• RSS Queering the Church

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • RSS Spirit of a Liberal

    • To my Republican Friends July 6, 2020
      You voted for Trump even though you didn't like him. Doubted his character. Questioned his fitness for the job. Yet, your aversion to Hillary was even greater The post To my Republican Friends first appeared on Spirit of a Liberal.
      Obie Holmen
    • Wormwood and Gall a Midwest Book Award Finalist May 4, 2020
      The Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MIPA) recently named Wormwood and Gall as one of three finalists for a Midwest Book Award in the Religion/Philosophy category. The awards program, which is organized by MIPA, recognizes quality in independent publishing in the Midwest. The post Wormwood and Gall a Midwest Book Award Finalist first appeared on S […]
      Obie Holmen
  • RSS There Will be Bread

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • RSS The Wild Reed

    • Photo of the Day February 5, 2023
      Related Off-site Link:Mild Temps Sunday and Beyond – Ron Trenda (Minnesota Public Radio News, February 5, 2023).See also the previous Wild Reed posts:• Photo of the Day – January 20, 2023• Wintering• Brigit Anna McNeill on “Winter’s Way”• Brigit Anna McNeill on Hearing the Wild and Natural Call to Go Inwards• Winter Beauty• Winter Light• After Record-Breakin […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • Quote of the Day February 4, 2023
      I believe in the human capacity to learn from mistakes and to make amends, and that atonement should be rewarded not punished. Rep. Omar and I disagree regularly on policies, both domestic policy and foreign policy. She has made statements that [I experienced as] hurtful, painful and we have spoken about those. I do not believe that’s grounds for removal fro […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
  • RSS Bilgrimage

  • RSS Enlightened Catholicism

  • RSS Far From Rome

    • the way ahead March 23, 2013
      My current blog is called the way ahead.
      noreply@blogger.com (PrickliestPear)
  • RSS The Gay Mystic

    • A saint for the millenials: Carlo Acutis beatified today in Assisi. October 10, 2020
       A saint for the millenials: the young Italian teen, Carlo Acutis, who died in 2006 of galloping Leukemia, will be beatified today in Assisi by Pope Francis (last step before being officially declared a saint). Carlo came from a luke warm Catholic family, but at the age of 7, when he received his first 'Holy Communion', he displayed an astonishing […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Unknown)
    • Ronan Park and Jack Vidgen: The Travails of Gay Pop Stars October 28, 2019
      (Jack Vidgen)Quite by accident, through a comment from a performance arts colleague of mine, I stumbled across the recent bios of two boy teen singing sensations, both of whom made a big splash worldwide 8 years ago. The first, Jack Vidgen, won Australia's Got Talent Contest in 2011 at the age of 14, primarily for his powerful renditions of Whitney Hust […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Unknown)
  • RSS The Jesus Manifesto

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • RSS John McNeill: Spiritual Transformations

  • RSS Perspective

    • Bob Marley February 7, 2023
      Happy birthday today to Jamaican musician Bob Marley, who died in 1981. Here is Eric Clapton doing one of Marley's more well known songs, I Shot the Sheriff ...
      noreply@blogger.com (crystal)

Back to Rev. C. John McCloskey’s Dystopian Future

Originally posted at Talk to Action

John McCloskey Recently Talk to Action’s Fred Clarkson authored a very important essay for Religion Dispatches concerning the growing alliance between conservative Evangelical Protestants and some traditionalist Catholics. He focused on Eric Metaxas, the revisionist biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Opus Dei priest to the powerful, C. John McCloskey.

In his essay, Fred discussed McCloskey’s literary vision for the Catholic Church in the year 2030. But while his story appeared to be about a smaller and more strident Church, it also appears to be a broadside against birth control – and by extension, Keynesian economics.

Understanding McCloskey

Rev. C. John McCloskey is the Catholic Right’s culture warrior’s culture warrior. Whether it be economics or religion, he can be fearlessly forceful and controversial. He is well-connected with the politically powerful, having friends such as former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), Kansas Republican governor Sam Brownback, as well as friends on Wall Street such as converts Lawrence Kudlow and Mark Belnick.

In a 2002 piece for Slate, Chris Sullentrop offered a spot-on assessment of McCloskey:

McCloskey is a native Washingtonian, an Ivy Leaguer who graduated from Columbia and a former Wall Streeter who worked at Citibank and Merrill Lynch. As a result, he travels comfortably in elite circles, and his ministry is focused on them: on young priests and seminarians (the intellectual elite in many Catholic communities), on college students at elite universities and “strong countercultural” Catholic institutions, and on “opinion-makers and people of influence.” The self-described supply-sider has a top-down strategy to transform the culture, too. He wants to turn Blue America into Red

But as both Fred Clarkson and I have documented, McCloskey is not a conservative in the mode of Barry Goldwater but a reactionary in the mode of de Maistre. In the early 1990s Catholic students successfully petitioned for him to be removed from the chaplaincy at Princeton University. As the Opus Dei Action Network reported in a story sourced from the Trenton Times, McCloskey counseled students not to take courses given by professors who he defined as “anti-Christian.” His more recent writings scorn non-Christians as “pagans” and openly hint at violent insurrection as a means of achieving political ends while predicting “We will convert those Moslems yet!” A picture emerges of a man who is not merely old-fashioned in his beliefs, but militantly so.

Looking Back from Dystopia

This leads us to one of McCloskey’s most incendiary pieces to date, 2030: Looking Backwards. The writing is in the form of a January 1, 2030 letter to a young pried from a seventy-seven year-old priest named Fr. Charles. It is nothing less than an imagined triumphant manifesto for Opus Dei.

The Catholic reactionary vision would be calamitous for most of the rest of us — particularly Catholics who look to the government to protect them from the hierarchy’s more strident positions on issues such as reproductive rights and stem cell research. Fred Clarkson gave us clear idea of McCloskey’s future vision:

In his original essay, McCloskey’s avatar, Fr. Charles, explained how “the great battles over the last 30 years over the fundamental issues of the sanctity of marriage, the rights of parents, and the sacredness of human life have been of enormous help in renewing the Church and to some extent, society.”

McCloskey’s literary device allows him to avoid openly seditious language, while suggesting that conservative Catholics and allied evangelicals should prepare for civil war. Now a Research Fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute, which published his update, McCloskey repeated his vision of “the secession of the ‘Culture of Life’ states from the United States, precipitating a short and bloody civil war that resulted in a collection of the Regional States of America.” He also says that the Church of “2030” was “much smaller… and nary a dissenter to be seen.”

Interwoven throughout the piece are attacks on birth control. Statements such as “You will also note that as a group they [Catholics] are averaging four to five children per family, which means that over the next few decades we will see an increasing natural growth” as well as “We pray that as Europe survived the barbarian invasions of the so called Dark Ages, it will survive its own attempted continental suicide by contraception…” stand out as issues McCloskey specially seems wanted highlighted. If that were to be the case, the question becomes what was the militant priest truly after?

Why 2030?

But why did McCloskey pick the year 2030 as his year from which to look backwards? Was it arbitrary or just a thirty-year point in the future from when the essay was written? Was part of his attack purely against contraception? I suspect that the Opus Dei priest’s choice of dates may have been deliberate and has to do with economics.

First, let’s look back to 1930. It was in that first year of the Great Depression that the British economist John Maynard Keynes wrote his essay The Economic Possibilities For Our Grandchildren.

In his essay Keynes envisioned a world where only fifteen hours a week of work would be necessary to live the equivalent of a comfortable middle-class life; one in which we led lives full of productive leisure – art, scientific inquiry and civic involvement (not idleness). Capitalism was a necessary but temporal evil that (he hoped) would eventually extinguish itself once everyone was free from want. There would be no Marxian apocalypse, merely transformation. Just a scarcity disappeared as a relevant economic consideration, so to would the need for money-making. It is Keynes’s estimation of when this better world would exist that should sate our interest:

But this [The Great Depression] is only a temporary phase of maladjustment. All this means in the long run that mankind is solving its economic problem. I would predict that the standard of life in progressive countries one hundred years hence will be between four and eight times as high as it is today.

That would be 2030.

But it is probably the first of four prerequisites of a coming society Keynes described that had to have gotten under McCloskey’s skin:

The pace at which we can reach our destination of economic bliss will be
governed by four things – our power to control population, our determination to
avoid wars and civil dissensions, our willingness to entrust to science the direction of those matters which are properly the concern of science, and the
rate of accumulation as fixed by the margin between our production and our consumption; of which the last will easily look after itself, given the first three. (italics added)

We must remember that McCloskey is a self-described “supply-sider.” And if there is a bogeyman for supply-siders, it is John Maynard Keynes. It was Keynes who stated in his Magnum Opus, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, “[S]upply creates its own demand in the sense that the aggregate demand price is equal to the aggregate supply price for all levels of output and employment.” In other words, it is demand that needs to be maintained; that, in turn, will take care of supply. Add government intercession through active fiscal policy to the equation and you an anathema to supply-siders. Throw in Keynes’s belief in birth control and you also have the perfect storm for an economic/religious conservative such as McCloskey.

While McCloskey does not directly discuss economics in his 2030 piece, he has elsewhere demonstrated his antipathy to birth control from an economic point of view. Indeed, in a 2011 book review he made an incredible assertion — one repeated by many on the Catholic Right:

Therefore, according to Mueller, both private savings and government insurance will reduce fertility. He also shows the connection between weekly worship and higher fertility. He analyzes marriage in this way: “In a certain sense the spouses are partners in a small business; and to make the most of their house resources, work out a coordination of economic roles.” There is much more, including an empirical analysis showing that halting all abortion would almost immediately solve the problem of the bankruptcy of Social Security, but I will let you discover these fascinating insights on your own.

The assumption that merely by increasing the birth rate that it “would almost immediately solve the problem of the bankruptcy of Social Security” is absolutely absurd. More importantly, McCloskey – who has a degree in economics from Columbia University – must know it.

A study by McCloskey’s Alma Mater points out, “In 2001, close to 2 million children received survivors benefits with the average monthly benefit being $554 per child.” The result of a population burst of the type McCloskey envisions would more likely be a greater strain on Social Security and other safety net programs. After all, more children translates into a greater number of dependents if a parent were to die – a greater probability as the average parent age at birth would be increasing.

There is nothing new about dishonest attacks on Keynesian economics by Opus Dei Catholics. In 2011 I wrote about how the since-resigned head of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti-Tedeschi, not only attacked the eminent British economist on similar grounds but also significantly misrepresented (or misunderstood?) Keynes’s view on saving (he was not opposed to saving, but having it exceed investment).

Can we say for sure that McCloskey was using birth control to attack Keynes? I cannot read his mind — but in rereading McCloskey’s 2030 piece in conjunction with his past statements on ministering to wealthy elites and his other writings, that esoteric jab at Keynes did indeed leap out at me.

But it is where this all leads that is of greater concern. Here is a movement conservative clergyman with powerful connections, and unlike Kenyes, from what I have read from McCloskey over the years, little concern for the economically marginalized. Also unlike Keynes, who was concerned with peaceful transformation, McCloskey is not shy about discussing violence as a means to his dystopic end for society. If that be the case it is the English atheist who lived more Christ-like than this reactionary Catholic priest.

Advertisement

A Question for Bishop Olmsted

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, head of the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona made news recently by excommunicating and disciplining Sister Margaret McBride, a hospital administrator who allowed an abortion in order to save the life of a critically ill pregnant woman. Olmsted who has been a highly visible opponent of abortion rights said, “The Catholic Church will continue to defend life and proclaim the evil of abortion without compromise, and must act to correct even her own members if they fail in this duty.”

“Without compromise,” says the bishop. But his zeal left me asking myself: ‘would he impose his narrow view upon the very first followers of Christ who most likely had a quite different opinion when a pregnancy endangered a woman’s life?’

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted has been described as “a company man” when it comes to orthodoxy. As if to live up to this reputation he has denyied Communion to a ten year-old autistic boy unable to swallow; fired the diocese’s nationally-recognized head of Office of Child and Youth Protection because she was married in a civil ceremony; and when President Obama issued the executive order rescinding the previous administration’s onerous restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, he declared: “What President Obama is doing is forcing all American taxpayers to pay for this homicidal research.”

That’s why it is no surprise that he came down hard and fast on Sr. McBride, whose responsibilities at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix included sitting on the hospital’s ethics board, partly to ensure that the medical center adhered to Catholic standards of bio-ethics.

It was in that capacity that she gave the go-ahead for a woman’s eleven-week pregnancy to be terminated. Doctors had determined that continuation of the pregnancy would end the mother’s life due to complications from a pulmonary hypertension.

The Arizona Republic quoted Olmstead as saying:

“I am gravely concerned by the fact that an abortion was performed several months ago in a Catholic hospital in this diocese,” Olmsted said. “I am further concerned by the hospital’s statement that the termination of a human life was necessary to treat the mother’s underlying medical condition.

“An unborn child is not a disease. While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother’s life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means.”

Olmsted added that if a Catholic “formally cooperates” in an abortion, he or she is automatically excommunicated.

Olmsted’s action even perplexed Catholic conservatives. Writing in the neoconservative journal, First Things, theologian Michael Liccione questioned the bishop’s judgment: “The question is whether he [Olmsted] is indeed right, and that is not clear even to some orthodox Catholics.”

“Moreover,” he cautiously added, “the public outrage over the Phoenix case illustrates the dangers of making politically significant announcements on the basis of moral reasoning that not many people can follow and that even theologically well-educated Catholics disagree about.”

This much is clear: Olmsted is one of a new breed of prelate being promoted by the current pontiff. As a group, they are unyielding to the point of militancy. They are men who subscribe to the letter, but not the spirit of the law — a version of which they would readily apply, given the opportunity, to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

But, I wondered what Olmsted would do if a wife of one of Jesus’s Apostles had faced the same life-threatening scenario as this pregnant mother of four suffering from pulmonary hypertension, and she too had sought an abortion to save her life?

The question, although hypothetical, illustrates a contradiction in Olmsted’s version of orthodoxy. The Apostles were all practicing Jews before and after becoming followers of Jesus. And as adherents to Jewish law and customs, if a wife or daughter of one of the Twelve had been in the same life-threatening predicament as that mother of four had been, they would probably have done the same as Sister McBride.

By this standard, it is fair to say that Sister McBride was operating in the tradition of the Apostles. But I wonder — would Bishop Olmsted have excommunicated an Apostle?