Anyone who has spent more than five minutes in Catholic cyberspace in recent weeks has, I am sure, dipped a toe or two into the oceans of ink poured out in commentary about the recent La Civiltà Cattolica essay that ran with the headline, "Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism: A Surprising Ecumenism."
First, note the title's trailblazing work in the field of subtle labeling in public discourse about religion.
We are not talking about mere "evangelicals" or "fundamentalists." In this case we are talking about "evangelical fundamentalism," which would be fundamentalists who preach their fundamentalism with an evangelical zeal?
Anyway, key is that the authors -- universally hailed as allies of Pope Francis -- have taken to the pages of a "Vatican-vetted publication" in an attempt to link decades of high-profile public contacts between culturally, and doctrinally, conservative Protestants and Catholics (as well as Jews, Orthodox Christians, Mormons, etc.) with the painful political chaos surrounding the rise of President Donald Trump. The goal of all those contacts in the past, it appears, was an American theocracy backed with Sharia law, only defended with quotes from the Catholic Catechism and the works of St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
Apparently it took some time for The New York Times to ramp up a doctrinal response to all of this for circulation at the highest levels of mainstream journalism.
The result is some fascinating editorial writing, in the form of a new Times column by Catholic conservative Ross Douthat ("The Vatican’s America Problem") and, the same day, an alleged news story straight from the world of hushed, anonymous conversations in the hidden corners of Rome.
Let's keep this as short as possible, starting with the overture in the "news" piece: "A Vatican Shot Across the Bow for Hard-Line U.S. Catholics."
VATICAN CITY -- Two close associates of Pope Francis have accused American Catholic ultraconservatives of making an alliance of “hate” with evangelical Christians to back President Trump, further alienating a group already out of the Vatican’s good graces.