Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
...who put their conservative Americanism before their Catholic faith?
It’s more or less summed up in this note from a friend of mine, an Eastern Orthodox Christian who tells the following tale:
The wife of a Russian Orthodox priest in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, once told me that she and husband, both Ukranians, had lost their families to Stalin, escaped to Hitler, and escaped deportation to the Soviet Union only by providential miracle (the intervention of Orthodox monks and stealth). They came to the US and he got a job with General Electric in Indiana. He retired from that job and his church community and Bishop asked him to become their priest at the repose of their pastor.
She told me in tears that their two boys and daughter had left the faith as teenagers and returned as adults, the faith that had sustained their parents through the worst regimes and circumstances we might imagine. Why had they left? She said it was the television, the music, and the schools that all but extinguished the light in their hearts. Matushka wept not only in the memory of her children doing drugs and laughing at their family’s piety in the 1960s but because she was so happy that my family was homeschooling and that we didn’t own a television.
She believed, she knew that the schools and media were greater evils and spiritual dangers than Stalin or Hitler had been.
What a bit of dark comedy that the remnant’s biggest challenge in the end times is not cruel Caesar but the Circus Clown and the School Teacher.
Americanism, don’t let it be forgotten, is a heresy. The belief that we are better catechized by the western apostles of Caesar and Mammon and the gospel of Salvation through Democratic Capitalism, Hedonism and Imperial Militarism than by Holy Church is as toxic as it ever was.
I *expect* the Left to have no serious regard for the Church’s teaching when it comes to things that interfere with ideology. That’s why I don’t bother trying to help them get their act together and win. I don’t want them to win. But when alleged conservative Catholics tell me that they would rather get their social teaching from a talking hairdo on FOX than from the bishops, when they tell me that it is “moralistic” not to be willing to put your soul at risk of the fires of hell by committing what used to be called “war crimes”, when they make excuses for buffoons who think saluting the brave idealists of the Waffen SS with their sons is a sure fire indication of sound judgment—and that any criticism of this makes one vehemently suspect of heresy and a traitor to the Faith—I can only say that the Right is becoming as mindlessly ideological as the Left. And ideology is not the Faith.
The Faith is a mystery that has room for human traditions but is never to be identified with them. It says, “We don’t know much, but we *do* know that we believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, etc.” ideology, in contrast, imagines it knows everything and has the universe mapped out to a niceity. Step out of line just a little bit (by, say, suggesting that saluting the SS or speaking of “second amendment remedies” to the “Harry Reid problem” is irresponsible), and it’s far more important to excise the heretic than to ask whether or not there might indeed be something wrong with our tribe and its human traditions.
There’s going to be a landslide this fall. The Dems, in their blind arrogance, have mismanaged the country for two years and then berated the people who are suffering from their mismanagement. That’s why there are Tea Parties. People have had enough. But, as James says, the anger of man does not bring about the righteousness of God. The great failing of every revolutionary movement, says Chesterton, is that it knows what is wrong, but is very unclear about what is right.
Catholic social teaching is what is right. And the great majority of alleged Catholic conservatives I run into on the web regard it with suspicion and contempt, preferring to get their gospel of democratic capitalism, laissez faire, and disregard for the weak from Talk Radio and not bother with learning the true gospel teaching from the Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching. As long as this remains the case, the Church on the Right will continue to be as much a cafeteria as on the Left. Indeed, it will be more immune to correction because it will have sealed itself off from any sense of a bad conscience by saying that, so long as it opposes abortion, all other forms of contempt for Church teaching are okay. At least the Left doesn’t kid itself that it is faithful. It openly and cheerfully treats Church teaching with scorn, without the base alloy of hypocrisy.
Americanism, democratic capitalism, militarism: these things can no more save us than the preferred Lefty heresies of hedonism and Pelvic Adventurism. The devil always sends lies into the world in pairs so that, fleeing one, we might embrace the other.
It’s all in Chesterton, all in Chesterton. Dear me, what *do* they teach in schools these days?
Comfort for Communists
“In January of last year Bezboznik complained that anti-religious Soviets had been disbanded in seventy districts, while it had been thought that in the region of Kovrov there was a whole system of atheist cells, the President of that region wrote… that neither in the town nor in the region were there any cells left—in fact, ‘in the entire district there is now only one organized atheist—myself.’” - From an article by Father C.C. Martindale S.J. in the Catholic Herald, 11 May, 1935.
“I’m all alone; I can’t organise anyone,
There’s nobody left to organise me,
And still I’m the only organised atheist
In all the province of Skuntz (E.C.).
Sometimes disgusting organised atheists
Orphan the stars without permit from me,
Unmake their Maker without their ticket
or their copy of Form x.793.
The Blasphemy Drill’s getting slacker and slacker,
Free Thought is becoming alarmingly free,
And I’ll be the only organised atheist
Between the Bug and the big Black Sea.”
Ours, ours is the key O desolate crier,
The golden key to what ills distress you
Left without ever a God to judge you,
Lost without even Man to oppress you.
Look west, look west to the Land of Profits,
To the old gold marts, and confess it then
How greatly your great propaganda prospers
When left to the methods of Business Men.
Ah, Mammon is mightier than Marx in making
a goose-step order for godless geese,
And snobs know better than mobs to measure
Where Golf shall flourish and God shall cease.
Lift up your hearts in the wastes Slavonian,
Let no Red Sun on your wrath go down;
There are millions of very much organized atheists
In the Outer Circle of London Town.
- G.K. Chesterton
In short, while democratic capitalism and the American Way certainly have some big plusses, they also have some big minuses when stacked up against a Catholic vision of the Way Things Ought to Be. America is not the Kingdom of Heaven. For instance, what millions of Commie truncheons can only barely achieve by force, Western democratic capitalism achieves in Brazil (and here) with the free cooperation of our immortal souls!