In Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel Catch 22, a character complains, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” Conservative Catholics have long felt pushed to the sidelines of the Church, but since the election of Donald Trump there has been a considerable uptick in the abuse heaped on Catholics who cling to the legacy of Saint John Paul the Great and Pope Benedict XVI.
A prime example of this concerted effort was last week when a column by an Associate Professor at Fordham, Dr. Charlie Camosy, called for the Holy Father to declare “Trumpism” a heresy. This type of hyperbole alienates at least half of self-identified Catholics who actually voted for him.
There is obviously a concerted effort by members of the progressive leaders of the Church to marginalize orthodox, politically conservative Catholics. My concern also stems from the fact that during the general election, we learned from WikiLeaks that John Podesta, the head of the Clinton campaign was conspiring with Democrat operatives to influence the Bishops of the United States and others within the Church to take a more aggressive and disruptive social justice approach.
Sometimes this initiative pays dividends in the hostility towards pro-life, pro-traditional marriage Catholics by liberal clergy and the social justice warriors in the Church. This has always been the case, but in the so-called “Age of Trump,” it’s intensifying at a disturbing rate.
Since the outset of the Trump presidency, main stream media outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post are providing leftist groups the platform to attack Cardinal Burke. His Eminence has become the de facto leader of the the conservative, traditional branch of Catholicism that are growing dissatisfied with Pope Francis while largely supporting the policies of the Trump administration.
Cardinal Burke, one of the four cardinals submitting the dubia to Pope Francis, is now being dragged through the headlines for his handling of a leadership scandal within the Knights of Malta. As the appointed patron of the Knights, Cardinal Burke did not approve of a decision that used the Order’s charitable donations to fund condom distribution in Africa. When Burke acted to remove the person responsible, Pope Francis objected.
Cardinal Burke, however, has grown used to controversy: He has been a target of the liberals within the Church since 2004 when he said publicly that he would not give communion to then Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry. Kerry was a “Catholic” candidate and a highly vocal supporter of abortion rights.
It has been well documented that Pope Francis is not fond of “rigid” members of the Church and now is taking more jabs at Trump and his supporters among practicing Catholics. As he said a year ago about Donald Trump, “A person who thinks only about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian.”
Leftist media outlets and activist groups have also become obsessed with Trump advisor Steve Bannon since he traveled to the Vatican and met with Cardinal Burke. Bannon, the chief strategist in the Trump administration, is now portrayed as being in league with conservative Catholics who want to thwart the Holy Father’s initiatives on climate change and immigration. That demonization of Bannon and Burke is making its way into the minds of Catholics who still view the main stream media as having credibility.
Whether or not many Catholics will start seeing Catholic Trump supporters as “Trumpist” heretics remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that President Trump, his White House staff, and Cabinet secretaries are getting an historically rough ride not only in the secular media but also in much of the Catholic media as well.
And, on too many Sundays, social justice priests lecture the faithful that they cannot reconcile their faith in Jesus Christ and their support of a President who is “vulgar” and wants to “build walls”.
We are also seeing a more aggressive posture by the Catholic hierarchy and its liberal allies in the Church towards faithful clergy like Father Frank Pavone and Father Peter West who were recent targets of media campaigns against them. In both cases, their great offense is their pro-life commitment as priests in a Church that would rather get away from unpopular stances and focus on the secularly popular issues of climate change and immigration.
The same mindset that has driven many of the liberals and secular progressives on the streets to protest the Trump administration is similar to the progressives in the Church, in fact, many of them participate in these protests. We are heading into a time and might already be there where the chasm between the two groups will become wider and the warfare will become more visible than in the past. Many of you have already experienced this treatment.
Our TCR editor Deal Hudson chronicled the “parking lot” wars in his inspiring talk on pro-life advocacy. This vignette is a precursor to the pitched battle that is to come in the Church in the ensuing years.
History tells us that liberal movements are always want to eradicate those who stand in their way of progress. This aggressive posture of the progressives within the Church will continue to be bothersome to those who seek the traditional ways of the past.
It’s crucial to remember that our Church has always held our belief in the sanctity of all human life and the exclusivity of marriage between a man and a woman since our Lord walked this earth and established our Church. The novelties of those who would change the Church’s teachings are destined for the dust bin of history like all the fades of the past.