Vatican II Catholicism in America

If the United States is a sick giant, the American churches are sick too. And it’s not just a problem on the conservative side of the spectrum.

Nov 14, 2020

By Prof Massimo Faggioli
If the United States is a sick giant, the American churches are sick too. And it’s not just a problem on the conservative side of the spectrum.

The intellectual life of Vatican II Catholicism in the United States currently finds itself in something of a no man’s land. Religious progressivism, defined by social questions, is articulated today in an often anti-institutional and post-ecclesial language.

This has left a void that is being filled by Catholic “militantism”, which is neo-integralist and anti-modern, both in politics and in the intellectual debate. And this will continue even after Trump is gone.

The result of the US elections is also an indicator of the state of the Catholic Church in America and the pontificate of Francis.

Officials close to the Donald Trump White House – like Michael Pompeo, Steve Bannon and Newt Gingrich, whose third wife is currently the US ambassador to the Holy See – have tried to find sympathetic forces in the Vatican, Italy, and Europe to create a bridgehead of a neo-nationalist Catholicism allied with the European right-wingers. But they have failed.

However, the existential crisis of Catholicism in the United States has not been resolved. American democracy is in peril when there is an involution in its religious soul, of which the Catholic Church plays a particular and unique role.

Right-leaning intellectual and political Catholicism in the United States today ranges from neo-conservatism that claims to be inspired (though very selectively) by John Paul II and Benedict XVI to a neo-fundamentalism that has taken Carl Schmitt (d. 1985) — the Nazi-era political theorist — as its muse.

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