the bishops’ ranks the worldly, the cynical, the decadent and the corrupt. The last thing we need to do is to add more bait for Cupiches, Tobins, Farrells, and McCarricks of this world by granting bishops their own secret police.