The curious omission in @AntonioSpadaro attack piece: Reagan’s “Evil Empire”… MISSING

john-paul-ii-ronald-reaganJesuit Fr. Antonio “2+2=5” Spadaro, in his attack on Americans, especially American conservatives, in Inciviltà cattolicaalong with his coauthor from Argentina, left a curious omission.

Spadaro tars two American presidents with the brush of “Manichaenism”.

At times this mingling of politics, morals and religion has taken on a Manichaean language that divides reality between absolute Good and absolute Evil. In fact, after President George W. Bush spoke in his day about challenging the “axis of evil” and stated it was the USA’s duty to “free the world from evil” following the events of September 11, 2001.  Today President Trump steers the fight against a wider, generic collective entity of the “bad” or even the “very bad.” Sometimes the tones used by his supporters in some campaigns take on meanings that we could define as “epic.”

Who is missing?  How about the modern American president, an iconic president, who provided us with the quintessential “evil” label: Ronald Reagan famously, unforgettably, dubbed the Soviet Union as the “evil empire”.

Pres. Reagan is mentioned a couple times in the rest of the attack article, but not in such a way that he receives the “Manichean” slur.

Why would “2+2” purposely exclude Reagan from that important early paragraph, in which he sets up the rest of his, for lack of a better word, “argument”?

The answer is clear.

Spadaro doesn’t want to link Pope Francis to insults aimed at the universally, highly admired Ronald Reagan.

Presidents Bush and Trump are unpopular, especially by Europeans, who ape liberal Dimocrats.  It’s okay to insult those American presidents.  In fact, it is obligatory to insult them.

But Reagan?  No way.

In the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dishonest Arguments, find Fr. Spadaro’s picture next to the entry for “Double Standard”.

Here is the video of the famous “Evil Empire” Speech.  When Reagan is introduced, he is even praised for his “love of the Bible”. This was an Address to the National Association of – wait for it – Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida. He opens, saying that a friend of his would rather see his young daughters die believing in God than see them grow up under Communism, no longer believing in God.

Watch this video and tell me if this doesn’t – by orders of magnitude – far outstrip the alleged “Manichaen” rhetoric and hate-speech that Spadaro, Figueroa and their ilk are reviling in President Trump and American conservatives.

But touching Reagan is like stepping on the third rail. They can’t risk linking Pope Francis to that.

A bit of the speech here…

The entire speech here…

Another point.

The “Evil Empire” is Russia (the Soviet Union, fine… Russia). Today, Russia is Putin. Dimocrats and their Euromimics hate Putin. Hence, Spadaro, et al., can’t call out the Evil Empire as “Manichaen”.

Instead, Spadaro, etc., call out only those conservatives who are not Ronald Reagan as “Manichaens”.

Let me spell this out.  The La Civiltà Cattolica attack article was artfully written.  It’s not just a rant with arguments.  There is a strategy behind it.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. gracie says:

    As artful as a dodger.

  2. Elizabeth D says:

    Dimocrats? I am sad to say this. and I know that the Democratic Party has some very morally evil things as non negotiable platform items, but this is coming across as undignified partisan-political polemics. Why not just say to them “raqa” and “you fool”?

    You know what is so refreshing, when Catholics robustly espouse moral beliefs that don’t fit neatly into one or the other partisan political/left-right category. It is then easier to believe maybe they are listening to the Holy Spirit and thinking with the Church moreso than their preferred cable news.

    [Thanks, Elizabeth, for drawing special attention to the word “Dimocrat”. I am glad that you have helped so many readers ponder what benighted positions one must hold today in order to support the Democrat Party. For that, you get …]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  3. Philmont237 says:

    Something that I don´t understand is that a lot of so-called “rad trads” admire Putin to the point where he is almost a living saint in their eyes. Despite the good that he has done for the Russian Orthodox Church (rather his puppet church), he is still an evil despot who ensures the deaths of many people who disagree with him, including press members. He has destabilized Europe through his invasion of Ukraine, he has his eye on the Baltic States and maybe even Poland, and he is bolstering the vile Assad regime in Syria. An no, Russia has not converted! They would be becoming Catholic if they had converted, duh!
    Russia is still evil, despite what some say.

  4. Elizabeth D says:

    I stand by my critique of bringing the binary partisanship and smear language from the world into the Church, whether that be accusations of “ecumenism of hate” or whatever.

    [And I know that if I answer at all, you’ll have to come back with something.   o{]:¬)  ]

  5. jfk03 says:

    Popes and their surrogates should not grovel in partisan politics.

  6. carl b says:

    While Reagan is omitted so high up, Fr Spadaro certainly didn’t spare him entirely — a couple paragraphs down he’s mentioned, with Bush, as an admirer of Lyman Stewart; and then further down he’s included as someone inspired by Norman Peale. fwiw. [As I mentioned, and you missed, not relevant to the argument.]

  7. bar3 says:

    Fr. Z,
    I fully believe Spadaro is capable of the kind of “shiftiness” of which you accuse him, but to be honest I think you’re overthinking this one. [Nope. I’m right on target.] Regan [Reagan]is not universally admired, there are plenty of libs who despise Reganomics [Reaganonmics] and bring up the Iran-contra affair as often as possible. [That doesn’t make any difference.] I don’t think Regan [Reagan] enjoys the kind of immunity that you seem to see. It seems more likely to me that Spadaro considered Regan’s [Reagan]speeches dated, and therefore irrelevant. [Nope. That Speech, which is not in the least outdated, is precisely relevant.]

  8. PA mom says:

    Elizabeth- I used to hold to that idea also, believing that I could bridge my grandparents Democrat stances and my father’s Republican, finding the sensible parts of each and choosing candidates which exemplified those.

    Today, it is quite difficult to find a reasonable stance being given attention and effort by the Democratic Party.
    I am only 42 and am stunned by how quickly they have deteriorated away from thought and taken on a nearly feral, emotion based fueling of their voters.
    What else other than evil can be aiding their swift “progress”? I won’t look to compromise anymore.

  9. gracie says:


    Not to worry. “Dim” means “stupid”, not “fool”. Fr. Z doesn’t need me to defend him, but the fact is that “Dimocrats” accurately describes a party that doesn’t “get” natural law – even when it’s staring them in the face in Nature. From where I sit, that’s pretty dim.

  10. aquinas138 says:

    As an aside, I despise the label “Manichaean” (or “Gnostic”) when someone means “dualist.” Is this just to puff up the author’s own vanity? Why Manichaean? Are we to believe that Presidents Bush and Trump, as members the Manichaean elect, are eating fruits and beans to release the light particles of the Cross of Light trapped in these foods, freeing them to fill up Jesus the Splendor (the Moon) before they are returned to the Father of Light?

  11. jaykay says:

    “It’s okay to insult those American presidents.  In fact, it is obligatory to insult them. But Reagan?  No way.”

    Ohh, not so sure about that. I think that it’s just that for most of them RRR is “past history”. They have little, if any, knowledge – or interest. Those of us who are at least my age (57, nearly) will still recall the “anti-Ronnie Raygun” protests back in the 80s, oh-so-daring with their infantile leftism when they were protected in their cossetted, middle-class lives by U.S. power. Greenham Common Wimmin against Cruise deployment and all that. The younger, badly educated, ones just don’t know. And don’t want to. But you can bet that if they were informed about that great man – they’d mostly just jump on the bandwagon of condemning him.

    Seriously, the lack of knowledge of what went on back then is epidemic among a lot of the younger people I interact with every day. History is a minority subject at second level now. In my day, 70s, it was still a prestige subject, because you had to read, and understand, haaard books. In my senior level history course, 1975 to 1977, we used E. P. Thompson’s “Europe since Napoleon” as the standard European history text. It’s about 2 inches thick – I still have it. There was an almost equally thick one for Irish history, “Ireland since the Famine” by Prof. Lyons of Trinity College, Dublin. You were expected to be able to understand it, and write good analysis (ok, age permitting). We were 15 to 17 years old.

    Alright, rant over. ;)

    [Now? Pope Francis can’t be linked to insulting Ronald Reagan.]

  12. The Masked Chicken says:

    I know my comment isn’t about Reagan’s Evil Empire speech, but I thought it would be wrong to discuss an article until after I had read it, so I waited to comment on the article on Evangelicalism and Intergalism in La Civilta Cattolica until I had read and digested it. Now, I am ready. Everybody has passed on. :( If I put the comment in the appropriate post, no one would see it (which might be better, after all).

    Most of the reviews I have read have been very passionate, pro or con, but very glossy on the facts to support their arguments. The effect has been like watching two young kids engaged in name calling at each other. I would like to roll up my sleeves and actually drill into some of the points made, just to enlighten and set the record straight on some things, but I fear the comment would be too long for this comment box.

    The article is a textbook case for some informal fallacies, which could, seriously, be used in an introductory philosophy or logic class. I have counted at least 13 different types of informal fallacies in the article, as well as slew of historical inaccuracies. Just one juicy tidbit, for example: the article says,

    “Appealing to the values of fundamentalism, a strange form of surprising ecumenism is developing between Evangelical fundamentalists and Catholic Integralists brought together by the same desire for religious influence in the political sphere.

    Some who profess themselves to be Catholic express themselves in ways that until recently were unknown in their tradition and using tones much closer to Evangelicals. They are defined as value voters as far as attracting electoral mass support is concerned. There is a well-defined world of ecumenical convergence between sectors that are paradoxically competitors when it comes to confessional belonging. This meeting over shared objectives happens around such themes as abortion, same-sex marriage, religious education in schools and other matters generally considered moral or tied to values. Both Evangelical and Catholic Integralists condemn traditional ecumenism and yet promote an ecumenism of conflict that unites them in the nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state.”

    This is hilarious. One of the things that occurred during my time studying Charismatic theology and history is that in the process of tracking down the history of one topic, I often, accidentally, discover the origin of another topic. Fr. Spadaro and Rev. Figueroa, apparently, think that the union of Evangelicals and Catholics over abortion began in the 1990’s or even the 1980’s with the rise of the Moral Majority. It did not. It began in the mid-1950’s with a chance meeting of Billy Graham and Bishop Sheen at a golf course. Bishop Sheen converted Graham to what we would call an anti-abortion position during that meeting. Being the most influential Evangelical of the period, the notion quickly spread throughout the movement. Prior to that point, Evangelicals had been largely either neutral to the topic.

    So much for spooky conspiracies.

    As far as homeschooling, who are the authors kidding? Homeschooling was common in 19th-century France among Catholics and 18th-Century American Catholics. Indeed, the whole Catholic education movement in the United States was a reaction to public Protestant education. Catholics have been at least 150 years out in front of the Protestants on the homeschool front (although there are some very early German experiments in the 17th-century). It is true that Rushdonny was a teacher and advocated for homeschooling on religious grounds, but Protestants came to serious homeschooling not by Rushdonny, whose articles in the 1960’s had little impact, but primarily through the work of Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore in 1972 (he was a Seventh-Day Adventist, by the way), whose book, Better Late than Early, was written as a response to a proposed California law that would have made public schooling mandatory for children as young as 2 years, nine moths, old. The Moores became tireless advocates for homeschooling, developing the Moore Method.

    Again, so much for Evangelical influence.

    Finally, a quick point: Dominionism did not develop out of the Fundamentalist movement, which was originally funded by the brothers, Milton and Lyman Stewart (not just Lyman, as the article states), and was anti-Catholic, by the way. The Fundamentalist movement (named after the publication of the 12 volume set, The Fundamentals: A Testimony To The Truth, which the Stewarts funded, but did not write) was a synthesis of Protestant teaching that was, primarily, geared towards missionaries as a reference.

    Did I mention that the Stewarts were Presbyterians? Oddly, so is Rev. Figueroa. Apparently, the Presbyterian Church has moved on.

    Fr. Spadaro and Rev. Figueroa write:

    “Another interesting aspect is the relationship with creation of these religious groups that are composed mainly of whites from the deep American South. There is a sort of “anesthetic” with regard to ecological disasters and problems generated by climate change. They profess “dominionism” and consider ecologists as people who are against the Christian faith. They place their own roots in a literalist understanding of the creation narratives of the book of Genesis that put humanity in a position of “dominion” over creation, while creation remains subject to human will in biblical submission.”

    Dominion Theology, especially, the idea that the United States was God-privileged, goes back at least to the 1860’s, under the notion of the Anglo-Israeli Theory, which says that the the people of America are the descendants of the lost Ten Tribes of Israel. The only problem, of course, is that the movement did not start in America. It started in England, where the claim was that the British were the descendants of the lost Ten Tribes, but the notion was quickly extended to the Americans. Surprisingly, this theory influenced the development of the Tongues Movement in early Pentacostalism (which is too long to get into).

    Domininion and Ruchdonny? Not really. More precisely, he founded a Calvinist-based Christian Reconstructionist Movement, which did not have as its central point a theocracy – a rule by the religious, but an anthropology – that man is subservient to God and God’s Laws. That Rushdonny included the penal Mosaic Laws (of stoning for adultery, etc.) is certainly not in keeping with Catholicism and no Catholic, traditional or otherwise holds to that. Thomists, however, do hold to a notion that positive or human laws must be properly integrated with the Divine Law, although, in many cases, they will have separate spheres of activity. Rushdonny believed in a separation of Church and State and economic freedom based on the writings of the classical liberalist economist, Ludwig von Mises, so it is hard to see just how right-wing Dominionism is, from a political point of view.

    Of course, Rushdonny was against Pentacostalism, and, yet, one of the prominent branches of Dominionism is the, Kingdom Now Movement, which is nothing but Pentacostalism-based. So, exactly what is Dominionism?

    That is a story. You see, the movement first got its name from a dissertation in sociology by Sarah Diamond in, I think, 1992, at U. C. Berkeley. It later was turned into a book: Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States 1945-1992. Before Diamond’s book, the term, Dominionism did not exist, so it is a relatively recent term. Thus, this whole linking of Catholic Traditionalism and Dominionism is a straw man of the worst proportion.

    In my view, it is Fr. Spadaro and Rev. Figueroa who are the Manichaeist or dualists. It is they who are dividing political views with a broad brush into the ” the rich materialist Right,” and, “the kind and gentle Left.” This balkanization of the politico-theological sphere is a standard tactic of the Left. It is Cultural Marxism, which seeks to pit culture against culture.

    I’ve got news for Fr. Spadaro and Rev. Figueroa – the, “conspiracy,” between Catholic Integralists and Protestant Dominions is laughable, on the face of it. Many Dominionists are rabidly anti-Catholic. Perhaps, they should do their homework, better.

    Oh, and if Hilary Clinton had had a change of heart and become staunchly pro-life, even as late as October, guess, what? She would have been in the White House. This is the old La Nouvelle Theologie vs. Thomism debate brought into politics, only in disguise. Can a Catholic vote for someone who is pro-abort. Why don’t these two authors answer that question and then we will know where they really stand.

    I could write much more, but this comment is already too long and off topic. I wanted to write, earlier, but I have been doing a lot of research and writing, this summer.

    The Chicken

  13. jaykay says:

    Losing it? It was David Thomson’s Europe since Napoleon, not E.P. Thomson. Different quantities.

  14. benedetta says:

    Of course I agree it was an omission which was wholly intentional. The piece is historically fraudulent and inaccurate, but one can’t escape that every word was very well chosen by the authors for maximal “effect” or affectation…

    For if they had mentioned the name Reagan, they would then have opened the door to our mentally conjuring that gentle giant who would have us not be afraid of the culture of death, euphemistically window dressed by Fr. Spadaro et al as “secularism”, Saint (a saint, mind you) Pope John Paul II. And if we think about St. John Paul II, then we understand that Pope Francis has in continuity not retrenched significantly at all from those very same principles. Fr. Spadaro’s “the Pope’s my best friend” schtick notwithstanding, and assorted other nutty incidents, Pope Francis apparently believes that Charlie Gard, for example, ought to live. A pity that the UK legal apparatus doesn’t take him up on that gesture. Apparently Pope Francis does not believe in fact that this abortion-loving and euthanasia mandated “secular” government ideal that to Spadaro is so great and worth it as to animate harassment towards American Catholics and others is actually all that great. No matter what his Presbyterian minister friend with the plum position would say.

    Significantly, Fr. Spadaro et al really undermine their boss. America is never going to be a (LOL) “theocracy”, in a million years. But, it doesn’t in fact seem so much to ask, writing from a place where the birth rate is not even replacement, and where atheistic regimes of forced number of children are now retrenching on that for, practical, materialist, economic reasons for the “good” of their economies, to question Father Spadaro as to what Big Abortion, which is what is really behind that piece’s attacks, has done for any of us anyway. Are we all really better off? Certainly, I get, that for people who place a certain partisan, bigoted, anti child, one note agenda firstly, that the answer, must be, in the affirmative, and we have seen that this is, at all costs. What I don’t understand is how a cleric then prioritizes one note agenda over all other humanist needs, which the Church in fact speaks for, over the communion of the Body of Christ?

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  16. Fr. Z — a very astute observation. After all, if someone is going to make a theme of Americans indulging in too much good-versus-evil polemic in recent years, how can one glide past Reagan?

    [Yes. You get it.]

  17. Kathleen10 says:

    Elizabeth, in my opinion your concern seems small in comparison to the gravity of what we have going on. Of course you are entitled to your opinion. We probably shouldn’t fuss about the gnat when there’s a gigantic buffalo charging us, nor work to undermine one of the people trying to help. Again, you’re entitled to your opinion, and there’s mine.

  18. Richard A says:

    Hmmm… if you take the ante-penultimate letter of the last word in your article and rotate it about its horizontal axis, you get another adjective that also accurately describes the Spadaro screed.

  19. dallenl says:

    The good father seems to forget the predations of his own country’s “evil empire” 1936-39 by the Republican government. The most conservative estimate of Catholic clergy murdered by the Popular Front (which included the American brigades) is 30,000. There has never been a estimate of laity murdered. While the Nationalist Franco was hardly a shining example of the Catholic worrier resisting evil, he was the only one available to keep Spain from slipping behind the iron curtain. Fr. Spardaro badly needs to study the history he so obviously missed in school and couple it with sound moral philosophy that he is equally deficient in.

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