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The MAD Magazine Caricature of US Catholicism

One hesitates to begin the civil new year on a critical note, when hopes of a brighter future run high. But when reality is being falsified, duty calls. So, let’s begin the Year of Our Lord 2024 with a critique of the MAD magazine-like caricature of U.S. Catholicism currently being propagated.

During his years with the London-based Tablet, Christopher Lamb never evinced a serious understanding of the Church in the U.S. or its relationship to American public life. My personal experience of this involved his suggesting in early 2017 that I might be Donald Trump’s ambassador to the Holy See; Lamb was evidently unaware that I had publicly opposed Trump’s nomination and had begun my post–2016 election column with the lede, “The good news is she lost; the bad news is he won.” Such foolishness mattered little in the real world, though, given the Tablet’s relatively limited reach.

Now, however, Lamb is a Rome correspondent for CNN, with a global audience of far greater bandwidth. And he continues to display a cluelessness about U.S. Catholicism that is, in its way, breathtaking. Exhibit A was his recent article, “Pope Francis takes on unprecedented attacks from American opponents.” There, we “learn” that the pope who has peremptorily removed bishops from their sees, denied devout Catholics a form of worship they find spiritually enriching, excoriated priests, criticized the sartorial interests of seminarians of whom he knows nothing, and warned the media against coprophagia is, at bottom, the pope “who insists on a merciful Catholic Church open to everyone.” And according to Lamb, it was to advance that program of spreading divine mercy that Pope Francis recently took punitive action against Cardinal Raymond Burke and Bishop Joseph Strickland (who, along with traditional Latin Mass devotees—of whom I am not one—may well wonder about the range of papal inclusivity).

To make matters worse from a journalistic standpoint, the only witnesses cited in defense of today’s papal autocracy were such acolytes of the pontificate as Austen Ivereigh, David Gibson, and Massimo Faggioli—the functional equivalent of Tucker Carlson writing a piece entitled, “Donald Trump takes on unprecedented attacks from his opponents” and sourcing it with quotes from Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and Lauren Boebert. This isn’t journalism; it’s blatant advocacy. And it should be named as such.

Read more at First Things 

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