Having a Riot

“You’re a hater, you’re a hater, you’re a hate hate hater!”

This would be my hateful pastiche of the criticism that “conservatives” receive when they mess with the self-conceits of “liberals.” Not all of the time, of course; sometimes it goes on for pages. As a general rule, it should all be ignored. They only want you to shut up and die, and the best response is to continue speaking.

Humor is good, when they’re getting a little loud: it stings them like holy water. I have just read a long piece by James Martin, SJ, the glib amateur theologian in America magazine, entitled, “Theology and Hate.” He is freaking because, on Twitter, Ross Douthat called his friend Antonio Spadaro, SJ, a “sophist.” Which struck me as just a glancing blow. As Douthat actually put it: “Is ‘spadaro’ Italian for ‘sophist’?”

Better yet he called the editor of La Civiltà Cattolica a “moustache-twirling cartoon Jesuit villain,” which had me giggling convulsively. Again, let me confess (hateful creature that I am), that I found this merely playful. Much worse things could be said about Spadaro.

They are odd, these liberals. They step into the boxing ring with brass knuckles, then express shock because, “Somebody punched me!”

And as for poor Massimo Faggioli, the “well-respected Church historian” (by his own perverse faction), I gather Douthat did not even mention the gentleman in the course of some Twitter pillow fight. But whatever it was, the shoe fit so well, that Martin imputed a charge of heresy against him.

“That is an extremely serious accusation and in this case unfounded,” Martin parried, borborygmatically in the same medium. But while I would be happy enough to pitchfork the hay, the truth is that the Catholic Church hasn’t burnt anyone at the stake, for years now.

Perhaps that’s why things are going to hell. To my reasonably secure knowledge, heresy is now preached casually from the pulpit, most Sundays in a Catholic church near you.

The storm in the bell jar began, most readers will know, with a recent column by Douthat in the New York Times entitled, “The Plot to Change Catholicism.” It was about the maneuvering, by the pope himself in recent Family Synods, to advance the Kasperite scheme to permit communion for the divorced and remarried.

“The Church’s teaching that marriage is indissoluble has already been pushed close to the breaking point by this pope’s new expedited annulment process; going all the way to communion without annulment would just break it,” Douthat opined.

This, according to my email inbox, is the view of almost every “conservative” in Christendom, and the only surprise is that it was published by the Grey Lady of Gomorrah. But Ross Douthat is, after all, their token conservative, a position whose vexations I recall from my own history as the token conservative in a “mainstream” Canadian newspaper – a position something like General Custer’s.

rossdouthat
Ross Douthat

Douthat’s piece attracted an “open letter,” from an A-list of mutually admiring, progressive, academic Catholics, that read very much like a petition to the New York Times to get rid of the guy. He was arraigned, among other crimes, for not having a Ph.D. in theology.

The most side-splitting line was, “Accusing other members of the Catholic Church of heresy, sometimes subtly, sometimes openly, is serious business that can have serious consequences for those so accused.” This underhand accusation of McCarthyism was so obviously McCarthyite itself.

For the truth is, there are NO consequences at all to being accused of heresy today, or for uttering heresy, as the thirty-five signers should know perfectly well. The heat may pass both ways, between “right” and “left” in public fora, but in Rome at the moment, maintaining Church doctrine would seem more likely to endanger one’s livelihood. In American academia, it is almost suicidal.

My own experience, as not only a token conservative columnist, but a “social conservative,” and a practicing Catholic on top of that, is not fondly remembered. Quite literally hundreds of such complaints were lodged against me by leftists, exploiting formal complaints procedures that kept my newspaper-chain bosses, as well as me, tied up in knots. We endured years of daily headaches, formally replying to frivolous accusations. Finally I was offered a generous buy-out, if I would just go away.

Which is to say, I know this game from the inside: the “progressive” tactics for muzzling the discordant voice. Yet throughout I was sustained by the knowledge that I was often speaking for the disenfranchised: the many readers who thanked me for expressing basic truths that have been anathematized by the guardians of our brave new world.

Moreover, you cannot know that you have hit the target until those guardians howl. And there is a quiet satisfaction in watching the nest crumple, much though the hornets may sting.

As the Pope Emeritus confided to at least one visitor, “When what I have said is not criticized, I must examine my conscience.”

And here is the joke: that those neo-ultramontanists, saying, “How dare you criticize the pope!” were so very free in criticizing his more orthodox predecessors.

Meanwhile, Germaine Greer is now getting the treatment in international media. She pointed to the fact that a “trangendered” person is not really a woman. She did so politely, but also firmly, and I was especially amused to watch a BBC interview with her in which the journalist essentially rephrased the question, “How dare you?” – about one dozen times.

Among radical feminists, I have long had a soft spot for Ms Greer. She is unique in her intelligence, her graceful English style, and the genuine independence of her thinking. It was about time the shriekie sisters disowned her.

In my experience, you can’t start a riot by saying something new or strange. If you want to bring the house down, you say something everyone secretly knows to be true.

My love to both Douthat and Greer for doing it.

David Warren

David Warren

David Warren is a former editor of the Idler magazine and columnist with the Ottawa Citizen. He has extensive experience in the Near and Far East. His blog, Essays in Idleness, is now to be found at: davidwarrenonline.com.

  • B. Cody

    Thank you for this column!

    • Marguerite

      The 35 signers accuse Douthat of not being a theologian. Are they truly theologians, faithful to the Magisterium when it doesn’t suit their image and likeness of the Church? Was Kathleen Dowd, former religion writer for the NYT, a theologian? Yet she penned a lot of liberal poppycock and wasn’t reprimanded as harshly . Do these academics see how disingenuous they are. Perhaps not, because if their degree in theology has filled them with arrogance, pomposity and self-righteous snobbery then Mr. Douthat should thank God his faith isn’t polluted like that of these Scribes.

      • SD

        The “academic” signers are professional dissenters. They built their careers on dissent. Who views them as an authority of the faith? I would think only the gay lobby types and those who reject the authority of Christ through His Church.

      • BXVI

        The truth stings. This is why they cannot abide Douthat.

  • fondatorey

    Custer is not a good example, as he was a self promoter and by his self promotion led many to disaster.

    Sitting Bull, on the other hand, was in later years a Catholic convert. You can find pictures of him in his native dress with a large crucifix prominently around his neck.

    Notably for our time, Sitting Bull was a polygamist and was unwilling to put aside any of his wives in favor of one. He received the sacraments on his deathbed. There is no record of him queening about being disrespected or threatening to withhold funding.

  • DeaconEdPeitler

    The Pope in Rome calls for open dialogue. So when he gets open dialogue, he accuses some who aired their ideas of having hardened hearts and all other slanderous things.

    We have known that this Pope of Rome speaks out of both sides of his mouth. Fewer and fewer listen to him any longer because of it.

    As for the protestant wing of the Catholic Church, they can’t stand it when you’re smarter than they and won’t sit down and shut up. Like most sissies, they get hysterical

    • Manfred

      This papacy has effectively ended. Bergoglio gambled on winning the Synods and lost.

      • BXVI

        Don’t be so sure. He gets to write the apostilic exhortation himself. But in my opinion, it can’t end soon enough. We desperately need someone like Cardinal Sarah in the See of Peter.

      • sg4402

        Saint Malachy pray for us.

      • Paul54

        We can only hope…

    • sg4402

      At least the protestants of Luther’s time had the courage to walk away. These people today think of themselves as “progressives”. Oh contrare! Morally speaking, they’re degenerates.

    • Mike Hurcum

      Janus, the spirit of vatican 2??

  • samton909

    Exactly. Father Martin’s hysterical over-reaction was precisely like a vampire being sprinkled with Holy Water. I wonder why that image seems to fit so nicely.

  • Oscar Pierce

    Great column, thanks! If the progressive liberals are upset, particularly with a bit of sarcastic humor tossed their way…I should ask if my resultant schadenfreude is a major or minor sin?

    • RainingAgain

      It’s no sin to annoy the devil, I think.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    When theologians speak about the priority of Mark, the authorship of the Pastorals or the variant MS readings of 1 Jn 5:7-8 or similar topics, they speak as experts on their own subject and one on which a non-expert’s opinions are worthless.

    When they discuss political or moral matters, they enjoy no monopoly of wisdom, or special expertise and their views should be treated accordingly.

    • Barbara

      Except when those theologians are ill-formed. When St. Thomas was jettisoned we began to see theologians whose opinions were worthless.

  • Manfred

    One item which should be mentioned is that the progressives(i.e., heretics) thought they would win in the Synods. That is why James Martin, SJ admitted to being homosexual. Others, such as Forte, Rosica, Wuerl and Cupich gave strong evidence that they were homosexual or certainly supported the practice. Dolan, by allowing LGBT marchers in the St Patrick Day parade, has changed (ended?) that celebration forever.
    Douthat, in a column some time ago, wrote that the myth of popalotry (sp?) would end with Bergoglio. It certainly has for any sentient Catholic.
    Thanks for the column.

    • SD

      I think all the homosexuals, prelate and cleric, that reject Church teaching should be outed. It is unjust that that lobby has so much influence within the Church. They are traitors.

  • John Willson

    My (long) experience with folks who try to inhabit enemy territory with hopes of converting a few is that the left never, ever gives an inch. It’s the well-meaning and good men who write for the NYT or the OC who are forced to become respectable, the punishment for not doing so being, eventually, death and dismemberment. Russ Douthat should spend his considerable talent “preaching to the choir.” It makes for stronger and better choirs. This fine column is an example of what I mean.

  • Dave

    I agree with Oscar, this is a great piece. But let’s not forget that while they shriek and bloviate, they have hooks and scissors attached to their hands and they are not afraid to use them. We need to know how to box and fence with these people — how to stand out of harm’s way when they come for you, and come they will. And when they do, learn to live and fight another day.

    Dothan’s article was great. It takes a lot to get to one so self-assured and smug as James Martin, S.J. I heard Fr. Martin speak once and man, he delights in his ability to work the crowd. Since he is a priest, the only thing more I will say is “pray for him.”

    Martin’s protest is typical of progressivism: fight the law because it is unjust — because you don’t like it — but when you control the law, piously intone, “it’s the law, oh but it’s the law, we have to obey the law.”

    The other Martin — Luther — was (also) wrong about so very much, but one thing he got right, in his great “A Mighty Fortress is our God”: “one little word shall fell them.” May the utterance of that word not be far off, for our sake, and for theirs: for the word that fells is also the word that saves.

  • Rene

    Ah! if we only had a few more Douthats and Warrens!

  • Michael Dowd

    So true David. Here is an apt quote:
    “To anger a conservative, lie to him. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth”…
    Theodore Roosevelt

  • Tim

    If Douthat calls them heretics what possible consequences are there? There seems little danger of an Inquisition during this papacy. borborygmatically? what?

  • grump

    “They are odd, these liberals. They step into the
    boxing ring with brass knuckles, then express shock because, “Somebody
    punched me!” Good line.

    Like cancer, liberalism is an incurable disease and no amount of “treatment” is ever successful. The trap is that conservatives always feel the need to try to make a cogent argument against what are essentially ad hominem attacks. The best course of action is to ignore their childish tantrums and send them to bed without dinner.

    • Tarzan

      And a good, hard spanking.

    • Sheila

      I respectfully have to disagree with this one. Cancer can be cured in nany instances (not all) and so can liberalism. The answer is still Christ. You know, Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow…The childish tantrums cannot always be ignored and just have them sent to bed without dinner. Some children can really hurt themselves during a tantrum. That behavior has been going on for way too long. Everybody just turns their head and goes about their own business. Why not bring them to mind and seriously start to pray and fast for them and give them over to Jesus. Then we can have peace in our minds for the time being and go to bed and have a good night sleep. This is another way of looking at how to reduce the stess of it all, trust in Jesus and reclaim our JOY.

  • Vince Whirlwind

    “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath or not?”

    “Who among you, if your own son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?”

    Conservative=Hypocrite=Pharisee

    • Dave

      Vince, see Grump’s response below and thanks for making an ad hominem argument.

      • Vince Whirlwind

        This whole article was one ad hominem attack after another. And I happen to be a “conservative” Catholic. I know a spade when I see one.

        • James Stagg

          So do we.

    • Joe_NS

      Liberal = Ignoramus = Brain Death

    • SD

      Is there a point to that?

      • DeaconEdPeitler

        It’s clear that there is no point.

    • Craig Payne

      Conservative in today’s world = Truth-Teller = Target

    • craig

      Is it lawful on the sabbath to forgive the sins that one committed yesterday? Yes, of course all Catholics agree.

      Is it lawful on the sabbath to forgive the sins that one will commit tomorrow? Yes again, to the antinomian liberal Kasper wing of the church.

    • Mike Hurcum

      Mr Whirlwind
      Are you saying that to take the Eucharist on a sabbath will “cure” sins???
      What a Black Sabbath that is

    • Tarzan

      This is a false analogy. A more logical analogy would, “is it lawful to steal on the sabbath?”

    • Chris in Maryland

      Vince- the Pope F / Kasper pro-dis soluble-marriage position is the Pharisee position against which Jesus over-ruled Moses. If you didn’t realize that before…now you know where to aim that arrow.

      In connection with that…it seems wise to conclude that the Kasper-Danneels mafia group (as Danneels himself called his team of Synod divorce / same-sex-Union agitators) began their 2014 PR campaign with the odd straw man railing against Pharisees because they knew they were taking the Pharisee position on dissoluble marriage …and we’re trying to steal the obvious and invincible argument that would emerge against them…the argument of the one Greater than Moses.

  • xabi kian

    Agree 100% with you David. The response to Douhat’s column is clearly a victory, one imagines most self-critical thinkers can see this is objectively the case.

    IMO, the signees are not theologians but academics plying their trade in the religious studies discipline — they look at religion, i.e., Catholicism, as an historic artifact that can be remade, reinterpreted & then recast to accommodate contemporary cultural trends. Think tradition defined as “handing over” in the sense of “betrayal” vs. tradition more fully conceived as a living process of “transmission”. The former is a common error, an academic pursuit requiring intelligence, some effort &, arguably, not much of an encounter with the person of Christ or the Father as he has disclosed himself and his plan for man in human history. Parroting quasi-heretical soundbites & reformulating philosophic pseudo-insights (pace Kant, Schleiermacher) as theological reflection simply isn’t sound Catholic theology — it’s an entertaining intellectual exercise, no more, no less.

    Theologians, on the other hand, are rooted in Tradition, from the Gospels through the Patristic, Medieval, Scholastic, counter-Reformation, nouvelle theologie & post-VII periods (if I’ve missed an era, apologies). Theology is a vocation that begins on one’s knees and is sustained by a deeply personal encounter with Christ, a Eucharistic encounter as per the Real Presence. And there are many such theologians around today — the scholarly centers from which many spring may not be the most glamorous or popular, yet the rigorous education/formation they provide is first class. And, as Catholics, it’s important to remember we think in centuries, which is really to say that Pascendi’s teaching is still working itself out.

    Francis strikes me as having a powerful pastoral orientation. It’s this ministry it seems he wants as his legacy. This impulse ought to be celebrated! He’s not an academic, so can’t be expected to grapple with ideas in the way his successors were able. In this way, he is very similar to St. Francis of Assisi, which makes me wonder whether we should follow his example as we ought to St. Francis’. Be that as it may, many practicing Catholics are aware, if not familiar, with the Church’s rich theological tradition. Our role is to share this knowledge with those who don’t and offer correctives when called upon, as fits our role/position. Douhat’s done just that, while making more than a few people laugh along the way.

    • Barbara

      “He’s not an academic, so can’t be expected to grapple with ideas…” Well, he’s not much of a Catholic either if he can’t grapple 2,000 years of teaching by his ‘predecessors.’

      St. Francis of Assisi must be spinning in his grave. He was the most orthodox of men, and would be appalled at this Francis’ antics – Francis leads his flock out of the sheepfold.

    • Marguerite

      The Pope is a Jesuit. How is he not an academic?

  • Chris R

    Kudos to Douthat and Greer for daring to say what everyone knows is true!

  • Daniel G. Fink

    To clarify, Douthat tweeted “Own your heresy” in a subtext to Massimo Fagglioni…

    …and commented on the image of Boris Badanov (Bullwinkle) on Spadaro’s twitter (page down)…

    That said,I agree with Rod Dreher’s commentary. Perhaps Ross should have tweeted, “Own your hermeneutic of rupture”.

  • Delphin

    And, it’s about more than having ‘gay’ shoved down our throats (sorry ’bout that)- it’s about radical secularists (Atheists, Communists, Satanists) using ‘big gay’ to collapse the family and the Church, the only two things, still closely linked, that stand in the way of implementing their soft tyranny.

    • guest

      Especially the Church. If it dilutes or even destroys the family along the way, well that’s just collateral damage.

  • Heiner Bussy

    The problems with “liberals” is that thy ain’t liberal

    • Mr. Graves

      But of course they are: they enjoy great liberality in spending other people’s money and endangering other people’s souls.

  • Jude

    This was an excellent post.

  • C.Caruana

    As usual, simply brilliant Mr Warren. The only drawback is that your style tempts me to the sin of envy. Thanks all the same and God bless.

  • Charlie6

    So Germain Greer is catching the incoming from members of her own camp. That they are beginning to eat their own is some relief.

    • MSApis

      And no surprise.

      • Cromulent

        Well, a surprise it took this long anyway.

  • Could someone define “borborygmatically” for me? A Google search doesn’t bring up anything useful. Might as well learn a new word out of all the sound and fury (not including this good article in that).

  • thomistica

    P.S. to the other posting:
    rather than engage in shoot from the hip comments about people like Spadaro (who bring it on themselves, but no excuse for succumbing to the temptation), why not engage not just in high ground criticism, but also exposee–I have in mind, once again, those four funding sources, not to mention *details*, about the conference Marco Tosatti pointed out that was held on the eve of the synod at Spadaro’s journal. Some of the signees of that letter against Douthat (or at least people whose names they share!) were in attendance. Under whose auspices or tab? With what purpose or design? John O’Malley, SJ and Massimo Faggioli were signees, as well as attendees, unless my information is wrong.
    Tosatti asked the right question about this conference.
    Nothing unethical or low-handed about investigative journalism if done with the right motives.

  • guest

    Dammit–it is not an “A-list” in toto– there are some quasi academics, and students, yes college students, among them.

    To be sure, all are radically left, whining, pubescent, over-sensitive brats throwing a predictable tantrum, but I’m tired of “creds” being given to the lot, when in fact it is just not true.

  • thomistica

    One of my posts mentioned this great article from NCR; it was removed from the message probably because I gave the URL:
    How to Tell if You’re Rightfully Zealous for Souls or Just Plain Angry
    COMMENTARY: The challenge is how to confront attacks against the Church without losing our souls or those of others.
    by DEACON NICK DONNELLY

  • Nordog6561

    I want to ask Fr. Martin just exactly what are the serious consequences of being called a heretic? Promotion?

  • sg4402

    To take some liberty with St. John Chrysostom’s observation: “The skulls of [theologians] are the lamp posts that light the path to hell.” Especially those great enablers, the Jesuits.

    • Chris in Maryland

      The neo-Jesuits are in the self-styled sojourning Church…with Laurie Brink of LCWR…who has declared “we have moved beyond Christ.”

      Btw…notice the new rhetoric from Pope F after the failed Synod…how it talks like Laurie Brink…and declares a new Church of Journey with the Synod.

      Jesus is one way…the Synod is a new way.

      • sg4402

        At the heart of Christ’s message is ‘humility’. At the heart of Brink’s message is ‘arrogance’. Christ came down from heaven, and made Himself a ‘man’. She tries to ascend to heaven, thinking she is as God. The latter—a pretty absurd thing to contemplate! The former, a paradox, accessible only to faith: “Be not offended in me.”

  • James Stagg

    For a sizzling review of Father Martin’s goofiness, go read the article bt Father Dwight Longenecker at his site: “Standing on My Head”. Priceless.

  • Justin St.Denis

    David Warren has brilliantly captured the state of things in this piece. I was beginning to think I was the only Roman Catholic left……..

  • Vince Whirlwind

    A nun once told me, “Any time you start drawing lines in the sand, Jesus is usually on the other side of that line.”

    Pharisees draw lines in the sand. Jesus is very effective at kicking that sand in their face.

    The field hospital is spit shined and ready for business. All the personnel are self righteously dressed in their spotless white outer garments. “We’re ready for business!” Now, if they would only open the door, just a crack, they would undoubtedly hear the triage doctors screaming to be let in with their patients. People are bleeding, people are dying.

    “Nope, shut that door, and turn up the volume, drown them out…this place would get messy! and…and…*glancing in a mirror*…DANG I look good in white!”

    What is the primary purpose of The Catholic Church? What did Jesus have in mind? The correct answer is one word and has 14 letters. Anyone?

    • thomistica

      Aren’t you drawing a line in the sand by typifying individuals as Pharisees?

      There’s a distinction that the quote from the nun overlooks, between judging people, and judging their acts. If we don’t do the latter, society would fall apart. Judging people is squarely in God’s domain, not ours.

      It’s clear that Jesus judged acts routinely, as part of his mission to help people reform their lives. What of the ten commandments? Diagnosis is needed before cure.

    • Chris in Maryland

      The Pharisee position is the Pope F / Cdl Danneels / Cdl Kasper position. They propose the law of Moses…to over-rule Jesus.

    • Johnny Midnyte

      The correct answer is “salvation of souls.” 3 words, 16 letters.

      You’re welcome.

    • Athelstane

      And it was the Pharisees who favored keeping divorce, against Jesus.

      Who do Fr. Martin and his letter signers line up with?

  • Dorothy

    Well said, David! Lovely to see you in a journal again!

  • The reference, I believe, is to Pyotr Boborykin, whose claim to fame is having popularized the term “Intelligentsia”.

  • Maggie Sullivan

    Don’t you hate it when people hate……

  • Mr. Graves

    Mr. Warren is spot on, as usual.

    As an aside, please don’t feed the trolls. More and more are popping up in this sit’s com boxes. They want attention, and no argument, however well argued or well intentioned, will satisfy them. Say a prayer for them and resist the urge to throw your pearls.

  • Clear Thinker


    Speaking the Truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act.
    ” George Orwell

  • Brief, humorous, enlightening. The best piece on this topic. Thank you Mr. Warren.

  • Andrew Orlovsky

    I think its time for Ross to join the dark side and become Evangelical. To us, it seems completely ridiculous worrying so much about the views of just one man.

    • Mind Pop Corn Ball

      Yes, that would be a way out. However, the very earliest mention Evangelicalism (viewed historically) is 1734 which is, by my reckoning, about 1,731 too late to the ball game. Jesus founded the Catholic Church with Peter as its first pope (“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Tend my sheep.”). He promptly betrayed Jesus. The Catholic Church has had a few bumps in the road and a few bad apples (Borgia popes, antipopes and Inquisition excesses spring to mind), but it is the ONE AND ONLY Church founded by Jesus during His lifetime and during His time on earth after resurrection. It is TRULY His Church.

      Evangelicals have much to admire: enthusiasm, vigorous study of scripture, great preaching, being attuned to the parishioners’ daily struggles, piety, living in fidelity to the Lord in many ways, especially fidelity to Jesus to fight against sexual sins, excessive drinking and general ‘clean living.’ However, there can be only one. So, I will stay true to the Bride of Christ, even if it isn’t always easy or should I say, at this point in history, mostly hard. Some days, Evangelicalism seems attractive, but not the Church Jesus founded.

      • pattif

        Actually, Peter was given the commission to “feed my sheep” after he betrayed Our Lord.

  • MairinT

    We Catholics are so fortunate to have good writers to console us….G.K.C. and D. Warren. In this grey world we need uplifting and humour of any colour. Thank you Mr. Warren….and Ross Douthat for shining the light on the gown of the Grey Lady. My prayer for each of you.



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