For many Catholics, there was no real story in Marjorie Taylor Greene recent maintenance with Michael Voris of Church Militant, reported by AmericaMichael O’Loughlin, and her subsequent statement that she believes Catholic bishops are “satanic” and “destroying our nation” through their support of migrants. Who cares if two people that many Catholics already disagree with criticize the church?
But that’s not all that was going on. Two dimensions of Ms. Greene’s interview stand out for me: a Catholic inciting a Protestant to attack other Catholics; and this Protestant then revealing through her criticism of bishops that she herself is a baptized Catholic, and one with strong feelings about the clerical sex abuse crisis.
The Republican congresswoman from Georgia showed little love for the Catholic Church in the interview, claiming that “Satan controls it” and sarcastically noting that “the Vatican has a wall, doesn’t it?” during the conversation about immigration. (The Leonine Wall does not actually enclose the Vatican, which anyone can enter freely.)
Ms. Greene is Protestant, and Catholics and Protestants in the United States have not always gotten along. But if it was a Protestant ransacking Catholics, it wouldn’t be news. There is more to the story because it was actually a “Catholic” medium giving a platform to anti-Catholicism. (Mr. Voris identifies as Catholic, but Church activist has been loaded by the Archdiocese of Detroit for not identifying as Catholic in 2012.) It makes you wonder if some of the leading anti-Catholics in the United States today are themselves Catholic.
It makes you wonder if some of the leading anti-Catholics in the United States today are themselves Catholics.
To be clear, Ms Greene did not mention the bishops during the interview. But once invited by Mr. Voris, she had a lot to say. As a preface to criticizing bishops for supporting immigrants, she said, “I thought we had a separation of church and state,” which is a confusing statement from someone. who constantly talks about bringing his Christian values to Washington. And given the anti-Catholic provenance of the line — the Catholic Church which has long been portrayed as a forbidding institution that seeks to dominate politics — Mr. Voris should have challenged her on it.
And Mr. Voris leads her to go further, which she gladly does:
The bishops are also busy destroying our nation by using taxpayers’ money to advocate for illegal invasion across our borders. They dare to disguise Democratic vandalism and anarchy as somehow “religious,” which perhaps explains their distaste for me.
As a Church Militant website the dish: “In a clear appeal to the mindset of the American bishops (who always chatter about unity and do not cause division), MTG has just raged against calls for false unity in politics.”
Surprisingly, Ms Greene spent quite a bit of time in the Church Militant interview ostensibly explaining what it means to love one another and how to preach the Gospel and the word of God. But she didn’t quote the Scripture. Instead, she went through a list of political talking points.
Marjorie Taylor Greene spent quite a bit of time explaining what it means to love each other. But she didn’t quote the Scripture. She went through a list of political talking points.
Ms. Greene is entitled to her political beliefs. But it’s clear she thinks bishops shouldn’t be aligned with the Bible, but with the Republican Party, and her vision for the party. It’s almost as if she believes the Church has nothing to offer in politics. Which brings us to my second point.
Clerical sexual abuse and diminished credibility of the church
This story is not just about a Catholic commentator using a Protestant guest to criticize Catholics. This guest was actually baptized and married into the Catholic Church, and her background is relevant for an unexpected turn in the conversation. After arguing that the bishops should share her emphasis on “protecting our borders” and making migrants’ countries of origin responsible for them, she argued:
If Bishops Read the Bible and Truly Preached the Word of God to Their Flock [Mr. Voris interjects here with “and not covering up sex abuse”]… and not concealing child sexual abuse and pedophilia, thatwould love each other, would have the true meaning and not the perversion and the twisted lie that they invent.
There is something dishonest in Ms. Greene’s and Mr. Voris’ comments: immigration and clerical sexual abuse are logically two separate issues. But rhetorically, they both tap into areas where some people have reached their limit of trust in the church.
Mrs. Greene claimed to reach these limits herself. In his press statement after the interview, she claimed she left the church at least in part because of the sex abuse scandal:
With great sorrow and unwavering faith in Jesus Christ, I stopped attending Catholic Mass when I became a mother because I realized that I could not trust Church leaders to protect my children from pedophiles and harboring monsters even within their own ranks. . 4/
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (@RepMTG) April 27, 2022
She also said, “It was the leadership of the church that I was referring to when I called on the devil.”
This did not emerge clearly from the interview, which focused on Catholic immigrant services. But there is no doubt that Ms Greene was able to lean into this reframing of her comments.
And Ms Greene’s cleanup effort is a reminder that while it’s easy for Catholics who disagree with Ms Greene’s politics to play down her criticism of the church, it’s a dangerous game to play. play to decide which criticisms of the church matter and which do not.
The history of clerical sexual abuse and cover-up cannot be avoided. It is a horrible sin against its survivors, and a terrible stain on the church. It will happen whenever and wherever the church is criticized. In fact, if Mr. Voris used his platform to do something about clerical sexual abuse, I would have more respect for him. But instead, the abuse crisis is being used as yet another weapon against other Catholics.
Thus, the interview ended up highlighting two dismal dynamics among American Catholics today: the vicious intra-Catholic divide and the stains of the clerical sex abuse scandal. The problem with Mr Voris inciting Mrs Greene to attack the church is not that he is an outlier we can all feel smugly superior to. In fact, many Catholics in the United States view other “tribes” of Catholics as their enemies, and some consider some non-Catholics to be closer to them politically and spiritually than other Catholics – or at least as handy cudgels for those other Catholics.
Moreover, the problem of clerical sexual abuse is a problem for the entire American church. No one can blame another part of the church for this and move on.
That’s why I agree with one thing Mr. Voris said: that he’s had enough of cheap unity calls. Perhaps he should reconsider his own sense of unity with Mrs. Greene.
[Read next:We’re all responsible for the toxic discourse that lets Marjorie Taylor Greene and Father Altman thrive]