UPDATE May 2009: The anti-Obama, allegedly pro-life campaign sparked by the black President's invite to Notre Dame shows that the neocath movement has morphed into something monstrous. Robert M. Shrum points this out: http://www.theweek.com/article/index/96403/Sharia_politics_at_Notre_Dame
Looks like the term 'neocath' is catching on to describe this deadly mutant of Catholicism, this cancer that is eating away the Church from within.
In 2005, a newcomer to the blog world, I wrote a piece on "The Rise of the Neocaths" which was directed principally at the cluster of conservative or right-wing blog sites proudly displaying ultramontane colors, and at the time riding high on the "victory" of Joseph Ratzinger’s election as Pope Benedict XVI. See: http://holyfool69.blogspot.com/2005/08/north-western-winds-comments-on.html
In 2007 I posted a follow-up, "The Decline of the Neocaths" and predicted that "The Fall of the Neocaths" awas already looming on the horizon. Since then I have somewhat forgotten this group, since they have faded into the shadows. Some have ceased blogging, others have converted to liberalism, and discussion on all their sites has dwindled away to very little. The implosion of the Bush-Cheney regime and the arrival of Obama was a heavy blow to them. A semblance of life remains among those who are pushing hard for the Tridentine Mass in the wake of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, but even here, apart from the indefatigable Fr Zuhlsdorf of The Wanderer and the constantly excited Rorate Caeli site, conviction and enthusiasm are fading.
But now it seems that we have reached a Kairos moment which not only seals the doom of the Neocaths but augurs a convulsion in world Catholicism. We are seeing, I believe, the implosion of the regime of reaction set up by John Paul II in 1978. Theologians nagged fruitlessly against that regime from the start. Their feelings of frustration, irritation and sheer anger at the destructive policies of John Paul II and his right-hand man Cardinal Ratzinger are now being shared by millions of Catholics, both conservative and liberal, as they see emerging in high relief the pattern of obtuseness and repression of dialogue and discussion that has been the hallmark of papal policy since 1978. The Regensburg lecture in which the Pope characterized Islam as a religion of violence was perhaps the first shoe to drop, and the insensitivity to Jews shown by the handling of the de-excommunication of the Lefebvrite bishops is the second.
Watching the video of Cardinal Ratzinger slapping the reporter who asked about the accusations against Fr Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, a video currently winging the blogosphere ( http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/02/a-question-of-p.html), I see that the moment of epiphany that has now arrived is not going to "blow over", for it has lit up the basic pattern of the Ratzinger outlook and now every incident from yesterday, today and tomorrow will be read in light of the insight that has now imposed itself – even in Benedict’s homeland. Theologians were always polite, and often lacking in self-confidence, in their critique of Ratzinger. The wider world that is now experiencing deep disillusion with the Pope will be less easy for him to ignore and impossible for him to silence.
Andrew Sullivan’s comment on the above-mentioned video is worth pondering:
"There is, it seems to me, a connecting thread between all the various depressing bits of Catholic news this past week, beginning with the clueless, insular outreach to reactionary SSPX anti-Semites and culminating in the latest revelations about the serial child rapist protected by John Paul II, Father Maciel. That thread is not sex or anti-Semitism. It is the abuse of absolute clerical power.
"In their panicked reaction to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and its expansion of lay and episcopal power within a more inclusive church, the last two Popes relied on raw papal power to get their way. They did not persuade many on, say women priests or contraception or the "objective disorder" of homosexuals. But it became pretty clear after a while that persuasion was never the point. When the Pope simply declared certain topics undiscussable - and when he enforced that silence within the Church by policing dissent and appointing generations of docile flunkies as bishops and cardinals - he was telling us that he was restoring hierarchy. Some ratcheting back was doubtless necessary in the wake of excessive experimentation in the 1970s; but it then easily degenerated into arrogance and error. That's what dictatorships - even benign, non-coercive institutional ones - always produce. Because they have no mechanisms for self-correction.
"And so, as Obama just discovered, even the most well-meaning person with such power can lapse into establishing one rule for their own clique and one rule for everybody else. And so Holocaust-deniers slip through the cracks because the Pope sees them first of all as his ideological and theological allies, and does not subject them to the same scrutiny as his opponents within the Church. And a monster like Marcial Maciel can be protected by Wojtila and Ratzinger for years and years, even as the evidence of his corruption and rank abuse of power is overwhelming.
"The revelation that the sexual abuser Maciel also had a secret wife and even children on the side, that he used a cult of personality to establish a near-autonomous fiefdom within the Church, that he used religious money as a personal slush-fund, and that John Paul II and Benedict XVI knew all this and protected him because he too was their theological ally: this should come as no surprise. Check out the video above. Ratzinger physically slaps a reporter asking about a child-rapist he was still protecting - because it is an affront to Ratzinger's clerical authority.
"The authoritarian, unaccountable, reactionary hierarchy that the last two Popes have constructed is beginning to collapse in on itself. It has solved no core questions; it has advanced no deeper, lasting ideas; it has led to the implosion of the Church in Western Europe and forced many American Catholics into a provisional relationship with their own church authorities. Maciel and Williamson are symptoms of this disease. But John Paul II and Benedict XVI are its enablers."
One of the common threads in neocath blogsites is ardent defense of the Vatican stand on homosexuality. This, too, is being shown up as a grave moral abuse of gay people, and of children indoctrinated in a false morality of hatred and self-hatred. I recommend John McNeill’s open letter to the US Bishops on this topic: http://josephsoleary.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/12/john-mcneills-open-letter-to-the-american-bishops.html. The following letter also expresses the new awareness that the Vatican stonewalling can no longer be accepted: http://fathermartykurylowicz.blogspot.com/2008/12/auschwitz-christmas-2008-flashback.html.
Liberal views such as the following now seem more mainstream as people shrink back from the abyss that Bishop Williamson's utterances gave a glimpse of. http://enlightenedcatholicism-colkoch.blogspot.com/2009/02/outing-spiritual-cancer.html
The author notes that the Vatican is unwisely tolerant of cultic organizations that brainwash the young. Similar the Interfaith Alliance warns that in turning back on Vatican II the Church is acquiring a cultic, fundamentalist hue .http://clericalwhispers.blogspot.com/2009/02/uk-interfaith-group-deplores-threat-to.html
Cultism is shown in Bp Williamson's thesis that the sufferings of France in WWI and WWII are God's punishment for the 1905 Law of Separation of Church and State. The Pope has made bishop of Linz a man who holds that the Katrina catastrophe was divine punishment for US toleration of abortion and homosexuality. We are deep into the cultic twilight zone...
Neocaths have found a new vocation as they fall back on the "Pope as victim" topos or the idea that the Pope is misled by the evil Curia. Sandro Magister has taken this line, taken up by the plaintive Raffaella in the following ululation:
Meanwhile. the Pope's brother Georg has upbraided Chancellor Merkel for her schoolmistressy presumption in criticizing the Pope.
Apologists are tumbling over each other to point out that the Pope could not have known of the negationist interview. http://paparatzinger2-blograffaella.blogspot.com/2009/02/le-surreali-accuse-benedetto-xvi-la.html
The FAZ newspaper says that Ratzinger arouses hostility not because he is aggressive but because he is a happy Catholic. http://www.faz.net/s/Rub7FC5BF30C45B402F96E964EF8CE790E1/Doc~EB5721160E4E34B74A16FFB8EA805D493~ATpl~Ecommon~Scontent.html
In fact Ratzinger has a "Bavarian pugnacity" as his Doctorvater noted, and he has in addition a passive-aggressive disposition played in the key of sweet soft-spokenness. Watch that video again.
Rocco Buttiglione thinks the brouhaha will lead to more clarity in the relations between Catholics and Jews (just as some claim the Regensburg gaffe led to Muslim-Catholic dialogue). http://paparatzinger2-blograffaella.blogspot.com/2009/02/benedetto-xvi-i-lefebvriani-e-gli-ebrei.html
It is true that reactions to papal gaffes about Islam, scientists, gays, etc., are exaggerated and that the media acerbate the problem. Nonetheless, the pattern of reaction has been lit up clearly though crudely, and this is bringing both the Church and the world to a moment of conscientization that will fom the judgment of history on the three decades of Vatican regression from Vatican II.
Franco Garelli asks why the Vatican cannot dialogue with the mass of Catholics even as it expends infinite energy on the ungrateful Lefebvrites. http://www.lastampa.it/_web/cmstp/tmplRubriche/editoriali/gEditoriali.asp?ID_blog=25&ID_articolo=5548&ID_sezione=&sezione=
It is rumored that the Vatican believes itself to be the victim of a plot: http://paparatzinger2-blograffaella.blogspot.com/2009/02/vescovo-negazionista-un-complotto.html
Raffaella has information on many bishops who have openly criticized the Vatican's handling of the SSPX de-excommunications, including Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor and a Swiss bishop, Kock: http://paparatzinager2-blograffaella.blogspot.com/2009/02/il-vescovo-kock-svizzera-scrive-una.html. She praises the Polish bishops for their apparently contrasting stand. Meanwhile the harried Vatican press scretary Fr Lombardi SJ comes in for neocath venom laced with anti-Jesuit bile: http://blog.messainlatino.it/2009/02/pubblicando-subito-la-nota-esplicativa.html
Pertinacious Papist adopts the trope of the Pope as martyr:
'In the midst of the storm of media criticism surrounding our Holy Father of late, I could not help recalling his still timely words from the Homily of his Inaugural Mass in St. Peter's Square, Sunday, April 25, 2005:' [COMMENT: Media criticism reflects the critical reaction of the general public, including many bishops.]
'One of the basic characteristics of a shepherd must be to love the people entrusted to him, even as he loves Christ whom he serves. "Feed my sheep", says Christ to Peter, and now, at this moment, he says it to me as well. Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer. Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good, the nourishment of God’s truth, of God’s word, the nourishment of his presence, which he gives us in the Blessed Sacrament.
'My dear friends – at this moment I can only say: pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more – in other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together. *Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.* Let us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us and that we will learn to carry one another.[emphasis added]' [COMMENT: The added *emphasis* ascribes to Benedict the view that his critics are wolves. Such a view would be paranoia.]
'The reason I have not addressed the Bishop Williamson affair is that I consider it a red herring.' [COMMENT: In fact, Pertinacious addressed it dismissively in earlier posts.] 'As Christopher A. Ferrara says, "Damian Thompson slams the nail on the head when he writes
'Make no mistake: far from being deeply offended by the lifting of the excommunications, many liberals are delighted that the entire traditionalist movement has been tainted by the supposed "rehabilitation" of a Holocaust denier. Other, less extreme, liberals are meanwhile quietly content to sit back and watch "the Ratzinger project" unravel.' (Telegraph.co.uk, February 2, 2009).' [COMMENT: I know some conservative Catholics, including a recent convert, who are genuinely distressed at the thought of the Vatican playing footsie with negationism. However, the Schadenfreude that many others feel in seeing the restorationist project unravel is quite a legitimate feeling too.]
'"Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good," says His Holiness. What he believes is "truly good" can be known in part by recalling the words of his Letter to the Bishops accompanying his Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, now in the full eclipse of media spin:' [COMMENT: The media would love to make a story about Summmorum Pontificum if there was a story to tell. Sadly for the media, the Motu Proprio has been a damp squib. Even the website Summorum Pontificum has been silent for months.]
The Williamson aspect IS a red herring. So are the smarmy comments of Cardinals Schoenborn, Lehmann, and Kasper. There's obviously a war shaping up between the "hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture" and the "hermeneutic of reform....in the continuity of the one subject-Church" that's going to be something to see. [COMMENT: The hermeneutic of rupture is a Vatican invention. The Bologna History fo Vatican II is based on the true hermeneutic of continuity and development, which Vatican II itself did so much to clarify.]
I'm all for some clarification with respect to ecumenism (which Cassidy and Kasper have handled so poorly) and some nuancing of Gaudium et spes (done in the same way that Dominus Iesus and the CDF Response of 2007 nuanced Lumen Gentium and Unitatis Redintegratio).
It's about damn time.
Ferrara has it right. The Church is deathly afraid of the press. That is one reason why liberals and modernists predominate in the Church. Whatever "happened" at V2, it could not possibly have happened without the intervention of the press and their straw man of "world opinion", before which preening Church fathers danced their Holy Spirit inspiration gigues slavishly. V2 was a political event, as has been most every Church event since.
The business with Bp Williamson is merely the latest example. It is a tempest in a teapot. The worst result of it is that some people's feelings were hurt. That's a shame. The result of "orthodox" Bp DiLorenzo's malfeasance was that a human being was murdered, aided and abetted by non-Catholics employed by the Richmond Catholic Charities and its "volunteers". All this happened, apparently, while the malfeasant prince of the Richmond diocese was blowing at dandelion seeds.
What is to be done about Bp Williamson? Tell him to shut up. End of story.
What is to be done to bring back the human life lost due to DiLorenzo's negligence? That's a tougher problem, isn't it?
Red herring? I should say so! But this is what comes of the cultural "dialogue" -- churchmen end up posing with their heads sheathed up their -- er -- robes. [COMMENT: It is interesting to see how right-wing Catholicism topples over into radical cynicism.]