In my six decades I have never seen anything like, in American history, the meltdown and rabid hysteria that has seized the left since Donald Trump won the last Presidential election. It is as if leftists awoke from a beautiful dream in which their political adversaries were forever vanquished to the, in their eyes, brutal reality of Donald Trump. We are now seeing this same type of hysterical hatred being aimed against orthodox Catholics. Carl Olsen, who I now designate the truthful chronicler for American Catholics of our bizarre age, at The Catholic World Report, gives us the details:
A couple of weeks ago I came across the following, written by Oscar Wilde some 125 years or so ago:
In old days men had the rack. Now they have the press. That is an improvement certainly. But still it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralising. Somebody – was it Burke? – called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time, no doubt. But at the present moment it really is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. We are dominated by Journalism. In America the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs for ever and ever. Fortunately, in America journalism has carried its authority to the grossest and most brutal extreme. As a natural consequence it has begun to create a spirit of revolt. People are amused by it, or disgusted by it, according to their temperaments. But it is no longer the real force it was.
It’s worth pondering in light of nearly any and all journalism, news (or “news”), and punditry today, even if Wilde didn’t happen to be a perfect prophet. After all, news itself has become news; in a certain way, for better or worse, much of “news” is simply discussion and debate about “news”, to the point that journalism and opinion don’t just overlap but become uneasy mates. In some cases, the opinion turns upon its mate, leaving only faint traces of journalistic remains scattered among the dense underbrush of innuendo, suggestion, implication, and overt subjective assertion.
A case in point is a February 7th New York Times’ article titled “Steve Bannon Carries Battles to Another Influential Hub: The Vatican”. Bannon, of course, has become the focal point of those on the left who are intent on branding President Trump a “fascist”, which is (along with “communist”) the word used by lazy, unlearned people who wish to silence or even destroy their political enemies (an online search for “Bannon” and “fascism” turns up endless examples). The piece opens with this:
When Stephen K. Bannon was still heading Breitbart News, he went to the Vatican to cover the canonization of John Paul II and make some friends. High on his list of people to meet was an archconservative American cardinal, Raymond Burke, who had openly clashed with Pope Francis.
In one of the cardinal’s antechambers, amid religious statues and book-lined walls, Cardinal Burke and Mr. Bannon — who is now President Trump’s anti-establishment eminence — bonded over their shared worldview. They saw Islam as threatening to overrun a prostrate West weakened by the erosion of traditional Christian values, and viewed themselves as unjustly ostracized by out-of-touch political elites.
“When you recognize someone who has sacrificed in order to remain true to his principles and who is fighting the same kind of battles in the cultural arena, in a different section of the battlefield, I’m not surprised there is a meeting of hearts,” said Benjamin Harnwell, a confidant of Cardinal Burke who arranged the 2014 meeting.
First, what is an “archconservative” cardinal? The term is political, of course, because the Times, like almost all big media outlets, simply cannot think or exist outside of political categories. Cardinal Burke, by any sane and knowledgeable measure, is a thoroughly orthodox Catholic when it comes to Church belief and practice. (Note also that the piece refers to Cardinal Burke twice as “Mr. Burke”. Strange.)
Secondly, is it really so outrageous to believe that Islam—mindful even of all the different divisions and groups within Islam—desires to conquer the West, especially given old history, new history, and the statements that come from a wide range of Islamic groups and leaders?
Thirdly, lest ancient history be too easily forgotten, Cardinal Burke was named prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in July 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI (the same pope whose first encyclical melted minds over at the Times). He was removed from that post in September 2014 by Pope Francis, in a surprising move that took place shortly before the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops met in the fall of that same year. The chronology is notable because the recent Times piece, as quoted above, suggests that a Cardinal Burke-Bannon conspiracy was underway in April 2014, quite some time before Cardinal Burke was suddenly demoted. As Terry Mattingly states in a helpful piece at Get Religion:
The timing of the meeting is fascinating and, for journalists, a bit problematic. They key is that Bannon is in Rome to attend the canonization rites for Pope John Paul II (who for some reason loses his papal title in the lede) – which took place on April 27, 2014.
Meanwhile, the much-discussed public clashes between Cardinal Burke and Pope Francis began the following October, during the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The red-flag on that whole affair was a Times piece – “Pope Demotes U.S. Cardinal Critical of His Reform Agenda” – that ran on Nov. 8, 2014.
So in what sense was Cardinal Burke already “openly” clashing with Pope Francis at the time of the St. John Paul II rites, months before the conservative cardinals public actions at the synod?
Perhaps unwittingly, the piece lets the front paws of the cat out of the bag when it states, “Until now, Francis has marginalized or demoted the traditionalists, notably Cardinal Burke, carrying out an inclusive agenda on migration, climate change and poverty that has made the pope a figure of unmatched global popularity, especially among liberals.” Put another way, the problem with Cardinal Burke, in the eyes of the Times and Co. is not that he’s a heretic (since he isn’t) or a schismatic (because he isn’t), but because he’s not in tune politically with an overtly political pontificate that has increasingly shown itself friendly to a wide range of left-wing, secular perspectives and assumptions.
Thus: “Yet in a newly turbulent world, Francis is suddenly a lonelier figure. Where once Francis had a powerful ally in the White House in Barack Obama, now there is Mr. Trump and Mr. Bannon, this new president’s ideological guru.” (As I recently remarked to a friend, I sometimes think Francis acts more like a politician than a pope, while President Obama, during his two terms in office, acted more like a pope—that is, a religious figure leading a religious movement—than a politician.)
Mattingly points out that the piece provides no real sourcing or quotes to back up its central assertion about Cardinal Burke and Bannon (and Trump) working to undermine and battle Pope Francis. “At this point, it is clear that the Times needs to provide information proving that these Roman Rad Trans exist and that they have had extensive contacts with Trump, through Bannon. We are not talking about journalists and chattering-class folks. We are talking about actual source inside church structures. Right?
As bad as the Times piece is, it is a Valentine’s card compared to an op-ed in yesterday’s Washington Post by Emma-Kate Symons, titled, “How Pope Francis can cleanse the far-right rot from the Catholic Church”. Even accounting for it being an opinion piece, it is one of the most vile, slanderous pieces of trash I’ve ever read in a mainstream news publication, which is saying something. Continue Reading