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Originally posted at Talk to Action

John McCloskey Recently Talk to Action's Fred Clarkson authored a very important essay for Religion Dispatches concerning the growing alliance between conservative Evangelical Protestants and some traditionalist Catholics. He focused on Eric Metaxas, the revisionist biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Opus Dei priest to the powerful, C. John McCloskey.

In his essay, Fred discussed McCloskey's literary vision for the Catholic Church in the year 2030.  But while his story appeared to be about a smaller and more strident Church, it also appears to be a broadside against birth control - and by extension, Keynesian economics.

Understanding McCloskey

Rev. C. John McCloskey is the Catholic Right's culture warrior's culture warrior. Whether it be economics or religion, he can be fearlessly forceful and controversial. He is well-connected with the politically powerful, having friends such as former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), Kansas Republican governor Sam Brownback, as well as friends on Wall Street such as converts Lawrence Kudlow and Mark Belnick.

In a 2002 piece for Slate, Chris Sullentrop offered a spot-on assessment of McCloskey:

McCloskey is a native Washingtonian, an Ivy Leaguer who graduated from Columbia and a former Wall Streeter who worked at Citibank and Merrill Lynch. As a result, he travels comfortably in elite circles, and his ministry is focused on them: on young priests and seminarians (the intellectual elite in many Catholic communities), on college students at elite universities and "strong countercultural" Catholic institutions, and on "opinion-makers and people of influence." The self-described supply-sider has a top-down strategy to transform the culture, too. He wants to turn Blue America into Red

But as both Fred Clarkson and I have documented, McCloskey is not a conservative in the mode of Barry Goldwater but a reactionary in the mode of de Maistre. In the early 1990s Catholic students successfully petitioned for him to be removed from the chaplaincy at Princeton University. As the Opus Dei Action Network reported in a story sourced from the Trenton Times, McCloskey counseled students not to take courses given by professors who he defined as "anti-Christian." His more recent writings scorn non-Christians as "pagans" and openly hint at violent insurrection as a means of achieving political ends while predicting "We will convert those Moslems yet!" A picture emerges of a man who is not merely old-fashioned in his beliefs, but militantly so.

Looking Back from Dystopia

This leads us to one of McCloskey's most incendiary pieces to date, 2030: Looking Backwards. The writing is in the form of a January 1, 2030 letter to a young pried from a seventy-seven year-old priest named Fr. Charles. It is nothing less than an imagined triumphant manifesto for Opus Dei.

The Catholic reactionary vision would be calamitous for most of the rest of us -- particularly Catholics who look to the government to protect them from the hierarchy's more strident positions on issues such as reproductive rights and stem cell research. Fred Clarkson gave us clear idea of McCloskey's future vision:

In his original essay, McCloskey's avatar, Fr. Charles, explained how "the great battles over the last 30 years over the fundamental issues of the sanctity of marriage, the rights of parents, and the sacredness of human life have been of enormous help in renewing the Church and to some extent, society."

McCloskey's literary device allows him to avoid openly seditious language, while suggesting that conservative Catholics and allied evangelicals should prepare for civil war. Now a Research Fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute, which published his update, McCloskey repeated his vision of "the secession of the 'Culture of Life' states from the United States, precipitating a short and bloody civil war that resulted in a collection of the Regional States of America." He also says that the Church of "2030" was "much smaller... and nary a dissenter to be seen."

Interwoven throughout the piece are attacks on birth control. Statements such as "You will also note that as a group they [Catholics] are averaging four to five children per family, which means that over the next few decades we will see an increasing natural growth" as well as "We pray that as Europe survived the barbarian invasions of the so called Dark Ages, it will survive its own attempted continental suicide by contraception..." stand out as issues McCloskey specially seems wanted highlighted. If that were to be the case, the question becomes what was the militant priest truly after?

Why 2030?

But why did McCloskey pick the year 2030 as his year from which to look backwards?  Was it arbitrary or just a thirty-year point in the future from when the essay was written? Was part of his attack purely against contraception? I suspect that the Opus Dei priest's choice of dates may have been deliberate and has to do with economics.

First, let's look back to 1930. It was in that first year of the Great Depression that the British economist John Maynard Keynes wrote his essay The Economic Possibilities For Our Grandchildren.

In his essay Keynes envisioned a world where only fifteen hours a week of work would be necessary to live the equivalent of a comfortable middle-class life; one in which we led lives full of productive leisure - art, scientific inquiry and civic involvement (not idleness). Capitalism was a necessary but temporal evil that (he hoped) would eventually extinguish itself once everyone was free from want. There would be no Marxian apocalypse, merely transformation. Just a scarcity disappeared as a relevant economic consideration, so to would the need for money-making. It is Keynes's estimation of when this better world would exist that should sate our interest:

But this [The Great Depression] is only a temporary phase of maladjustment. All this means in the long run that mankind is solving its economic problem. I would predict that the standard of life in progressive countries one hundred years hence will be between four and eight times as high as it is today.

That would be 2030.

But it is probably the first of four prerequisites of a coming society Keynes described that had to have gotten under McCloskey's skin:

The pace at which we can reach our destination of economic bliss will be

governed by four things - our power to control population, our determination to

avoid wars and civil dissensions, our willingness to entrust to science the direction of those matters which are properly the concern of science, and the

rate of accumulation as fixed by the margin between our production and our consumption; of which the last will easily look after itself, given the first three. (italics added)

We must remember that McCloskey is a self-described "supply-sider." And if there is a bogeyman for supply-siders, it is John Maynard Keynes. It was Keynes who stated in his Magnum Opus, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, "[S]upply creates its own demand in the sense that the aggregate demand price is equal to the aggregate supply price for all levels of output and employment."  In other words, it is demand that needs to be maintained; that, in turn, will take care of supply. Add government intercession through active fiscal policy to the equation and you an anathema to supply-siders. Throw in Keynes's belief in birth control and you also have the perfect storm for an economic/religious conservative such as McCloskey.

While McCloskey does not directly discuss economics in his 2030 piece, he has elsewhere demonstrated his antipathy to birth control from an economic point of view. Indeed, in a 2011 book review he made an incredible assertion -- one repeated by many on the Catholic Right:  

Therefore, according to Mueller, both private savings and government insurance will reduce fertility. He also shows the connection between weekly worship and higher fertility. He analyzes marriage in this way: "In a certain sense the spouses are partners in a small business; and to make the most of their house resources, work out a coordination of economic roles." There is much more, including an empirical analysis showing that halting all abortion would almost immediately solve the problem of the bankruptcy of Social Security, but I will let you discover these fascinating insights on your own.

The assumption that merely by increasing the birth rate that it "would almost immediately solve the problem of the bankruptcy of Social Security" is absolutely absurd. More importantly, McCloskey - who has a degree in economics from Columbia University - must know it.

A study by McCloskey's Alma Mater points out, "In 2001, close to 2 million children received survivors benefits with the average monthly benefit being $554 per child." The result of a population burst of the type McCloskey envisions would more likely be a greater strain on Social Security and other safety net programs. After all, more children translates into a greater number of dependents if a parent were to die - a greater probability as the average parent age at birth would be increasing.

There is nothing new about dishonest attacks on Keynesian economics by Opus Dei Catholics. In 2011 I wrote about how the since-resigned head of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti-Tedeschi, not only attacked the eminent British economist on similar grounds but also significantly misrepresented (or misunderstood?) Keynes's view on saving (he was not opposed to saving, but having it exceed investment).

Can we say for sure that McCloskey was using birth control to attack Keynes?  I cannot read his mind -- but in rereading McCloskey's 2030 piece in conjunction with his past statements on ministering to wealthy elites and his other writings, that esoteric jab at Keynes did indeed leap out at me.

But it is where this all leads that is of greater concern. Here is a movement conservative clergyman with powerful connections, and unlike Kenyes, from what I have read from McCloskey over the years, little concern for the economically marginalized. Also unlike Keynes, who was concerned with peaceful transformation, McCloskey is not shy about discussing violence as a means to his dystopic end for society. If that be the case it is the English atheist who lived more Christ-like than this reactionary Catholic priest.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Heh. (3+ / 0-)

    "Looking Backwards" just about sums these folks up, doesn't it?

    Thanks for the post, Frank. We need to know this stuff.

    There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

    by slksfca on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 06:03:18 AM PDT

    •  Looking Backwards, All Right... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      slksfca, Bronx59, SeaTurtle, spacecadet1

      ...all the way back to the thirteenth century.

      Thanks for the kind words.

      •  thanks for this excellent article, FC (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Frank Cocozzelli

        you have really made the case of how Opus Dei, through McCloskey, finds common cause with the current radical reich, especially on their economic and culture war issues.

        IMO, it's all about Money!  And what money can do: buy power and control.  And the plutocrats, with whom they are in alliance, would certainly agree to this non democratic form of economics.  

        At this point, I am even very cynical about the Opus Dei theological ideology and their supposed 'culture war' issues.  I think that these issues are a rationalization for their stunning grab for theocratic power.  Rather I think that they are, in effect, 'fanatic theocratic stormtroopers' who have sworn allegiance to the head of Opus Dei and are submissive tools in the hands of those to whom they have sworn utter obedience and allegiance.  God has nothing to do with it; God is how they are brainwashed and the image they present to those 'not in the know.'

        Opus Dei is a very dangerous cult, fulfilling Hassan's description of cult to a T.  They are 'brownshirts' masquerading around 'pure' catholics.  

        And as this diary has so clearly shown, through McCloskey (who wouldn't be putting forward this philosophy unless the Opus Dei governing body directly approved,) that they have no interest in democracy and the welfare of all.  But beyond their culture war issues, seem to now be escalating into threats of violence to achieve their means, under the excuse of serving God.

        Where in history have we heard those threats?

        Here we go again.

        I belong to the “US” of America, not the “ME,$,ME,$,ME,$” of America!

        by SeaTurtle on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 08:03:49 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  "radical reich"... (0+ / 0-)

          "theocratic stormtroopers"...  "brownshirts"....

          Why are you using these terms to criticize people like McCloskey for using these same terms as analogies in their fight against government mandates on contraceptive coverage ?  Isn't this a bit like Godwin-ing the Godwin-ers?

          •  In Defense of SeaTurtle (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            SeaTurtle, spacecadet1

            Unlike most mainstream conservatives, McCloskey openly talks about bringing about a theocracy of sorts. More importantly, he constantly hints at the use of violent insurrection to make his vision a reality - much like the brownshirts.

            •  I guess I was asking ... (0+ / 0-)

              why stoop to the use of the same inflammatory "Hitler" based language that these clowns use, especially after criticizing them for using it?  

              •  Ft, I am not using these words as casual metaphor (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Frank Cocozzelli, spacecadet1

                they are referring to actual realities.  "Political correctness" or "stooping to the same language" does not apply since the word "fascist" is embedded in Opus Dei's history and present.  As you can read and research, Opus Dei had its start in Fascistic Franco's Spain which it supported.  In addition, the organization itself has retained a rigid authoritarianism and many qualities of fascism and wants the United States to operate according to that model.  

                I recommend for background reading:

                1)  Frank Cocozzelli's "The Catholic Right, Part Two: An Introduction to the Role of Opus Dei

                2)  Opus Dei: Neofascism Within the Catholic Church, by DK author OllieGarkey  

                3)  Pope John Paul II's Penitential Practices: The Opus Dei Connection, Talk2Action Website  (this article has a number of very useful recommendations for articles, books and links.)

                and finally a good review of

                4)  ODAN will fill in any blanks left.

                Happy reading and researching!

                I belong to the “US” of America, not the “ME,$,ME,$,ME,$” of America!

                by SeaTurtle on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 12:32:55 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Well, you may not believe this (0+ / 0-)

                  but I have read at least two of those three articles. I have always wondered how you can criticize Opus Dei (which is an accepted part of the Catholic Church) without coming after the whole institution.  It's like belonging to a country club that has a "committee to support racism" in its structure and you are still paying the club's dues and participating in its activities.  

                  Do you really think that using Nazi references to Opus Dei, even if there are some parallels to be drawn, is effective?  That's why I used the Godwin's law reference. People's eyes just tend to glaze over when these terms are used because they've been bandied around the internet to the point of rendering them meaningless.

                  •  Accepted By Whom, Though? (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    SeaTurtle, spacecadet1, Fishtroller01

                    It should be noted that the Church elevated Opus Dei by John Paul II, an extremely conservative pope. By contrast, Popes John XXIII and Paul VI greatly distrusted the group and refused to enlarge their role.

                  •  Ft, you are wasting our time; you are either a (0+ / 0-)

                    Troll (of the concern variety,) or a sockpuppet or wilfully ignorant.  In any event you show up in these types of diaries with the same lines and close your ears to any attempt to dialogue with you.

                    Here is a recent exchange we had in one of Frederick Clarkson's diaries:

                    Fishtroller01? You joined 6/11/12 (0+ / 0-)
                    are you a sockpuppet or just a troll?
                    by SeaTurtle on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 07:54:30 PM EDT

                    [ Parent ]

                     Let's see... (0+ / 0-)
                    a "sockpuppet or a troll"?  How about a newcomer to the Daily Kos who has commented on a variety of topics? Is being new some kind of sin here?  Is not agreeing with the diarist or questioning his/her arguement or points not allowed?

                    I addressed the topic, made an observation based upon some research, made observations based upon that research,  offered my opinion and questioned the treatment of another commenter.  And I managed to do it all without calling either the diarist or any of the commenters liars, or being personally abusive in any way. How about you?
                    by Fishtroller01 on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 10:28:07 PM EDT

                    you are indeed a newcomer (0+ / 0-)
                    who I have previously asked to try to listen and learn before spouting ill informed and indeed, trollish opinions on my diaries.  Since you first popped up, you have tended to post strong opinions that are grossly disproportionate to what you actually know about a subject, and as you can see, that has not gone unnoticed.

                    by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 01:14:29 PM EDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    Link to FC's Diary "If Knowledge is Power....".

                    So, I am done with responding to you  You are here to waste people's time.

                    I belong to the “US” of America, not the “ME,$,ME,$,ME,$” of America!

                    by SeaTurtle on Sat Aug 04, 2012 at 07:38:09 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Just because someone doesn't agree (0+ / 0-)

                      with your point of view or questions the effectiveness of the language you use or the approach you take on an issue, you name call... or you declare a person's view "ignorant".  "Sockpuppet"? "Troll"?  Just because I told you your descriptive terms for Opus Dei were overused?   This is beyond silly.

                      I haven't "closed my ears" to any dialogue.  However, you appear to have closed ears to anyone who disagrees with you.  And why would you use Mr. Clarkson's words to make your argument?  Is this some sort of team tag going on here?

                      The fact that I'm a newcomer to Daily Kos is meaningless as I have commented on all types of articles on here. I say what I want to say ON TOPIC and have had lots of votes for my opinions.  Plus I don't name call.

                      If Daily Kos has a welcoming committee to newcomers, I might suggest that you not apply.

  •  It's amazing to me how vehement the misogyny (4+ / 0-)

    of the religious right is. What's distressing is, how many religious right supporters are women.

    As for Keynes, he was a great economist and has been one of my heroes since I discovered economics at age 16.

    "Mistress of the Topaz" is now available in paperback! Link here:

    by Kimball Cross on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 06:54:22 AM PDT

  •  In my view, McCloskey (0+ / 0-)

    is a silly little fish in an increasingly small pond. The way things are going in America, by 2030, the Vatican run Catholic Church may be whittled down to a wimpering side show, all thanks to today's crop of US Bishops.

    By the way, most atheists would object to having their values characterized as "Christ-like".  If Keynes was an atheist who valued the marginalized in society economically and hoped for a peaceful future, those instincts were humanistic and certainly not linked to any religious figure. In fact, most atheists who studied the gospels would probably argue that Christ's advocation of eternal damnation was immoral.

  •  imagine a red Prada shoe stomping on a human face (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Opus Dei is evil; their vision for the world is nothing but power and suffering.

    Usually ignorant nostalgists want to bring back only the good parts (for certain values of good) of their favorite historical eras.  Opus Dei wants to bring back the worst of the Middle Ages: ignorance, deprivation, absolutism, degradation, all held together by terror ... blessed divine terror.

    Evil people who want to do evil things.

    To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

    by Visceral on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 11:49:44 AM PDT

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