Please consider giving a few dollars if you enjoy our work. Click the donate button at the top of the page.This review is from: Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (Hardcover)There And Back Again: Ross Douthat's Adventures Beyond the Shire,
April 24, 2012
Reading this book, one quickly comes to the same conclusion Michael Sean Winters came to in his TNR review: "My problem is that he does not seem to have any idea what he is talking about." But, unlike Mr. Winters, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Talking out of one's "cave of shame" can be a good thing as long as one's basic thesis is ideologically correct.
Mr. Douhat is generally correct as he describes modern Catholicism's transition from righteous rigidity to a heretical focus on social justice and equality, and then back again to a more Christ-centered, Torquemadian theology. But, unfortunately, he gets many of the reasons for those transitions, as well as their timing, wrong.
Although Douhat is right about the introduction of such heresies as love, compassion, tolerence and inclusivity corrupting the Catholic Church in the Sixties, he is wrong to identify the genesis of that rot as Vatican II. It began almost decade earlier, on December 7, 1953.
That was the day Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac ran into Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton* and introduced them to jazz. Soon, the beats were dragging the formerly pious pair through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix. That was the beginning of the corruption. Poetry, Coltrane, and, no doubt, a healthy dose of smack, fueled the heretical bus that eventually brought Catholicism the twin evils of social justice and Vatican II.
Merton and Day quickly spread the new beat gospel to priests and nuns like Sister Elizabeth McAlister and the Berrigan brothers. Soon, the Catholic clergy was undermining God's will in Vietnam and opposing their good Southern Baptist brethren in Selma, Birmingham, and Little Rock. By the end of the Seventies, Catholicism had become a synonym for godless tolerance, barbarous compassion, and the idolatry of love.
The Popification of John Paul II in 1978 and the election of Ronald Reagan two years later changed everything. Reagan brought the greatest Straussian Catholic scholars into his administration--Jesuit theologians like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Negraponte, Elliot Abrams, and the aptly named Otto Reich.
The Pope signed Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger on as Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Ratzinger was a perfect choice to lead what was once known as The Office of the Holy Inquisition. He had learned to revere order in his youth when he wielded a Rome's #4100 Super Duty Wiener Fork as a member of Germany's most prominent Teutonic heritage appreciation organization. Establishing order, good, capitalist, Teutonic order, was what the Cardinal lived for.
Together, the President and the Pope went to war against social justice, defending the god-given right of Central American plutocrats to exploit their human capital with ruthlessly vicious efficiency. Cardinal Ratzinger defrocked those who hindered the plutocracy by preaching liberation theology to the poor. Douthat's Reaganic heroes dealt with those who would not bend to the Cardinal's will. For a few dollars, Major Roberto D'Aubuisson, the Gipper's man in San Salvador, would silence a meddlesome archbishop or a quartet of compassion-mongering nuns.
By the time Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, social justice was no longer a threat. The Church had returned to it's more Torquemadian roots. Once again it became the Church that God and Ross Douthat wanted, a righteously despotic institution that enslaves women, persecutes homosexualists, and serves the needs of the Borgias rather than the Bowers.
And that is the ideologically correct truth that wins four stars for Mr Douthat.
*Most Gingrichian, Palinian, and Teabagian scholars agree that Merton served as the basis for Kerouac's Dean Moriarty character in "On the Road."
A helmet tip to Reader Kurt.