Is the American Catholic Right Like ISIS?

Is the American Catholic Right Like ISIS?

Is the American Catholic Right Like ISIS?

Does the American religious right hold a theopolitical outlook similar to that of ISIS? That appears to be one of the insinuations of a recent article published by the Italian Jesuit fortnightly publication La Civiltà Cattolica.

The unexpected attack is causing perplexity and concern to many American Catholics who have fought hard in the trenches of the Culture War with other religious allies. They find it hard to understand why they were the target of a broadside when all they did was hold fast to Catholic social teachings.

It is hard not to be offended. The article titled “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism” denounces an “ecumenism of hate” between Catholics and evangelicals. Also disconcerting are the highly-placed authors. This strident manifesto is the work of Civiltà’s editor Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J. and Presbyterian pastor Marcelo Figueroa, editor of L’Osservatore Romano’s Argentinean edition.

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The article is surprising for its superficiality and disconnection with the American reality. Its obsession to weave a complex web of hidden connections, influences and characters is more suited to a Da Vinci Code storyline than a scholarly analysis. The jumbled narrative would be explicable (and ignored) if it had appeared in the Huffington Post or similar outlet. However, Civiltà’s history is that of a serious journal that merits attention.

A Misreading of the American Religious Scene

Perhaps the principal defect of the article is its misreading of the American religious scene. Anyone vaguely familiar with religion in America knows that it has long been based on consensus.

Unlike the Europeans who separated politics and religion, the American approach to religion has been pragmatic. It welcomes religions with open arms—as long as they agree to help everyone get along and favor prosperity. Thus, government in America has an unwritten consensus that establishes what many have called a “civil religion.” It consists of a set of working rules in which certain things against God are prohibited. Although legally separate, the State maintains a reverence for a vague Judeo-Christian God in whom it trusts yet leaves undefined.

Praying the Rosary for the Defeat of ISIS during the Fatima Centennial

Religion acts to guarantee good order through a consensual Christian moral code loosely based on the Ten Commandments, which (at least until recently) was adopted by the State, embedded in its laws, and engraved on public buildings. Ideally, this model holds that everyone should have some kind of religion, preferably Biblical, so as to favor prosperity and general well-being.

Dogmatizing a Vague Consensus

Thus, the religious scene in America has always been deliberately left vague and undefined. As the late Sen. Eugene McCarthy once said, there are only two kinds of religion permitted in America: Strong beliefs vaguely expressed, or vague beliefs strongly expressed, all tip-toeing inside the confines of this consensus.

The two authors abolish this consensus, forcing dogmatic definitions on these vague attitudes. They see a confused mixture of religious currents, systems and beliefs and turn them into “a problematic fusion between religion and state, faith and politics, religious values and economy.” They take the friendly links that have always existed between government and religion in America and irksomely label them “theocratic.” They take the affirming of a vague moral code and turn it into “Manichaean language that divides reality between absolute Good and absolute Evil.” They twist a desire to foster a moral climate that favors private and general prosperity into a Weberian “Prosperity Gospel.” They berate any acceptance of man’s dominant role in history and creation as “dominionism.”

None of this properly describes the American reality. However, through exaggeration, caricaturing and guilt by association, the two authors attack this American consensus because it hinders the advance of more progressive thought. Their tirade makes no effort to disguise a narrative taken from today’s angry left that laments its declining fortunes.

Questioning the Consensus

However, merely criticizing the old American consensus was not the aim of the two authors. Something is happening in America that upsets them greatly, and this irritation permeates the article’s twisted logic and strong emotional overtones.

Is the American Catholic Right Like ISIS?

Many American evangelicals and Catholics are being increasingly “mugged by reality,” aghast at the radicalization of liberals of all stripes, including, sadly, progressives in the Catholic Church.

The three new developments in America are that (a) many American evangelicals and Catholics are being increasingly “mugged by reality,” aghast at the radicalization of liberals of all stripes, including, sadly, progressives in the Catholic Church; (b) the left’s radicalization is making the American consensus collapse; and (c) this is leading many in the religious right to question this vague consensus itself. These two authors find all this very troubling. It seems they expected the religious right to just go along with all the changes, like the caboose on their train chugging toward a new world (dis)order.

“There was a time when the philosophy of the Gospel governed the states. In that epoch, the influence of Christian wisdom and its divine virtue permeated the laws, institutions, and customs of the peoples, all categories and all relations of civil society.” — Pope Leo XIII

Why are these religious conservatives questioning the consensus? Because they realize that while it provided a template for a more prosperous society, it also created a materialistic world that neglected spiritual needs. It represented a compartmentalized world of extreme individualism. This consensus was the flawed product of the Enlightenment that is full of internal contradictions, faulty logic and uncertainties. Under pressure from the radicalizing left, the shoddy foundations of the consensus are crumbling.

Indeed, society is breaking down, and this consensus is no longer providing solutions but anxiety. As it stands now, this consensus is serving as a leaky old umbrella under which Americans of all persuasions search for new solutions.

A Hollow Rallying Cry

The religious left at the root of the consensus crisis is doubling down and looking farther left. It seeks to revitalize tired and wasted notions of social justice. As mentioned by the authors, theirs is a world of “inclusion, peace, encounter and bridges.” Ironically it is the well-known regime of dogmatic progressivism that walls off those whose love for Truth makes them question the need for bridges to nowhere. It deplores those who it labels deplorable. It does not tolerate those whom it labels intolerable. Indeed, this progressive dictatorship demonizes those whom it dismisses as “integralists.”

The article of the two authors is as much a vindication of the left as it is a condemnation of the right. It is a hollow rallying cry to the worn-out and discredited political and religious left worldwide urging them to “keep the faith” in the face of the demons on the American right.

A Grand Plot Exposed

To bolster their flagging followers, the authors denounce the American right’s supposed origins as “Christian-Evangelical fundamentalist principles dating from the beginning of the 20th Century that have been gradually radicalized.”

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They expose a grand “fundamentalist theopolitical plan.” They believe that the ecumenical union of Catholics and fundamentalists aims to set up a “theocratic,” “eschatological,” and “apocalyptic” Christian kingdom on earth. This resembles the “the theopolitics spread by ISIS [that] is based on the same cult of an apocalypse.” Eventually, the article shipwrecks as the Dan Brown Da Vinci-esque plot thickens with the authors weaving a web of philosophies and conspirators that even include Norman Vincent Peale—who presided over President Trump’s first marriage.

The problem with these musings is that they are as tired and ragged as the rest of the religious left’s empty rhetoric.

Beyond the Enlightenment

What most likely frightens the two authors is the fact that the American Catholic right is not looking rightward as much as upward. They are abandoning Enlightenment premises that those who came before them had shared with the left. They are discovering treasures long forgotten. More disconcerting to the religious left is that these treasures are attracting many evangelicals.

In their search for solutions, these American Catholics and evangelicals are finding and loving, for example, the natural moral law, that serves as a firm foundation for morality and civil society. The reliance on natural law is revitalizing the debate around what the two authors call issues “generally considered moral or tied to values.”

The search for solutions is also leading countless scholars to Thomism. The crystalline logic of Saint Thomas Aquinas is a refreshing contrast to the stagnant uncertainties of postmodernity. It elevates the debate far above that of the two authors.

Notions of Christendom

More interesting is that notions of Christendom are capturing the imagination of many of those searching. Such a vision of society rejects the theocratic caricatures of the two authors.  Instead, many are recognizing the Church’s hallowing influence upon the structures of society, culture and economy. Indeed, many Americans are talking of “options,” some misdirected, others not, that include this hallowing influence of the Church.  Above all, it is a view that insists upon the true role of the Church in society in promoting the worship and glory of God and in teaching the moral law and truths of the Faith that are necessary for the salvation of souls.

This balanced notion of a respectful cooperation of Church and State is leading to renewed interest in the social encyclicals of Leo XIII. In his Immortale Dei, the pope stated “There was a time when the philosophy of the Gospel governed the states. In that epoch, the influence of Christian wisdom and its divine virtue permeated the laws, institutions, and customs of the peoples, all categories and all relations of civil society.”

Is the American Catholic Right Like ISIS?

“There was a time when the philosophy of the Gospel governed the states. In that epoch, the influence of Christian wisdom and its divine virtue permeated the laws, institutions, and customs of the peoples, all categories and all relations of civil society.” — Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Immortale Dei.

Such a vision is far from the vapid fantasies of the two authors. Rather it is part of those Church teachings that are ever ancient, ever new. It is part of Her universal message that is both supranational and supernatural, uniting human and divine. This vision represents a universal message and mission applicable for all times and places.

These new perspectives do not fit within the old dialectic framed by the article of the two authors. More importantly however they do have the capacity to revitalize the debate.

The Fatima Option

Finally, those who are searching, especially Catholics, are finding Fatima—the message for these times. This is the centennial year marking the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima in 1917.

The Fatima record is impressive. As far as the past is concerned, everything Our Lady predicted would happen has indeed happened. All that she foresaw for the present times—indifference, blasphemy and the lack of faith—is only too evident. She also told of a future which included the triumph of her Immaculate Heart.

America’s Fatima Future: How a Return to Order Can Make It Happen

Catholics (and even some curious evangelicals) are finding Fatima to be a key to interpreting what is happening in the world and forming perspectives for the future. Our Lady’s simple message and solutions, long approved by the Church, certainly make more sense than the Civiltà Cattolica’s confusion on “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism.”


As seen on CNSNews.


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  • Gardener8

    What in the world is happening in Rome? The last I’ve heard, there hasn’t been any Catholic “right”
    barbarism of any kind. ISIS is the group doing beheading, torture, vile medical procedures on little girls, etc.
    That article is truly an insidious lie.

  • kitty

    How wide can the cultural gap be? I ASK LA CIVILTA CATOLICA….WHY NO ARTICLE ON WHERE ALL THE CHRISTIAN IMMIGRANTS ARE??? We wait to welcome them…but there are such small numbers…WHY? I was educated by Jesuits and I know and love Jesuits. I never met a stupid Jesuit…so I must conclude that the error and hyperbole are purpose driven. May God have mercy on them!
    We fight to save babies…they kill babies. We seek as individuals and as a group…holiness. They seek holocaust. We bring aid…they create an acute need for aid wherever they go. WE ARE TRYING TO GET THE MOST ENDANGERED, AND MOST TORTURED OUT OF HARMS WAY, NAMELY CHRISTIANS…THEY ARE MAKING HOLY MARTYRS OF THEM.

  • gigi4747

    Please, fellow conservatives (term used loosely – I know that many Catholics do not like to be put into political categories): I beg you to stop using the left’s euphemisms and flattering terms for itself, eg, “progressives.” Perhaps part of the reason they have gained so much ground is that we have done so much of their work for them?

  • Annel Rodriguez

    Our lady in one of her many warning apparitions under one of her many titles, made a prophecy about these times in the church, she said that Satan would infiltrate himself WITHIN the church corrupting many faithful people and clergy. If we pay attention to all that’s going on within the church with many of the faithful, some bishops, priests and even our Pope, it’s very clear that there is a real true spiritual battle going on now in our very day and time. Please, let us ALL PRAY for those in leadership in the one true church of Jesus Christ the Roman Catholic church, after all, it is human yet divine, we know there are humans hands in it therefore our Pope and many leaders will perhaps fall from the truth and even misguide many souls, but it is a fact that the church is also divine because God Himself said so, Jesus said that the “gates of hell will not prevail against it” so my brothers and sisters let’s pray very hard for those guiding the church I believe 100% that now more than ever they need our fasting, penances and prayers rather than judging, condemning or criticism most specially our Pope who holds the seat of Peter, regardless how we feel or what we think about him as a pope, please pray pray pray for him and all leaders. God be with us and bless us all!

    • Rajawali


  • Johann du Toit

    Didn’t this particular newspaper actually repudiate this article because of the outrage it caused?

  • Rajawali

    The fact is the Catholic Church, particularly in Europe, is loosing their faithful significantly. The evidence is abundant as shown by empty churches, and an ageing congregation. On many trips to Europe I did not see a vigorous young congregation, which lead me to ask “where are the people”. To me, this is where the Catholic Church failed. So, instead of attacking Catholics in America, La Civilta Cattolica needs to look at Europe, at itself, and discuss what needs to be done instead of attacking a vigorous community. Does La Civilta Cattolica support abortion and euthanasia because it is popular in Europe ?

  • Wolemai

    What an unmitigated disgrace. For a supposedly Catholic newspaper to compare the defense of the Faith by conservative Catholics with the barbaric atrocities of the ISIS monsters is appalling. How dare they?

  • Najib Nasr

    I like your article. It gives me heart. Concerning that article in La Civiltà Cattolica, this is what I wrote as comment on Mr. Phil Lawler’s condemnation of the Rome article:

    For the first time in my converted life of a decade and a half, I find myself at odds with people close to the Pope and maybe even also with the Pope himself and his mixed messages that he has been sending the world, whereby he seems to be trying to bring the ignorant Catholics and Evangelicals, and the Muslims to check out Catholic belief, yet, simultaneously, placing doubts in the minds of conformed Catholics, who are in need of consolidating their Faith further, and not complicating their walk with Christ.

    I would not have used the word ‘Ignorant’ that Mr. Phil Lawler used, because, it is inconceivable that the Vatican would be ignorant of International High Politics and of the underhanded work of Globalism. The US TV stations have been bought for Obama that he may implement the intermediate and semi-final stages of Globalism. For eight years, we have witnessed the unfair criticism of Catholic Christianity and the extra zealous promotion of Islam, the redefinition of Marriage and the accompanying ‘enhancement’ of homosexual ideology. For eight long years we have been persecuted as Christians, with more direct effects on Catholics than on our Separated Brethren, despite specific cases.

    America has been divided because of this new Media status. If Clinton were to win, she would be continuing the promotion she started during her campaign, of trying to persuade us to modify our religion toward a world religion. Let me give you a parallel: How about all of us becoming Muslims that we may convert Muslims back into Christianity?! This is Globalism. So, we were persecuted as Christians, seemingly receiving no direct encouragement or guidance from the Vatican. All of Europe and maybe the Vatican seem to have been listening to the vicious lies of this conspiratorial US Media. They have been giving us lies every single day, and, at the same time, covering up for Obama’s daily lies. You were all exposed to this Media and therefore, have a distorted image of the US political landscape. This is all on record for all to see and hear, both in America and Europe and elsewhere, I might add. You are held culpable, just like the servants who get beatings for doing wrong, as in the Parable of the Vigilant and Faithful Servants (Luke 12:35-48; section 45-48), whether realizing it or not, because there is no excuse for ignorance, especially these days with everything available at our finger tips.

    If the Vatican is aware of this, we see no evidence of it and Phil Lawler’s description would apply, though it is inconceivable that the Vicar of Christ should be so, and…on Faith and Morals!!! If, on the other hand, the Vatican is aware of the conspiracy, then it is too hard for us to swallow: the subjecting of the conformed faithful to that humongous test; and in such huge numbers.

    So, we have been subjected to persecution for eight years, and then comes a very worldly Christian man who embraced Christianity and imparted on the path of Christian Conversion, even by Catholic standards (Conversion is a Daily Lifelong Process – my very own slogan, based on CCCs 1435-1439). Some of you may think this is a decoy, but, in reality, he is converting. In political circles, changing one’s mind is political suicide. Yet, President Trump has been changing his mind throughout his campaign, and people were accepting that, because, he was changing for the better, and people saw that and liked it, wishing, maybe subconsciously, that that conversion could be theirs; or, at least, sharing in this conversion.

    He has more Catholic advisers on his Pro-Life board than other Christians. All of these, Catholics and others, would be the first to forewarn us of any misdeed, which is highly unlikely due to their proximity to him, and the solid resolve of these advisers to adhere to the tenets of the Pro-Life Stance. All the Left is vehemently against President Trump in a grossly artificial manner where nothing, not even their country, is more important than downing him. It is utter blindness cemented by an unfaithful Media and ex-president. Over and above that, many Republicans are as vehemently against him for combined reasons, all funneling into collusion with the Democrats in a power sharing allotment. The Vatican was silent to eight years of abuse to their little ones in America. Strategy?! With no hints to us?!!!

    So, what are we to do? We have one possibility left and that is: The Injected wolves, whom we KNOW are already in the Church in a big way since slightly over half a century. We have been promised that by Jesus (Matthew 10:16) and more directly by Paul (Acts 20:28-30).

    The question is where is the Pope in all of that? Is he fighting them? Or, is he playing a waiting game? Or, is he one of them, God forbid? We need a word from him, and not an encyclical! God bless.

  • Janice Marler

    Simple- Watch out for Jesuits. They really aren’t Christian.

    • Johann du Toit

      That’s not true of all Jesuits. Father Mitch Pacwa, Father James VS Schall, Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland, the late Father John Hardon and the late Avery Cardinal Dulles are/were very faithful Catholics. Old school Jesuits are some of the best defenders of the faith.

      • Janice Marler

        I guess some are okay. That order just has a bad reputation in general.

  • Paul Robert Carr

    Perhaps Pope Francis is behind this article since he is a Jesuit? And in the name of JESUS, what is a Presbyterian doing behind the editor’s desk of a Roman Catholic publication? This smacks of the Pope’s feelings about our current President before he was even elected. I am a convert from insane Anglicanism and I am hot under the collar about this leftist slander after I waited for many years to become Catholic. Although I am obedient to Pope Francis when it comes to spiritual and moral matters, but he is clearly off track if he thinks that American Catholics are going to hand over their free country to its enemies, physical and spiritual. When those kids were packed onto freight trains crossing the borders, M-13 gangs were on board also. It was filmed and photographed for TV and other media. A picture says a thousand words. The ugly monster of the Post-Vatican II modernists and liberals is raising its despicable head again now after the last two Popes cleaned house and brought the Catholic family together again. I suggest that the Pope keep his nose out of American internal affairs unless he knows for sure that the culture of death has someone in mind for extinction. However, the Jesuits have been described as a whacky shack group. Poor St. Ignatius is spinning in his grave!

    • Paul Robert Carr

      By the way while Pope Francis whined or worried about his kids on the trains coming from Central America, he never gave a blink at Christian children and families being raped, marauded and beheaded by ISIS in the Middle East until American Catholics took him to task about it. So, how does the Catholic religious right compare to ISIS. His eminence’s other slap at Americans was that he insinuated that the children wouldn’t get fed and taken care for? WHAT???? I invite the Pope to check out my tax bills, donation receipts and what a marvelous job Catholic Charities does without government help. Need I go on? I am having serious doubts about the cardinals’ electing this Pope via the Holy Spirit.

    • RapistAndFalse ProphetMuhammed

      the corrupt Cardinals who are advising the Pope and misleading him . The Cardinals are advising the pope that Climate Change is real . Pope Francis is listening to what these people say .

    • Karen Keville

      You make a lot of excellent points. I understand totally what you are saying about our present vicar in Rome. Easy on the name calling. One or two off color jesuits never speaks for all jesuits.

  • FedUp2

    Pope Francis has his own mess to clean up in his cabinet before the Jesuits condemn our viewpoints. His little fiefdom is overrun with homos and drug parties. I take nothing from anyone in Europe right now, they are going down a very slippery slope into divistation. Hopefully the US will be smarter than they are and not follow.

  • AnnDir

    Fine article…Spadaro & Co. are quite wrong-headed, and THAT is concerning.