The Fog of War

Posted on 2023-06-26

Casselton, North Dakota – When the anti-Catholic hate group, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, was invited to be honored before a game at Chavez Ravine, the Los Angeles Dodgers stadium, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles criticized the Dodgers for honoring the group and Archbishop Jose Gomez expressed his “disappointment, pain and dismay” over the decision. The Archdiocese’s auxiliary Bishop, Gerald Wilkerson then issued a memorandum to the clergy of the Archdiocese noting that, despite this, the Archdiocese neither backed nor approved of the planned Catholic protests at the stadium on the day of the event. Such a memo let the Priests and the Deacons of the Archdiocese know they had better not be caught participating. Bp. Wilkerson said the Archdiocese hoped it could establish “dialogue” with all parties.

A great vacuum was created by the Archdiocese’s refusal to defend the faithful with any vigor. Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, came out to lead the very successful protest – and fill the vacuum for the faithful created by the abdication of the local Archdiocese.

Then we find this weekend that Bp. Strickland is on the receiving end of an Apostolic Visitation from the Vatican. That’s kind of like a visit from the FBI for normal folks, but without the SWAT Teams or CNN cameras. Strickland has been a burr in the saddle of the woke Vatican, as he insists on full-throated orthodoxy and publicly defending both the faith and the faithful. He is not opposed to dialogue, but when the anti-God left punches him (or the Christians he stands for, for that matter) in the face, he does not retreat and beg for more “dialogue.” He fights.

It pains me to speak critically of Los Angeles Archbishop Gomez. When he was first installed in LA, I had high hopes for real reform in that benighted Archdiocese. I had that hope for personal reasons, as well. Though I am only marginally acquainted with Abp. Gomez, he tapped my first spiritual director, the late Msgr. William Stetson (forever Fr. Bill to me), to come with him as special assistant. Fr. Bill was the first person I ever explained my full situation to, way back in May of 1995. Picked by Pope Benedict, Abp. Gomez got off to an auspicious start. He heavily restricted former LA Cardinal Roger Mahoney from doing any more damage to the faith and the faithful. Alas, those restrictions were overturned by Pope Francis’ Vatican. Nonetheless, Abp. Gomez focused on getting orthodox young men into the seminaries in LA, determined that the Archdiocese would become orthodox again, at least, by attrition over time.

I like to think that if we had an unambiguously orthodox Pope, Abp. Gomez would be a real reformer. The reality is that, since the election of Pope Francis, Abp. Gomez has done some good things, has signed onto some good initiatives that others have started, has retreated on some things and, above all, has avoided public spats. Personally, he is solidly orthodox. I don’t know if his obsessive avoidance of confrontation is from timidity or because he truly is struggling to balance his duty of fidelity to Christ and the Magisterium with his duty of obedience to authority over him. If it is a genuine struggle, it is not one he is winning.

The truth is that the faithful are perishing under the relentless onslaught of pagan wokism. Some of our Bishops are solid in their orthodoxy, both public and private. Abps. Aquila of Denver, Cordileone of San Francisco, and Naumann of Kansas City leap quickly to mind. But the people are perishing – and Bp. Strickland is the one who stands ever at the ready to defend them effectively. I have heard other Bishops say that Bp. Strickland is not a gifted theologian, that he is not prudent, that he is unsophisticated. I did take one Bishop aback when I noted that those were the same sort of criticisms made contemporaneously of St. Peter. Bp. Strickland IS courageous, willing to fight publicly both for the faith and the faithful, and in love with his flock. I stand proudly with Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas.

The job of the Church is to conform the world to Christ and His Magisterium. We have some Bishops who are actively trying to edit Christ and mutilate the Magisterium (right now, under the seemingly pious fig leaf of synodality). Other Bishops are working hard to preserve the faith whole and entire. But even among those who are so working, few are willing to make waves. And so the Church, progressively, keeps getting more and more conformed to the world.

The Pope Francis era is rapidly nearing the end of its run. It has not been an era of growth nor of doctrinal clarity, but it has been a vital pre-requisite to the renewal of the Church. We have seen how deep the rot runs in the hierarchy. We have seen how many men in cassocks have chosen the hope of worldly influence over the duty of fidelity to Christ. It is a time when every man and woman has answered, unknowingly, Christ’s pointed question to Peter after the Resurrection: “Do you love me?”

When this divine deposition suddenly finishes its appointed course, then comes a great judgment. The reigning dissidents will not topple Christ and remake the Church in their own woke image. At first it may well be a remnant, a mere shadow of its former power. But from that remnant will emerge a great light, a light that cannot be dimmed by the sacking of Rome and its global provinces. It is the light of those who, throughout the time of trial, of assault from within and without the gates, demonstrated by their fidelity that they love Christ first and foremost. It will rise from the ranks of the laity, but it cannot be led by the laity. Christ, Himself, appointed Apostles to govern His Church – and His decrees are immutable.

Choose carefully, dear Bishops. After revealing and casting off the rotted timbers from the great barque of faith, those who have lived fidelity in difficult times will remain. But those Bishops who kept fidelity, but also chose to seek dialogue when their flock needed defending, leaving the faithful to their own devices, will not be foremost in the renewed Church. They will be the clerks and second-raters they have revealed themselves to be. Like Peter, may their failure goad them to a greater love acceptable to Christ.

Would that all Bishops of good will complete their divine deposition with the grace and fortitude that Bishop Joseph Strickland already has. Would that they see that his great and sacrificial love for the faith and the faithful trumps all the theological, fund-raising, administrative and diplomatic prowess of those worldly clerics who boast of such things.

Those of us in the pews know that we are in a fight for the faith. We know that Bp. Strickland is with us at the barricades. All of you who are orthodox, I beg of you to join us before God’s deposition is finished.

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It was a bit of a milestone when I rolled into North Dakota this weekend. It was the last of the lower 48 states I had never been to before. It was only one of two such states in which I have never before spoken. The last holdout is Utah. The Mormons there have no particular animus towards me, but I reckon I am not their cup of tea.

I came in through western North Dakota. In the midst of rolling hills I spotted a farmhouse. Fifty miles later I spotted another one. I thought, man, if one of those catches fire, there goes half the neighborhood. Western North Dakota is very sparsely populated.

I spoke at a venue called “Arthur’s Barn.” It did not look like much from the outside. Once you stepped inside, it was gloriously expansive with gorgeous décor. It reminded me of the first Parish I was a member of – only without the pews. It had a big upstairs dining area (the choir loft) and a huge room below. Of course, my first Parish did not have a bar at the back. Even in Chicago they were not THAT progressive back in the day. In rural areas I have come upon a number of innocuous looking buildings from the outside that are absolute gems on the inside. It brings to mind Matthew 23:26, where Jesus admonishes the Pharisee to wash the inside of the cup instead of paying so much attention to the outside.

My Archbishop, Samuel Aquila, was Bishop of Fargo before he came to Denver. I was pleasantly surprised that when I mentioned that we shared a Bishop, there was a spontaneous round of applause. After the talk, several shared fond memories of Bishop Aquila.

I have to say, many of our big cities are suffering from a nihilistic fever of destruction, but the rural areas remain strong and true. It was the same thing I discovered on my pilgrimage (though the cities have gotten far worse since then). In the country, people of faith see suffering and injustice and ask how they can help. In the cities the woke left sees the same and ask who they can blame. It is the difference between virtue and virtue-signaling – and the latter is killing the hope and joy of a generation of people.

*********

The business of analysis involves gathering as much raw data and intelligence as possible, then fitting it into patterns that are coherent and predictable. This holds whether you are talking politics, geo-politics, war planning or just about anything else. I have often tried to get people to understand that, even in mystical things, I rarely get the answers. Rather, I believe God gives me a wealth of raw data and then I am expected to handle it the way I handle any other sort of analysis…in other words, to figure it out and come up with plans.

As you develop an overarching theory, there is always some data that is counter-intuitive or contradictory to the rest. Then there is data that you just don’t have. So you build in a series of contingencies and alternate explanations. You can get a good meta-sense of the state of play which allows you to amend your assumptions as more data becomes available to you. If you have got the overall sweep right, new information and events do not topple your analysis: they just refine its course.

This requires a certain restraint, a refusal to jump beyond what the data reasonably shows. The world is full of amateurs and cranks who, when they have a piece of information, think they have a schematic. Those are the ones who constantly come up with crackpot theories that always prove to be wrong. The cranks never recognize their error, just eagerly move on to the next crackpot leap. On the other hand, some analysts never make any conclusions at all because their fear of what they are missing is so great. Ultimately, good analysis is an art form, neither going beyond what the data you have will support nor fearing to make sometimes startling conclusions from that data. The reality is that if you are the best in the world, you are going to miss some things and sometimes an event will catch you by surprise. The equal reality is that if you make no conclusions at all, you will never be wrong but you are utterly useless as an analyst.

When I analyze anything complex, I pursue at least six or seven different plausible possibilities – and often more than a dozen. I relentlessly attack those narratives, which weeds out most actual fallacies and allows for refinement of the arc of the story as events shift on the ground. This is the process in normal times. In chaotic, unstable times you end up with more errors and startling surprises because many of the players lack a coherent plan that can be discerned…and the unforeseen erupts more frequently as loosely-formed plans are beset with more unintended consequences.

I was taken completely by surprise by the Wagner Group’s mini-revolt against Russian authority. I don’t know what it means – and I don’t trust the analysis of any of the usual cadre of “experts” on the subject. Most are so wedded to a particular narrative that they twist any event to support what they already believe. Those who have insisted that Putin is doomed since the second day of the war insist this proves what they have been saying for a year and a half. Others who, like me, respect Putin’s strategic sense, are insisting that this was some sort of 3D Chess move to disorient Ukraine and distract the west. That is at the outer edges of possibility, but I find it most unlikely. Above all, it has been hard to get a good grip on what is going on on the ground because almost no one gives straight reporting any more, including once reliable analysts. Everything is reported based on what the reporter wants to be true rather than what is actually happening. The strength of Ukraine has consistently been vastly exaggerated by western sources who desperately want it to be true. That is how we get stories that insist that Ukraine is crushing Russia almost effortlessly side by side with stories about how desperately Ukraine needs another $100 billion in materiel if it has any chance to survive. In this conflict, an honest analyst does not just have to deal with the fog of war, but with the intentional fog machine that tries to hide the reality when the fog occasionally parts.

Personally, I think Russia continues to prevail and will secure the Donbass and Crimea regardless of how much materiel the west sends. The price of that, however, may well be the interior destabilization of Russia, itself. The fog is too thick for me to see clearly what is happening now.

In a larger sense, I think this all plays into my thesis that everything, everywhere is falling apart and will continue to do so at an accelerating pace throughout this year. All the traditional alliances and certainties are coming unraveled. In America, the evidence of the incredible mass of Biden family corruption is becoming undeniable. The idiot media is finally figuring out that, having gone all in on the leftist narrative, they are sinking with the Bidens – and are now scrambling to hold onto some vestige of their lost credibility.

As usual, more than a few details are not playing out quite as I expected, but the larger narrative is. We have rapidly accelerating chaos throughout the world which will lead to some form of catastrophic collapse of the old world order. It is also leading to a collapse of the utopian dreams of an authoritarian new world order by the globalists. The old is falling away before our very eyes. The new is what will be made by the persecuted ordinary man, under God, as the fevered dreams of the new authoritarians slip away from them. And I remain convinced that, in the end, the more godly America that emerges from this chaos will ally with the more godly Russia that emerges from the same to defeat the godless authoritarian nightmare the Chinese government seeks to impose upon the world. Then we will be ripe for the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart.

Do not be afraid of the growing chaos that engulfs us the rest of this year and the first part of next. It is the death rattle of the degenerated old world order. Focus on taking the next right step under God and you will be true heralds of that Triumph. But glory! Do we have a wild ride ahead of us these next nine or ten months!

If communication goes out for any length of time, meet outside your local Church at 9 a.m. on Saturday mornings. Tell friends at Church now in case you can’t then. CORAC teams will be out looking for people to gather in and work with.

Find me on Twitter at @JohnstonPilgrim

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