As part of the yearly commemoration of MLK Day, MSNBC aired a documentary about the slain civil rights leader. Prominent in the film was the Selma march in 1965, a watershed moment in the fight for African-American equality. Filmmakers and TV cameras captured Alabama policemen beating peaceful protestors. I’ve seen this southern horror many times, but what I failed to notice were some of the white protestors who had joined the blacks for the second Selma demonstration. There they were, Catholic priests and nuns, outraged by the injustice of it all, arm-in-arm with negroes (the term of the day), doing God’s work and living the Church’s clarion call for social justice.
Flash forward to DC last weekend, on MLK weekend no less, and witness the new Catholic-protest paradigm–mocking minorities instead of fighting for them and wearing the insignia of an amoral, racist sociopath (Trump). Now ask yourself, what happened to Catholic dogma in the intervening 54 years? How did the fight for social justice devolve into a cruel, senseless joke? What’s at the heart of neo-Catholicism’s heartlessness?
Writing in OpEd News, B.K. Faunce has an answer. “What you see in these fresh-faced, Trump-loving young men is the inevitable product of a decades-long shift the Catholic church has undergone in moving away from its historical roots in social justice (love thy neighbor) and into its philosophical and ideological opposite, a postmodern or neo-Catholicism.”
Instead of the earnest demeanor of Selma Catholics doing what Jesus would do, the postmodern Catholic displays a smug superiority and is given to demeaning those who are not them–white, condescending, and dismissive. Or as Faunce describes the typical Covington kid, “…sunny, smarmy, privileged, uncouth, aggressive, abusive. Someone whose life is taken care of and whose needs are met, whose clothes are cleaned and pressed, whose food is prepared, whose room is cleaned. Someone who looks no further than the end of his nose to see the world reflected in his own image.”
Who made them this way? Certainly, indulgent parents who taught them no social values beyond what they, by birthskin, are entitled to. The right of white and the diminution of all whose shades are darker. But where is the church in all this? Aren’t the teachings of Jesus part of the curriculum? How do the faculty and clergy overlook the fact that the Nazarene was a long-haired, destitute outsider who deplored the corruption and amorality of the political establishment and reminded us that what we do to the least of men we do to him?
In the age of pedophilia scandals and Vatican excess, the church has circled the wagons. As Faunce puts it, neo-Catholicism demands “Do unto others before they do unto you. Aid and abet the ruling elites: you never know when you might need a friend…Take from the poor and give to the rich. Cheat homeowners, ignore climate change, poison drinking water everywhere. Above all else, demonize the poor, the aged and the infirm, for they will inherit nothing but the whirlwind…neo-Catholics reject outright the good news of the New Testament in favor of Iron Age traditions that emphasize cruelty, hatred, violence, greed and war.”
Where are the Catholic leaders in all this? Are they to blame for the ugly paradigm shift? They are so worried about their own survival that they have made deals with the devil himself. Don’t prosecute us; don’t outlaw our outlaw enterprise; look the other way when we violate children; don’t take away our tax exemption; keep pumping the dough into the collection basket…we need it for our defense fund.
If the MAGA punks of Covington Catholic are the practitioners of neo-Catholicism, then they learned it the hard way, from parents and clergy who care about no one but themselves. If Selma happened today, 2019 Catholics would condemn those uppity blacks for having the temerity to demand equality in a world that belongs to the white man by Scripture and force.