Wednesday, February 8, 2017
I took this picture...
(St. John Cantius is a Catholic Church on the Near North Side of Chicago that harkens back to an earlier era, before the reforms of Vatican II in the 1960s. The priests there specialize in Latin Masses and sacred music.)
I don't know if the man above was a priest or a youth leader or what but he seemed to be one of the organizers. When I saw his MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hat I asked him if I could take his picture. He complied and I put it and a bunch of other pictures on Twitter.
What was an agnostic like me doing at St. John Cantius? Good question. (I'll get to that later.)
But first, what made me think of this guy's picture this morning? The answer can be found in a front-page article in the Times yesterday, "Steve Bannon Carries Battles to Another Influential Hub: The Vatican," about Mr. Bannon and "an archconservative American cardinal, Raymond Burke, who [has] openly clashed with Pope Francis." From the piece (all emphasis mine):
They [see] Islam as threatening to overrun a prostrate West weakened by the erosion of traditional Christian values, and [view] themselves as unjustly ostracized by out-of-touch political elites.
In other words, there's a connection between some of Donald Trump's voters and the more conservative elements within the Catholic Church. And the connection -- the common theme -- is nostalgia.
...in Mr. Trump, and more directly in Mr. Bannon, some self-described “Rad Trads” — or radical traditionalists — see an alternate leader who will stand up for traditional Christian values and against Muslim interlopers.
Mr. Bannon, a Catholic:
...[has spoken out] against rampant secularization, the existential threat of Islam, and a capitalism that [has] drifted from the moral foundations of Christianity.
So, in a never ending cycle of conservative/liberal/conservative/liberal, the liberals -- led by Pope Francis -- are currently ascendant while the conservatives wait patiently (or not so patiently) for their "moment" to return.
But, and this is the point of this post, this reaction to modernity is doomed to fail. It's a "bear market rally" -- a blip in an otherwise inexorable trend toward multiculturalism and secularism.
Consider this last paragraph, for example (my emphasis):
Cardinal Burke — who has said that the pope’s exhortation, which opened the door for divorced Catholics remarried outside the church to receive communion, might require “a formal act of correction” — has been unusually outspoken in his criticism of Francis.
Mr. Bannon, as you may or may not know, has been married and divorced three times. So even he can't keep to the church's strict teachings on marriage.
And what about the rest of the Church's "challenges" with the modern world, abortion, birth control, and gay marriage, just to name three?
Well, I'll grant you that abortion is a tricky one and there are well-meaning individuals on both sides of that debate. (Read my post here for my thoughts on the subject.)
But what about birth control? Is there anyone out there that really thinks it's not a good idea to plan your family?
And as for gay marriage, well, that ship has sailed and it's sailed without the Catholic Church. It's hard to imagine the Church changing its mind on that subject and as a result it's lost the vast majority of people under the age of 30 -- forever.
I suspect that a number of Catholics (and evangelicals) voted for Trump on the expectation that he'd appoint Supreme Court justices that would eventually overturn Roe v. Wade. I'm sorry, but the Court follows public opinion, not the other way around. And polls have consistently shown that the majority of Americans want at least some form of abortion to remain legal. Its opponents are just more vocal and visible. So, despite their greatest hopes, Roe v. Wade will never be overturned and abortion, for good or ill, is here to stay. You can take that to the bank.
Many, perhaps most, of Trump's supporters -- like the parishioners at retro St. John Cantius -- are just plain nostalgic. And while nostalgia can be a comforting thing, it's not a substitute for reality. Reality doesn't stay static; it keeps evolving. So even though St. John Cantius and Donald Trump can be "sanctuaries" from the modern world, they can't change the modern world. Ultimately, traditional Catholics -- like the rest of Trump's voters -- will be disappointed. It's a shame, really.