Home/Rod Dreher/Zmirak Says Goodbye To A Catholic Subculture

Zmirak Says Goodbye To A Catholic Subculture

For most of his life, John Zmirak has thrown some pretty fierce punches in the culture war, fighting from the Catholic Right. Many of those he’s walloped the hardest are fellow Catholics — typically those to the left of the Traditionalists, among whose number he counted himself. Now, he says the Catholic subculture to which he belonged is kind of embarrassing. The problem, he says, is that the number of Catholics that hold to everything the Church teaches, and do so strongly, is only about five percent of the American Catholic population. Excerpt:

The weirdness, bitterness, crankiness, and the general mediocrity that pervade the Catholic subculture – from its newspapers to its TV shows, from most of its tiny colleges to the poorly-penned books, and sloppy, sentimental blogs that flood the tiny market of conservative Catholic readers – is the direct result of having few people to choose from. Right off the bat, 95 percent of potential applicants for any position have disqualified themselves for doctrinal reasons.  Beyond that, it’s such a pleasant surprise to find a fellow orthodox Catholic. (“You mean that you’re 100 percent full-blooded Latvian, too?”) It’s tempting not to ask too many more questions – for instance, about the person’s qualifications, talent, or temperament.

If he checks off the same doctrinal boxes, we accept him as a fellow Party member, and bend over backwards to think the best of him – at least until we get in argument with him over liturgy, doctrine, or economics. Then we spend all our time combating his errors, convinced that we are somehow helping to turn the tide of history, when in fact we are making waves in the kiddie pool.

Is this Church of the Umbrella Handle, with its much smaller set of human types, the “smaller, purer Church” of which Pope Benedict XVI spoke – or is it the subset of “neo-Pelagian immanentists” against whom Pope Francis warned?  Of course, it is both, and the wheat is irretrievably mixed up among the tares. But one thing is certain: It is as inbred as a pack of captive cheetahs, with all the dangers of deformity and disease that that implies.

Read the whole thing. Let me know what you think. John is always good for getting a reaction. I am sure he will not disappoint this time either. I’m not getting into this debate, but I’m eager to hear what this blog’s Catholic readers think of this column.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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