R. R. Reno has pointed out that today’s Catholic leaders are “[o]verwrought with anxiety about their roles in elite society.” That’s true, but I think there’s something more: a deep and pervasive crisis of confidence among educated Catholics in their own institutions. One reason for this inferiority complex is the clerical sex-abuse scandals that have rocked the Church since 2002, undermining the moral authority of Catholic bishops. But the problem goes back to at least the 1960s. As the late priest-sociologist Andrew Greeley observed, postwar suburban Catholics, newly freed from their stigma of inferiority as urban ethnics, yearned to be seen as “full-fledged American[s].” They began to deem the edifices they had built—schools, colleges, publications—as somehow lesser than the secular world’s edifices. The New York Times, not Our Sunday Visitor, became their benchmark of social approval.
What these Catholic ecclesiastics and Catholic intellectuals don’t seem to understand is that the secular liberal world, rather than willing to make a place for them if they go along with secular liberal pieties, is in a war against them—with the goal of total annihilation. The battle against Catholic Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court should have provided a clue. The fight wasn’t over whether Kavanaugh had assaulted a girl at a high-school party. It was over abortion, pure and simple—the likelihood that Kavanaugh might vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Yet Catholic priests were droning from their pulpits that we ought to “believe women.” The current liberal brouhaha over whether Second Lady Karen Pence deserves Secret Service protection when teaching at a Christian school that holds that marriage is between a man and a woman is of similar ilk. Democratic senators Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono considered themselves perfectly entitled to quiz Catholic lawyer and federal-judge nominee Brian Buescher about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, which they deemed an “extreme” organization because it opposes same-sex marriage—and remember that Harris is running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. All this is just a prelude to President Trump’s likely nomination of devout Catholic federal appeals judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill an upcoming Supreme Court vacancy. If Trump nominates Barrett, expect a battle from every liberal quarter to destroy the Catholic Church in America, the likes of which you have never seen.