The Easy Way Out for Religious Conservatives: Rejecting American Freedom

Conservatives who reject the Anglo-American heritage are digging themselves a comfy little ditch.

By John Zmirak Published on March 19, 2018

He’s trying. He really is. Rusty Reno, editor of First Things, seems eager to smooth over the storm he has helped whip up over recent years by shifting that magazine’s editorial policy. From a magazine founded to redeem American freedom, he’s recreated one which features writers who want to secede from it. A recent piece by Reno (I’ll analyze it at the bottom) tries to pour some oil on the waters. But as we will see, they just won’t mix.

That tempest almost shattered its teapot when Reno ran a piece by Fr. Romanus Cessario, O.P.  A book review, it defended one of the most shocking actions in papal history: the legal kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, a Jewish child, from his parents by Pius IX. You see, a servant had secretly baptized the boy. So the pope said he deserved a Christian education, his parents’ wishes (and rights) be damned. Since Pius still ran the Papal States, his word was law. He raised the boy himself inside the Vatican. His parents only saw him once or twice again before they died.

They attack Anglo-American freedom as un- or anti-Christian “Liberalism.”

That action appalled most of the world. It helped turn even Catholic governments against Pius IX. It’s part of why they abandoned him when he needed their troops to cling to the Papal States. But the book and its friendly review in First Things asserted that Pius’ actions were heroic. He was obeying God, not man. (That begs the question: Was he?)

Coercing All the Baptized

In a previous piece Reno ran by Catholic scholar Thomas Pink, the author implied that the pope has the right to take this kind of action toward every baptized Christian. Including those in America. And those baptized as infants who wish to be Protestant or Orthodox. Pink bases this on a loophole he claims to have found in Vatican II. That Council only forbids the State from suppressing religious liberty. It leaves room for the Church to do it — presumably via some kind of church police. (The author wasn’t specific.) Such a claim of paramilitary jurisdiction over all the baptized (including their kids) strikes most Americans as totalitarian. Anyone who defends it has little grounds to criticize sharia. Apart from claiming that his religious group should wield the whip instead.

The First Things piece on the kidnapped Jewish boy caused a backlash, and Reno quickly issued a puzzling clarification, where he disclaimed any animus toward Jews. But that was never the crucial point. The claim that the Church can coerce all the baptized strikes much more at Christians, in any case. The review seems to have woken up some Christians to a years-long campaign which Reno has been overseeing in First Things. Its drift: to attack Anglo-American freedom (economic and religious) as un- or anti-Christian “Liberalism.”

Instead, this viewpoint claims, Christians ought to revert to some form of the illiberalism once shared by Catholics and Protestants. You know, back when these groups hunted heretics (and each other). Or else we should embrace some nebulous “post-liberal” communitarian political system-to-be-named-later.

Micromanaging the Economy

Another claim: We ought to reject the “anarchic” freedom of the market economy, and consider distributist or even socialist alternatives. That would grant the State micromanagement of our economic choices. You know, to match its control over our religious lives. Citing numerous pieces Reno published, I summed this campaign up here at The Stream in a piece entitled “Has First Things Given Up on Freedom?” One scholar at The Public Discourse, Robert T. Miller, agreed that it has. As he wrote:

First Things has been moving towards statism in economics, with R.R. Reno, the journal’s editor-in-chief, coming out against capitalism and in favor of more government control of the economy….

It is bad enough when First Things goes on a tear against capitalism; happily, no one really cares what the editors of that journal think about economic policy. Many people do care — and care a lot — what the editors of First Things think about Christian-Jewish relations, and this time the galloping statism of First Things is doing great damage in the real world.

It’s not just that Reno is running such pieces as part of a broad, wide-ranging debate. He’s actively favoring them. I have heard, in private, complaints by eminent Catholic authors who defended America’s founding or free market. They submitted replies to First Things’ arguments, only to have them rejected as tiresome. Their books go unreviewed, while tracts nostalgic for throne and altar monarchies that hunted heretics find praise in First Things’ pages.

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Wearing Fr. Neuhaus’ Skin

On the face of it Reno’s project is impious: Using a magazine founded to rescue Anglo-American freedom from its abusers to prove that it can’t and shouldn’t be saved. One founded on ecumenism to argue against the basic right of religious liberty. Imagine if William F. Buckley’s National Review fell into the hands of fundamentalists who thought the Catholic church the Antichrist. And that the South should have won the Civil War. Go found another magazine, if that’s what you want to promote. Don’t take a great one, skin it, and wear it as bad camouflage.

The ACLU Was Right, Scalia Was Wrong

As I was one of the first to notice, Reno has favored writers with this niche point of view. The most well-known is Patrick Deneen. His new book Why Liberalism Failed claims that the United States was badly founded. Evil practices such as abortion, same sex marriage, and aggressive secularism? They’re not bugs, but features. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood were right about the Constitution. Justice Scalia and the Becket Fund were wrong. If you want a society that allows Christians to live in peace and practice the virtues, give up on the American Constitution. You’re going to have to wait for this country to collapse. Then go found a new one among the ruins. (And presumably, fight it out over which church will control the church police.)

If this sounds a lot like Rod Dreher’s program in The Benedict Option, that’s no accident. Dreher cites Deneen frequently as a definitive authority on why our system is hopeless. Both Deneen and Dreher get extensive, respectful treatment in secular, liberal venues. Such praise few other pro-life or pro-family writers ever receive. Newsweek trumpeted Dreher’s call on Christians to give up on “voting Republican and other failed culture war strategies.” Yale University Press published Why Liberalism Failed, and reviews in progressive, typically anti-Christian magazines have been reverential.

Why Leftists Love These Books

And why not? Imagine some influential leftist Latino Democrat were to call on his fellow Hispanics to abandon the American system. It’s hopelessly xenophobic and Anglocentric. So they should give up voting for Democrats and other “failed culture war strategies.” Don’t you think Fox News would feature the heck out of that book? I’d buy hundreds of copies and hand them out at Latino churches.

Why on earth grant the Left the whole ground of the American founding and Constitutional tradition, when in fact we know — with intellectual certainty — that they betray it at every turn? And for what? For the frisson of feeling like a really “radical Catholic”?

Such a book might become a bestseller, as people like me purchased and praised it in the hope it might tip close elections. On a deeper level, we’d hope that it discredited the whole multiculturalist project. That it proved this view leads to a political dead end of ethnic separatism and futilitarianism. It’s nice when your opponents do the reductio ad absurdum on themselves. It saves you the trouble. Even better if insecure leftists took the fact that conservatives treated the book respectfully as proof that it was “deep” and “important.”

Today’s Intolerance

Back to Reno’s new column. In it, he bristles at the barbs he has taken for promoting this Illiberal project. (Just to annoy the reader, I’ll note that Reno calls the project “Integralism,” a term which I think it’s easiest to unpack as “Catholic sharia.”) He notes that American opinion and institutions are now deeply intolerant of basic Christian beliefs. That it’s hypocritical for liberals who won’t let potentially “transphobic” Christians adopt children to complain that Pius IX confiscated one. The left has its own sharia.

And all that is true. Hundreds of conservative Christians have been writing about leftist intolerance for decades. Many of them in the pages of First Things, under Fr. Neuhaus. Nothing Deneen or Dreher has said on that subject was particularly ground-breaking, brave, or incisive.

What was unique about them, and the others who reject Anglo-American freedom? That they argued that these abuses were inevitable, baked in the cake 350 years ago when John Locke wrote his treatises. That’s what’s distinctive about Deneen, as Marx was distinctive for claiming that Communism is unstoppable. It’s just how the iron laws of History play out. Take out this mix of determinism, pessimism, separatism and quietism, and both Deneen and Dreher would fade back into the pack of Christian conservatives. Neither Newsweek nor Yale would find them of interest.

More Than a Hunch. Try an Argument.

Reno admits that it’s by no means certain Deneen is right. He says:

For all our talk of freedom, we live in a claustrophobic, conformist society. Whether this means that liberalism has “failed,” as Deneen insists, is an open question. Perhaps liberalism has been perverted rather than brought to completion by the secularist zeal that turns its political modesty into an integralist doctrine. That’s my hunch.

Really? Fr. Neuhaus and those who carry on his legacy thought that it’s more than a hunch. They believed and in detail proved that the contemporary left has betrayed both the letter and spirit of “liberalism” (Anglo-American freedom).

This isn’t some nebulous mystery. We can demonstrate by specific historical references that the U.S. founders warned against liberty without the constraints of natural law and religion. And we can show by logical argument that the left’s aggressive attack on the churches violates both the free exercise of religion and freedom of association that this type of liberalism long cherished. We can prove that the left is radically inconsistent when it cherrypicks from our principles.

For instance, progressives assert radical autonomy on questions of sex, since it’s “your body, your choice.” But they won’t let you use that body to work for less than the minimum wage. They defend free speech for pornography. But not for political speech (see campaign finance reform), the very context which our founders specifically cited. And so on.

Don’t Hand them the Flag

Why on earth grant the left the whole ground of the American founding and Constitutional tradition, when in fact we know — with intellectual certainty — that they betray it at every turn? And for what? For the frisson of feeling like a really “radical Catholic”? Indeed, there’s an appeal to reckless young men in standing up to the modern world and crushing a grapefruit in its face. (I was a young hothead once.) Much of the Alt-Right is driven by this impulse. But we don’t need intellectual journals to indulge such jejune posturing. Their job is to help us grow out of that.


For John Zmirak’s positive alternative program for Christian political renewal, see this article.

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  • Eric Reese

    The founders of America did warn of liberty without constraint of natural law or religion. But they ,nor you, give us any answers as to what we do when the people in mass turn against them. Keep fighting the good fight? Ok i will, if that fails, then what?

    It seems to me, and i may be wrong, but Deenan , Reno , Dreher have given up the good fight for different reasons. Deenan explaining why western civ has failed, Reno exploring other options, advancing classical liberalism perhaps?, Drehers benedict option which in my opinion is a step backwards. They are popular because people like me are looking for answers.

    As our culture and tradition are changing at such a rapid pace , its easy for me to be attracted to the idea that classical liberalism led to this inevitable result. I am a uneducated man, i read as much as I can , but they make sense to me. I read your columns as well and they make sense also. I just fail to see light at the end of the tunnel so to speak. I will keep fighting the good fight, talking to friends and family defending classical liberalism supported by natural law. But the more things change , the more natural law/reason is abandoned , the more attractive Deenan and Reno writings become.

    • michael

      I agree that we must never give up our freedom of religion or speech.we will lose our chance to save millions if we give into the temptation of dominionism . The reason is because people are naturally rebellious.

    • Ken Abbott

      In an October 1798 missive to members of a Massachusetts militia brigade, John Adams observed, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” And therein lies the core of the current problem. The United States of American either lacks a sufficient mass of moral and religious people able to maintain and perpetuate the current constitution, or that mass has become passive, even asleep to the dangers threatening the order of the republic. Two hundred years ago the governing elites shared, even in many cases modeled, these virtues; today it appears that those elites despise these virtues. How long can a republic so constituted last when its people are no longer worthy of her?

    • Zmirak

      Dismantle the welfare state, and the natural virtues will reassert themselves, the only alternative to them being… starvation. That’s my stark solution.

      • Ken Abbott

        We would have to turn a partially deaf ear to the ensuing keening over heartlessness and cruelty…while working overtime in the churches to supply the need.

    • AndRebecca

      How has western civ failed? Some are trying like mad to kill it, but how has it failed?

  • I heard Deenan in an interview with Albert Mohler and found him persuasive, but I didn’t get the sense he would think going in Reno’s direction is the answer. I have to actually read his book to see better what he’s saying. I also heard Mohler interview Dreher, and I wouldn’t compare Deenan to him at all. Dreher seems by nature a pessimist and thinks that we’re well on our way to hell in a handbasket.

    • Zmirak

      Each of them is arguing that the fight for religious and economic freedom in America is futile. If people listen, we’re doomed.

      • Hmmm…

        But, ah … the God factor. He’s got a plan, you know, and it’s good, which you gotta’ know too. Being one of his, doom is not in my future. Ya’ll?

        • Zmirak

          Then God will stop them from listening.

          • Hmmm…

            Or perhaps pull from his creative palatte causing the musings and commentings of various and sundry folks to be moot. It’ll be good, though. Eyes on him. Be in his place with his grace will save face. Ha!

      • I wonder about that. I have no doubt Dreher is predisposed to such a view, but I’m not at all sure about Deenan. Listening to him I found a much more nuanced thinker than Rod. When I read his book and truly engage his arguments, I’ll get back to you.

  • Sarah Pierzchala

    The Mortara case is causing some conflict in my immediate circles, and since I don’t want to have to read the book myself :), I was wondering if you can provide some links to the assertion that enough of the Catholic world was appalled to withhold troops from the defense of the Papal states? Thanks!

    • Zmirak

      Gosh, I don’t remember where I read that, long ago. But notice that even Austria-Hungry didn’t pitch in. I’d have to do research on that!

  • bbb

    The idea that historically organized religions like Catholicism and generic Protestantism and Judaism were religions gone wild at various times in history can be debated until the end of the World.
    At the core of Western Civilization was the idea that mankind was fully capable of not only governing himself but of adopting all the beautiful theology and lifestyle Christ gave us. Included in that was salvation, life everlasting and forgiveness of sins.
    When one loses sight of the beautify of Christianity and how it promotes kindness, love, generosity, justice, truth and hope then it is easy to slip into a barbarian mentality – kidnapping, sexual lust aimed at children, murder and violence.
    The idea. Christ died for our sins.
    The idea. Civilization means more than lots of stuff and fast cars.
    The idea. Man’s ability to overcome natural sin in order to hand one’s life 100% to Jesus Christ.
    What an idea.

  • Howard

    I would have expected Zmirak to provide more substance than “Ew, that’s icky! Nobody who’s anybody likes that!” if he wished to criticize the actions of Pius IX. No doubt he believes his own moral instincts have been formed and refined to such a degree that his reactions are entirely trustworthy, but he should realize that his own feeling of outrage is, to anyone else, just some other guy’s feelings.

    • Zmirak

      There are space limitations. I’ve written elsewhere about parental rights. However, they are so basic and fundamental that they shouldn’t require much defense.

      • Howard

        Suppose I have two people who disagree: a lay blogger, and a Pope. The Pope knows his position is unpopular, but explains that popularity is not as important as sacramental theology. The blogger considers his position so obviously superior to that of the Pope as to require no explanation whatsoever. Which of these is more deserving of respect from a Catholic? The answer is so obvious it requires no explanation whatsoever!

        • Zmirak

          This is not an article about the Mortaro case, but about First Things magazine. I cited that review as one instance among many of a tendency at the magazine. If you want a theological refutation of Pius’ decision, look elsewhere. I do think the evil of what he did is obvious, all right, because it violates the natural law at a level as deep as incest or parricide. But I’d only go into depth if that were the topic of the article.

          • Howard

            You could have used the same number of sentences you used to evade the question to sketch an answer.

          • Zmirak

            Not evading the question but pointing out that your complaint was unjust. You suggest that my essay was flawed because it didn’t go off on a vast digression onto another topic. But fine, I’ll explain now why Pius’ decision was so perverse: He arrogated to the Church a power it does not deserve–dictating the upbringing of people’s children. He undermined the logic behind 1800 years of Catholic practice, leaving Jews unmolested. While by HIS standards Edgardo was now a Christian, his standards are irrelevant. Out of deference to parental rights, we let PARENTS’ standards dictate, as is their God-given right. If you deny that, then explain why Catholics shouldn’t kidnap unbaptized Jewish children and christen them. After all, their unbelieving parents are endangering their salvation, which as children of God they deserve. Pius’ action, and Pink’s implications from it, would make the Church a totalitarian sect no better than Islam. Happy now? That’s a digression, which belongs (if anywhere) in a combox, not the article.

          • Howard

            Do you really think you know Natural Law so much better than Pius IX that he did not understand and appreciate your position? Am I to believe that you are so much more enlightened than he?

            I can accept that you disagree with Pius. I do not insist that you are wrong. However, you show no sign of even understanding WHY he thought he had to do as he did. THAT is what is truly disappointing.

          • Chip Crawford

            You disappoint on the aforementioned points, weightier.

          • Zmirak

            I think the argument is clear, and his status as pope is immaterial here. Surely he knew of my arguments since they’re hardly original to me. I think he disregarded them out of misplaced zeal, which fits his rather megalomaniacal personality (“I AM tradition!). The definition he sought for papal infallibility was so broad that if it had been accepted, Francis would already have discredited the papacy completely. Happily the Council, with divine guidance, reined him in.

          • Howard

            If you deny that, then explain why Catholics shouldn’t kidnap unbaptized Jewish children and christen them.

            For much the same reason you may oppose aborting a child who has already been conceived without being obliged by your pro-life beliefs to rape as many women as possible to conceive new lives. Baptism really does create a new spiritual life, and if it is true that parents have a God-given right (and responsibility) to care for their children, it is also true that Catholics have a God-given right to the sacraments. Neither right is absolute, of course; parents do lose their rights when they neglect or abuse their children, and Catholics can be excommunicated or placed under and interdict. But your responsibilities to any children you actually have are of a qualitatively different nature than your responsibilities to any children you might sire in the future, because the former are actual and the latter only hypothetical; in the same way, the responsibilities of Catholics to actual Christians are different than those to potential Christians.

            You use “Natural Law” as nothing more than an ad hominem fallacy. You appeal to Natural Law to avoid having to explain yourself in a compelling way, and to imply that the only reason anyone might possibly disagree with you is because he is ignoring his conscience, or because he has an ill-formed conscience. Natural Law is something real, but not in the way you are using it.

          • Chip Crawford

            You could use some couth.

          • Howard

            You could use some wit.

          • Chip Crawford

            Curious; are you a Christian first or a Catholic first? If you say they are the same; then why do you violate Christian sensitivities? Your overbear to a peer supposedly is marked here. If you maintain you are in some way superior to Mr. Z, please explain. Your placing hierarchical figures up above the reach of a Christian’s spirit leading tells of the sect element apart from Christianity. And I notice you don’t bother with God’s word with your “points.”

          • Howard

            So I didn’t think your snappy comeback was as witty as you wanted to believe, and it has hurt your feelings. You may be sensitive, but those are not Christian sensitivities.

            This is not about you or your sensitivities.

          • Chip Crawford

            I see. Can’t answer, taking the religious 5th, so flip it around. Crude, but not surprising, sadly. It was your insensitive handling of your dialog with the author of the article from the get-go that showed your stripe.

            I’ll know now how to pray more specifically for you, certainly your deliverance from the dark side to the light.

          • Howard

            I appreciate any prayers.

            However, it’s not that I can’t answer, it’s that I am not Bill Clinton. I feel no need to answer a “boxers or briefs” question.

          • Chip Crawford

            Good. I’ll add the need for the ability to walk in the light, which will go a long way in eliminating the poor taste, lack of spiritual discernment, inherently leading to bad judgment and violation of the love walk relative to Christian brethren.

          • Howard

            Wow. So much for Christian sensibilities, eh?

            On second thought, it doesn’t matter at all whether you pray for me or not, for two reasons.
            1. It sure sounds like you intend to start your prayer with, “God, I thank thee that I am not as the rest of men….” Those prayers are a waste of breath. They are not heard.
            2. Pharisees were rebuked for praying on “corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men,” but you have done them one better: you are announcing your condescending prayer on the Internet, where we can all admire your broad phylacteries.

          • Chip Crawford

            LOL; that is pretty funny … couldn’t happen to a “better” person, tho, lol …

          • Howard

            It’s no joke. Prayers are serious matters, at least to anyone who believes there really is a God Who hears them. Using them for passive-aggressive attacks is blasphemous.

          • Chip Crawford

            Your handling is the laugh that time. You almost sounded human. Too bad. I’ve flagged you in complaint of your general approach, the twisting and miscommunication, overbearing with your pronouncements. It is noted how you take it coming back your way.

  • campus minister

    I’m what may be called a JP II priest (ordained in the mid 90s) but am finding myself very sympathetic to the post-liberal turn of First Things. As the years go by it has become more apparent that Vatican II and the Vatican II liturgy was the Church’s attempt to positively engage modernity. But the world is moving quickly past modernity. To continue to try to engage the world with modern terms and to work on the Vatican II understanding of engagemnen seems to be futile.

  • eddie too

    the weaknesses and/or flaws of the u.s. constitution have been identified and exploited over the past seventy years.

    the capture of the congress has rendered it unable to represent the majority of the American people. we now live in a country ruled by unelected federal judges.

    the only question remaining to be answered is if this judicial oligarchy can be defeated or whether it will cause the destruction of the union.

    because the special interests have rendered the congress impotent, the constitutional limits placed on the judicial branch no longer exists.

    the american people are being indoctrinated by schools run by government which as stated earlier is controlled by special interests.

    if the union is to be preserved, it can ONLY be preserved by putting an end to the government run school’s monopoly on taxpayers monies. only by placing ALL parents on a free and equal footing in the education of their children is there ANY hope of this country returning to government of, for, and by the people.

  • cestusdei

    Zmirak’s suggestions on how to deal with our current situation sound a lot like the Benedict option, for example concentrating on building local communities up. He argues we should reject same sex unions, abortion etc. I say amen, but we’ve been trying to do that for years. We are facing a situation where we have lost most of our ability to influence the culture and it is not looking like that is going to change. I don’t think ending our democracy is the answer, but it appears the other side is planning to use democracy to enforce totalitarian rules against us. We are already seeing that. I agree the founding fathers did not want this, but something has gone wrong. Can we fix it? Or is the whole enterprise imploding? Those are questions we need to ask.

    Many of us do not recognize the nation we are living in. We are disturbed by what is happening. We are increasingly pessimistic that reform will happen. We fear for our faith and our families. Those are realities. Let’s have the debate.

    • Hmmm…

      There are multiple groups praying for another American Awakening like the one that began our country. Back when history was accurately recorded, even the secular chroniclers had to include the Great Awakening of that period. The ministers were known as the “black robes” and had their Minute Men wear under them, to be on the ready. That was in large part the FIRE under our revolution. These various prayer initiatives across the country for over a decade now anticipate it happening. They are praying for an Awakening particularly, as that is more than revival or even an outpouring. An Awakening changes the entire culture. As you have expressed here, something radical and sweeping is called for. Nothing less will save our nation. It’s happened several times on that scale in our national history. Many have “seen” this for some time. That’s our hope.

      • cestusdei

        I am all for prayer and another Great Awakening is long overdue. But given what we see on the ground it will be a long time coming. What do we do till then is the question.

        • Hmmm…

          It’s not by what we see on the ground for sure. These things look like they just spring up somewhere and spread supernaturally. Pray about your church affiliation perhaps. Some places are more preparatory than others. I see the Body of Christ becoming sustaining of one another where that is envisioned. Talk to God specifically about your concerns and expect specific answers. Our faith is meant to be sustaining at all times, in season and out. Live more from the inside out. I hope you won’t think me rude. These are familiar paths and courses to some. There is a fullness available in God right now on this earth. We won’t need that in Heaven. It will just be there. Be willing to hear and do something different, that you had not considered. If you want a change; make a change. Get up about 10 minutes earlier, dedicating that bit to seeking. Expand that as you can. We seek God and follow his plan. He always has a plan. We are equipped to hear him on the inside, that still small voice. In fact, we are already hearing it, but not realizing it often. Deliberate focus causes it to be more distinct.

          • cestusdei

            I’m a Catholic. We’ve weathered worse, but it is never pleasant. So let’s pray as if all depends on God and work as if all depends on us.

          • Hmmm…

            God is God. During the late ’60s and ’70s the Charismatic Renewal affected Catholics and Protestants, unchurched, hippies, all – in different ways no doubt. I’ve learned to be more God-direct, without changing affiliation.

          • cestusdei

            I have good reasons to be Catholic. I believe it is the fullness of truth. I will stick with it.

          • Hmmm…

            Catholic Charismatics did too. However, they didn’t argue with the fullness that came to them from Heaven.

          • cestusdei

            If they remained Catholic they would know that personal experience does not trump the deposit of faith. I am not interested in being converted. I was once an evangelical and have no desire to go back. So you had best move on, we’ve said as much as we are going to agree on.

          • Hmmm…

            I’m sorry, but you are quite mistaken. I have yet to attempt to convert you … In fact, I have stated the opposite of change from your religion. Who would have ever thought that drawing closer to God would conflict with anyone’s religion? I thought he was the center of all legitimate faiths. Guess not when someone who is expressing their malaise in life and coming up short feels they are being drawn away from their religion with talk of God himself! It is the strangest thing I’ve come across in quite some while. Again, I am very sorry you found that threatening! Good day, indeed.

          • cestusdei

            I just talked to God. He said the Catholic Church is true and everyone should belong to it. How can one argue with that?

            My issue was the idea that it is just “God and me.” As Catholics we say “if you have God as your Father you will have the Church as your mother.” So there is a fundamental difference between your overly individualistic faith and a greater sense of being part of God’s people. Sorry that you found that threatening. Adios.

  • Pius XIII

    We are very confused by Zmirak’s criticism of RR Reno. As a way of apologizing for the Mortara controversy (Pio Nono Did Nothing Wrong), Reno admitted he didn’t have his own children baptized to please his wife. Reno is clearly committed to the spirit of ecumenism Zmirak is so fond of. It’s probable one of Reno’s more illiberal (and actually seriously Catholic) editors slipped this piece by him – one can hardly believe Reno personally approved it, unless he was feeling guilty about the salvation of his own family.

    It is fatuous to claim that the integralists dismiss Scalia. After all it was Scalia in DOMA who wrote that soon, anyone maintaining a christian set of beliefs and behavior will be considered Hostes Humani Generis (enemies of the human race) by the liberal democratic West. Zmirak wishes to bow and scrape before the liberal order to reassure them the Catholic church isn’t mean or illiberal – definitely not a threat to the spirit of the modern age. If anything, we believe the integralists are the only ones taking Scalia seriously.

    Regarding the claim that it is incorrect to oppose capitalism – as if that makes one some kind of stalinist, instead of a Catholic who actually reads encyclicals (and not just the taking a red and gold pen to the documents and ignoring the parts one dislikes) of course we must oppose this position of Zmirak. Anyone need look at the news – the mandatory wokeness training at major corporations, the flight of corporate advertisers from pro-2nd amendment conservative news personalities – and it becomes clear that capitalism serves only one end – Capital. Without the guiding hand of an integral Catholic government, any system of economics will operate counter to the common good of the polity.

    Furthermore it is fascinating to our person that Zmirak claims to recognize the fallenness of man as a reason in favor of supposedly neutral liberal democracy. Yet any reader of the Angelic Doctor will know that government must be ordered towards the final end of man – eternal life – as a means of countering man’s inclination to evil as a result of the Fall.

    Our person used to enjoy Zmirak’s writing as «A European Reactionary From Queens» whose scathing wit skewered the status quo. His Bad Catholics’ Guides were also a source of much merriment as we made our way through the decadent halls of higher education. Alas now it seems Zmirak has taken his mess of pottage to defend the decline of the liberal order. We continue to pray that he reconsider.

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