“At least I didn’t nail anything to a door.”

The Vatican is an imposing enough place to speak, especially for a Southern Baptist, so I guess I can plead that my mind was distracted with nervousness. I waited in line with several friends and colleagues of various communions and denominations to enter the center of the Church of Rome to attend a gathering, called by Pope Francis, of religious leaders from around the world to talk about marriage and family. Going through security, I fished in my coat pocket for my passport. The problem was that I had worn the same suit the week before, lecturing on the Protestant Reformation at an Evangelical seminary. Without thinking, I pulled out what I took to be my passport, only to find that I was handing the Swiss Guard a pocket-size copy of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

As I made a fumbling attempt to put the little booklet away and find the right documentation, I wondered which of my grandparents would be more ashamed of me: my Roman Catholic grandmother, for my ushering the tumult of the 16th century right there to the pope’s door; my Baptist-preacher grandfather, for entering the Vatican at all; or all of my grandparents together — Evangelicals and Catholics alike — for my violation of southern manners. My awkwardness was all my own, though. The Swiss Guards didn’t recognize the 95 theses, and my American Catholic colleagues roared with laughter. At least I didn’t nail anything to a door.

–Russell Moore, The Reformation at 500

“Biased and bigoted views,” you say?

“This is the United States of America — for centuries, people fled to our shores to find refuge from religious persecution. All Americans of faith should take a long, hard look at this and decide if these are the values we want to be represented in our next president. If Hillary Clinton continues to employ people with biased and bigoted views, it’s clear where her priorities lie.”

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), Speaker of the House of Representatives

This is an actual statement from the highest-ranking Republican in America. The same man who has affirmed that, as of this posting, he still plans to vote for his party’s nominee, Donald Trump, even if he won’t actively campaign for or with him. Donald Trump, lest you forget, bragged about committing sexual assault and called for a ban on all Muslim immigrants. Then there was the incredible moment when he said that a judge born in Indiana couldn’t rule on a Trump University lawsuit because he was Mexican. Remember that? Do you remember that Paul Ryan denounced Trump’s racist remarks as “textbook racism”? Then as now, Ryan supported Trump for president.

Let me be clear.

Paul Ryan is, at best, a craven coward with utterly no sense of shame or decency. If he had shame, decency, or the courage of his convictions, he never would have endorsed Donald Trump as his party’s presidential nominee. At the very least, he would have un-endorsed Trump back when he correctly identified Trump’s textbook racism for what it is. At that point, Ryan could have secured his reputation as a man of principle and conscience. It’s too late. I suspect that Ryan knows that it’s too late, which is why he has apparently resolved himself to stay the course, even though he sees the iceberg looming over the bow.

At worst, Paul Ryan is a racist, misogynist, religiously bigoted thug who tacitly approves every noxious effusion spewed by his candidate, Donald J. Trump. In which case, of course, he’s very principled, but his principles are those of hatred, resentment, fear, and utterly amoral self-interest.

We are talking, in either case, about an elected official who continues to give his support–publicly and willingly–to a man who has bragged about committing sexual assault.

In that context, I find it to be quite rich indeed that Paul Ryan would denounce Hillary Clinton and her political allies for expressing views on the Catholic Church that he considers to be “biased and bigoted.” He continues to support for president a man who in his words and actions has violated the spirit of the Christianity (let alone Catholicism specifically) for the entirety of his public life. In his presidential campaign, he has doubled and tripled down on most of those violations.

It is a commonplace to accuse politicians of hypocrisy. It is also often done quite uncharitably and without consideration of either the foibles of human nature or the vicissitudes of circumstance. For me, this is not a “gotcha!” thing. This, to me, cuts instead to the core of what a diseased monstrosity the conservative-Republican alliance has become.

Read that quote at the top of this post again. Paul Ryan is trying to drum up animus against one candidate by invoking the “biased and bigoted views” of those she employs because he wants people to come out and vote for his candidate, the one whose entire campaign has been one interminable, inarticulate howl containing multitudes of every form of ignorant bias and cruel bigotry. How dare he impugn the values of Hillary Clinton when he himself has utterly abandoned the values of his own faith to pimp for the racist, amoral sexual predator at the top of his own party’s ticket? And how can anybody ever again call Paul Ryan a man of principle, unless what they mean is that he’s a man dedicated wholly and without scruple to the principle of retaining political power at any cost to his own soul or the soul of the nation he claims to serve?

 

Basically, Catholics are weird, is what you’re saying?

I continue to find it curious that Catholic conservatives today want precisely the opposite kind of governance from the Church than they want from secular states. In secular politics they want decentralization, subsidiarity, local knowledge and discretion in preference to abstract laws applied from above; in Church governance they want canon law set by the Vatican and merely enforced at the local level. Now, to be sure, there’s no contradiction here; there is no reason why one must think that secular governance and Church governance should operate according to the same principles; but I still think it curious. Of course, it could also be said that American Catholic liberals have equally curious views, but in mirror image: they tend to approve of state centralization with universally binding dictates issued from Washington, while wanting the implementation of Catholic teaching to be left up to the discretion of local communities.

Basically, Catholics are weird, is what I’m saying.

—Alan Jacobs, one more round with Ross D.