The public has been advised that an outfit named the Catholic Identity Conference is organizing a press conference on October 1 in a DoubleTree Hotel ballroom in Pittsburgh that will unveil “articles of resistance against the Vatican and the Pontificate of Pope Francis.” This is exciting stuff; a strong argument can be made that nothing comparable has happened in the Church since 1517, although in that case the person unveiling the articles came up with ninety-five of them, whereas the Catholic Identity Conference can only come up with three.

The points of dispute for the organizers of the press conference will not surprise almost anyone who has followed the past five to ten years of mass hysteria on the Catholic far right:

Intervention 1) Resistance to Pope Francis’s recent violation of natural justice (Traditionis Custodes), which constitutes religious discrimination against practicing Catholics.

Intervention 2) Resistance based on Francis’s undermining of the Church’s established moral theology on contraception and divorce (Amoris Laetitia).

Intervention 3) Resistance based on the Vatican endorsement of the World Economic Forum agenda, including climate change hysteria (as laid out in Laudato Si’) as well as the worldwide lockdown (including of churches), all of which constitute crimes against humanity.

Again, exciting stuff! Certainly nothing we’ve seen and heard before, nothing that people have been arguing endlessly about for years and that most Catholics are frankly sick of, and nothing that comes across as a right-wing conspiracy theory such as one might find on one’s second-least-favorite uncle’s Facebook feed. On top of that, the press conference boasts such exciting, relevant, non-has-been figures as Athanasius Schneider, Abby Johnson, and Carlo Maria Viganò.

(Will Viganò, one wonders, show up in person, or will he prefer to remain physically in his possibly-Bavarian idyll[1] and only put in a virtual appearance? I tend to think a V for Vendettaesque video-uplink setup is the likeliest; Pittsburgh is, after all, overrun by Democrat Party Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton voters, and a Republican pundit like Viganò will want to take that into account.)

The use of the phrase “climate change hysteria” in reference to Laudato Si’ is also interesting, not only in that it underscores how far removed from objective scientific and political realities these people are, but also in that it reveals a deep misunderstanding of their own style, tone, and appeal. “Climate change hysteria” is in itself a histrionic, over-emotive expression, to say the least, and it isn’t the only one in the announcement. “Crimes against humanity” would be another example; this is the sort of expression normally reserved for war crimes and genocide, not temporarily closing churches in accordance with public health guidelines during a pandemic (damaging to many people’s practice of Catholicism as this admittedly was) or pointing out that it’s a lot warmer than it was a few decades ago and this perhaps has something to do with the enormous amounts of exhaust being pumped into the atmosphere. I could argue that the Catholic Identity Conference perpetrated a “crime against humanity” by making me feel compelled to waste a weekday evening responding to their tripe, but I won’t because that would be over-the-top and absurd.

Characterizing Traditionis Custodes as “religious discrimination against practicing Catholics” is similarly difficult to take seriously as anything other than an update for our times of the peasant in Monty Python and the Holy Grail screaming “Help! Help! I’m being repressed!” when King Arthur gets fed up with his anarchist boilerplate. Not only does the use of the phrase “practicing Catholics” effectively prove Pope Francis’s point about partisans of the 1962 Missal in the first place—anyone who would simply start attending the same Mass as the rest of us instead and move on with his or her life is apparently not a “practicing Catholic” to Schneider and company. Never mind that; never mind how threadbare their insistence has become that they don’t dispute the legitimacy of Vatican II and the validity of the reformed rite of the Mass. Their arguments are also historically illiterate special pleading. Was Pius V engaging in “religious discrimination” against those accustomed to the local missals of Milan, Venice, Paris, or Lyon, or any of the other local forms of the Mass that he suppressed in favor of the uniform liturgy that the Council of Trent prescribed? If not, what precisely makes it different from Traditionis Custodes (which does not, of course, suppress the 1962 Missal anyway), other than that the people attending this conference happen to like the form of the Mass that Pius V imposed? Some “hysteria”! I’d hate to see how these people react when they’re subjected to the indignity of a Windows update, something that bothers and disorients even normal people.

In conclusion, this announcement is clearly part of a Russian psyop to make me want to move to Antarctica and the conference itself is going to be the most unintentionally hilarious thing to happen in the Catholic Church since the days of velvet paintings of John Paul II. Perhaps they can elect a successor to the late Pope Michael; they may not have any cardinals (although who knows? Maybe Burke or Brandmüller will roll in unannounced WWE-style), but at least they have more electors than the six (including himself and his parents) who elected David Bawden to the papacy in a Belvue, Kansas thrift store in 1990. I’m only sorry that I won’t be able to watch in slack-jawed horror in real time because I’m going to be serving at (quelle horreur!) a vernacular Mass while it’s happening.

[1] Mike Lewis’s working theory is that Viganò is living somewhere in southeastern Germany under the protection of Gloria von Thurn und Taxis due to their shared ideological interests and the fact that the disgraced former nuncio’s sole public appearance since August 2018 was in Munich.

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Nathan Turowsky is a native New Englander and now lives in Upstate New York. A lifelong fascination with religious ritual led him into first the Episcopal Church and then the Catholic Church. An alumnus of Boston University School of Theology and one of the relatively few Catholic alumni of that primarily Wesleyan institution, he is unmarried and works in the nonprofit sector. He writes at Silicate Siesta.

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