After the article I wrote defending Fr. Romanus Cessario from an attack by Michael Sean Winters, I really didn’t check back to his page at the National Catholic Reporter. Honestly, Winters seems like a talented journalist, but one who can also be a little misguided on certain issues. However, I decided to look at some of his recent articles, and found a little piece of SJW propaganda entitled “More Catholics behaving badly: Texas Gov. Abbott, CUA's business school dean”. I rubbed my forehead, took a sip of my Starbucks Frappuccino (not sponsored), and began reading.
He starts right in by calling certain Texas bishops “zany”. I assume he is thinking directly of Bishop Strickland, but he didn’t name any names, so neither will I. As the title shows, though, his main Texas villain in this story is Governor Greg Abbott. Apparently, Abbott opposes giving baby formula (already in short supply) to the children of illegal immigrants. Winters proceeds to make his disagreement known, and quotes Scripture for good measure (Matthew 25:41-42). He says Abbott is “politicizing the distribution of baby formula”, and further states: “And, yes, in case you were wondering, Abbott considers himself ‘pro-life’.”
There are a number of issues to unpack. First, I am not sure exactly why baby formula is in short supply. I can only assume that it is because of our screwed-up supply chain and failing trade policies, but because I am almost two decades removed from using it, I really haven’t given it much thought. Is it wrong to refuse baby formula to illegal immigrants? It’s only fair to point out that before Trump made the border wall (an issue that directly affects Abbott’s state) a headline issue, Democrats that are currently very vocal against it were actually in support of it. According to ABC news, these Democrats included Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama. Trump wasn’t far off when he claimed that the Democrats switched sides on this issue merely because he was in favor of it. Winters claims that Abbott is politicizing the issue by calling Biden’s policy into question. Besides giving off shades of Soviet Russia where you can’t question the government, Winters also shows that he cares more about the children of illegal immigrants than American children. Of course, it’s important to make sure that everybody is cared for, but we are also American citizens who need to put America first. I realize that sounds like a Trump talking point, but if Americans do not put America first, other countries (like China) can take advantage of the weakness to put themselves first.
Abbott realizes this; Biden and Winters do not. I am not saying that illegals cannot be cared for, I’m saying that Americans deserve to have their basic needs met before giving away supplies to lawbreakers. This isn’t a political issue. The child of Democrat parents deserves formula as much as the child of Republican parents. Each is made in the image of God as much as the other. The politicization of the issue comes from Winters trying to claim that it is politicized, rather than something that can legitimately be done by the governor of a state flooded with lawbreaking illegal immigrants.
Winters also makes the mistake of assuming that just because someone is “pro-life” in the sense of anti-abortion he must also be against poverty, solve the world hunger crisis, end capital punishment, and make sure the left’s checklist of social issues is taken care of. That is quite the logical fallacy. I’ve often argued that pro-lifers need to fix this problem by identifying themselves based on the stance required for the current conversation. For example, rather than being generally “pro-life”, they should call themselves anti-abortion in that particular context, pro-death penalty in that particular context, etc. That is a way to eliminate confusion by clearly defining terms. I don’t know if Winters realizes it, but he is using the same dodge used by pro-abortion advocates to avoid having a serious, fact-centered conversation.
The other Catholic who, according to Winters, has been a very naughty boy is Michael Pakaluk. I read the book his wife collaborated on with Trent Horn on the incompatibility of Catholicism and socialism, and I found it enlightening and fascinating. Pakaluk has quite the list of accomplishments, and I’m personally a little jealous of his philosophy credentials. Apparently, Pakaluk recently wrote a piece in The Catholic Thing asking (and answering) whether Vatican II is “spent”. He points out that John Paul II always footnoted conciliar teachings in his encyclicals, but that Benedict XVI already largely stopped doing so. He says that rather than handing one of his students a conciliar document (which he would have done 30 years ago), he now wants to “recommend St. Augustine, St. Francis de Sales, St. John Vianney, or simply the Gospels as leading to the best practical effects”.
But then, he gets to the serious problems. He points out the deep divide between the various camps of Catholics on what the council actually said, and that this is actually a multi-decade problem. He argues that the council is not so much a dead letter as something that “has achieved whatever it could achieve”. Personally, I agree. I think the true message of the council was lost almost immediately through the squabbling of the different schools of interpretation. What could have been a good thing was almost immediately derailed by both left (who made it far too progressive) and by the right (who revolted into an extreme radicalism because of the misinterpretation). Pakaluk points out that most of what we consider conciliar teaching was actually distilled and taught in John Paul’s encyclicals, rather than in the actual council documents themselves. I encourage you to read Pakaluk’s article, as it is very thought-provoking and scholarly.
Winters, however, takes issue with Pakaluk’s opening litany of qualifications. He calls it “chest-thumping”, and while it might sound a little braggadocious, it is important to let your readers know you are qualified to speak authoritatively on your topic! Winters dismisses Pakaluk’s “hagiography about John Paul II”, saying that he was remarkable, “but wasn’t born on Krypton and he made plenty of mistakes during his long tenure”. I agree with Winters that John Paul II did make mistakes (and wasn’t impeccable, but that’s just Catholic teaching), but he and I might differ as to what those mistakes were. He chides Pakaluk for not mentioning Pope Francis, and mentions not even JPII would suppress the Latin American bishop’s council. I’m not sure of the background on that issue, so I won’t comment on it.
Apparently, Pakaluk (and his wife) came under Winter’s scrutiny once before, for being moral objectors to Covid-19 vaccine requirements. That is a whole issue unto itself, but it ought to be clear that Winters’ lists are ideologically motivated. Alongside the signatures of the Pakaluks on the statement about vaccines is that of Archbishop Vigano. I agree wholeheartedly with Winters here: the archbishop needs to know his place, and his role is not that of a political commentator but a shepherd of Christ’s church. In the earlier list, he criticized Abbott for complaining about illegal immigration. I wonder if Winters has been to the border, toured detention centers, interviewed border patrol officers, and local mayors, and done other things a real journalist would do. Neither have I, so that’s why I don’t pretend to have a position of authority on the matter. His final target is Laura Ingraham, who on her FOX News show questioned George Floyd’s real cause of death being drugs and not Derek Chauvin’s knee. Now, I have seen the video, and I think it is pretty clear that Floyd died because of his inability to breathe. However, it is not morally wrong for Ingraham to acknowledge that Floyd was a drug user and that might have contributed somehow to his death. I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. I’m also not Michael Sean Winters, so I won’t give an opinion on a foreign topic, or try to pass off information as a fact that I do not know is a fact. Just because a black man was killed by a police officer does not make him a hero, but Winters says: “Everyone deserves a fair trial, but why was Ingraham repeatedly impugning Floyd’s character and raising doubts about Chauvin’s moral guilt when we all watched that gruesome, inhumane video?” George Floyd was not a saint before or after his death, and Chauvin certainly wasn’t either. But I think journalists of a specific political persuasion wouldn’t understand that.
Winters identifies as a pro-life Democrat, and that is something he and I can both agree on. The pro-life part, that is. I suspect that, as I mentioned before, he is one of those types who carries the pro-life banner into every other social justice issue…where it doesn’t belong. And he says as much: “[His friends] are tired of bishops for a lot of reasons, but specifically for aligning the church with a political party that may be pro-life on abortion but is anti-life on so much else.” Again, a logical fallacy. I am glad he is anti-abortion, and I agree that we need to work to solve hunger, poverty, diseases, etc. But we do not need to solve those issues for our anti-abortion position to be valid.
I didn’t expect to do a “Winters Review” again, but there it is. Like I said in the beginning, I respect his journalistic abilities, and his articles are certainly interesting to read. They bring to the front different aspects of issues than those usually talked about. I just wish that it was a product of sincere truth-seeking, rather than a mission to find facts and fit them to a pre-existing ideology. I’m sure Winters is a sociable fellow, and we’d probably get along great over a cup of coffee, and maybe even have a good conversation about some of our disagreements. I only hope that he changes his approach and becomes more holistic in his reporting. And with that, I leave for your pondering one final quote. He calls Governor Ron DeSantis’ educational policies “political indoctrination”. Does that mean he supports the grooming of children?