Mark Silk: Spiritual Politics Opinion

Catholicism’s Two-Party System

Pope Francis embraces Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI before opening the Holy Door to mark opening of the Catholic Holy Year, or Jubilee, in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican
Pope Francis, left, embraces Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI before opening the Holy Door to mark the opening of the Catholic Holy Year, or Jubilee, in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, on Dec. 8, 2015. Photo courtesy of Osservatore Romano/Handout via Reuters

Pope Francis embraces Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI before opening the Holy Door to mark opening of the Catholic Holy Year, or Jubilee, in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican

Although Crux’s John Allen likes to pretend otherwise, Roman Catholicism is now clearly divided between the Party of Francis and the Party of Benedict. Not since the days of the Jesuits and the Jansenists has the Catholic elite — clerical and lay intellectual — been at daggers drawn as it is now.

Yesterday, the New York Times nicely encapsulated the partisan divide in profiling the two big Irish-American archbishops facing each other across the Hudson — Timothy Dolan of New York and Joseph Tobin of Newark. Can anyone doubt that by making one of the country’s most progressive bishops a cardinal and sending him into its dominant media market Francis wasn’t sending a shot across the bow of Benedictine conservatism?

On the other side, Pope Emeritus Benedict delivered a shot of his own Saturday in the form of a eulogy for the cardinal archbishop of Cologne, Joachim Meisner, who retired in 2014.

“We know that it was hard for him, the passionate shepherd and pastor of souls, to leave his office, and this precisely at a time when the Church had a pressing need for shepherds who would oppose the dictatorship of the zeitgeist, fully resolved to act and think from a faith standpoint,” Benedict wrote. “Yet I have been all the more impressed that in this last period of his life he learned to let go, and live increasingly from the conviction that the Lord does not leave his Church, even if at times the ship is almost filled to the point of shipwreck.”

Meisner, the leading conservative in the German hierarchy, died the day after Francis announced that he would not be reappointing Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, the man Benedict selected to head the Vatican’s orthodoxy bureau (the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). Can anyone doubt that Benedict intended a criticism of the state of the Church under his successor?

But the most explicit articulation of the divide came last week, by way of an article in La Civiltà Cattolica, the Jesuit bimonthly that has led the way in promoting the Franciscan agenda. Co-authored by editor Antonio Spadaro, the article takes aim at what it considers the unholy alliance between “Evangelical Fundamentalism” and “Catholic Integralism.”

Although, as Michael Sean Winters points out over at the National Catholic Reporter, it is possible to find flaws in Civiltà‘s account of political evangelicalism, there’s no doubt that the alliance between conservative evangelicals and Catholics promoted by the late Richard John Neuhaus and George Weigel is now a real thing. And as you might expect, the Jesuit journal recognizes in this alliance a latter-day version of the Protestant fellow-traveling of the Jansenists of old.

That includes a dualism (Manichaeism) that insists that the world is irremediably divided between the children of light and the children of darkness. It includes a love affair with capitalist success, now in the form the prosperity gospel. And it involves a hyper-valorization of religious liberty.

“The erosion of religious liberty is clearly a grave threat within a spreading secularism,” writes La Civiltà Cattolica. “But we must avoid its defense coming in the fundamentalist terms of a ‘religion in total freedom,’ perceived as a direct virtual challenge to the secularity of the state.”

Can anyone doubt that this is a direct smack at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ ill-conceived Fortnight for Freedom?

Integralism is the dream of a self-sufficient Catholic social, intellectual, and political culture capable of reasserting the Church’s power in Catholic countries and guaranteeing the orthodoxy of Catholic populations in non-Catholic ones. This was resoundingly rejected by the Second Vatican Council — a rejection that lies at the core of the Jesuit pope’s attempt to revivify his church.

In the words of La Civiltà Cattolica:

Francis wants to break the organic link between culture, politics, institution and Church. Spirituality cannot tie itself to governments or military pacts for it is at the service of all men and women. Religions cannot consider some people as sworn enemies nor others as eternal friends. Religion should not become the guarantor of the dominant classes. Yet it is this very dynamic with a spurious theological flavor that tries to impose its own law and logic in the political sphere.

You may consider this the platform of the Party of Francis.

About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

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  • Who cares??? Putting all of this foolishness to rest in less than 10 seconds:

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

  • Integralism, as you define it, has NEVER been condemned. Not in the Second Vatican Council, not ANYWHERE,

  • As a young Traditionalist, I feel constantly alienated, and sidelined by the Catholic Church of today which maligns me and ostracizes me. It seems like they want to push me out. Often I feel like I have more in common with the Eastern Orthodox, who believe what I believe than with the aging hippy modernizer Catholics, who don’t believe what I believe. The Church is in a sad state today. We have returned to the era of the Renaissance Popes. I don’t wish any evil upon Pope Francis, I just hope his papacy ends before he is capable of doing any more damage to Holy Mother Church. Then we can end this modernist heresy once and for all, and the church can finally move forward and progress with the Mass of All the Ages.

  • As requested:

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

    NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

    NewTorah For Modern Minds

    “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. (prob·a·bly

    Adverb:

    Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).

    The entire Exodus story as recounted inthe Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built
    Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose
    reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions — the product of findings by archaeologists digging in
    Israel and its environs over the last 25 years — have gained wide acceptance
    among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these
    ideas or to discuss them with the laity — until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million
    Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and
    commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called ”Etz
    Hayim” (”Tree of Life” in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that
    incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and
    the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it
    represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious
    mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine document.”

    And from the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi
    Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi————–

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic
    Myths:

    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish-
    simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion
    lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using “The 77 Branches of Islamic “faith” a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true “faith” (iman) through related
    Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings.” i.e. a nice summary of the Koran
    and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    “1. Belief in Allah”

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature,
    etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

    “2. To believe that everything other than Allah
    was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and
    subsequently they came into existence.”

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the “Gib
    Gnab” (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the
    “akas” for Allah should be included if you continue to be a
    “creationist”.

    “3. To believe in the existence of angels.”

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/devils
    are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to
    explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden
    winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No “pretty/ugly wingy
    thingies” ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe
    Smith. Today we would classify angels as fairies and “tinker bells”.
    Modern devils are classified as the demons of the de-mented.

    “4. To believe that all the heavenly books that
    were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran,
    all other books are not valid anymore.”

    Another major item to delete. There are no books
    written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no
    angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply
    books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically
    to keep the uneducated masses in line. Today we call them fortune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invalidated by the
    natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

    “5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone.”

    Mohammed spent thirty days “fasting” (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a “pretty wingy thingy”. Common sense demands a neuron deletion
    of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic violence i.e. turning Mohammed’s
    “fast, hunger-driven” hallucinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

  • Continued from above:

    The
    Apostles’ Creed 2012: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of
    historians and theologians of the past 200 years) (prayer = a reiterated peti-tion such
    as the Our Father)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven, human-created, spirit state of bliss
    called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a
    mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He
    was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus’ story was embellished and “mythicized” by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen

    (referencesused are available upon request)

  • The RCC needs both! We need the traditionalists and all they represent to keep us on the straight and narrow. We need liberals who get out there and be the compassion of God. We cannot survive without each other. We all have our place as the body of Christ.

  • I am not at all ok with it. But there’s at least a consistency to it, bc they don’t believe marriage is a sacrament in the first place. We are the ones who now have an inconsistency between our teachings and our discipline/practices. And that is the definition of hypocrisy.

  • ” We are the ones who now have an inconsistency between our teachings and our discipline/practices. And that is the definition of hypocrisy.”

    Except that the Roman way has for many centuries to indulge such inconsistencies. It’s not an Anglo-American legal sensibility.

  • “As a young Traditionalist, I feel constantly alienated, and sidelined by the Catholic Church of today which maligns me and ostracizes me.” As a Catholic who is on the “Progressive” side of the Church, I know how you’re feeling.

  • The Apostles’ Creed 2017: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of
    historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven, human-created, spirit state of bliss
    called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus’ story was embellished and “mythicized” by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen

    (references used are available upon request)

  • Faithful Catholics do both. One without the other is meaningless. Asking the government to do it for you does not count, nor is it just.

  • Amos 2014
    You’ve picqued my interest.
    Could you explain how that can be?
    Also, could you explain what exactly it is about the Traditional Latin Mass that you have such a problem with? This Mass produced nearly every great Saint in history. It is a PRICELESS and INVALUABLE TREASURE which cements us with our origins with the Apostles and throughout ALL TIME. Surely this invaluable tradition should not die out.
    Wouldn’t the most reasonable compromise be to mandate that at least ONE, JUST ONE of the Sunday Masses said in every parish throughout the world be the TLM, and then you can have your silly undignified clown Masses done however you like. Maybe you can even have married priests since this isn’t compromising doctrine, dogma, or theology. This seems to me to be a very reasonable compromise. If you disagree, what do you think is so wrong with it?

  • To quote Michael Matt: “We’re JUST CATHOLICS, we’d love to drop the ‘Traditional’ label because we see it as REDUNDANT”. They really should just let ONE Sunday Mass in every parish be the Traditional Latin Mass to cement us with our Apostolic Origins and with all saints throughout time and then allow dignified Novus Ordos at the other times. This will settle most of all the infighting between Parishioners. It will not drive us apart, but bring us together.

  • “Although, as Michael Sean Winters points out over at the National Catholic Reporter, it is possible to find flaws in Civiltà‘s account of political evangelicalism…” POSSIBLE to find flaws? That’s one of the most error-riddled things I’ve ever read, and even the things the authors got right they misunderstood.
    Attacking the entire USCCB as “integralists” who are opposed to Pope Francis? I guess I see why you are such a fan of the “possibly flawed” Civilita piece. You can redefine things as much as you want to, but that won’t make them true.

  • Nazareth? Many scholars think not. Some say the word was Nazorean (a cult not a place.) Others say the little village site was not occupied during the first Century.

  • I support Pope Benedict….there’s a real division among catholics…Bergoglio has created this division…causing confusion and behaving as a dictator…the merciful dictator. God will say the last word. Rome will be destroyed and Vatican will need to be rebuilt….before 2030 (for sure…it’s prophetised…look for Anguera messages).

  • It will not help because you would be celebrating a una-cum mass….in union with a heretic…You must walk out of that organization completely if you want to save your soul.

  • Which is the proof that what you believe to see as Catholic Church is not the Catholic Church but the Vatican II sect, integrated within the institutions of the Catholic Church. We must walk out…

  • These Novus Ordo priests are not celebrating valid masses…they are Lutheran protestant liturgies….The traditional mass is the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, renewed for the remission of sins… whereas Novus ordo is a mere supper…a meal…
    Those priests are not validly ordained priests, not valid bishops….form of consecration is invalid.

  • He is the cunning guilty one….the one who introduced Vat II council and worked it out

  • About “the unholy alliance between Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic 
Integralism”: This “unholy alliance,” as Mark Silk called it, is NOT new! It existed long before the elections of both Popes Benedict and Francis as an evangelical form of Opus Dei.

    One might say, the mission and work of the international prelature of Opus Dei has been rebranded and promoted, in more recent times in its “reformed” version, under the name “Evangelical Catholicism”. A careful reading of George Weigel’s book, EVANGELICAL CATHOLICISM, testifies to its strong correspondence with Opus Dei, without the author ever mentioning the pontifical prelature by name.

    There is indeed a two-party system in the Catholic Church worldwide. But one has to ask if the two parties are now Post-Vatican II Catholicism and an Evangelical Catholicism which claims Pope Francis as an adherent while at the same time questioning his sanity (https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/if-i-didnt-know-better-id-say-pope-francis-making-george-weigel-nervous).

    And all this is only important in light of the disturbing results of recent world-wide national elections which spotlight and magnify the impact of an “unholy alliance” between Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism”…an alliance advocated and advanced under the name “Evangelical Catholicism”.
    https://RiteBeyondRome.com

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