It is always interesting to see what the New York Times chooses to publish about Catholicism in its opinion pages. It’s especially interesting to see the things it chooses to publish by conservative or traditionalist Catholics. I’ve written before about Matthew Walther, a contributor to various conservative outlets and editor of the Lamp, a proudly “orthodox” Catholic literary magazine. One of his pieces for the Times was about why American politics needs Catholic social teaching. The provocative lede championed the editors of Triumph, a “decidedly reactionary” Catholic magazine, for embracing the Black Power movement of the 1960s. Rioting, Triumph explained, was an understandable response to the “terror that always haunts men confronted by meaninglessness.” It was also an understandable response to the “soulless tyranny of secular liberalism” by those “yearning to make contact with the divine.” In another piece for the Times (“Overturning Roe Will Disrupt a Lot More Than Abortion. I Can Live With That”), Walther warned his fellow pro-lifers that Roe’s demise will bring about the birth of many unwanted children whose lives will be lived in “utter misery.” But for a Catholic of unblinking conviction, that is no reason to be timid. “What is right is very rarely what is convenient,” Walther concluded.
The Times’s most recent effort to provide a glimpse of how traditional Catholics think comes from Julia Yost, a senior editor at First Things. Yost’s op-ed is titled “New York’s Hottest Club Is the Catholic Church.” She describes a Manhattan “scene” frequented by young Catholic-curious artists and intellectuals and propelled by “a network of podcasts and upstart publications.” Unlike “senior churchmen,” who mistakenly try to “make Catholicism palatable to modernity,” these nascent Catholics are “more transgressive than progressive.” The soulless tyranny of secular liberalism is once again in the dock. “Reactionary motifs are chic: Trump hats and ‘tradwife’ frocks, monarchist and anti-feminist sentiments.” These fashionable New Yorkers, like all avant-gardes, are rebelling against the “banality” of career and peer pressures. “There’s not a problem in the world that three Hail Marys can’t fix,” says one of them. “No hell, no dignity,” says another. Fumbling with one’s rosary beads, the “paraphernalia of the underclass,” is a way to reject the demands of the meritocracy while showing solidarity with the lower orders. Even if some of these “scenesters” are faking it, they are still taking a step in a transcendent direction. “The church has long embraced theatricality, and it welcomes converts with motives other than sheer religious zeal,” Yost notes. “It is a properly religious act to observe the forms of faith even in the absence of perfect belief.” Despite its excesses and inadequacies, Yost argues that this “scene” has “the chance to revitalize the church for young, educated Americans.”