Our Vichy Church / Al Smith Dinner

It was impossible not to wince at Cardinal Dolan’s cozy gladhanding with that monstrous woman at the Al Smith Dinner. Leah Barkoukis, reporting for Town Hall, quoted our shepherd:

I was very moved by the obvious attempt on behalf of both Sec. Clinton and Mr. Trump … to be courteous, get along, to say nice things privately to one another. I was very moved by that, that was pleasant.

Pleasant! The word is a scandal in light of all that is at risk in this election. But what matters to bureaucrats and palace courtiers is manners. And the gymnastics of conflict avoidance. Getting along, saying nice things, ignoring a stench, keeping eyes off the pit in front of your feet—these are critical to the jesters brought in, like the comic eunuchs or hunchback clowns of Weimar cinema, to entertain us over dinner.

By contrast, read St. Paul’s injunction in 2 Timothy:

That is why I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift (charism) that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord.

Our cardinal has proven to be a weak, pliable witness. He is pleased to officiate at events on the pro-life party circuit, a social cocoon. But seat him publicly next to the arch enemy of his own appointed cause—an enemy, too, of decency and principle in public office—and he is all soft feathers, a jovial nonentity in a red zucchetto and a cardinal’s costume.

If the Pauline statement “never try to suppress the Spirit or treat the gift of prophecy with contempt” no longer resonates, then perhaps it is time to consider term limits for bishops.

                                    Bishop as Wolf

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“We have a Vichy Church.” That was the response of an astute friend to the spectacle of this year’s Al Smith gala. It is a chilling analogy. But given the collaborationist instincts of so many of our shepherds, the analogy holds true. Dolan, seated (like a poodle, says my friend) between the two presidential candidates, is a useful synecdoche of the American episcopate as a body. They surrender their prophetic role to the formalities of genteel collusion in the service of managerial interests that masquerade as spiritual ones.

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In the lead-up to this watershed election, it is parish priests—working men charged with the care of souls—who have the grit to speak plainly about what is at stake next week. Fr. George Rutler, pastor of Manhattan’s Church of St. Michael, is a man who remains true to his commission. In his pastoral letter for this past Sunday, October 30th, he wrote:

It is incorrect to say that the coming election poses a choice between two evils. For ethical and aesthetic reasons, there may be some bad in certain candidates, but badness consists in doing bad things. Evil is different: it is the deliberate destruction of truth, virtue and holiness.

While one may pragmatically vote for a flawed candidate, one may not vote for anyone who advocates and enables unmitigatedly evil acts, and that includes abortion. “In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it'” (Evangelium Vitae, 73).

At one party’s convention, the name of God was excluded from its platform and a woman who boasted of having aborted her child was applauded. It is a grave sin, requiring sacramental confession and penance, to become an accomplice in objective evil by voting for anyone who encourages it, for that imperils the nation and destroys the soul.

It is also the duty of the clergy to make this clear and not to shrink, under the pretense of charity, from explaining the Church’s censures. Wolves in sheep’s clothing are dangerous, but worse are wolves in shepherd’s clothing. While the evils foreseen eight years ago were realized, worse would come if those affronts to human dignity were endorsed again. In the most adverse prospect, God forbid, there might not be another free election, and soon Catholics would arrive at shuttered churches and vacant altars. The illusion of indifference cannot long be perpetuated by lame jokes and synthetic laughter at banquets, for there is handwriting on the wall.

And, please, take a few minutes to listen to this muscular homily by Fr. Robert Fromageot, FSSP, speaking to the congregation at St. Rose of Lima, Quincy, Illinois. He does not hesitate to pin the tail on the Democratic party by name in this forthright analysis of the party platform and what it portends for the Church. He closes with recognition of the militant vigor needed to confront and defeat it.

His “Critique of the Democratic Platform” is here.