The Personalist Project

I've spilled a lot of virtual ink over the years trying to persuade fellow American conservative Catholics that they misunderstand Pope Francis. He's not the kind of leftist they imagine him to be. They are judging him too much through the lens of the political divide in our country, rather than on his own terms—terms that were formed in 20th century Latin America, where "right wing" meant something very different from what it means to us. It involved luxury and juntas, for instance. It entailed defending social injustices. It meant standing with and for the rich and powerful against the poor and oppressed. 

Now I wish I could do the reverse. I wish I could persuade Pope Francis that he misunderstands American Catholic conservatives. He is judging us too much through the lens of his Latin American and European experiences, rather than on our own terms, where "rightwing" means not protecting power and privilege, but standing up for life and marriage, for individual rights, for the objectivity of truth, free exercise of religion and things like that against the elites in power, who are working hard to replace the American system that has served so well for so long with a neomarxist ideological regime that has wrought violence and evil throughout the world since the French Revolution. In the American Church, left-leaning Catholics often use the cover of "social justice" and the vocabulary of "compassion" to align with secular elites to press for changes in the moral teachings of the Church—changes that we see lead exactly to the "throwaway culture" the Pope rightly deplores.

I get that there are nuances. Jorge Bergoglio sympathized with the cause of the left, but he rejected Marxism. At personal cost, he opposed the liberation theology that was all the rage among his fellow Argentine Jesuits. Instead he subscribed to a school of thought that went by the name of Theology of the People—a theology that I hope one day to show is almost exactly parallel to John Paul II's Theology of the Body. The difference is that while the late pope focused on the intimate union of marriage in opposing the master/slave dynamic to a reciprocal communion of self-giving love, the present Pope focuses on large social structures. On that level, he too seeks to replace a master/slave dynamic with a dynamic of reciprocity, of mutual service and enrichment.

Anyway, just as there is a range and gamut on the left that goes from Robespierre and Lenin all the way to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dorothy Day, there's a range and gamut of type and opinion on the right. We have our extremists and bad guys as well as our saints. We have our characteristic short-comings, our rigid legalists, our bigots and authoritarians who have to be deplored. But, in general, we're not who Pope seems to think we are. Nor is the left as benign as the he seems to think it is, to judge by many of his words, acts and gestures. (I'm thinking, for instance, of his making a personal call to the bishop who got on his knees in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.)

I wish he would see that. But whether he does or not, when it comes to matters outside the Faith, it's up to us to stand for what seems to us right and true, even if it means opposing a bishop or the Pope.

P.S. For the record, I oppose the Black Lives Matter movement for the same reason Martin Luther King, Jr. opposed the Black Panthers. King saw that social justice can only be established on personalist grounds, i.e. on the ground of love, non-violence, and respect for individual rights. BLM, like its predecessors orgs. Black Panthers and Black Power is rooted in identity politics that reduces individuals to units in a class. It then justifies violence against the oppressor class. It's an evil movement that has fooled a lot of good and sincere people into supporting it, imo.

Comments (9)

Rhett Segall

#1, Jun 13, 2020 11:35am

I agree it's vital to distinguish  particular view points within general trends. And I agree that Black Lives Matter is wrong in insisting that we care about certain lives simply because they are black.Rather black lives matter because they are people beloved of God.

But equating BLM with the Black Panther  ethos  of violence is putting BLM into a category of violence that isn't true.

Katie van Schaijik

#2, Jun 13, 2020 12:59pm

I'm seeing a lot of violence out there, including maybe especially the violence of coercion and extortion. (If you don't support us, we'll get you fired or canceled or bankrupted or abused.) I've seen many BLM people justifying the destruction of property. I've seen BLM promoters with signs saying "white silence is violence," which is menacing.

The reduction of persons to a group identity is violence. It's also the precursor to physical violence. (I'll never forget that the Rwandan genocide was preceded by months of radio programs denouncing the Tutsis as "cockroaches.")

What I'm not seeing is BLM leaders or Democrat politicians condemning the looters and rioters. Rather, they're making common cause with Antifa. Are you seeing condemnations? I'm asking sincerely. It may be that I just haven't seen it.

Rhett Segall

#3, Jun 13, 2020 1:24pm

 I think your analysis is on target (except for the BP analogy) Leaders in the BLM should be denouncing violence and its rhetoric and the Dems should be too.

I'm very distrustful of group movements. I pray for the gift of discernment.

Katie van Schaijik

#4, Jun 14, 2020 9:09am

I find this analysis helpful. BLM is marxist, de-personalizing, aggressive, subversive and exploitative at its core. In its fundamental aims and animating spirit, it is the opposite of MLK, Jr.'s Civil Rights movement. Its degree of nonviolence in comparison with BP is tactical, not principled. It's more successful at duping nice people, intimidating politicians, shaking-down corporations, and winning adherents that way. But it's not against violence, which is why it makes common cause with Antifa. It's an evil organization.

It's also financially aligned with the Democratic Party. 

Its success in presenting itself as benign and beneficial is depressing. I hope it gets fully exposed before it's too late.

Rhett Segall

#5, Jun 16, 2020 9:43am

Katie, I shared the NR article on BLM with a friend, John. His response:

"I am frankly surprised at your seeming agreement with the NR article. Closing line about BLM having more to do with Moscow than with Selma strikes me as the real ideological overreach. And yes, BLM is about more than police reform. That it is a plot to change the nature of American Society is pure scare the agitprop so-called conservatives.That it changes the American narrative I totally agree. And for that I hope it works."

I think John's analysis astute, although I also think the NR analysis raises some red flags, appropriately, regarding scapegoating the police. Thanks for the link.

BTW, I was touched by Rayshard Brooks' wife calling for peaceful protests vis a vis her husbands death.

Katie van Schaijik

#6, Jun 16, 2020 10:23pm

You think it's astute? I don't. Nor does he offer a bit of evidence in support of his view. He offers nothing but a denial plus slurs.

Seems to me he wants it to be the case the BLM is benign, so he just declares that it is, while he declares that the view that it isn't is "agitprop". 

Katie van Schaijik

#7, Jun 16, 2020 10:53pm

This is from the BLM statement of what they believe:

We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.

We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking...

Anyone who has studied the issue even a little will recognize this as neomarxist-speak. And here is a fawning Washington Post article linking the Black Panther and BLM movements. 

It's a perennial tactic of the hard left to take a good cause (such as opposition to racism or police brutality or worker grievances) and use it to stoke rage and foment unrest, violence and ultimately revolution. It takes advantage of hosts of what they call "useful idiots", i.e., people who join in the fray without having any idea that they're being tools of a much more radical agenda.

Did you know people are being fired for the hate crime of saying "all lives matter"? It's an evil movement doing unbelievable damage to our society right now, materially and spiritually. 

Rhett Segall

#8, Jun 17, 2020 9:04am

Thanks for the BLM quote. It is devastating and ominous.

Theological Studies has an article by Katie Grimes, theologian from Villianova (have any connections?), titled "Antiblackness" (March 2020) She asserts: “Rather than seeking to widen purportedly universal categories of value such as “human” or “citizen” and ensure that black people be fully included in them the Movement for Black Lives demanded that we care about certain lives simply because they are black. It reversed the usual moral calculus: black lives do not matter because all lives matter; all lives matter only if black lies do.”

In searching BLM's website I couldn't find any assertion that a person has value simply because they are black. But Grimes article is awfully incisive.

Katie van Schaijik

#9, Jun 17, 2020 9:29am

Of course you won't find that assertion on their website. That would be too candid. Nor is it really what they believe. No lives matter to them, ultimately. What matters is group power. (Note that blacks who don't toe their line are routinely "canceled" and trashed in disgusting, racist terms.)

The essence of the neomarxist left is class warfare, the "pulverization of the person." People are judged and valued or disvalued not as individuals, but according to the social category they're in.

Here is the story of a woman who had been hired by ASU as a Dean having the offer revoked because she tweeted that some police are good. 

Here is the story of the Philadelphia Inquirer's top editor being forced to resign because he wrote that "buildings matter too." 

Here is the story of the statue of Robert Shaw, abolitionist and commander of the 54th Regiment of black union soldiers featured in the great movie Glory being defaced by BLM protestors. 

The NYT editorial page editor was forced to resign because he published an op-ed by US Senator Tom Cotton.

I could go on all day.

This is Mao's Cultural Revolution come to America.

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