Catholics used to be open to the lessons of freedom from the American experience. Are we forgetting those lessons?
Let me start with a few vignettes. I was an eyewitness, or heard a detailed firsthand account, of each of these events, or else will provide a link to document it.
– At this same school, in an academic discussion, the college dean explained the greater economic success of Protestant countries that embraced capitalism (compared to agrarian Catholic nations) as the “effects of Freemasonry.” The college president quickly corrected him, pointing out another critical factor: “diabolical intervention.”
– That same dean, in a conversation with me, waved off the possibility of democratic reform in America. Moral reform, he explained to me, would only come in the form of a forcible
coup d’état, by which “men of virtue” would impose their will “on the people, who will fall in line when they see that they have no choice.” That dean had previously criticized Franco’s Spain for being too lax.
– The historian at a large Catholic university gathered his friends and family on the day that the rest of us call “Thanksgiving.” But his clan called the holiday “Anathema Thursday,” and every year used it to mock the Protestant origins of America by hanging a Puritan in effigy. This same historian teaches those he mentors to call the Statue of Liberty “that Masonic bitch-goddess.”
– At another small Catholic college, faculty and staff lead an annual pig roast, which they call an “auto-da-fe,” naming the pig each year after a prominent “heretic” before they immolate and eat it.
– At still another small Catholic college, one of the teachers whom I met at a conference spoke effusively of “loopholes” a
scholar had purportedly found in Vatican II’s endorsement of religious freedom. It seems that
Dignitatis Humanae only forbids the State from using physical force in matters of religion. The Church, this young scholar explained, is not so constrained. The Church may imprison any baptized person and punish him for heresy. “So that means the Pope has the right to throw any Lutheran in jail?”, I asked skeptically. “I know,
right?” he said, beaming a smile. “This is really exciting.” In subsequent weeks he sent me “proof” that George W. Bush was behind the 9/11 attacks.
– Over at Ethika Politika, a Catholic writer followed his rejection of American liberalism and capitalism to a different logical endpoint, and attempted to rehabilitate Karl Marx, absolving him of all the evils historically perpetrated by communists, and urging his readers to find ways to be good Catholic Marxists.
America magazine, a commentator
wrote dismissively, even patronizingly, of that magazine’s greatest contributor — Father John Courtney Murray, SJ — for his attempt to embrace American liberty and infuse it with an understanding of natural law. It was clear that such attempts had already failed, and that Catholics should embrace political quietism, withdrawing to separatist communities and hoping for toleration, the commentator wrote.