Traditionalist publications such as The Remnant, Catholic Family News, The Angelus and the Fatima Crusader and a host of others lobbed inky grenades at what even in the 1980s and 90s were known as “Old Liberal” print journals staffed and read by aging Baby Boomers, such as America and The National Catholic Reporter.
In response, these leftist publications, scented with the smell of “incense and peppermints,” did not, for the most part, respond in kind.
Rather than drawing attention to the crazed notions of perennial continuance of Catholic doctrine and liturgy in the pages of traditional newspapers, the old liberal boomers took aim at the more mellow and, one must admit, bigger conservative Catholic media outlets such as EWTN, Crisis, and First Things.
As Soviet Chancellor Mikhael Gorbachev, at the behest of Ronald Reagan, did, in effect, tear down the concrete wall that split in Berlin in two, the walls between various Catholic camps in the West remained as firm as ever under the John Paul II or JPII era in the Church.
Traditionalists remained convinced that John Paul was merely a feeble bandaid on the horrific gash left on the Church’s doctrine and liturgy after Vatican II. For conservatives and neoconservatives, tutored by George Weigel’s hagiographic papal biography Witness to Hope, John Paul II was the living embodiment not only of the Spirit of Vatican II, but of the entirety of Church history, a veritable incarnation of the authentic spirit of Roman Catholicism. For the Catholic left, John Paul was a terrible reactionary and repressive pontiff, a hold out of the old days of altar and throne who had strangled the Spirit of Vatican II in its felt banner-adorned cradle.
Eventually, however, the left recognized the winds of change were blowing, and the new “JPII generation” was where the future of the Church lay. As a result, many in the Catholic left, from Catholic university presidents desperate for enrollment, to pastors of dying parishes, to bishops looking for career advancement, began adopted a policy of theological glasnost to adopt some of the pious practices and teachings that marked one as being a conservative Catholic.
The election of Benedict XVI, ostensibly the most traditionally-minded pontiff since Pius XII, only strengthened the impression among the Catholic left that at least a conservative demeanor was necessary for a Catholic institution to survive. With gestures of reconciliation toward the SSPX, such as the 2009 lifting of the assumed excommunications Society bishops, as well as the 2007 Summorum Pontificum liberalizing the use of the traditional Latin mass, however, Pope Benedict emboldened the traditionalist movement and opened the door for many conservative Catholics to attend the Church’s ancient liturgy as well as engage in more serious criticisms of the supposed reforms introduced by the Second Vatican Council.
Moreover, since unexpected abdication of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis as the 265th successor of St. Peter, the Berlin Wall separating traditionalists and conservatives has come tumbling down, and many former rivals have embraced as comrades in arms. What’s more, new entities such as Church Militant, LifeSiteNews, and OnePeterFive, have entered the fray providing a, at times, fierce criticism of the Risorgimento of liberalism under Pope Francis.
At the same time, something very strange has happened, a new breed of Catholic leftists has been born, combing conservative Catholic piety and even some aspects of traditional Catholic morality along with contemporary social justice warrior or SJW political issues. Commonly known on the internet as “LeftCats,” many of these new Catholic leftists are drawn either from members of the John Paul II generation or the children of JPII generation parents who have become enamored with Pope Francis or who have had a bitter or unpleasant experience with some facet of traditional Catholicism.
Recently, one of the stalwarts of the Old Liberal press, Commentary Magazine, featured wild and odd piece from a newly disaffected traditional Catholic who has joined the ranks of the LeftCats.
In the cleverly titled, “No One Expects the Inquisition: My Experiences with Cardinal Burke & the ICKSP,” Eric Brende narrates an unpleasant experience he had with the traditional Catholic community, The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, in St. Louis, Missouri.
In his piece, which was Tweeted by none other than Fr. James Martin SJ., Brende, taking “those old records off the shelf,” rehashes the old liberal canards that Jesus was a hippy rebel who overthrew the “old spiritual vending machine” that existed in the pre-Vatican II Church. Brende’s bete noire in his piece is Cardinal Raymond Burke who is a sort of Count Dracula figure with a “top-down vision of Catholicism.” For Brende, Cardinal Burke is too closely allied to the ICKSP, which again, following a tied leftist trope, is modeled on the social order of “pre-Revolutionary France,” which, of course implies that the bulk of Catholic history outside of “pre-Revolutionary France” was defined by egalitarian and democratic principles—a concept so ridiculous as to not require a detailed refutation.
Raymond Cardinal Burke
Throughout his largely incoherent piece, Brende reveals that his anger ultimately stems from a run in he had with a canon in ICKSP as well as some lay leaders in a parish that he was attending. Even worse for the author, Cardinal Burke was not as sympathetic to Brende’s plight as Brende would have liked.
Upon first glance, Brende’s piece seems like yet another example of a bitter parishioner abandoning the traditionalist movement due to personal conflicts. However, there is a very revealing bit of information in “No One Expects the Inquisition,” which highlights the key problem with many who recently have migrated to the traditionalist movement only to find it too “authoritarian” or “mean.”
Brende explains that the reason why he began to attend ICKSP masses was because of the “beauty of the music and the setting.”
This point is very revealing for it exposes the dividing line between “aesthetic trads” who come to the Latin mass because they think it is pretty, and those who attend a traditional parish because they want to find an authentic way to live their Catholic faith.
More than exposing Cardinal Burke as an arch villain or the ICKSP as the Spanish Inquisition, Brende’s Commonweal piece reveals the core of leftwing Catholicism: its ultimately bitter and petty shallowness.