Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Feb 15, 2017 at 08:39:13 PM EST
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic Mirror.  Douthat's screed attempts to disparage the reform-minded Pope Francis by painting the Pontiff as a Catholic version of Donald Trump.
Douthat is trying to spin recent stories on the possible collusion between the White House Special Advisor Stephen Bannon and traditionalist Cardinal Raymond Burke, who appear to have a mutual interest in neutralizing the Pope's influence on world affairs.

A few years ago I described Douthat as "a convert to orthodox Catholicism." As is the case with many recent converts from Protestantism, he envisions himself as part of a Church that existed prior to Pope John XXIII. To that end he is romanticizing a era to which many of us cradle Catholics don't care to return.

To make his case, Douthat uses a sleight of hand. Knowing that he cannot deny the reactionary ways of Cardinal Burke, he tries to cast the Pope as a radical fringe figure. Incredibly, he declares of Francis, "The difference is that in Rome the populist isn't a right-wing president. He's a radical pope." He then casts his moderate and conservatives (such as himself) as in the middle. This is sheer nonsense.

Douthat further dissembles with a series of unsubstantiated charges: "Francis is flagrantly Trumpian: a shatterer of norms, a disregarder of traditions, an insult-heavy rhetorician, a pontiff impatient with the strictures of church law and inclined to govern by decree when existing rules and structures resist his will."

And where is this alleged Trump-like behavior by the Pope? Can Douthat cite an example when Francis acted with the President's vulgarity? Can the Times op-ed writer point us to any similarity between the Pontiff's view on refugees and the President's call for a travel ban? And where is Douthat's example of Pope and President's single-mindedness on environmental issues? The answer to all those questions is simple: there are no such similarities; they only exist in the fabulisms of Ross Douthat.

What Douthat claims as sees as the Pope's fringe Catholicism is actually a continuation on the mainstream, transcendent path that the Church began with the papacy of John XXIII. What this Pope is actually trying to accomplish is aggiornamento -- a bringing up to date.

But in returning to the issue of White House advisor Steve Bannon and his relationship with Cardinal Burke, Douthat does not face up to the obvious. Both men share many common qualities. Both are very anti-modernist; they view Islam as a monolithic enemy bent upon destroying western civilization; and have given strong hints of anti-democratic sentiments. Both men have little or no tolerance for dissent.

Over the next several posts, we will examine their commonalities.  

Douthat doesn't understand Pope Francis very well. Burke demonstrates very Trumpian tendencies, and he and Bannon resemble each other. You are also correct that Douthat brings his pre-Vatican II nostalgia to his article, and many of us cradle Catholics don't want to return to this era. The business with Bannon and Burke makes it very clear that there are people both in and out of the Curia who will stop at little in trying to scuttle Pope Francis's attempts to reform the institutional church.

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