A supporter of Donald Trump faces protesters outside Trump Tower. (Credit: Associated Press.)
A recent 'La Civiltà Cattolica' article denounced an 'ecumenism of hate' in the U.S. between fundamentalist Evangelicals and 'Catholic Integralists,' but Charles Camosy says that ironically, the article trafficked in the very dualistic thinking it denounced, and that 'Manichean poison' of either left or right damages the Body of Christ.
Given that our discourse is dominated by news stories and opinion pieces that generally refuse to float too far away from the theo-political corners in which they originate, it is a rare article indeed which gets broadly read in the U.S. Catholic world. But that’s precisely what has happened to a recent piece
written by Father Antonio Spadaro and Rev. Marcelo Figueroa in La Civiltà Cattolica
titled “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism.”
Likely because this particular journal tends to serve as an unofficial mouthpiece for the Vatican, and also because the critical views offered in the piece were so scathing, it has prompted responses from many different corners of U.S. Catholicism.
There are so many different thoughts packed into their piece that it would be impossible to address them in a brief Crux commentary. But let me draw attention to one line of critique: the view of Spadaro and Figueroa that alliances between conservative Catholics and fundamentalist Evangelicals in the United States are constituted by a dualistic “Manichean vision.”
Such a vision divides between “absolute Good and absolute Evil”; between “sworn enemies” and “eternal friends.”
This “strange ecumenism,” the authors tell us, is based on “hate.” It is to be distinguished from the ecumenism offered by Pope Francis which “moves under the urge of inclusion, peace, encounter and bridges.”
Let us not miss the irony present in this kind of critique. In drawing the distinction this way-between the ‘good’ ecumenism of inclusion and peace, and bridges and the ‘evil’ ecumenism of hate-Spadaro and Figueroa perform the very thing they attempt to criticize.
This was not lost on Rusty Reno, whose response
to their article pointed out that the La Civiltà Cattolica
commentary is itself “laced with dualistic caricatures” and expressions of hate for evil figures such as Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and George W. Bush.
I’d add that, in not a few cases, the hatred from some on the Catholic left is so strong that it is transferred even to those who merely voted for one of the evil ones. Pew recently found
, for instance, that close to half of liberals, if they discovered that a friend of theirs had voted for Trump, say it would actually put a strain on the friendship. A high percentage also claimed that they simply couldn’t stand to be in the same room as a Trump voter.
The evil Catholics who express doubts about climate change, or even about what the best kind of response is to climate change, are regularly put into the untouchable category of “climate denier.” Some, especially in the context of Laudato Si’
, are explicitly put into the “dissenter” category.
As someone who did not vote for Trump, and is enthusiastic about Laudato Si’
and climate change activism, I obviously don’t have personal experience with how being on the receiving end of such hate makes one feel. But as an active member of the pro-life movement, I’m regularly confronted with a special kind of vitriol from those in the left, including Catholics, who accuse me of everything from being “pro-birth” to having a “fetus fetish.”
To understate the point: this doesn’t feel good.
It does not follow, of course, that merely because Spadaro and Figueroa have this blind spot their critique does not land. Though it is a bad mistake to paint either liberal Catholics or conservative Catholics with too broad a brush, it is fair to say that many in the conservative Catholic/Evangelical ecumenical camp they criticize also see the world in dualistic ways that are at times quite hateful. …