It’s been a stressful few days in the United States, to say the least.
On Thursday morning, I participated in an online briefing hosted by the UK-based Religion Media Centre. The purpose was to inform UK-based religion reporters about the religious angle of the Wednesday protests and riots in Washington. I was asked to give my perspective on the role of Catholics in the insurrection. Sebastian Milbank of the Tablet wrote up a report of my comments:
“The main and most powerful outlet is EWTN…they’ve been openly promoting Donald Trump,” he said.
Mr Lewis described how the rise of Donald Trump let to a “conflation of the theological resistance [to Pope Francis] with a political resistance and it picked up some momentum: the idea that Pope Francis is a socialist, Pope Francis is a Marxist.”
Mr Lewis went on to recount how the chief anchor of EWTN news, Raymond Arroyo, had “tweeted that the event had a Les Misérables air…he showed a video of a fire extinguisher being exploded within the capitol building. A lot of them are romanticising this…they’ve really been fostering this narrative…it’s become this political mouthpiece”. (The tweet has since been taken down.)
Although Arroyo took down the tweet, here is a screenshot:
He also quotes me speaking about how I believe abortion has played a key role in much of the polarization we’re seeing:
According to Mr Lewis “the key here is the abortion issue…they’ve been able to leverage that to demonise the Democratic party and make it sound like the Republican party is the only alternative…that hooks them theologically then politically they just pump in the propaganda…and from there it gets more and more conspiratorial.”
Indeed, while I don’t excuse any of the insanity that has happened in the Republican Party or in US Conservative Catholicism in recent years, the Democratic Party’s absolutist position on abortion has played a key role in driving faithful Catholics away. Almost a year ago, Michael Sean Winters wrote about the uphill battle Catholic Democrats face in fixing their party in this area. On the other side, it’s a sad reality that rather than enriching the GOP with Catholic values, the Catholics in the party have instead adopted many GOP values that oppose Catholic principles.
Also in the Tablet (or the Pill, as more than one person has told me Pope Francis refers to it), Christopher Lamb wrote an article about Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (popularly known as the blogging priest Fr. Z), who has been performing a form of the Rite of Exorcism every day after Mass in recent weeks, streaming it on YouTube, to prevent election fraud, stating that he had the approval of his bishop. Lamb writes:
Ever since President Joe Biden emerged as the winner of the United States’ presidential election, Fr John Zuhlsdorf has been carrying out exorcisms about what he describes as “fraud” and “lying” during the vote-counting process.
The prominent priest-blogger and President Trump supporter, also claimed that his Bishop, Donald Hying of Madison, granted him the authority to carry out the exorcism rite.
But the bishop – who must give his permission for exorcisms to happen – says he never authorised Fr Zuhlsdorf’s “partisan political activity”.
And according the local bishop, that’s not what Zuhlsdorf was granted permission to do:
Bishop Donald Hying of Madison, who has oversight over Fr Zuhsldorf, disassociated himself from the priest’s actions.
“A number of people have falsely concluded that I, as the Bishop of Madison, gave Fr John Zuhlsdorf permission to perform the rite of the sacramental of exorcism in relation to partisan political activity, to those seeking or holding elected office, or to recent developments in electoral politics in our country,” he said in a statement.
This is a developing story. Read it all, including a statement from the bishop of the Diocese of Velletri-Segni, near Rome, where Zuhlsdorf is incardinated.
Image: Westminster Cathedral, London. By Diliff – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29687869