On a totally overrated article…
Antonio Spadaro and the “Ecumenism of Hate”
On July 13, 2017, the Rome-based Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica published an article entitled “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism.” The authors of the piece are “Fr.” Antonio Spadaro, S.J., who is the periodical’s editor-in-chief, and the Protestant (!) Marcelo Figueroa, who, thanks to “Pope” Francis, is the editor-in-chief of the Argentine edition of the official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.
The article has gained much more attention than it actually deserves. It is a piece filled with half-truths and second-rate polemics, all wrapped in academic-sounding language to give it a veneer of respectability. When stripped of all the rhetoric and gratuitous argumentation, its central thesis is that conservative adherents of the Novus Ordo Sect (“Catholic Integralists”) have certain misguided ideas about society, politics, and culture in common with Protestant fundamentalists, on account of which they are willing to collaborate with each other — and in the authors’ view, this is “surprising.”
Whoop dee doo.
For some reason, the article has gotten lots of attention in the Novus Ordo world. Numerous reviews have been published, both positive and negative. In this post, we will confine ourselves to just a little bit of commentary, not because it merits any, but only because it has been in the news so much.
Replacing one Error with Another
First, we have to note that of course not everything in the article is wrong. On the contrary, Spadaro and Figueroa are quite justified in opposing the Protestant health-and-wealth gospel (aka “prosperity gospel”) that is very popular among Evangelicals (right, “Pope” Francis?!). The problem is, however, that the false gospel they propose as an alternative isn’t any better.
Likewise, the authors are right to lament certain Protestant influences on “Catholic” ideas, but when it comes to secular/Modernist influences, their criticism is practically absent. Here we see the authors’ real ideology at work: Leftism is good; conservatism is bad. They can try to market Leftism as Catholicism (which is what they routinely do), but that would be no better than taking the American “conservative” movement and labeling that as Catholic.
In a way, one can say that they are guilty of what they accuse their opponents of, just in reverse.
Fundamentalism, Theocracy, and Islamic Terrorism
Spadaro denounces the “mingling of politics, morals, and religion” — unless Francis does it, of course — and thereby shows himself to be an adherent of the condemned doctrine of separation of Church and state (see Pope Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors, n. 55), which is to be expected, as he is a son of Vatican II.
But Catholics trying to influence politics in a non-Catholic nation (by ensuring that just laws are made and bad laws are avoided) and society (by facilitating the spread of virtue, wholesome culture, and due regard for the true religion) is not only legitimate but necessary. Even a cursory look at the history of Catholicism in the United States before Vatican II illustrates how things used to be in that regard. The National Legion of Decency, for example, was a powerful Catholic influence to keep filth out of motion pictures, and it was very effective until the 1950s.
What does this have to do with “Protestant fundamentalism”, which the authors spend a lot of time criticizing? Nothing, except perhaps that many Protestant fundamentalists likewise attempt to influence secular politics and society according to their own religious views. If Spadaro is worried about people engaging in a “decontextualized reading of the Old Testament texts about the conquering and defense of the ‘promised land'”, as indeed he should be, then he should also not fail to take a good look at the Zionist nation of Israel and its enablers and defenders, the very people his own boss, “Pope” Francis, calls “the Chosen People”. (Pope Pius XI issued a reality check on that in 1928.)
Certainly, Protestant fundamentalism is wrong, because it is a false religion. But what is not wrong is that the state, just like individuals and families, has an obligation to profess the true religion, to recognize the rights of Jesus Christ the King, and to make laws that are in line with right morals and thus are conducive to the common good. That is the traditional Catholic doctrine known as the “confessional state”. Is it surprising that there should be some overlap here with what Protestant fundamentalists believe? Apparently it is for Mr. Spadaro and his Presbyterian sidekick, who seem rather selective in their application of Vatican II, which claimed that “[t]he Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in [other] religions” (Declaration Nostra Aetate, n. 2).
It was this detestable pseudo-council that, having “opened the windows”, tossed out the Catholic doctrine regarding Church and state, i.e. the confessional state. In its stead, Vatican II proclaimed “religious liberty” as the ideal — and forced Catholic countries, such as Spain and Colombia, to change their constitutions and embrace secularism, the results of which are only too apparent today.
The true Catholic doctrine on Church and state can be summarized as follows, based on Pope Leo XIII’s authoritative teaching in his 1885 encyclical Immortale Dei:
1. God is the author of all true authority, civil and religious alike.
2. Church and state are really distinct societies. Each is a complete society and independent in its own sphere.
3. Church and State should not be hermetically sealed off from one another. They should cooperate peacefully for their own mutual benefit.
4. The Church transcends the State because of the nobility of its nature and its goal.
5. A really Catholic state is per se obliged to make public profession of Catholicism.
(Mgr. Gerard van Noort, Dogmatic Theology II: Christ’s Church [Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1957], n. 213, pp. 351-352)
It is important to clarify here that the Catholic confessional state is the ideal which the Church proposes. It is what God and the Church ultimately desire for every nation. This cannot be realized, of course, in nations where the majority of people is not Catholic, as is the case, for example, in the United States of America. As Fr. Adolphe Tanquerey explains:
Hypothetically, that is, if we posit the fact that the good of society demands that the various kinds of divine worship enjoy the same serenity as the true religion, then what today is called freedom of conscience and of worship can be tolerated.
Therefore, the Roman Pontiffs do not absolutely condemn these freedoms; but they do forbid that these liberties be considered as rights which must be granted to error or to false religion.
(Adolphe Tanquerey, Manual of Dogmatic Theology, vol. 1 [New York, NY: Desclee Company, 1959], n. 281 b.2, p. 168; italics given.)
So yes, it is legitimate for nations to have laws of religious freedom under given circumstances. But that is not what Spadaro is advocating. Rather, he rejects the confessional state in principle, even as an ideal. He acts as though the only alternative to a Protestant theocracy were the religious freedom doctrine of Vatican II, which is plainly false. That is what we fault him for.
Not surprisingly, the authors of the Civiltà hit piece cannot refrain from taking a few cheap shots, such as their accusation that those who do not endorse their liberal separation-of-church-and-state error want to “submit the state to the Bible with a logic that is no different from the one that inspires Islamic fundamentalism”. This guilt-by-association tactic is meant to appeal to the emotions perhaps, but it’s not going to fly: One cannot fault Muslims for wanting to have Muslim nations, nor Protestants for wanting Protestant nations. It makes every sense in the world that they would desire that. The real scandal here is that “Catholics” no longer want Catholic nations!
To try to associate such a position, completely sensible in itself, with Islamic conquest and terrorism is beyond despicable and totally uncalled-for, because a goal is one thing and the means to attain it quite another. Yet, that is exactly what Spadaro and Figueroa do: “At heart, the narrative of terror shapes the world-views of jihadists and the new crusaders and is imbibed from wells that are not too far apart”, they tell their readers.
That “Surprising Ecumenism of Hate”
It takes more than half the essay until the two non-Catholic authors finally mention the word “Catholic” at all: “Appealing to the values of fundamentalism, a strange form of surprising ecumenism is developing between Evangelical fundamentalists and Catholic Integralists brought together by the same desire for religious influence in the political sphere.”
Spadaro conveniently fails to define the term “Catholic Integralism”, thus leaving it up to the reader to decide what exactly he is referring to. Typically, when you hear someone denouncing “Integrism” or “Integralism” in our day, you know you are talking to a Modernist, for this is the word they like to use to refer to the powerful anti-Modernist campaign begun during the reign of Pope St. Pius X in the early 20th century.
Indeed, nothing would have been more pleasing to Pius X — or any real Pope, for that matter — than a Catholicism that is integral, given his pontifical motto: instaurare omnia in Christo — “to restore all things in Christ” (see Pius X, Encyclical E Supremi, passim). This makes even more sense when considering that Catholicism can only truly exist completely and not in parts or elements: “Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected”, said Pius X’s immediate successor, Pope Benedict XV (Encyclical Ad Beatissimi, n. 24).
In any case, the two non-Catholic authors have apparently only now discovered that there is some overlap between conservative Novus Ordo positions and evangelical Protestant positions in terms of political goals, such as opposition to abortion, illegal immigration, and the travesty known as “gay marriage”. At least we now have certitude that this “surprising” news has also arrived in Italy and Argentina.
Returning to cheap polemics, Spadaro and his fellow-non-Catholic co-author gratuitously spin this into an “ecumenism of hate”, an idiotic term that is sure to generate headlines but is ultimately devoid of substance. Why is it to be considered “hate”? Because it doesn’t jibe with oh-so-loving apostate Jesuit, liberal Protestant, and contemporary secular ideology? To modify an old Tina Turner song: What’s hate got to do with it?
The word “hate” is perhaps the most overused and wrongly-used word of our day. It is precisely people like Francis, Spadaro, Thomas Rosica, James Martin, and all of their theological siblings that would have been the first to accuse our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ of “hate” for denouncing the Pharisees in these rather not-so-kind words:
Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you are like to whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear to men beautiful, but within are full of dead men’s bones, and of all filthiness…. You serpents, generation of vipers, how will you flee from the judgment of hell? (Matthew 23:27,33)
You do the works of your father. They said therefore to him: We are not born of fornication: we have one Father, even God. Jesus therefore said to them: If God were your Father, you would indeed love me. For from God I proceeded, and came; for I came not of myself, but he sent me: Why do you not know my speech? Because you cannot hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you will do. (John 8:41-44)
Shall we perhaps accuse Mr. Sparado’s article of being full of “hate”? Or can we agree that these vapid labels and clichés add nothing to the substance of the debate?
Spadaro’s approach here is not very original, nor is it the sign of immense scholarship. It’s just another edition of the old “strange bedfellows” observation: “Hey look, these two camps that are usually opposed, do actually have a few things in common! How about that!” He uses this to turn a fairly uninteresting observation into a “surprising ecumenism”, and one “of hate” to boot.
Having pulled out the big but empty gun of “hate” against his opponents, Spadaro naturally cannot finish his essay without throwing out another worn-out allegation: Those evil “Catholic Integralists” and Protestant fundamentalists are driven by… wait for it… fear!
So there we have them: hate and fear, the two killer epithets that cannot be missing from any liberal “argument”. What better way to discredit one’s opponents than by accusing them of being hateful and scared? This Jesuit agitator has clearly learned his trade.
Spadaro is more than just a simple Jesuit “priest” in the Novus Ordo Sect. In its January 2017 edition, Inside the Vatican named Spadaro one of the Top Ten People of 2016. The magazine notes that “[o]ne Canadian Catholic journalist has called him ‘Francis’ mouthpiece'” (p. 30), and for good reason.
As editor-in-chief La Civiltà Cattolica, he has to get every single article vetted and approved by the “Holy See”, currently headed by another Jesuit, before it is allowed to be published. Spadaro has explicitly confirmed that this was the case also for his hit piece against those “theocratic fundamentalists”:
[Interviewer:] It is true to say that this article, like other articles of La Civilian Cattolica, was approved by the Vatican?
[Spadaro:] Yes. La Civiltà Cattolica is a peer-reviewed magazine. Its articles are always read and approved by the Secretariat of State before they are published. The same was true for this article.
(Gerard O’Connell, “Exclusive interview: Antonio Spadaro on his article about ‘The Ecumenism of Hate’ in the U.S.”, America, July 14, 2017)
Spadaro has made a name for himself putting out such
idiotic sophisms insightful theological declarations as the following: “Theology is not Mathematics. 2 + 2 in Theology can make 5. Because it has to do with God and real life of people…” (@AntonioSpadaro Tweet of Jan. 5, 2017; hashtags removed). Apparently Mr. Spadaro forgot that even in the “real life of people”, 2 plus 2 doesn’t equal 5 either, nor does it for God. This tweet by Spadaro is a perfect illustration that anything goes in Novus Ordo theology. And he would know, because, as Inside the Vatican assures us, he holds “a doctorate [degree] in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University” in Rome (p. 30).
Clearly, what passes for “Catholic theology” in the Eternal City these days is its own best parody.
As we said at the outset, this Spadaro-Figueroa piece does not nearly merit the attention it has received. Written by a Novus Ordo sophist and his Protestant partner, it is totally overrated. We have covered it here only because it has been talked about so much in the Novus Ordo press and has even been mentioned on some secular news sites.
And let’s be honest: Who reads La Civiltà Cattolica anyway? It’s a Modernist rag that has a circulation of 15,000. It gets read by Novus Ordo Jesuits.
So why does anyone care?