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Friday, December 7, 2018

Spare the Rod? (Fr. Munkelt Responds to Dreher)

Written by  Father Richard Munkelt
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In a piece called, "Failing On The Right," Rod Dreher posted the following in reference to Fr. Munkelt on The American Conservative website:

[NFR: Yesterday I got a long, stern letter from a Rad Trad priest I used to know years ago, letting me have it for just about everything. It literally made me laugh out loud. This guy has a stick so far up his rear end it’s tickling his nose hairs. To be honest, I was thinking about you, Ginger, as I read it, and the stories you’ve told here about being in that world. There is nothing the least bit warm, human, or inviting about that priest and his worldview. He makes the Pharisees look like a bunch of hobbits celebrating Bilbo’s birthday. It is genuinely hard for me to imagine what it must be like to have placed oneself under the spiritual authority of such a man. He would last about five minutes with south Louisiana Catholics. — RD]

Dear Rod,

Dour, cranky, grim, rigid, troubled, pharisaical Munkelt here. I hope you are feeling better after what seems to have been a bout of distemper, judging from the above outburst. Good thing I recently trimmed my nose hairs! It was conspicuously absent from your latest barrage ("The Joy of Rad Trads") against the Church and me in The American Conservative. It's a bit self-incriminating, don't you think? 

After all, in my response I pointed out your weakness for vulgarity, failing any intelligent theology. And I'm not sure why I was supposed to be warm and fuzzy with you, contrary to my stated Augustinian purpose, when there was no genuine warmth accorded to the Church of Christ in your disagreeable scribblings against her. Perhaps a class in different literary genres would help. My response is called a remonstration. You will find abundant examples of it in the Gospels and the Letters of St. Paul, if you would only take a moment's break from being a huckster for your own book.   

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Now on to your non-response to my response. The first thing that any discerning reader will notice is that you blithely ignored the vast majority of the points I raised, but felt entitled to reproach me. 

However, when it came to your statement about Catholic moral teaching quoted in my paragraph #1, so libelous and damning in its implication, you had no choice but to engage in damage control. Was it the evil legalistic mind of Munkelt, he who is a master of making the weaker argument appear the stronger, was it he who "misled" readers? Or was it your very own words that led people to their obvious and perverse meaning? You yourself say that "some people have misread" the line. Just some? What a convenient and disingenuous sense of quantity. 

Now, I fully accept your retraction in the "update" and thank you for it. But wait...what? You are the vaunted writer. How, therefore, could such an incendiary statement escape your notice? Either you are stupid or you really intended to make the reprobate suggestion. I leave it to the reader to decide for himself which is the more likely. Thus, what would have happened had I not taken you to task? Would we have ever received the update?

"There you go again." Those famous words of Ronald Reagan to a feckless Jimmy Carter in 1980 have undergone a stupendous rebirth in the wake of your non-response. There you go again about this priest and that priest and the other priest, and don't forget the HIV ones lurking under every child's bed. "Maybe you are having a dire crisis of faith," to quote your hypothetical words. Maybe, Rod, just maybe, you are trying to instill a crisis of faith in every Catholic reader. But of course, that would never enter your mind. 

Wait again! Lo, the grim Fr. Munkelt comes, brandishing his diplomas, a massive one-volume Summa in hand, the spine filled with lead. He stands--mulish, imperious, ominous--before the person of trembling faith, who could use a hug and some warmth. Then, heartless, the book of books comes down on the person's head. Lights out. The end. Fr. Munkelt triumphantly walks away muttering, No more problem with that guy's faith. Speaking of risible, I don't think this a caricature of your caricature. By the by, about your constant laughter and flippancy, most people would take that as a sign of idiocy. Moreover, there is your incredible presumption concerning my pastoral care of souls, which has reached new, and dare I say it, sordid heights. 

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On to another point of critical importance. There is throughout your writings, at least of late, something the reader may not have fully realized, although I touched on it in my response. However, it is particularly prominent in your non-response. And that is your equation of faith with emotionalism and your use of the word "abstract," as if to say, unless a person is acting, or wallowing, on the basis of feeling hic et nunc, perhaps in the midst of all manner of troubles, that person cannot be said to have faith or to be making decisions on the basis of faith.

According to this perspective, as you make amply clear, no one is allowed to help another with arguments or facts or history or reasons because those are all abstract, and if abstract, then nothing to do with faith. In other words, faith is essentially brainless. Now, Rod, that may be apt in your case, but let's not confuse it with real faith.

Hence, there is something decidedly incoherent in your religious outlook, because you reserve the right to argue that faith is inimical to argument. In fact, you practically celebrate your faith's incoherence. And so once again I must employ the word "sinister," because you will say and do and argue whatever you please (while somehow not using argument), always protected by a wall of emotional subjectivism. Thus Christianity is made to fit your Procrustean bed.    

Real faith, according to the Christian tradition (not your tradition or my tradition but the tradition), is actually rooted in the intellect enlightened by divine grace. Does this mean that faith is "primarily an argument," in the sense of a product of reason, which you accuse me of believing? Well obviously not, since it comes from God. In any event, it is not primarily the irrational thing you wish to promote. Here one day, gone the next, immune to any intelligent reflection. Therefore, contrary to your non-appreciation of faith, it has motives of credibility that can and should draw on reasons, history, and facts to help the faithful understand and fortify their faith and not succumb to emotionalism in times of trouble, which has been, and is, your ruin. 

Your incoherence reaches fever pitch at the end of your non-response. 

You love the monks, their holiness, how much they have done for you, your cozy and crunchy Catholic friends, even trads (but hate rad trads, whatever those are), yet you left the Church in order to "strengthen" it, to preach to Catholics on how to live better Catholic lives, and of course to sell them books. Is that what you call evangelization? This is consummate nonsense and utter foppery. Anybody, anybody, of sound mind would say that you are out of yours. But this is the consequence of making faith irrational. Sorry for the grim truth. 

Furthermore, look at the way you hold out the ever so slight possibility of a return to the Catholic Church in your final flourish. Basically your hypothetical return would be through bubbling affectivity--the warmth and glow of friendship, not through, in the first place, the love of Christ, His Church, and His saving teaching. Well, guess what? Troubles will arise and you will leave the Church again in an emotionally charged declaration that you had no choice but to join another faith. Perhaps next time around it will be Shinto, what with its warm tree spirits.

As I said, it is as if you walked right out of the Gospel parable of the Sower and the seed that falls on stony ground.  

Let me end by drawing attention to the "phenomenon" of your naked vanity. Your optional book means absolutely nothing. Aquinas called his great work a pile of straw. What kind of pile shall we say yours is? People who have read it tell me it is a superficial assemblage of Catholic truisms. What a depressing idol. In addition, the non-response reports that suddenly Catholic bishops, though members of the malign Catholic hierarchy, are rehabilitated and come flocking back into your pantheon, all because of ecumenical zeal for you and book sales. Hallelujah! What a circus. 

Finally, I reiterate my healthy suggestion that you resign your false mandate to pontificate on Christianity and your obsessive compulsive self-justification, and instead find a voice, if you can, in politics and social criticism.      

Anyway, despite your supposed monopoly on good spirits, let's end on a note of true joy, not fake joy... 

“Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!”

Amen.  Fr. Munkelt

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Read 3835 times Last modified on Saturday, December 8, 2018

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