Friday 22nd March 2019

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First Teachers… Fr. Spadaro And The Politics Of Non-Politicization

March 2, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By SHAUN KENNEY

Fr. Antonio Spadaro is back in the news again, and for all the wrong reasons. This time, it is a retweet — sharing something through the social media platform Twitter — of a comment someone made that EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo and the entire EWTN staff ought to be placed under papal interdict until Mr. Arroyo is fired by the Catholic news outlet.
Fired?
I am trying to be sympathetic to the Pope Francis and those who circle his papacy, I really am. One completely understands his emphasis on Romano Guardini and the philosopher’s warnings against postmodernism. As a student of the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, Fr. Spadaro has bought the argument that the only means of resolving the dialectic of power is to forfeit the game — thus refusing to play into the game and delaying and even deferring the arrival of the Antichrist, whose objective is the rank aggregation of worldly power to achieve an alter Christus — another christ.
Fused together, one can instantly see where Spadaro is coming from. Given his European prejudices — and they really are prejudices — against American government and the Republican Party in general, Spadaro’s fusion of Protestant televangelism with the secular aims of the conservative right creates a phantom boogeyman of a Catholic traditionalist whose fidelity to the Church is paper thin and purely political — the very worst of Catholic integralism linked to an ultramontanism disappointed with the Franciscan papacy.
Of course, there are tremendous flaws in Spadaro’s argument, not least of which is that we — as Christians — are called to be salt and light. Every instance where a Catholic says credo is an assertion, and in the concept of power relations a perceived threat to the secular world and the lord of this world — the alter Christus. Thus what Spadaro is asking for really does fall prey to the “king of the hill” argument that Arroyo accurately perceives.
Where Spadaro says that Francis “seeks to dissolve the narrative of a toxic final clash of religions,” Arroyo responds that Catholics are called to fulfill God’s will, know His will, and then bring a society forward that exists in accord with His will — a very basic demonstration of St. Thomas Aquinas’ dissertation of human law in the Summa Theologiae.
At heart in both is the idea of Christendom. Catholic integralists would insist Arroyo’s interpretation as correct — but again, this suffers the problem of political contagion, and the Catholic Church is most certainly not a political unit. Alternatively, Spadaro seeks a Christendom of conscience, but is not only utterly unwilling to fight for this, but sees any political contagion as — you guessed it — evidence of the infiltration of the alter Christus.
Such a viewpoint would explain Spadaro’s hostility to alternative viewpoints. If political contagion is the “smoke of Satan” infiltrating the Church, one would and should be hostile to it. On the other hand, Western Christendom should be set upon the path of the Byzantine Empire, where the Orthodox Church — unable to impose its political will — simply survived in enclaves until a more favorable occasion (which we are seeing in the Russian Federation today) enables it to exist as the conscience of the state…up to a point, that is.
Arroyo has the better argument, in that this should not become an either/or dialectic, but rather a both/and. Spadaro betrays his own principles when asserting a power dynamic over those with whom he disagrees. That element alone creates the introduction of division, and of division such as that there is only one author — and it is most certainly not Christ.
Much like some politicians, Spadaro needs to have his Twitter account taken away. Spadaro’s clumsy and accidental weaponization of the Catholic Church against all rival power structures sadly falls victim to its own argument. The politics of non-politicization is in and of itself a political act; weaponized against opponents and praised for its own gnostic contempt of the unenlightened. Cooler heads and warmer hearts should prevail here.

Helping Others

After a night at the gym, a gentleman came up to me in the parking lot with a moderately convincing story. His truck was broken down, he lived in a neighboring county, needed precisely $23 to get the tow truck to take his vehicle to the shop and then get a ride back home.
The story came with any number of flaws. His grandson’s computer was in the back; he would sell it to me if required. He had a watch; he would sell that as well. Either way, he really needed the $23.
Now I’m a firm believe that charity — once given — is between you, the person to whom it was extended, and God. The moment you brag about it is the moment it stops being charity. So my intentions here are not to extol my own virtues, but to go through the motions of why I gave the gentleman the money he asked for rather than telling him to get a job.
Yet in the back of our consciences, something in the back tickles when we know we are being asked to be charitable. True, the individual asking might not be all that honest about why he is asking. Quite frankly, neither are we when we petition God through prayer, as our pride and faults in asking for God’s benevolence frequently interfere with what God wants for us.
Much like prayer, we do not perform acts of charity for their own sake. God commands us to pray and to give charitably for our own soul’s sake, not because we owe something or are cooperating in an act of so-called social justice — but rather, we are approached by the imago Dei of the Other with a call that says feed me, help me, be Christ to me.
For that lesson, it was worth the $23 indeed. If Jesus Christ had asked me for help, I’d have fallen over myself to extend it. Name your favorite politician, musician, poet, or priest and most would have done likewise. Dorothy Day used to say that the poor are Jesus. It was in poverty that Christ was born and it was among the poor whom Christ lived.
Was it enabling, one might ask? I’d be sad to think God’s questions His mercy toward us as enabling our future sins — but the good news is that God never said “I was” nor did He say “I will be” but rather I AM. In the present moment, we are all given opportunities to extend charity toward others as they occur. The trick is to remember that we aren’t helping them, but rather ourselves.

Send Me Your Comments!

Of course, I am succeeding (but not replacing) the inestimable Mr. James K. Fitzpatrick for the First Teachers column.
Please feel free to send any correspondence for First Teachers to Shaun Kenney, c/o First Teachers, 5289 Venable Rd., Kents Store, VA 23084 – or, if it is easier, simply send me an e-mail with First Teachers in the subject line to: svk2cr@virginia.edu.

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