There was plenty to get angry about in the disgraceful behavior of media figures and celebrities in the Covington Catholic incident. A carefully edited video clip that went viral on January 19 purported to show mostly white teenage boys, in Washington for the March for Life, wearing Trump-supporting MAGA hats while jeering and “smirking” at an aged Native American activist and drummer who was participating in an Indigenous People’s March. This story, later revealed to be a completely false interpretation of events, then triggered denunciations and worse from an array of well-known and lesser-known personalities in news, entertainment, and academia.
But as I survey the Covington wreckage, I feel more sad than angry. The long-term takeaway from the sorry incident isn’t the complicity of the mainstream media in broadcasting a lie after failing in their basic journalistic duty to do some reporting (we all know the media are primed to jump on anything that discredits Trump, white males, and opposition to abortion). It’s the pathetic spectacle of Catholic institutions and Catholic public intellectuals wringing their hands and rushing to condemn the boys minutes after the original video went viral. Like the journos, they did not bother to investigate or even wait a few hours for the truth to emerge. They simply assumed the boys’ guilt because the mighty mainstream media said so, and then hastily went public to apologize for something that never happened, assuring liberal critics that they, too, considered the youths—their own students, parishioners, and co-religionists—to be deserving of grievous sanctions.
R. R. Reno has pointed out that today’s Catholic leaders are “[o]verwrought with anxiety about their roles in elite society.” That’s true, but I think there’s something more: a deep and pervasive crisis of confidence among educated Catholics in their own institutions. One reason for this inferiority complex is the clerical sex-abuse scandals that have rocked the Church since 2002, undermining the moral authority of Catholic bishops. But the problem goes back to at least the 1960s. As the late priest-sociologist Andrew Greeley observed, postwar suburban Catholics, newly freed from their stigma of inferiority as urban ethnics, yearned to be seen as “full-fledged American[s].” They began to deem the edifices they had built—schools, colleges, publications—as somehow lesser than the secular world's edifices. The New York Times, not Our Sunday Visitor, became their benchmark of social approval.
What these Catholic ecclesiastics and Catholic intellectuals don’t seem to understand is that the secular liberal world, rather than willing to make a place for them if they go along with secular liberal pieties, is in a war against them—with the goal of total annihilation. The battle against Catholic Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court should have provided a clue. The fight wasn’t over whether Kavanaugh had assaulted a girl at a high-school party. It was over abortion, pure and simple—the likelihood that Kavanaugh might vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Yet Catholic priests were droning from their pulpits that we ought to “believe women.” The current liberal brouhaha over whether Second Lady Karen Pence deserves Secret Service protection when teaching at a Christian school that holds that marriage is between a man and a woman is of similar ilk. Democratic senators Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono considered themselves perfectly entitled to quiz Catholic lawyer and federal-judge nominee Brian Buescher about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, which they deemed an “extreme” organization because it opposes same-sex marriage—and remember that Harris is running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. All this is just a prelude to President Trump’s likely nomination of devout Catholic federal appeals judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill an upcoming Supreme Court vacancy. If Trump nominates Barrett, expect a battle from every liberal quarter to destroy the Catholic Church in America, the likes of which you have never seen.
The left never breaks ranks. It never trundles at the heels of right-wing fake news that might harm the reputation of one of its own—and it brooks no criticism of its own. It’s time for Catholics to follow suit. Liberals are not our friends and never will be, and they will use every weapon at their disposal—even hapless teenage boys—to try to destroy what Catholicism stands for. Remember that the Covington students were in Washington for the March for Life—and think about the actual target of that video clip.
Charlotte Allen is a writer living in Washington, D.C.