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Sunday, September 23, 2018

A Wilderness of Mirrors Part III: “Rod Dreher's Roman Holiday”

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See Part I here and Part II here.

The 1953 film Roman Holiday starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn captures the zeitgeist of post-World War II Western Europe which, dominated by American troops stationed throughout the continent and with the old world of throne and order wiped away by two enormous and destructive wars, fell passionately in love with America and Americanism.

In fact, this is (almost) literally what happens in the film.

Hepburn plays Ann, a European princess who is wound up so tightly with the remnants of the old European Christian culture and decorum that she is forced to take a sedative, which leaves her passed out on a bench.

She is met by Peck’s Joe Bradley, a smooth talking and charming American riding high on the confidence of being a member of the coolest and, in 1953, most powerful nation on earth, who tells her (and, by implication, the whole now docile European continent) to “live dangerously” and “take some time for herself.”

The plot, like that of so many late nineteenth and early twentieth century plays, novels, and films, is eminently predicable as the American Joe liberates the stuffy European Ann from her ordered life and introduces her to the new world, only to leave her behind walking out alone at the end of one of the most charming and gorgeous films of the twentieth century.

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The liberation of Princess Ann on the banks of the Tiber that Roman Holiday embellishes was writ large less than ten years later in the Eternal City as Pope John XXIII set in motion Vatican II, a council, which, now more than fifty years later, has proven to have caused more damage to the Church than any other event in the Church’s history.

Documents such as Gaudium et Spes, Dignitatis Humanae, and Nostra Aetate with their deliberately ambiguous wording effectively neutered the Church’s influence and power over the West and created a vacuum into which liberalism, Marxism, and the Hollywood culture of degeneracy could pour.

This collapse of Catholic political power inspired a train of thought among Catholics that can only be best described as “chickening out.”

Happy to see the triumph of radicalism in the Church, the French NeoThomist, Jacques Maritain would write of the need for the Church to serve as a sort of leaven in the societies over which She no longer had control.

Maritain’s vision would be echoed by Benedict XVI, who, as Joseph Ratzinger would speak of a “smaller” Church that could affect an increasingly hostile secular world through radical witness of the Gospel.

In the twenty-first century, the vision of Maritain and Benedict has been echoed and expanded in The Benedict Option by Ray “Rod” Dreher, a journalist who, although having abandoned the Catholic faith, has become one of the most visible spokesman for “conservative” Catholicism in the West today.

In fact, like Roman Holiday’s Joe Bradley, Ray Dreher has recently undertaken a Roman holiday of his own to promote the Italian translation of the Benedict Option.

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Amidst several trips to the Gelateria captured by Dreher’s trademark “peak a boo” selfie, Ray Dreher had time to meet with of the most powerful individuals in the Catholic Church.

Gorgeous GeorgeOur friend Ray was invited to a closed doors meeting sponsored by the De Gasperi Foundation (more on them in a second) on September 11 at which he was effusively praised by Archbishop Georg Gänswein, also known as “Gorgeous George,” head of the papal Household.

Needless to say, Ray ate up the endorsement like a fat kid gobbling down Fruit Roll Ups after school.

Archbishop Gänswein’s comments, however, bear closer scrutiny, for they reveal another rabbit hole in the “wilderness of mirrors” surrounding the abuse scandal.

In his, one must admit, beautifully written and poetic speech, amidst much praise for our friend Ray, His excellency refers to Dreher as someone:

“Who completely corresponds to the desires and tastes of Pope Francis….”

This statement is very interesting, for, in it, are a number of coded signals.

First of all, Gänswein is making it perfectly clear to Pope Francis where the Archbishop’s loyalty lies. His Excellency’s statement continues with assurance to Francis and the world that the Holy Father is on top of the scandal:

“Because no one else in Rome knows better than he that the crisis of the Church, in its core, is a crisis of the clergy.”

Maybe this statement could be read ironically and maybe it should. But, on face value, Gänswein is telling the world that Francis is on top of the situation and, by doing so, is telling Francis that he is loyal.

Finally, with his cryptic statement, the Archbishop is (at least possibly) sending a message to Dreher to keep his journalistic mittens off of the Holy Father and let Wuerl take the blame.

This reading seems likely, for Gänswein follows his enigmatic words with endorsement of Ray’s reporting of the abuse crisis, proclaiming that “the time has come for the strong and determined laymen, especially in the new independent Catholic media, as embodied by Rod Dreher.”

Wait, how can an Orthodox apostate from the faith be the embodiment of “the new independent Catholic media”?

Perhaps Gänswein didn’t know that Ray had left the faith; this ignorance is, of course, forgivable, since Dreher’s journalism as well as his several books are all dominated with discussion of Roman Catholicism.

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Regardless, the endorsement of Dreher’s work by one of the more powerful men in the Vatican seems odd.

While Archbishop Gänswein saw in The Benedict Option much comfort and hope, others, such as Catholic politician Alan Keys as well as a variety of conservative and liberal critics, have viewed the The Benedict Option as a retreat from engagement in the world—as a matter of fact, as Providence would have it, Rorate Caeli just has published a stinging Italian critique of Dreher’s work.

If these critics, including your humble author, are correct and Ray’s work, despite his condescending protests to the contrary, is actually a surrender and retreat from the modern world to wait until the New World Order’s robot army (that’s only kind of a joke) comes and gets all of the homeschooling, chicken-farming Christians, then why would the very intelligent and clever Gorgeous George Gänswein endorse The Benedict Option?

Maybe the answer lies with the sponsor of Ray’s Roman Holiday: the De Gasperi Foundation.

What is the De Gasperi Foundation, you ask?

Well, among the goals of the De Gasperi Foundation, is “European integration,” and the foundation is funded, in part, by the European Union.

Wait a minute.

Why is a EU think tank paying for a conference in which a Catholic archbishop endorses a book that tells Christians to retreat from the public sphere?

Maybe it’s because the EU, which endorses abortion, gay marriage, and genocide-level migration of largely non-Christian “migrants” into Europe would very much like it for Christians to keep their nose out of the public square.

Also, as an added bonus, the De Gasperi Foundation is “partners” with the Hudson Institute, a pro-war neoconservative think tank funded by the Rand Corporation.

What’s the Rand Corporation?

I’ll leave that you, dear reader, to find out.

But here’s something from the CIA’s official website to get started.

Oh, and one more thing: Rod Dreher was writing for the Hudson Institute as late as 2008, trying to bolster Christian support for the War on Terror.

So, in this crazy town, “wilderness of mirrors” story, we have Rod Dreher who, in his early career, had been commissioned to sell American Catholics on the Iraq War and who now makes a living writing on the Catholic abuse scandal and publishing books telling Christians to hide away in their homes, being paid by an EU think tank, which itself is linked to a CIA-funded American neoconservative organization, to give talks in Rome with the head of Pope Benedict XVI’s papal household.

What the heck is going on here?

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