Friday, December 7, 2018

Catholic Priest to Rod Dreher: "Enough!"

It's a great word. "Enough!" A word of command, in my opinion. When I use it with my kids in a one word sentence I generally mean "too much, you guys are going overboard with [whatever], and I have been indulging you for [duration], but now you're done." Some examples might be "Enough of the Fortnight Dance demonstration", or "Enough of the collection of 'perfect snowballs' you stored in the kitchen freezer when it is 25 degrees outside."

So it is, I think, for Father Richard Munkelt in this open letter to Rod Dreher, regarding the latter's continuous, spiteful criticism of the Roman Catholic church twelve years after he left. I think from the tone and content of the article we may infer that Father Munkelt, like many of us at this humble blog, believe that when it comes to Mr. Dreher's coverage of everything bad going on in the Catholic Church, we have long since passed from abundance, to superabundance, and then on to super-duper-abundance....

...but ENOUGH! already of my commentary, and straight to the article. He begins:

Your recent articles in The American Conservative on "Catholic Triumphalism," constituting your latest broadside against the Catholic Church, were brought to my attention. After reading the articles, and in close connection with your remarks, I have some sobering thoughts concerning your departure from the Church and ongoing vilification not just of her abusive personnel (who are fair game) but of her very person. As such, I am not writing to you alone but also to those among your Catholic readers who may not be fully cognizant of your not-so-hidden campaign to turn souls away from and against the Bride of Christ. To them I say, there is nothing more unprofitable than to try to pick figs from thistles. It is my duty, therefore, to assist my fellow Catholics in not becoming unwitting purveyors of your Anti-Catholicism.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that some of what Father says makes my criticism of Dreher seem tame, at least to me. Perhaps not to purveyors of what I'm calling the cringeworthy mantra, but more on that later.

If you care to read on, brace yourself, for charity sometimes carries a stick, as St. Augustine noted. And I shall not spare it, especially since you boast of being irreformable. I promise you, therefore, something in the spirit of St. Jerome.

Right; I think the "you asked for it" is warranted, especially considering how many times Dreher has assured us that he will never come back to the Catholic Church.

[He does it again — hilariously — at the end of his response to this article with the remark that if he ever came back it would be in spite of horrible "rad-trads" like Fr. Munkelt.]

1) Catholic Moral Teaching? In the two articles in question, possibly the most astonishing statement you make is this: "More importantly, though, where are the other churches who allow in their teaching for the sexual molestation of minors?" [My emphasis.] In all my years of study in theology and in the history of the Church, this putative Catholic teaching permitting the molestation of minors has completely escaped me. To be frank, without a citation from an authoritative doctrinal source, and of course none can be found, your statement is not only evidence of your brazen malice, it is sinister.

Dreher has insinuated that the teaching magisterium of the Catholic Church is "OK" with horrible sexual predation of children on the part of clergy many times, and he finally comes out and writes it. In his response, he claims this was taken out of context. No, dude... you're busted.

2) Emotion vs. Reason. From your own words, all indications are that you left the Catholic Church not because you had any theological argument against it but because you had an emotionally charged reaction to the clerical scandals and only afterwards adopted a new theology. As you put it: "I had never really considered Orthodoxy until my Roman Catholic faith had turned to dust." This suggests that an irrational response then went in search of cognitive validation, rather than rational reexamination. While your initial revulsion and anger at the revelations of clerical misconduct are quite understandable (who couldn't feel the same?), you lost all mental proportion and threw the Christ child out with the bath water. Failing at self-control, you failed to distinguish between (moral) teaching and (immoral) practice, and thus incredibly and pervertedly equated the two, as we just saw in paragraph #1. Therefore, when rightly attacking the faults of various members of the Catholic hierarchy you regrettably resort to hyperbole and the fallacy of tu quoque, a fallacy Our Lord was careful to avoid when criticizing the doctors of the Law. Then, with your mind shot, there was nothing left but to create a fantasy of a religious paradise in the green pastures of Orthodoxy. Except you found, or rather others like me would find for you, that you had one foot in a cow pie and the other about to step in a second. With that, let's discuss reality rather than fantasy.

Brutal, but just wait. All these punches land, and they are well documented in this blog. I'm too lazy to link them, but not to humble to list them: emotion over reason, lack of proportion, search for cognitive validation, throwing the baby out with the bath water, creation of a non-existing Edenic Russian orthodox church in your mind (and your backyard), etc. We've hit on all of these.

Of course, in knowingly and purposely separating yourself from the Catholic fold, you are undeniably a formal schismatic. A situation aggravated, I should add, by your having made a career of assailing the Church, all the while absurdly preaching to Catholics how to live better lives as Catholics. Pertinent to this last point, you wrote a book called The Benedict Option and artfully curry favor with--and sales from--Catholics as well as Catholic communities and organizations, who in some cases have been foolish enough to throw you a party. Why didn't you call it The Orthodox Option?

The closest Catholic gift shop to me has a great stock of Catholic books. But they also carry The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher. I am guessing the nice ladies who run the store have no idea that Dreher is an anti-Catholic, God bless 'em. But it was pushed out to Catholic stores by a publishing company who would never get the cha-ching they want from a book with the word Orthodox in it.

In addition, you make a declaration of your personal failings and seem to admit the superficial nature of your faith and spirituality while you were a Catholic, and then effectively blame the Church for your shortcomings! Strikingly, it is as if you stepped right out of the pages of the Gospel: your faith failed to take root, troubles came along, and you fell away. And now you proudly announce yourself practically immunized against any possible scandals in Orthodoxy by the device of downplaying the institution qua institution. Then why don't you try that back in the Catholic Church? Or how 'bout the Eastern Catholic Church? There you've got nice liturgy and no schism. That is not an "impassioned plea" for your return to the Household of Faith, for which I make no pretense. I am merely writing to direct attention to your penchant for subterfuge.

Told you it got more brutal. Penchant for subterfuge — bingo. Recently I've had to characterize this for a number of people unfamiliar with Rod Dreher's history of alternatively getting scandalized by Catholic scandals and not getting scandalized by Orthodox scandals. It works something like this: "I, Rod Dreher, looked at scandals in my own Catholic faith, and my faith was ruined! So I had to get a new one. So lucky that the Orthodox faith was there. And I learned my lesson: never report on scandals in my own faith community again. Only in others... and one other in particular: the Catholic Church. So convenient...." I know that is not exactly what Father is claiming that he does, but there is no logic in either characterization. Plus there is the added fact that there are very few people who leave the Catholic Church, attack it constantly, and still can be said to have any respect for it. That there are Catholics that don't realize this is the main reason for my bafflement about Dreher and why his condemnation is an ongoing necessity.

7) The Theological Question. It is in this area where you are most vulnerable, and so you tend to avoid it, preferring to whine that you just couldn't take the scandals anymore but still "honor" those who stuck with the Church. As you know and recall, I for one did, and could, as a newly ordained priest, reasonably claim to have undergone a greater conflict and ordeal than you went through. And so I thank you for your honoring and self-depreciation. I must admit, therefore, that in the context of spiritual warfare you remind me of the soldier that General Patton slapped in World War II.

"Don't know much about theology" has been one of Dreher's silliest cop-out lines. The guy has made his living in the world of religion writing.

In the wake of this theological adventure of yours (Protestant saints etc.), and in relation to your preposterous claim that you were "raised within historical Christian orthodoxy," I finally realized that your religion is not Orthodoxy at all. It is instead Pluralism, with devotion to all her pallid issue and slogans flitting about the walls of your cave...diversity, relativism, indifferentism, inclusiveness and the like. Either that or you are just invincibly ignorant of the massive break with historical Christianity that the Reformation represented, including Anglicanism, Arminianism, and Methodism. You should know that the Lutherans, in the sixteenth century, made an overture to the Patriarch of Constantinople and he rebuffed them on the central questions of justification by faith alone and the sacraments. But if you were raised as you say, why the need to become Catholic or Orthodox? Or is there some arcane difference between orthodoxy and Orthodoxy?

Certainly there is plenty of evidence to support Father's point in the 2013 book Little Way of Ruthie Leming, for which I wrote an early review. The faith of his sister which he praises so much can be easily seen to be really the "Moral Therapeutic Deism" which is so often derided by Dreher as the fake, Americanized version of the Christian Faith. And of course the Benedict Option is open to ALL Christians, and Jews, and Muslims....

"A figure like Pope Francis is unthinkable within Orthodoxy." Well, unthinkable until one thinks of Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, who is open to the ordination of women and same-sex marriage on the basis of "consensus," not excluding heretical communions. Ironically, Orthodoxy's continuous flirtations with Anglicanism and the heretical potpourri known as the World Council of Churches surely has, and will make, inroads into Orthodox teaching, especially in the moral arena.

That was just too easy.

All right, I'm just going to laze out the whole way and pull the ol' blogger standby: read the whole thing. There; I included a link for your convenience, O dear reader. I have to admit to be wondering whether or not Father Munkelt will be hit with the cringeworthy mantra. "What is the cringeworthy mantra you keep mentioning, Pauli?" In time, my friends, in time. As Robert Plant sang in Kashmir, "All will be revealed."

I will say one more thing for now. I've waited for something to come along like this, a long-form criticism of Dreherism coming from a member of the Catholic clergy and pointing out the tendencies which I and others have noted for some time. I have been impatient, I confess. It has taken a while for this to take place because this is the wise Catholic way. Many people are impatient for the church to act in small matters and great. "How long, O Lord" right?

I think that a quote from Pope Gregory VII pertains here: "It is the custom of the Roman Church which I unworthily serve with the help of God, to tolerate some things, to turn a blind eye to some, following the spirit of discretion rather than the rigid letter of the law." In following the spirit of discretion, silent reflection is often the correct choice.

But St. Jerome tells is that, at some point, silence fails the virtue of justice. He sums up his reason for overcoming his reluctance and finally writing his letter against Helvidius, whom he considered an ignorant boor: "But all these motives for silence, though just, have more justly ceased to influence me, because of the scandal caused to the brethren who were disgusted at [Helvidius's] ravings." And we have been disgusted at Rod Dreher's ravings. So thank you, Father Munkelt, for your erudition in presenting the errors contained within the ravings. The friends and supporters of Rod Dreher have already begun to nit-pick at your work, but your words are just and true in defense of the Roman Catholic Church, and we welcome them.


  1. Bravo, bravo, bravo. Pop the champagne cork and let the conversation begin!

    1. Diane, drinking champagne during Advent? Before Christmas?? For shame!!

      Give me half a glass, thanks.

  2. Here's a comment posted for Dr. John Rao by the Remnant moderator; Dr. Rao is the author of the book mentioned by Father Munkelt, namely Luther and His Progeny: 500 Years of Protestantism and Its Consequences for Church, State, and Society.

    Part of Dreher's problem is a general problem of modern Eastern Orthodoxy, particularly in its Russian form: its mindlessness. It hides this mindlessness behind an appeal to a supposedly ineffable spirituality that no theology can possibly critique---as Fr. Munkelt so well indicates. That spirituality is very dangerous in its extremely influential "hesychast" form. I had to deal with this frustratingly presumptuous position constantly at Oxford in the 1970's. Every time I would venture a criticism based on any kind of rooted argument--and there are so many very powerful older Eastern theological arguments of the kind that Rod disdains to be found in the magnificent work of the Greek Fathers---the response was: "Alas, you do not trust the Holy Spirit". Sound familiar? It was our "failure to trust the Holy Spirit", as thrust down our throats by the anti-intellectual "spiritual" elitists of the 1960's, that was supposedly the Original Sin of the "RadTrads". But the elitists' "Holy Spirit" was nothing other than their irrational will, whose glorification began with Lamennais and whose triumph has given us the very abuses that good old Rob somehow claims are rooted in the Roman teaching as such. "The Orthodox Option" indeed! I will stick with the Roman Catholic Tradition in its entirety, especially on this day, which is not only the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception but the anniversary of Blessed Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors (1864) as well. Long live both Faith and Reason! Down with the Triumph of the Will!

    1. That is superb!! Will re-post at FB for the benefit of ex-Catholic David Griffey, who keeps telling me what a hot mess Catholicism is compared with that oh-so-solid Orthodoxy.

    2. Diane, consider the vision that motivated Leo XIII to write the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. Here's the vision. Jesus and Satan have the following conversation:

      Satan: I can destroy the Catholic Church
      Jesus: You can? Then go ahead.
      Satan: I need time and I need power.
      Jesus: How much time and how much power?
      Satan: About a century and the power to dominate those who will give themselves to me.
      Jesus: You have the time. You have the power. Do what you want.

      Now, consider the following:

      1. Malachi Martin says that Satan was literally enthroned in the Vatican in 1963. He discussed this in his novel, "Windswept House."

      2. Pedophilia and pederasty (which have plagued the church for centuries) are connected with satanic worship.

      3. God allowed the pagan Assyrians and Babylonians to destroy the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, respectively, and take their populations into captivity as punishment for centuries of idolatry and disobedience -- and He had formed a covenant with the Israelites that He has not abrogated (because God does not abrogate covenants He makes).

      4. If Michael the Archangel is a loyal subordinate of the Triune God, and the Second Person of the Triune God give Satan permission to do anything, do you seriously believe the Archangel will do anything to countermand that permission????

      The Catholic Church is more than a hot mess. It's in full-blown apostasy. Malachi Martin (who never left the faith) said so more than two decades go.

      What about "the gates of Hell will not prevail"? They don't. Read the Book of Revelation. That doesn't mean, however, that God will sit silently and allow those clerics and prelates who claim to bear His Name to soil It with sexual immorality, apostasy, greed for money and prestige, and obtuse, materialistic theology.

      To whom much is given, much will be required. Christ Himself said that, and that especially goes for any institution claiming to be the "one true Church" preaching "the fullness of the Gospel."

      The Catholic Church, especially the leaders, either must repent or be destroyed. There are no other alternatives.

    3. I agree Joe, the Catholic Triumphalism is completely beside the point. Dreher converted for expressly juvenile reasons, therefore what makes anyone think his conversion presents the opportunity to compare Catholicism and Orthodoxy? Meanwhile the Church has far larger problems than nasty Dreher and his prolonged adolescence. Decade after decade I wait for the few remaining catholics in the clergy to stop playing small ball, and they obstinately refuse. So here we are, and things are worse than ever! Great going guys!

    4. kathleen, they can't stop playing "small ball" because they don't have the big balls to play with the big boys. Just sayin'.

    5. It's like using the occasion of a toddler spilling his grape juice as an excuse for a bellowing discourse on different vintages of Bourdeau. "Lamennais" and "hesychast" eyeroll

  3. I can't help thinking that this kerfluffle between Rob Dreher and Fr. Munkelt is nothing more than a couple of big egos having a go at each other, and that the spectators are no better than the people who rubberneck at freeways when they see an accident along the side of the road -- or those who cheer at a hockey game whenever a fight breaks out.

    The egotism is strong in these two, and in the people cheering each of them on. This is a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  4. Can someone else respond to Joseph? I am apologeticsed-out.

    1. No; I'm on to the next project. I've never been into ad hominem-ing Dreher, and I'm not going to ad hominem Father Munkelt.

    2. This isn't about ad hominem-ing anybody. This is about calling a hockey fight what it is.

      If the Catholic Church is the one true Church preaching the fullness of the Gospel, nothing Dreher says will hurt it. If it isn't, then nothing Fr. Munkelt says will save it. Period.

      Some things are beyond personalities and opinions.

  5. Rod Dreher has never been anything but a shapeshifting grifter, appealing alternately to those who devoutly want to believe this, then those who instead devoutly want to believe that. When Jonah Goldberg - Jonah Goldberg! - effectively baptized him as a cuckservative years before the term even existed, Dreher metamorphosed from a writer embedded in politics to a writer embedded in religion.

    Under all the masks Dreher has never been anything other than a moist and pulsing sensate, his only enduring sacrament the delicious flavors which flow over his tongue into his tummy.

    Rod Dreher is Kierkegaard's sign shop owner: instead of "Shoes Repaired Here" the signs for sale read "Catholicism Believed Here", "Orthodoxy Believed Here", "Evangelicalism Believed Here" and the overstocked "What Those Who Pay Me Believe Believed Here". As long as you purchase one of his signs, the shop owner will remain as ecumenical as he will egalitarian.

    As I may have noted previously, Rod Dreher has become, not transsexual, but transreligious, not moving from one creed to another (and, certainly, not leaving any wiggly parts behind on the cutting board) but, rather, transcendental, successively incorporating each of his beats into his own, unique religious culture fusion writing brand.

    From the alpha of Crunchy Cons to the omega of The Benedict Option, the ouroboros has finally discovered the tastiest morsel of all, its own tail.

    1. I have missed your brilliantly vivid and colorful prose, Keith. And your incisive insights. Neither Joe's rants nor Kathleen's eyerolls can remotely compare.

    2. Refraining from insertion of ye olde "brilliantly vivid and colorful prose" in a comment box is also known as "having a life". You both should try it sometime.

    3. So that's the definition of having a life? Silly me. All this time I thought it might have something to do with hanging out with my family, doing my freelance work, walking my dog, listening to Christmas music before a crackling fire, saying my prayers, and just, you know, existing. ;)

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  7. Hi team! Hope this finds all well with you and yours this blessed Christmas season.

    Yeah, I'm late to the party on this one. So late that we've already had someone commenting for the first time in a couple years (Hi, Keith!) admonished to get a life. Sheesh.

    Only thing I've got to add is on the penchant for subterfuge noted by the good Father and expanded on by Pauli's comment on "Rod Dreher's history of alternatively getting scandalized by Catholic scandals and not getting scandalized by Orthodox scandals". Which points out to me that the reason Dreher left the Church in the first place had nothing to do with the Scandal -- it was just a handy pretense, probably accentuated by his being embarrassed for being a Catholic by the cool kidz in the Dallas Morning News newsroom. If the Scandal indeed forced him to call his faith into question, his current faith should similarly be shaken. Which, for his sake, I'm glad it's not, but the subterfuge remains in place.

    Why did he leave, then? IMO, because of aesthetics -- ugly churches, icky music, and lame homilies, as he complained incessantly about back in the day. Emotion over reason, as noted above, or form over substance, etc. etc. as has been discussed here. And why does he keep up the bashing of the Church? I'm no psychologist, but there seems to be at least some part of it that's trying to convince himself the decision was right.

    Anyhoo, it's the same ol' same ol' Merry and Blessed Christmas to all of you, and we'll see you around.

    1. Not of course the "same ol' same ol' Merry and Blessed Christmas". The astute reader will insert a period after the second "same ol'".