Since the US election, Fr Zuhlsdorf has been subjected to a concerted attack from some liberal catholic publications. This would not be noteworthy except for the fact that as a result, he has been asked to move from the diocese where he currently works and has now to find accommodation. It is therefore reasonable to speak of an attempt to “cancel” him as the saying is nowadays.
The Character of Fr Z’s Blog
As an outspoken blogger, Fr Z is accustomed to opposition from Catholics who object to his promotion of the traditional Latin Mass, gays who object to his unequivocal defence of Catholic moral teaching, and modernist priests and theologians whose theology he criticises for being contrary to the magisterial teaching of the Church. In the online “wild west” of the blogosphere, he is happy to give as good as he gets. This makes his blog enjoyable for his followers and probably annoying for his opponents.
At the same time, often on the same day, he will encourage people with the refrain “Go To Confession”, answer enquiries from readers, address questions about the celebration of the Mass and the Sacraments, write with skill and erudition on classical and modern languages and literature, and cover a host of other matters that will help people to understand their faith.
As a pastor, he repeatedly asks readers, “Was there a GOOD point made in the sermon you heard at the Mass for your Sunday”, invites them to submit their urgent prayer requests, and moderates his combox responsibly to ensure it can continue without becoming a mud fight. With joy and enthusiasm, he posts feedback from readers who have started going to confession again after many years, or those who have rediscovered the Mass.
Conscious of the value of adding lighter content of personal interest, he writes about his enthusiasm for ham radio, trips to friends in cities in the US and elsewhere, often jokingly posting the back of the aeroplane seat as “My view for a while”. For a while, he featured posts on “The Feeder Feed” with pictures from his garden of (hold your breath) birds. The mixture of the serious and the frivolous, of entertainment and education, together with his indefatigable output, has made the blog a huge success over more than fourteen years.
The 2020 US Election
After the 3 November 2020 US election, Fr Z was concerned about reports of fraudulent voting. In England we are educated by our public service broadcaster and all its major competitors that there was no evidence of fraudulent voting. Not a single fraudulent vote anywhere in the USA. At all. No Sir. None of that. The prima facie implausibility of this universal negative should be seen against the background of claims of fraudulent voting in US elections, going back to the Civil War and earlier. To take just some recent instances, the Democrats made claims of fraudulent voting against the Republicans in 2000, 2004, and 2016, challenging Electoral College certification in each case. In 2016 the claim was made that the Russians had interfered. In case you don’t follow these things closely, it was the Democrats who claimed this, not Terrible Right Wing Conspiracy Theorists.
When a bunch of assorted loons and opportunists stormed the Capitol, it was all that was needed for the “Never Trumpers” not only to blame Donald Trump, but to make a serious and partly effective attempt to institute a digital damnatio memoriae. Not only could the media now frame the discourse however they wanted, Trump could no longer use Twitter or Facebook to reply; nor could he move to Parler which had been taken down completely. You do not need to be a horned, fur-clad, spear-waving eccentric to suggest that this is problematic in a democracy: but you will probably be compared to one if you do.
Earlier in 2020, the local bishop gave Fr Zuhlsdorf permission to recite
publicly the prayer from Title XI, chapter 3 of the Rituale Romanum, the Exorcism Against Satan and the Apostatic (or rebellious) Angels. The Bishop asked him to offer the prayer for the whole diocese of Madison, for protection against Covid-19. After the election, he
added a further intention. That is, he included a further intention in addition to the primary intention. It is important to note what he actually said about this added intention:
“However, I have also been asking God to aim this powerful exorcism at all places and all equipment involved in the counting or recounting or canvassing or auditing of votes in the 2020 election. I ask God to drive away demonic influence from all the people involved. I ask the Queen of Angels to bid myriads and myriads of angels to protect all the people involved from temptations from the Enemy to lie or cheat. I ask the angels to prompt anyone who did lie or cheat in the counting of votes to repent and to come forward and admit what they did.”
Fr Z went on to say that his concern in adding this intention, was for the common good, and for the truth, so that people could have confidence in their elections, since without elections being trustworthy, there would be no way for people to secure their God-given freedoms.
Cue America Magazine, The Tablet, and the National Catholic Reporter. There is no particular surprise in these publications attacking Fr Z: he has criticised them often enough, and he is happy to stand up for himself. Unfortunately, in this instance it was a concerted dog whistle at just the right time. The Bishop of Madison, the Archbishop of Milwaukee, and the Bishop of Velletri (the diocese in which Fr Z is incardinated) all received furious correspondence demanding action.
As is usually the case with hit pieces, the articles included some actual reporting, and added quite a bit of hinting designed to discredit. For example, “[Fr Z] told his supporters it was not a sin to pray for the death or resignation of the Roman Pontiff.” Well, not quite. In fact, he went to some trouble to explain that he was not saying that.
Another falsehood by selective quotation is that he was encouraging people to pray for their enemies to die. Again, it is best simply to read what he says in three posts about praying for our enemies (II and III are linked from the first post.) He quotes the prayers from the Roman Missal, highlighting the importance of peace and charity, praying for the forgiveness and conversion of our enemies, for a good death, both for them and for ourselves, and for God to grant what is genuinely good for our enemies.
As a result of the articles by his opponents, Fr Z is now having to find somewhere else to live. The Remnant said that his bishop threw him under the bus. In a statement sent to the clergy of Madison, the bishop was kind enough to thank Fr Z for “his faithful support of the diocese’s seminarians and priests, thanks him for his many years of steadfast ministry serving the diocese” and it was noted that the decision for Fr Z to relocate was made by mutual agreement. So perhaps we could say that he was asked kindly if he wouldn’t mind awfully, just getting on the bus.
In the process he loses his accommodation and his apostolate. (Don’t expect any of the liberals to show even the slightest sign of regret of embarrassment.)
The Blog Goes On
Fortunately, he still has the blog. Fortunate for his readers who gain so much from it, fortunate for the converts who have come to the Church because of it, fortunate for the Catholics who have begun to Go To Confession again thanks to it, and fortunate for priests who have gained much wisdom from it: I include myself among these.
One commentator sneered at the end of his hit-piece about Fr Z that “his flock [is] effectively the followers of his blog.” The bishop of Velletri-Segni is quoted as saying that because he combines arguments of faith and morals with photos of birds, Chinese food, and aircraft seats, he has no theological credibility. Blogs, you know, silly things really. And those 580,000 visitors a month on average since late 2006 could all be wrong.
In England, we are not terribly good at the old fundraising lark, but I do feel it not inappropriate to add, that if you felt able, that is, if you wouldn’t mind awfully, Fr Z does have a fundraiser thingy running: PROJECT “200!” Wherein Fr. Z asks for help.
If you can’t think of any other reason to give, just remember a favourite saying of Sir Dan of the Blogosphere: “It’ll annoy the liberals.”