By now you may have seen the attack on Americans – conservative Americans and traditional Catholic Americans – in what some people consider a semi-official publication of the Holy See Civiltà Cattolica (now aka Inciviltà cattolica). The title in English: “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A surprising ecumenism”
“Integralism” is perhaps not used as much in these USA as it is in Europe. This term is a dog whistle. In somewhat broad terms, it can be used generically for the position that one’s religious beliefs should dictate their politics and social involvement. However, “integralism” developed in a specific context of conflict between Catholicism and modernity in Europe. In France and Italy, the haters of Catholic tradition often refer to anyone who wants traditional worship as being “intégriste”. It is flung like an insult. For a quick and fascinating lesson on “integralism”, and what Spadaro is calling conservative Americans, head over to the Wikipedia article. HERE Wiki is perfect as a source, but it gives you a rapid entry point.
The Holy See’s newspaper, the increasingly irrelevant L’Osservatore Romano, reprinted the anti-American attack with the title: “Ecumenism of Hate”
Again, this term “integralism” is a dog whistle: the troops are being called up to launch their own campaign of intolerant repression of anyone who might stand in the way of their agenda.
The vicious attack piece is penned by Fr Antonio Spadaro, the Jesuit editor of Inciviltà cattolica. Fr. Spadaro is so interested in the life and works of Pier Vittorio Tondelli that he created his own website about him (HERE).
The co-author of the article, with the Jesuit who is dedicated to the study of Tondelli, is Marcelo Figueroa, a Presbyterian pastor, who is the editor of the Argentinian edition of L’Osservatore Romano. He once had a TV show in Argentina with the future-Pope Francis and a rabbi.
There are going to be good responses to this attack on Americans and our nation by the Argentinian Presbyterian and the Jesuit expert on Tondelli. We should watch for them.
One response has come from the clear-eyed Phil Lawler, writing at Catholic Culture. HERE
A taste… but read the whole thing there (my emphases, comments):
With a harsh denunciation of American conservatism, published in the semi-official Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica, the Vatican has plunged headlong into a partisan debate in a society that it clearly does not understand, potentially alienating (or should I say, further alienating) the Americans most inclined to favor the influence of the Church.
Why? Why this bitter attack on the natural allies of traditional Catholic teachings? Is it because the most influential figures at the Vatican today actually want to move away from those traditional teachings, and form a new alliance with modernity? [To ask such a question suggests that the answer is already discerned.]
The authors of the essay claim to embrace ecumenism, but they have nothing but disdain for the coalition formed by Catholics and Evangelical Protestants in the United States. They scold American conservatives for seeing world events as a struggle of good against evil, yet they clearly convey the impression that they see American conservativism as an evil influence that must be defeated. [From their moral superiority they chastise these USA and a huge majority of its population who do, in fact, see some conflicts in terms of Good and Evil, and they smugly call it “Manichean”. I might respond to the Italian Jesuit that, were it not for the “Manichean” view we Americans are supposed to have, he would perhaps have been raised speaking German or Russian. I might respond to him and to his Argentinian Presbyterian co-author, that Italy and Argentina never met a dictator that they didn’t like. Given their track national track records and that of the fundamentalist Americans….]
While they are quick to pronounce judgment on American politicians, the two authors betray an appalling ignorance of the American scene. The authors toss Presidents Nixon (a Quaker), Reagan, Bush, and Trump into the same religious classification, suggesting that they were all motivated by “fundamentalist” principles. An ordinary American, reading this account, would be surprised to see the authors’ preoccupation with the late Rev. Rousas Rushdoony [you may be saying “Who?” He was a Calvinst who was an important figure in the evolution of the “homeschool” movement. Bringing him up is probably a way of attacking also homeschoolers, who terrify libs because they are not being formed by state-run schools and the “values” they inculcate.] and the Church Militant web site: hardly major figures in the formation of American public opinion. [Church Militant could have been brought in as an example of Catholic traditionalism.] The essay is written from the perspective of people who draw their information about America from left-wing journals rather than from practical experience. [Do you hear the dog whistles? This is a signal to attack homeschoolers and traditionalists, groups which often overlap.]
The central thesis of the Civilta Cattolica essay is that American conservatives have developed an ideology, based on fundamentalist Protestant beliefs, that sees the US as morally righteous, with other people as enemies and thus justifies conflict and exploitation. Again and again the authors describe this attitude as “Manichean;” they insist on the need to “fight against” it. They insist on tolerance, but they have no tolerance for this attitude. Nowhere in the essay does one find a suggestion of the attitude, made popular by Pope Francis, that the Church should “accompany” sinners. No; the sins of American conservatism are unforgivable. [Scratch a liberal and, beneath, you find a fascist.]
“Triumphalist, arrogant and vindictive ethnicism is actually the opposite of Christianity,” the authors tell us. So this is a heresy, then—the “Manichean” references were purposeful—and it must be condemned? The Vatican today lauds Martin Luther for his desire to reform the faith, but denounces Evangelical Protestants for—for what, exactly? The Civilta Cattolica essay speaks—in typically incendiary terms—of an “ecumenism of hate.” But it is not obvious, frankly, who hates whom. [Yes, Phil, it is clear.]
Guess who the Presbyterian and Jesuit think has come to the rescue from this hate-filled fundamentalism? Yep, you got it in one.
My friend Sam Gregg of Acton Institute texted me today that he has written a response which will appear soon. I’ll be watching for it. [It’s HERE]
The moderation queue is ON.
Thomas Peters tweets:
Funny how “Who am I to judge?” is something progressive Catholics never hold themselves to when it comes to things they really despise. https://t.co/VyrwQP5vuN
— Thomas Peters (@AmericanPapist) July 14, 2017
Sam Gregg responded in Catholic World Report. A salient passage:
If the Civiltà Cattolica article simply reflected the views of a random Western European Catholic priest and an Argentine Presbyterian minister, few would be concerned about its content. But Civiltà Cattolicaarticles are subject to scrutiny from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. Hence, it’s curious that whoever signed off on this article (assuming it was properly vetted) at the Secretariat of State didn’t pick up on the authors’ conflation of tangentially-related matters, or raise questions about the article’s emotivist tone, or alert Father Spadaro and Rev. Figueroa to their distinctly amateur grasp of American religious history and the finer points of American politics. If it is the case that red flags were not raised—or were ignored—then all Catholics, American or otherwise, have reason for concern. It is simply not in the universal Church’s interests to develop or encourage substantially false understandings of the United States or the Anglosphere more generally.