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Saturday, December 30, 2017

John Allen Jr: The Gatekeeper of Crunchy Catholicism

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John Allen Jr. John Allen Jr.

As Christopher Ferrara noted, the recent fall of Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, one of the key dogs in Pope Francis’s ecclesiastical kennel, has ripped the mask off the allegedly humble and modest Francis Church. We should have known better; like all “champagne socialists,” the Maradiaga scandal highlights the truism that the more one talks about his love for the poor, the more likely that person does not care about the poor at all. In his timely article, Ferrara also references the work of John Allen Jr., who chronicles the rollercoaster rise, fall and rehabilitation of Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga by Pope Francis himself, in his 2015 book, The Francis Miracle: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church.

In the wake of the scandal’s revelations, Allen’s site, Crux, has released a series of carefully worded articles on the matter, which cast both Maradiaga and Francis, the pope who rehabilitated him, in a cautiously sympathetic light. The day after Christmas, “Crux Staff” penned a piece, “Honduran cardinal says Pope Francis called him expressing support after financial allegations,” which is framed to exalt Maradiaga as a victim of false accusations. Crux printed Maradiaga’s version of a consoling phone call that he received from Pope Francis, who allegedly told the Honduran cardinal, “I’m sorry for all the evil they have done against you, but do not you worry.” To which Maradiaga claimed to have responded, “Holiness, I am at peace - at peace because I am with the Lord Jesus who knows everyone’s heart.”  Finally, although Allen’s Crux does list some of the financial (but not sexual) allegations against Cardinal Maradiaga, the writers loaded the article with Maradiaga’s shoddy version of the events, stating, “The cardinal said the money he received from the university was spent on funding works for the archdiocese, such as helping the poor, providing healthcare, and supporting priests in rural parishes.”

We are thus left with a nagging question: Why would John Allen Jr. and Crux, who have not winced from honest criticism of corrupt clerics in the past, come so quickly to the defense of Cardinal Maradiaga?  

To answer this question, we must first answer another question: Who is John Allen Jr.? 

John Allen Jr. is somewhat of an anomaly in the world of Catholic journalism. He began his career as the moderate or even conservative voice at the sinking flagship of the old liberal establishment, The National Catholic Reporter, where he worked as a Vatican correspondent for sixteen years. After leaving The Reporter, Allen founded Crux at the Boston Globe, the newspaper that turned the 2002 abuse scandal into a full-frontal attack on the Catholic Church.

Allegedly due to financial issues, Allen’s Crux was severed from the Globe and is now curiously and mysteriously funded by the Knights of Columbus.

Throughout his career, Allen has attempted to act as a centrist in his writings, subtly attacking the SSPX, but also writing a book-length plea for aid for the horrific contemporary plight of persecuted Christians across the world. 

Allen’s self-fashioned image of an allegedly moderate centrist, however, is somewhat misleading, and Allen, like others in the Catholic press, is as subtle and crafty a Machiavellian fox as much as he is a gifted wordsmith.

In many ways, John Allen is a mirror image of the Catholic neocons, whom he has criticized. Adopting a social stance as well as just war theory that is much more consonant with the Church’s social teaching, Allen even has fired little mortars at the edifice of lies and misrepresentations that the neocons have built over the past almost four decades. In The Francis Effect, Allen demolishes the oft repeated neocon claim that Centesimus Annus represents a watershed in John Paul II’s thinking in which he is firmly convinced by Italian politician Rocco Buttiglione of the genius of Michael Novak’s idolization of capitalism. On the contrary, as Allen reminds American Catholics (those wearing the rose-colored neocon glasses of Witness to Hope), John Paul II stated in his early work The Catholic Social Ethic that “the bourgeois mentality and capitalism as a whole, with its materialistic spirit, acutely contradict the gospel.”

Furthermore, unlike the writings of obnoxiously arrogant neocons like George Weigel, and the late Fr. Richard Neuhaus and Michael Novak, John Allen Jr.’s prose is warmed by a charming, intelligent, and (mostly) honest personality. Finally, unlike the neocons, Allen (for the most part) does not have to brag about his “Vatican connections”; in his books especially, it is clear that he is the most informed and “plugged in” Catholic journalist in the Anglophone world.

But being a Vatican insider in the 21st century is not necessarily a good thing--especially when Pope Francis’s Vatican is drenched in heresy as well as sexual and financial scandal (with accusations of Satanic practice, for good measure!). One of Allen’s closest contacts for the construction of The Francis Effect was Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, one of the ring leaders of the St. Gallen Mafia who helped to plot the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio. John Allen should be careful when bragging about his relationship with Cardinal Danneels who, as Elizabeth Yore has pointed out, was involved in a massive coverup of elaborate networks of sexual abuse.  Even more frighteningly, there are rumors of connections to the horrific Dutroux Affair, one of the most public and disgusting child trafficking cases in contemporary history, which even the mainstream media could not suppress.

This is not, of course, to accuse John Allen Jr. of involvement with the Belgium abuse scandals, but it is, on the other hand, difficult to believe that such a keen, Catholic, Sherlock Holmesian mind as Allen’s would be unaware of the scandal.

Outside of his friendships with scandalous prelates, throughout his career Allen has utilized his talents to achieve two goals: to make conservative prelates like Benedict XVI seem less conservative to liberal audiences and, more importantly, to make liberal prelates and policies seem less liberal to conservative Catholics.

In fact, a subgroup of “conservative” Catholics has formed in John Allen’s wake. This group draws from the “crunchy conservatism” of apostate-from-the-Catholic-faith and never-Trumper, Social Justice Warrior lite, ecumenical huckster, Rod Dreher, whom your humble author saw the other day at Whole Foods (yes, seriously).  This group, while sometimes adopting the cover of Hipster Catholicism, combines traditional Catholic piety with New Left, civilization-suicide social policies like open borders and multiculturalism. However, what is most curious and unsettling is the deep sympathy Allen and his followers have for the “love that dare not speak its name,” which always, as we have seen with the Maradiaga scandal, follows in tow with doctrinal and moral corruption. 

Like Catholic neocons’ efforts to moderate some of the most notorious figures in the post-Vatican II Church hierarchy, John Allen has, throughout his writings, attempted to make Francis seem less radical. In his pre-Amoris Laetitia book, Francis Effect, Allen argues that Francis “is no doctrinal radical” and has “not changed as single word of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” that is as of 2015. On the other hand, with refreshing honesty, Allen specifically uses the Saul Alinsky Marxist term “change agent” to describe Pope Francis whose seeming heresies actually reflect a “moderate, flexible approach to Catholic doctrine…”

This doublespeak is characteristic of Allen who, like his fellow traveler, Fr. James Martin,
uses very slippery coded language to dog whistle to his leftist audience
while consoling his conservative readers.

In Allen’s reading, Pope Francis is not a modernist “dictator pope.” He is like a friendly, liberal uncle from Seattle or Minneapolis-St. Paul who has dedicated his life to “opposing war” and his “green policies,” so his courting of racist, anti-Christian eugenicists like Jeffrey Sachs springs from his “concern for the environment and protecting people at the margins of life.” As Allen notes later in The Francis Effect, Pope Francis is a sign that Cardinal Bernardin’s notorious “seamless garment ethic” has finally creeped into the papacy. Allen approvingly cites Atlantic Monthly journalist Tara Isabella Burton’s position that “‘...Francis is leading Catholics to view environmental concern as part and parcel of what it means to foster a culture of life,’ and therefore of equivalent importance to resisting abortion and gay marriage.” Allen’s statement here explains so much of Pope Francis’s papacy and its sign that the Old Liberals have struck back and have succeeded in diffusing the pro-life movement from the See of Peter itself.

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Rather than acting as a stooge for George Soros and the EU’s plan to physically and culturally exterminate Europe and European people, Pope Francis, in Allen’s presentation, is motivated by concern for “immigrants.” Moreover, Pope Francis’s watershed washing of two Muslim’s feet in the infamous 2013 Maundy Thursday service is merely, for Allen, “a technical violation of Church rules,” which, however, provided “a visual illustration of what... [Pope Francis’s]...reform looks like.” Truer words could not be said.

Moreover, as the neocons like George Weigel attempted to market their own version of John Paul II as the “cool” pope of World Youth Days who snatched sunglasses out of the hands of celebrities like Bono of the Irish rock band U2, John Allen revels in the fact that Francis is perceived as being a “cool” pope “who has been splashed across more magazine covers than Scarlett Johansson” and “who has been googled almost as often as Justin Bieber.” 

The problem with this notion, popularized by John XXIII, the “smiling pope” of aggiornamento, is that it is so contrary to the Christian example. From Christ himself who was rejected by his own people and crucified by the Romans, to the Christian martyrs who were tormented by lions while pagans jeered, to St. Francis whose own father thought he was crazy and St. Thomas Aquinas who was mocked for his taciturnity and size, to St. Padre Pio of our own time whose stigmata is mocked by television “exposés”, true Christians have always been despised by the world.

However, Allen’s Francis Effect is not without some minor criticism of Francis--especially his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Allen notes that the archdiocese ordained a paltry 12 new priests under Bergoglio under whose tenure the seminarian population had, in fact, shrunk.

Image result for archbishop bergoglio of buenos aires partyBecause, priorities...

In The Francis Effect, Allen further tries to provide cover for the bishops of the West, like Cardinals Marx, Kasper, and Schonborn whose words and deeds belie a radical worldview, by making the absurd statement: “By secular standards, there are no liberal bishops--who would favor abortion rights, gay marriage and playing down the role of religion in public life. In the Church, a liberal bishop usually means someone committed to Church teaching but flexible and accommodating in the way it’s applied, while a conservative believes in drawing lines in the sand.”  This has been one of Allen’s primary modus operandi in his works: convincing well intentioned, genuinely pious, and even conservative-leaning Catholics that liberal and heretical prelates are not actually flaming liberals; they are just really, really nice.

In The Francis Effect, occultists like Teilhard de Chardin and suspected modernists like Karl Rahner and Jean Danielou are also praised by Allen as “daring Jesuit thinkers.” Instead of a hodgepodge of sexual degenerates, communists, and heretics, the “progressive Jesuits” of the 20th and 21st century have waged a heroic jihad against “unjust social structures” (a Marxist term, by the way) in their noble attempt to build a new world of justice and peace.

Allen, in The Francis Effect, also adopts the modernist, liberation theology method of distinguishing the Church’s pastoral praxis from her perennial teaching. Allen tells the story of an anonymous Cardinal whom Allen overheard telling a divorced and remarried Italian woman at a book signing “many years ago” that even though the Church officially taught that she could not receive communion, “as a pastor,” the cardinal could not tell her what to do, and it was up to her “conscience” with the “advice” of her pastor.

Allen’s explanation of the Cardinal’s seeming condoning of sacrilege is very telling and deserves to be quoted in full:

“In a nutshell, that’s the difference between law in Catholicism, which is generally sweeping, and firm, and how it’s applied, which can leave room for tremendous nuance and flexibility--depending, of course, on who’s doing the applying.”

This dangerously misleading passage, which Allen is here transmitting to his very large audience, encapsulates the poison of modernist thinking that is overflowing in the Francis Church and is jeopardizing the souls of many in the Church. It is an idea more dangerous than open rebellion against the Church’s teaching, for it has the power to seduce well-intentioned Catholics into serious error.

It goes without saying that the Church’s doctrine and law are the absolute, unchanging guide for Catholic praxis or activity, and anyone who says otherwise is either confused or is a liar.

Interestingly, as the Francis Miracle reveals, the one issue of which Allen is especially defensive is sodomy--especially clerical homosexuals. In The Francis Effect, Allen uses very Fr. James Martin-esque, gay-friendly language to describe the left’s disappointment that the 2014 Synod on Marriage and the Family did not include “a new welcome for homosexuals” or the recognition of “positive values in non-traditional relationships.” Needless to say, this soft Kindergarten language is not the language the Church has traditionally used to condemn adultery and sodomy.

Furthermore, like a nipping terrier to a UPS driver, Allen quickly attacks any criticism of homosexuals in or out of the presbyterate. Allen even genuinely thinks that being gay is cool; he writes that Pope Francis’s “instantly famous line about gays--‘Who am I to judge?’--was among the most quoted phrases of 2013, earning him ‘person of the year’ honors from not only TIME magazine but also pro-gay magazine The Advocate, which showed the pope’s smiling face with a ‘NO H8’ sticker.” Allen further praises Pope Francis’s appointment of the relatively young Rainer Maria Woelki as Archbishop of Cologne, who received “a Respect Ward from the German Alliance Against Homophobia.”

John Allen Jr., if anything, could only have been produced by Vatican II, the pinnacle of modernism. Like his neocon rivals, Allen is a grandchild of modernism and is a hodgepodge of “conservative” Novus Ordo piety and heretical ideas. While Allen’s Rod Dreher-esque, cheerful coffee shop, soft spoken, goofy uncle persona may attract many Catholics disgusted by the “angry dad” persona exuded by Catholic neocons, his work lacks the militancy and sobriety needed to fight the great moral and spiritual battles of the 21st century.

We live in an era, dear friends, in which we are fighting for the very existence of Western Christian civilization and in which, as President Donald Trump has shown, being nice and conciliatory is not enough to win political dog fights. As a result, at the very least, John Allen Jr.’s nice guy, crunchy Catholicism is not enough to topple the edifice of modernism and degeneracy that is rotting the Church from the top down. Moreover, Allen’s odd sympathy for the sins of the flesh should cause some alarm among Catholics. But, perhaps most importantly, Allen’s work must be recognized as providing cover for heretics and degenerates in the Church, and as Catholics it is our job to expose this evil and, as the poet said, “Let not the royal bed of Denmark be / A couch for luxury and damnéd incest.” 

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