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Life Arts    H4'ed 7/11/15

Scribner's Book about American Catholic Theocons (REVIEW ESSAY)

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) July 11, 2015: In the book THE THEOCONS: SECULAR AMERICA UNDER SIEGE (Doubleday, 2006), Damon Linker has alerted progressives and liberals to watch out for certain American Catholic theocons.

Now, in the book A PARTISAN CHURCH: AMERICAN CATHOLICISM AND THE RISE OF NEOCONSERVATIVE CATHOLICS (Catholic U of America P, 2015), Todd Scribner, who is employed as the education outreach coordinator at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Washington, D.C., discusses certain paleo-conservative American Catholic theocons involved in movement conservatism in the United States -- and criticizes Linker's critique of his like-minded co-religionists.

In the preface, Scribner says, "The opinions expressed in this book are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the policies or positions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops" (page vii).

Whew! It's good to know that his book is not necessarily the official USCCB party-line.

For understandable reasons, progressives and liberals tend to think that the American Catholic bishops are aligned with movement conservatism in the United States.

But make no mistake about it, Scribner is a paleo-conservative Roman Catholic, as are the American Catholic theocons he discusses.

But Scribner tells a highly selective and under-informed story of how certain Roman Catholic theocons rose to prominence in movement conservatism in the United States. He does not adequately contextualize their rise to prominence in movement conservatism in the backward-looking 20th-century American Catholic culture out of which they emerged.

In my estimate, most practicing American Catholics are in one of only two groups: (1) paleo-conservative Roman Catholics and (2) non-paleo-conservative Roman Catholics. Both groups tend to be theocons.

I know, I know, there are occasionally a few rare practicing Roman Catholics who are not paleo-conservative Roman Catholics or non-paleo-conservative Roman Catholic Catholics -- such as the American Jesuit cultural historian and theorist Walter J. Ong (1912-2003), whose body of work represent a synthesis of a new order to supersede the synthesis of the so-called Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas.

Unfortunately, however, the Roman Catholic Church has not yet officially designated Ong to be a Doctor of the Church.

You see, the authoritarian governance structure of the Roman Catholic Church strikes fear in practicing Catholics through its arbitrary and capricious rulings against certain practicing Catholics who venture to think and say anything that is not officially sanctioned by official church teaching.

In plain English, the Roman Catholic bishops prefer group-think -- with themselves as the gatekeepers and judges of what is considered to be orthodox Roman Catholic group-think. They tend to style their approved brand of group-think as orthodoxy -- and as corporatism, which they contrast as individualism.

Of course economic libertarians in the United States today such as the Koch brothers favor economic individualism in a capitalist economic system.

The bishops do not encourage practicing Catholics to think outside the box of officially sanctioned church teachings.

To his credit, Ong somehow managed not to be censured or silenced by the arbitrary and capricious church authorities in the Vatican. But Ong never tired of saying that the church does not have a cosmology based on up-to-date evolutionary theory. Your guess is as good as mine as to why he did not get in trouble with the Vatican for criticizing the church in this respect. Of course this criticism of the church is patently true to this day, so it would be hard for the Vatican to deny its validity. But the Vatican may have bigger fish to fry.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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