1. Catholicism Pure & Simple?

When I hear that there are some cranks on the Internet who deny there is any danger from Covid-19, or that it even exists, this does not in itself surprise me. There have always been people who refused vaccines, or supported mad dictators, or believe that lizards from outer space are running the world and kidnapping babies. The Internet simply makes it easier for cranks to circulate their nutty ideas, and that should not be a surprise.

If your Catholic religion is rooted in the real tangible world around you, and not in the furious denial of reality that exists in crazy conspiratorial corners of the Internet, you would not expect to find those kinds of crazy ideas in a normal Catholic setting. Sadly, I am now aware of a cross-infection and I want to flag it up, expose it, and distance myself from it. For a while, until about five years ago, I described my position as ‘traditional’, more aligned with the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI than his successor, Pope Francis. (That polarisation was inevitable after the resignation of Benedict.) I have not changed my view about that in any way. What has changed is that some of the people with whom I once associated have shown themselves to have a different agenda, so I distanced myself from those ‘traditionalist’ elements in the Church just as much as I continue to distance myself from the modernisers.

Now, I can see that the situation is much worse than I could have imagined. I would have no more in common with some of these ‘traditional’ Catholics than those cranks mentioned above, who believe that lizards from outer space are running the world. A reader of this equusasinus.net blog – who shall remain anonymous – asked me to take a look at the “Catholicism Pure & Simple” website and tell her what I made of it now. (There are one or two readers there, who continue to read this blog because they liked the way I wrote and were disappointed when I cut my ties with that ‘traditional’ group, several years ago.)

It is with some measure of horror that I saw the recent content of this ‘traditional’ Catholic website to which I once contributed articles about the writings of Saint Clare! It is now a place where you can find the irresponsible rantings of an unhinged archbishop from the loony fringe, alleging that the ‘deep state‘ and the ‘mainstream media‘ are banding together to rig elections and ‘overthrow Trump’ to ‘usher in the New World Order‘. (Readers might recognize some of the common phraseology from the ‘QAnon’ crazy stuff that has been described in the press.)

Then there was the Covid denial, with a mad story about a bishop in Mexico who says the virus can easily be combatted with guava tea (!) and all the scare stories about Covid-19 are due to the ‘oligarch media’ which ‘insists on scaring people’. (Who do you know who ever uses phrases like ‘oligarch media‘! More conspiracy Internet stuff.) On that same website they are extolling the virtues of the former US president Trump and say the invasion of the Washington Capitol building was done by ‘infiltrators’ from the left wing ‘Antifa’ (again, terms used by fantasist QAnon and Trump fanatics.)

I found it very sad that this Catholic website has clearly been taken over and become a mouthpiece for the Trump crime-cult, QAnon nutcases and Covid-deniers. But there were similar revelations when I explored a few other websites in the ‘traditionalist’ Catholic camp. The loony fringe has taken over many of them: the adoration of Trump, use of conspiracy language, Covid-19 anti-facemask propaganda, etc. was fairly standard across a range of Catholic traditionalist bloggers (not all, to be fair, but enough for it to be regarded as normalised behaviour in this niche minority segment of Catholic blogging.) Since there were some Catholic websites that still linked to this blog, I wrote to those sites and politely asked for links to this blog to be removed:

“Please remove the link to my blog equusasinus.net from your side-bar. Nothing personal but I just don’t want my blog associated with various sites that support the fascist Trump and his coup-attempt… etc etc. Thanks.”

On one of these sites, (ecclesandbosco.blogspot.com) a reply was very revealing and showed a clear reference to the conspiracy cult: “Seriously, EA? Well, you and your donkey have fun under the NWO and whatever church you belong to. Your donkey, being of nature, is at least not blind like you.” (Note the give-away “NWO” which stands for “New World Order”.)

As I said above, when your religion is rooted in the real tangible world, there is less danger from this freakery. When I chat to people after Sunday Mass it is more likely to be about their recommendation for a replacement washing machine than asking how they are getting on with the fight against the “New World Order”!

To those Catholic friends who warned me about the potential for extremism among the ‘traditionalist’ wing of the Church, yes you were right. I began to see it and distanced myself from it some years ago. What I could never have seen – and to be fair, I don’t think any of us could have imagined – is that intelligent Catholics would one day end up defending a disgraced ex-president of the USA who encouraged a bunch of white supremacists and neo-nazis to take over his country’s seat of government and try to murder his own Vice President. But that is now – apparently – a ‘traditional’ Catholic stance. Unbelievable, yet sadly evident on these ‘traditional’ blogs. It’s time to call it out: this is not Catholicism.

Also a faux ‘traditional Catholic’ position is an objection to Covid-19 facemasks. Here it is, explained by ‘a religious Sister’. Capital ‘S’ but anonymous? Stand up and be named, sister Death! RORATE CÆLI: The case against masks, presented by a religious Sister in the form of an article from the Summa (rorate-caeli.blogspot.com)

In my introduction I said the isolation here in the hermitage provides a measure of safety from the Covid-19 pandemic. My activity on the Internet is also limited, reducing spiritual infection! More fine tuning is always needed. We can all benefit from exercising reduction in our Internet use, particularly on social media. I have cut out Facebook and recommend it can just be reactivated and used once or twice a year for Christmas greetings, or for your birthday. It is so liberating to know it is deactivated.

For those readers here who continue to look at the Catholicism (“Pure & Simple”?) blog, I agree it is sad to see the present state of it. It used to be a place of some joy! But the answer is not to simply hope it gets better. It won’t: it simply became a mouthpiece for one narrow point of view. The solution is greater discernment: delete your link to the site. The so-called ‘traditional’ Catholic bloggers who have narrowed their readership appeal to the populist politics of these dark times, rather than the One Great Tradition of the Church, will fade away with the dawn. I also suggest the following prayer:

In the name of Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, strengthened by the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of Blessed Michael the Archangel, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul and all the Saints, we confidently undertake to repulse the deceits of the devilincluding in those places on the Internet falsely claiming to represent Catholic views.