Dear Douthat, the church’s struggles are not primarily left vs. right

By Michael Sean Winters, 19 July 2021
The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. Image: On Being/Flickr. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Whenever The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat takes to the pages of a conservative Catholic journal like First Things, you know the result will be off the mark. There will be erudite comments and the occasional thought-provoking observation, but his writing about Catholicism is akin to someone who studies the spider’s web in all its intricacies but forgets the spider!

So it was when he published “Catholic Ideas and Catholic Realities” last week. He posits that the post-conciliar Catholic Church in the United States had a liberal Democratic Party wing and a conservative Republican Party wing, but both wings represented “an American Catholicism fully reconciled to liberal democracy.” And while those two essential camps still exist, he argues that “among younger Catholics, in the intelligentsia especially, both syntheses have come under severe strain.”

The struggles for the church today are not primarily between ideas of left and right. The struggles now as ever are to comfort those who mourn, to be present to those who are ill and dying, to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, to proclaim liberty to captives and a year of favour from the Lord.

Douthat, in passing, writes: “Of course, the Holy Spirit may have other plans for the Church.” Indeed.

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Michael Sean Winters covers the nexus of religion and politics for NCR.

With thanks to National Catholic Reporter and Michael Sean Winters, where this article originally appeared.


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