Today we find this. A few excerpts:
“First Things stands for something. Many things, actually. One of them is a commitment to reality-based conservatism, both in matters of faith and of public life. I mention this, because I’ve decided to end our hosting of Maureen Mullarkey’s blog.”
“She (Maureen Mullarkey) consistently treats him as an ideological propagandist, accusing him of reducing the faith to secular political categories. This is her way of reducing him to the political terms she favors.”
“What matters most, however, is our spiritual disposition. Are we docile to our bishops and their fraternal head, the pope? Are we willing to see and learn what they want to teach us? Will we accompany them, to use one of Francis’ favored images?
The Church asks us to be docile. That’s my goal. I don’t need to agree with Francis in all instances, even most. But I need to be open to instruction. I need to try to see what he’s trying to get us to see.
In a much, much more limited way, the same is true of our political adversaries. Citizenship is a kind of friendship, a mutual commitment to share the public project of our nation. We certainly disagree, debate, and try to win arguments as well as elections. But in all this we need to have the moral and spiritual generosity to enter into our adversaries’ ways of thinking, if but for a moment. We’re in this American project together. We need to accompany each other, even as we contest for the future.”
Presumably Mr. Reno is referring to this.
Now First Things began, under the leadership of Fr. Richard Neuhaus, as an attempt to combine “Conservative” Catholicism, capitalism, the “American Experiment” ( or “project” as Mr Reno puts it above) and ecumenism. And all conducted in an atmosphere of “reasoned discourse.” An ideology that the late Thomas Molnar found abhorrent – indeed he went so far as to call it the “black fruit” of Americanism and capitalism. Regardless of our views on the merits of the initial objectives, however, I think we can agree on the total failure of the initiative to have any effect on American politics or society. As has been abundantly demonstrated in the last couple of years, the leading forces of American civil society and government have moved ever more forcefully to sever their last links with Christian morality. The endlessly repeated mantra of the Church speaking boldly “in the public square” – presumably as a leading force in American society – has yielded to a plea for mere toleration – “religious liberty” is the new watchword. As far as I can tell, the forces of establishment Protestantism and Judaism totally reject the positions of First Things. That of course isn’t anything new, nor is the gap between the principles of the publication we are discussing and the forces of establishment American Catholicism as represented by many hierarchs, and most Catholic universities and religious orders. But the most crushing blow is the current pontificate. Pope Francis and his entourage have denounced or relativized every principle asserted by First Things over the years and have allied themselves firmly with the theological and political left.
One would have thought this experience of 25 years would have given rise to reflection. Perhaps the initial assumptions were incorrect; perhaps the certitudes of Neuhaus, Weigel and their colleagues regarding Pope John Paul II, Vatican II, American society, capitalism etc. were not a little off base. But no. At least for the moment, the answer of First Things to what should be, for them, a massive intellectual crisis is retreat to a Catholic fantasy world and the truly “pre-conciliar” regime of blind obedience: “Are we docile to our bishops and their fraternal head, the pope? Are we willing to see and learn what they want to teach us? Will we accompany them, to use one of Francis’ favored images?” This necessarily involves retaliation against all those, like Maureen Mullarkey, who “have the courage to use their reason” (Melanchton), who dare to say the emperor has no clothes. The summons to conform to ecclesiastical authority is matched by a call for unconditional adherence to an alleged “public project of this nation”: “we’re in this American project together.” And this magazine, which, in the person of its editor, thus rejects the very foundations of rational inquiry, is supposed to be an “intellectual” publication?
Finally, we come to the matter of style. First Things claims to favor polite discourse, it eschews “tirades.” It’s admittedly hard to recognize gentlemanly discourse in the abuse directed at Maureen Mullarkey above. But what exactly has she done? To state that Francis is primarily promoting secular political aims? Most publications outside those controlled by the Roman Catholic Church have more or less said the same. To draw (obvious) parallels between the personality cult of Francis and those of Mussolini and various other communist and Fascist dictators? A left wing German professor and intellectual, Alfred Lorenzer, made much the same observations in 1981 regarding the initial appearances of a certain prior pontiff…. And it seems rather hypocritical to critique Mullarkey for her allegedly intemperate language yet fail to mention the far more egregious verbal abuse of Bergoglio, e.g.,“self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism.” Words not in blogs but in major policy statements and official Church documents. The context is everything! Those who are passionate for the truth rarely confine themselves to the pretentious mannered discourse found in conferences and forums where all the players are really in agreement with each other. I don’t mean to exaggerate, but for those “who hunger and thirst after righteousness,” the resolution of these fundamental issues is not a game but a titanic battle – one in which what is at stake is indeed worth more than life itself.