August 8-31, 2004
vol 15, no. 165

George Sim JohnstonMichael Moore loves itCrisis Editor Deal Hudson

How to Deal with the Crisis at Crisis:

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"After the Council and Columbine: Living Fahrenheit V2"

By Kevin M. Tierney
      Editor's Note: With our Mid-Summer Hiatus issue, Kevin takes a break from his weekly Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi comparisons of the Propers to expound on one of the problems that only compounds the problem: The drivel that drives Deal Hudson and his magazine Crisis - that self-absorbed publication battling with Envoy for most outrageous Novus OrdinArian malaprop propping up the New Order from a "conservative perspective". Kevin takes on George Sim Johnston, but the buck stops at the top and, like any publication, the contributing writers reflect the essence of what the publication says and therein lies the crisis with Crisis. It would seem Deal is not dealing with it as you'll see in Kevin's commentary below.

    Recently someone sent me an article that appeared in Crisis magazine - Far be it from me to take on the likes of its editor Deal Hudson for Michael Rose of along with traditional heavyweights like Christopher Ferrara and Dr. Thomas Woods have made kindling of his kind, but I could not remain silent about a recent editorial appearing in Crisis magazine called "After the Council: Living Vatican II" penned by one George Sim Johnston, who, I understand is a frequent contributing writer. My question: Why? That Crisis magazine should be ashamed for publishing such a hit piece, which spits on the grave of their Catholic fathers, is an understatement. While I will no doubt focus on this, I also wish to call to mind the blatant contradictions Mr. Johnston espouses while attempting to defend the "Greatness" of Vatican II. I note something interesting, while he talked in abstract values of how Vatican II was so great, he failed to give one practical real example of how Vatican II has improved things. He has offered absolutely no evidence to prove how this is true. But more on that later.

    Mr. Johnston describes the Pre-Vatican II Catholic (and by implication all Traditionalists today) as little better than the rich man in the Gospel, who was able to boast about keeping the letter of the law, but not the spirit. Us Traditionalists are not devoted Catholics, but simply ones who mechanically react to everything. Of course he ignores the notion that our outward desires are to effect, and elevate what we feel inside. For this manner, why did Vatican II not gut genuflecting, since Mr. Johnston seems to just think it was a bunch of pious nonsense, as we were caught in the “letter of the law?” To ask such questions are to answer them, and prove we are not dealing with someone giving a serious analysis, but an ideologue. Rather, he assumes that those who follow such external actions have no inward piety, and hence he becomes a reader of souls. Is it safe to assume that if Mr. Johnston genuflects before the Blessed Sacrament that he lacks the inward spiritual piety? If this line of reasoning is insane, well, it only gets worse as we continue through the article. I shall quote in full what Mr. Johnston states next.

    “The Second Vatican Council was a call to full spiritual maturity. It was time to take off the training wheels — to stop living 'in the shadow of the Law' — and take our vocations as Christians seriously. The pre–Vatican II Church 'worked' marvelously well, which is why there are those who are nostalgic, but it wasn’t spiritually creative."

    It is very tough to avoid the implications of such a statement. First is the idea that before 1960, the Church was on training wheels for almost two millennia. Then there is the idea that the pre-Vatican II church was spiritually immature. Yet we must point out, by simple logic alone, that the majority of the spiritual masters of the faith would’ve existed before 1960. Our current Pope John Paul II was an avid reader of St. John of the Cross, and has promoted the saint’s works on spirituality before. So if we are to believe Mr. Johnston, an “avid” fan of John Paul II, His Holiness is recommending we read works of spiritual immaturity for spiritual enrichment? In what ways is the Church after Vatican II more spiritually creative? Where are the spiritual treatises that teach us how to live a devout life, in a way that far exceeds 1960 years of Tradition? Again we see the same conclusion of his statements, those before Vatican II were not authentically Catholic, but were no better than those Pharisees that were hypocrites with the law, and the Judaizers in the first century that St. Paul combatted. If he is going to make such sweeping absurd indictments of the Church before the Second Vatican Council, he should expect to be met with such sweeping indictments, and actually asking him to take his questions to his logical conclusion. Returning to the idea about training wheels, perhaps Mr. Johnston would like to show us Tridentine "tricyclists" how we have advanced so much spiritually since Vatican II? We now have Catholics confused about the faith, a liturgy that even those in the Upper halls of the Vatican agree is centered on man, and not spiritually productive, and things have gotten so bad we must now look to other forms of spirituality in Eastern religions or Protestants, before we ever consider actually employing Catholic spirituality. Yet again, we are not dealing with serious analysis here, and asking these questions and expecting an honest answer from ideologues like Mr. Johnston is an exercise in futility. He is the Michael Moore of Neo-Catholicism.

    Continuing in his exercises in straw men, Johnston asks the age old canard “If the Church was so vibrant before Vatican II, why did things collapse so quickly?” First, I have yet to meet a Traditionalist who stated that things before Vatican II were perfect. When I first encountered this argument, I was amazed at the ignorance of our detractors, who advance this argument as if any traditionalist seriously states the “Camelot” scenario, where nothing was wrong. The Church was involved in a crisis with modernism, nobody disputes this. Yet during that time, in order to counter the modernist threat, a certain framework was established during the Church that made it very hard for modernism to win any real battles. The modernist spirit fermented under this regulatory system. It was with Vatican II that the bulwark of disciplinary action implemented by the Pre-Concilliar Popes was brought tumbling down, and the modernists were given free reign to do whatever they wanted.

    The link Johnston tries to draw is sketchy at best, and then it is blown to bits by the reality of the situation. But to spend time on the issues such as collegiality which resulted in a stripping of the majority of papal authority to protect the Church against these times that would concede that Mr. Johnston’s arguments have such merit to deserve refutation. It is clear they do not. Rather, I only intend to demonstrate that it is clear Mr. Johnston is an ideologue, who has no case for how Vatican II was positive; he just needs to simply repeat the same worn out refuted accusations time and time again. Perhaps hoping that if he throws enough of his theories up against the wall something syncretic and synthetic will stick. That's the only explanation I can give for such lunacy.

    Yet, before aiming at the wall, Mr. Johnston in typical fashion looks downward and, engaging in the famous Neo-Catholic ploy of sticking one’s head in the sand, proceeds to ignore the gravity of the crisis we are indeed in. He states that we can’t really demonstrate the Church today is any worse off than the Church 500 or 1500 years ago. With the exception of maybe the Arian Crisis (as even the heretics in that day were probably on their worst day not as immoral as many of the Bishops we have now!) can anyone with a straight face really come to this conclusion? Even Neo-Catholic flagships like EWTN, in promoting Franciscan University of Steubenville have to state that the reason it’s good is because in today’s educational landscape, Steubenville is actually a Catholic school. It seems that nowadays, teaching the faith is so hard at a Catholic school, we should lionize those universities that do what should be obvious, even though this Franciscan factory of the charismatic movement seems to be oblivious to Trent! This poses absolutely no problem for the likes of Mr. Johnston. We have bishops who say the Blessed Sacrament, Our Lord Himself, should be given to those that advocate the slaughter of the innocents created in the image of God.

    We have a populace whom only 15% of Catholics actually attend Mass (and America is lucky, the majority of Europe is in the single digits.) Doctrinal heresies of all kinds are preached from the pulpit, and at times given Episcopal approval. Yet relax says Mr. Johnston, things aren’t as bad as the evidence warrants. In reality, the Church is not in a crisis. As a matter of fact, it’s in better shape than it’s ever been! As the evidence continues to mount day by day, it becomes clear that Mr. Johnston, and the Neo-Catholics who continue this line, cannot be taken seriously. But do we laugh at them or cry for them in pathos? Both! Yet, more importantly, pray for them for they do need help and taking them too seriously will lead us into despair thinking that most Catholics don’t realize there is a crisis, and God’s Church has failed. He then attempts to compare Vatican II to Trent by noting that France ignored much of Trent for quite some time. True, and look at France today! Yet to compare it to a simple region, versus the entire world not receiving the teachings of the Council is an exercise in futility.

    Besides his vicious insults on his father’s grave and that of Catholics before the Council, Johnston’s work is a nest of contradictions. After decrying that progressives hijacked the council, he then lauds John Paul II’s “alliance” with progressives in resisting the neo-scholastics. Johnston identifies the problem, then its solution, but was not the solution (JPII) involved with the problem? For an eye opener of facts, read Peter, Lovest Thou Me? by Abbé Daniel Le Roux, available from Angeles Press. What has changed to where the progressives are no longer a problem in Johnston’s thought, but a great thing? But the inherent contradictions in his article do not stop there. After correctly identifying one of the problems with modern society (it’s over-emphasis on experience vs. nature) Mr. Johnston doesn’t seem to realize the very thing he is lauding (Vatican II) did exactly the same thing. The Church changed its fundamental outlook (an outlook molded by the reality of original sin in its nature) to trusting more on experience, to “speak to modern man.” Yet before, the problem with modern man was neglecting nature, and focusing too much on experience, yet Vatican II does these same things!

    Johnston then says we need to stop worrying about “intra-church issues” and have a message for the world. Yet certainly he understands that we all need to be on the same page first! If one person of a political party is saying we believe this, and the other saying we believe that, we are giving a message, but is it a unified message, is it a coherent message? Certainly not. While we should not ignore evangelization to the world, when there is a crisis in the Church, one does need to focus a lot on internal matters, otherwise it will split the Church apart, as we have today. Those who wish to worship as their parents did are mocked and insulted. So how can they give a message to the world and expect to be heard, when one has the likes of Mr. Johnston demonizing them as spiritually deficient and still in the training wheel stage? If Mr. Johnston really believed this nonsense, why would he be writing this article, as it focuses so much on “internal matters?” No Johnston does not believe his own illogic - best summed up as yesterday's garbage stinking up today - but he expects us to.

    After all these contradictions (and many more could’ve been named, rather I just gave a sampling), Mr. Johnston then returns to the very tired worn out canard; that the solution to this problem is for formation “in the true spirit of Vatican II.” More parroting of the progressivist pabulum. Polly want a cracker? or is that a cookie from the Novus Ordo cafeteria where everyone grabs their wafer no matter the state of their soul? What is that true spirit of Vatican II? As always, Mr. Johnston never says what the “spirit of Vatican II” or what the true council actually is, and demonstrate (with examples) how this differs from the time before Vatican II. He says we will need Catholics steeped in the teachings of the Magisterium. And Traditionalists are somehow opposed to this? To the contrary, this is what we have called for all along! But here must be discerned the living, infallible Magisterium of the Church, passed down from age to age to uphold without compromise the irrefutable dogmatic truths and traditions being for all time, from the for-the-time-being magisterium composed of everyone and their brother and sister who make it up as they go along! You see there is a difference, a big difference. And every Traditionalist agrees we need to follow the true Magisterium. So is Mr. Johnston suggesting that the solution to this crisis is what Traditionalists have called for? One doesn’t have to be a genius or a psychic to know that’s not what Johnston is calling for. In short, he just continues to repeat it over and over again, while giving not one single concrete example. Pavlov's dog wasn't this consistent. Ol' George has chosen his thesis, but has provided no evidence to support his thesis. Why should any honest Catholic take Johnston seriously?

    I’ve already spent too much time on such lunacy. Until our detractors can actually argue a coherent case (and it is obvious here that Mr. Johnston has not, since he continually contradicted himself) why should we even bother with such bafflegab? Liberal political columnist Christopher Hitchens had the following to say about Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 911” and I think this would suit the article by Mr. Johnston nicely:

    “To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability.”

    Now if we only substitute the term “film” with “editorial” we then have a perfect example of Mr. George Sim Johnston. Look no further, Mr. Hudson, on how to Deal with the crisis at Crisis.

Kevin Tierney

For past articles in "Father, forgive them...", see "Father, forgive them..." ARCHIVES

    August 8-31, 2004
    vol 15, no. 165
    "Father, forgive them..."