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Cardinal Dolan’s Neocon Cheerleader

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

Since Pope Benedict announced his resignation  only one of the potential successors  (Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi) offers hope for a more moderate papacy. So while conservatives are unlikely to be disappointed, prominent American Catholic neo-con Michael Novak is rooting for Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York.  Indeed, if Novak’s one man dream team were to ascend to the Chair of Saint Peter, neo-conservatives like Novak would have the ability influence world events beyond their wildest dreams.  

And if Novak’s dream comes true it would certainly involve the kind of  state-based faith and buccaneer capitalism I have written a lot about.  As typical of many American neocons, Novak began his political odyssey on the Socialist Left but over time, lurched over to the neoconservative Right.  But he is still a revolutionary in search of a revolution.

Novak is a hyper-libertarian when it comes to money but leans towards collective state power on individual morality. And yet there is something profoundly hypocritical about complaining about any state -role in economics while advocating state directed and enforced neo-orthodox Catholic morality. When it comes to business it’s “laissez-faire”, but individuals including (maybe especially) non-Catholics should be coerced into Novak’s neo-Catholic orthodoxy by the long arm of the law.

We should remember that neo-conservatism is built upon a three-legged stool of nationalism (as opposed to patriotism); laissez-faire capitalism (as opposed to the New Deal legacy variety); and religious orthodoxy (as opposed to religious neutrality). It is with this in mind that I must wonder about Novak’s recent cheerleading for Cardinal Dolan to become the Church’s next pope.

While Novak did not mention Cardinal Dolan by name it isn’t difficult to figure out who he wants running things from Vatican City. The neocon “philosopher” has declared, “it’s time for an English speaking candidate to be considered for the post.” After this was pointed out to Cardinal Dolan in a recent interview, with the added proviso “Novak was also referring to the cultural contribution a U.S. Pope could make acting as a crossroads between European and Hispanic cultures” Dolan replied, “Novak is a very intelligent person and what he says always makes sense.”  

For all of his jovial outward appearances, Gotham’s prelate is a vicious culture warrior. For example, when the Opus Dei bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Robert Finn, was taking heat from the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), he joined Bill Donohue and the Catholic League in waging a scorched earth campaign against them, designed to drain it of money while scaring potential victims from cooperating with SNAP.  Novak, it should be noted, serves on the Catholic League’s Board of Advisors, along with other Catholic neocons. The Cardinal has also gone to war against the Affordable Care Act while blunting Catholic criticism of GOP Congressman Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand, libertarian-inspired budget plan.

While Dolan might be the neconservative’s man, Novak’s cheer leading for him is about more than the papacy.  

It is no secret that neo-conservatism has taken a big hit since the debacle of the Iraq War and the halcyon days of  the Bush administration.  Indeed, some of the more pointed criticism of the 2003 invasion has come from the Vatican. Beyond that, much to neocon chagrin even the Papacy of Benedict XVI has denounced the libertarian economics favored by the likes of Robert George, George Weigel and Mr. Novak himself.

Short and sweet:  having a pope who speaks their language sure would help the Catholic necons rebound out of the doldrums.