Open letter to the Roman Pontiff:
I write this letter in the spirit of the pamphleteers. I think it is appropriate since you have ventured onto American political soil with some of your recent comments. It is one thing to address the faithful in matters of faith and quite another to venture into political labeling.
I also thought it might be an interesting exercise to teach a little about the spirit of the pamphleteers and the American patriotic penchant for debate and rebellion (I avoid the term revolution as in Viva la revolución which may be associated with the mind of the Latin American Marxist). Americans are indeed a rebellious rabble but if you read the Declaration of Independence, you will find we are rather fond of due process and law and for this reason we like to think and have a proper custom to debate as part of our due process. This open letter is rather a raw lesson in American politics since there appears to be a curial and mercurial confusion on the term conservatism particularly considering that you are referring to a sector of the Catholic population which may still consider you Christ’s vicar. Any such label would seem inappropriate particularly because it confuses the religious discourse (render to God) and the secular narrative (render to Caesar). There is also a particular sensitivity to this as you know that together with the apparent revocation of Benedict XVI Summorum Pontificum and the FBI monitoring Latin Mass faithful some of us may see this as entirely an unfair attempt at repression.
We understand you are Latin American (as I am) but would do well to understand North Americans (as I have) and consider the unique conditions from which we operate. This will help understand the idea of American Conservatism even as it has influence in the religious. We call this the Spirit of ’76 which is an assertion of natural law and not the same as the spirit of liberation which you might be prone to understand in the sense as a theology. Our freedom doesn’t need a theology, just common sense (see Thomas Paine). You may well discredit me for a lack of ecclesial respect because of my disregard for the content of your disposition toward an ill-conceived notion of Catholic conservatism in America. But there is little alternative since your judgements are obviously measured by the yardstick of a Latin American socialist. This is unbecoming of a prelate particularly as we understand it. Revolution in Latin America implies an ideology which requires the insertion of government to manage wealth whereas rebellion in America (in the classic liberal sense) means we just want to manage our own affairs apart from government. But you ventured into the rocky soil and have decided to turn the stones of politics to the bread of faith which is a terrible temptation indeed. In doing so, you have brought the legion of agents of anti-cassock, quasi-clerics to these and other shores to create division among Catholics.
I want to highlight three media elevated events of a political nature that directly involve your Holy Office. I mention these because they are subject to secular media elevation and are transgressions of the unbiased pastoral obligations you ought to have toward the faithful. These indiscretions create targets on the faithful and it seems imprudent if not offensive to create such a division in the eyes of the secular media. Let’s dispel one thing from the outset. There is no such thing as a backwards Catholic or indietristi. I believe you used the word indietristi to describe American conservative Catholics. If there were I might equally accuse a Curandero in Mexico to be as indietristi as an American conservative. Rather, the American idietristi that you have labeled are generally considerate and thoughtful. They tend to enjoy harmony and continuity of truth. The indietristi have families, often large families and are civic minded and vote and participate in society to preserve the goodliness of the family and the Godliness of the Republic. They also give generously to Bishop’s appeals. They do not believe in abortion nor are concerned about LGBTQ values and the danger their children face in an educational system that actively promotes these values. They often are willing to sacrifice for what is hoped to be a righteous cause. They keep their charitable acts hidden and don’t like being moralized to regarding false altruism and activism. They understand sin but refuse to affirm sin. I wonder what is indietristi about these values? Is it just because they like the Latin liturgy? If the reduction of those that like Latin Liturgy define your idea of indietristi then the judgement is based purely on the form of worship. That would make of liturgy a political ideology. Which it is not unless liturgy is political for progressive clerics. For the indietristi it is merely a preference of worship. The conclusion is that the accusation of the indietristi is similar to Hillary Clinton’s reference to the vast right wing conspiracy as a basket of deplorables. Certainly the virtues of the indietristi are not deplorable which would make their politics deplorable and so the ideological accusation actually is embedded your idea of indietristi. We would actually call the use of this word mendacious and absolutely unpastoral if not unjust and surprising from a Pontiff.
But I didn’t really write my mind in August when you spoke such indiscretion to the media because there has been so much indiscretion spoken already. I simply relegated the comments as those of a man with an ill-advised understanding of American history and politics and a pettiness for opposition.
But the insult of our indiscretion was increased by the intolerably foolish (I have no other words to define them) comments of the Papal Nuncio (Vatican ambassador) Cardinal Pierre. He was cited, and I suppose with your blessing as I have not heard of any correction. He suggests:
We are in the church at a change of epoch. People don’t understand it. And this may be the reason why most of the young priests today dream about wearing the cassock and celebrating Mass in the traditional [pre-Vatican II] way.
This is just an absurd comment! What has changed in the Church that made it understandable before and not understandable now? Except a conception of the church which is imposed by you and Synodality that has rendered it not understandable. But that is not our doing. We have a saying in America: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Perhaps in ecclesial terms you may understand this Americanism as: if it is continuous don’t rupture it. It is a pretty basic rule and more pragmatic than ideological.
The Cardinal went on to suggest: “[Immigrants] knock on the door and they are rejected because America today is not an America that receives people, because there is a crisis here. . . . The church provides Mass for them, but then what? Do we as church help them to make a transition, say, from being Catholic in Mexico to being Catholic in the United States?”
I would remind the Cardinal that we are in fact a nation of Catholic immigrants. We are made of waves of Irish, Polish, Italians, Germans, Czechs, Spanish, Latin Americans of all kinds who were actually bound together by a common Latin liturgy at the time of their arrival here before 1962. It may very well be argued that the reason for their mutual integration was the Latin mass. It was far more easy to follow the common liturgy. What the Cardinal means is utterly lost in a false altruism. We as Catholics never rejected any Catholic immigrant. We may be politically concerned about the lack of border controls and the need to manage immigration, but that is a political concern. I assume that the Cardinal is referring to a political narrative and not really religious discourse which would by definition render his argument ideological. There is nothing uglier when an ideologue suggests he or she is not an ideologue but makes of their opinion a truth.
There are so many absurdities to address in the Cardinals comments. That is the problem when you break with the transcendent. The logic falls so terribly apart that just showing one such fallacy often unravels all but unfortunately obliges the tiresome rejection of all assertions because of the tenacity of the wicked and this is time consuming and often not manageable. Just as all truth is unified in the Deposit of Faith one might argue all untruth unravels with every withdrawal from that deposit and every assertion is reduced to a babble of discontinuity until there is no deposit. My only question to the Cardinal would be: If the Church is not understandable then I presume that there is an elite of clerics that understand it (thank God for Sadducees) which would make our Church a Gnostic Church? Understandable to a few which serve uniquely at the service of a Pope? That’s how we see Synodality really. It is a Gnostic replacement of the truth. Perhaps it is the inability of the Nuncio to understand the true church of Our Lord and render the Church as knowable to only the politically elect. But the Holy Spirit seems available to the littlest of flowers and not the densest of minds.