How to go to war and lose
Since we are all going back to the Good Old 70s, I thought we would go back to the beginning of the War.
This is Mother Angelica’s big moment, her declaration of war against the evil men we had been stuck with for bishops. And they took her up on the offer of hostilities. And she lost, but only after putting up years of the most ferocious fight, and only after they had to pile on with the full force of their powers against her.
This is the speech that really alerted the bishops to the fact that there were still Catholics out there, that their Revolution hadn’t worked. She gave it after what she saw as the last straw: World Youth Day in Denver they gave us a woman acting the part of Christ in the Stations of the Cross. After that she went to war.
But she lost. And do we know why? Because she started with an error. At the beginning of this speech she recites the creed of the American Novusordoist conservatives: Vatican II was wonderful, but those wicked “liberals” highjacked it for their own evil purposes. It is a position that tried to create the compromise space that many American Catholics have tried to live in ever since.
It was this reasonable, nice, friendly, ecumenical position that made it possible for the Catholic leaders of the original pro-life movement of the 70s and 80s to draw in the conservative Protestants; all on the mutual unspoken agreement that we would set aside and never mention the irreconcilable breach between us. It is this false position, this “conservative” middle ground, founded on the new pseudo-doctrine of papal positivism that is now being closed with a resounding clang by the current regime. The old nostrum, the central conservative Novusordoist error of papal positivism: “I’m with the pope and whatever the pope says goes,” is being shown to be a false turn now.
As Ross Douthat said recently, there are roughly three positions in the American Catholic Church (and this spreads up into Canada – though much less in Britain, Australia, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia than most Americans understand). There are “liberals” of the Mahoney/Danneels/Bernardin ilk; the whole spectrum of Traditionalists from the SSPX to the Remnant followers (sedes are in a class of their own); and the conservatives, represented by the George Weigel/First Things/EWTN variety. Among these last have fallen the little group of what we have come to call Papal Apologists – the self-appointed priesthood who have tasked themselves with interpreting and explaining away Pope Francis’ every incomprehensible Pythian utterance.
But this third group, the ones who offered such a pleasing compromise, are the ones who are currently suffering the most. They are the ones who, having adopted the Conservative Novusordoist Creed recited by Mother Angelica at the start of that speech, are now thrown into confusion, frantically denying what is unfolding before their eyes because it fails to fit into their parameters.
Douthat at the end of that speech said that he is starting to think that he will be forced to follow the evidence away from the conservative position – that is being made untenable – and further towards Traditionalism.
I suggest that that time has come for us all.