The “crazy” rhetoric of Michael Sean Winters

Being called “crazy” by Michael Sean Winters is like being called a “heretic” by his employer, the National Catholic Reporter—if that particular publication ever admitted the existence of heresy. Such an accusation lacks gravitas and authenticity; it also comes across as a bit, well, crazy:

Those who are prone to conspiratorial explanations of phenomenon tend to be, well, a little bit crazy. And, their craziness is not only intellectual, it is moral.

How else to explain this bizarre article at the Catholic World Report anout the “Nuns on the Bus” tour being linked with financier George Soros. Soros, you see, gave money to the Center for American Progress. The Center for American Progress played a role, not clear what role from this diatribe, in the foundation of the group Faith in Public Life. The group Faith in Public Life apparently was one of the groups that the nuns at NETWORK met with when the idea of having a bus tour was hatched. Q.E.D. Sr. Simone might as well have been caught sitting in Soros’ lap! And all for the sake of publicity! The horror. Except that, in a democracy, publicity is not a bad thing, is it? What is so different about the bus tour from the pamphlet “Common Sense”? And, in American democracy today, the idea of trying to garner publicity for the plight of the poor by means of a bus rental is almost quaint, at least when compared to the gobs of money making its way onto the airwaves via the SuperPACs.

And, so what if Sr. Simone had cashed a check direct from Soros? Where did this demonization of Soros begin? I may not agree with all of his politics, but the man has used a considerable amount of his considerable fortune to promote civil society and democratic norms and independent journalism in the countries ravaged by Communism. Is that such a bad thing? I deplore some of his positions, especially his support for euthanasia, but that cannot undo all the good he has done. Ignoring the good, and only emphasizing the bad is, tarring everyone with an association with an indictment, this sort of conpiratorial think is, as I say, crazy.

Folks can read my post and judge its level of intellectual and moral craziness for themselves. For my part, I’m unclear what Winters means by “moral craziness”; is he actually accusing me of a specific depravity, evil, and sin? Or inclination to the same? (I know he believes in sin: it is any action or thought issuing forth from what he calls “Catholic neo-cons”.) Perhaps I missed the memo about going easy (as the mainstream media does) on an atheist billionaire who has been convicted of insider trading in France, and who supports a number of dissenting, progressive Catholic groups, some of which are openly pro-abortion, such as Catholics For Choice. And how, for goodness sake, does my post qualify as “conspiratorial”? Especially since Soros’s political and social stances are fairly well-known and his support of causes and groups in opposition to Church teaching and authority are equally evident?

Well, I would spend more time analyzing it, but over the years I’ve learned that analyzing the “logic” of Winters’ posts and articles is like looking for a melody and a sax solo in a Sex Pistols “song”. Besides, it is obvious Winters knows that his core readership of catechesis-challenged Catholics will dutifully come running when he throws out the “crazy” label. Having penned the post, “Conspiratorial Craziness” (see above) about myself and CWR on July 11th, he quickly followed up with a post titled “More Conspiratorial Craziness” on the same day:

To observe that Father John Zuhlsdorf is a crank is like observing that the sun rises in the East. You don’t get points for stating the obvious.

But, at the end of this post, in which he rightly faults President Obama for his response to a question about the HHS mandate, Zuhlsdorf includes a fake poster showing, in a row, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Mao-Zedong, and Obama. This crosses the line, even for someone as off-kilter as Zuhlsdorf. Marx, of course, was a writer and thinker, not a politician, so he fits rather oddly with the quartet: In Moscow, after the collapse of communism, the statues of Lenin were hurled from their pedastals, but not the statue of Marx not far from Red Square. There, the inscribed motto was altered, and not by much, to read: “Workers of the World, I’m Sorry.” But, Lenin was bloodthirsty. Mao was one of the great mass murders of the 20th century. To put Obama with them is so wrong, I don’t know where to begin.

Winters is apparently still unaware (or stuck in some stage of denial about the fact) that President Obama is the most openly pro-abortion, pro-“reproductive health”, pro-Planned Barrenhood, pro-contraception POTUS in U.S. history. Actually, he’s not completely unaware: back in 2009, he lauded Obama’s record on nearly everything under the sun while admitting that on the issue of abortion the President has a “horrendous blind spot”—as if pledging unwavering suport for Planned Parenthood and having a 100% NARAL rating were somehow the result of an unintentional, freak accident rather than a prime indicator of a disturbing worldview and problematic moral compass. Finally, after the HHS mandate business got rolling along, Winters got a big dose of reality dumped in his liberal lap:

President Barack Obama lost my vote yesterday when he declined to expand the exceedingly narrow conscience exemptions proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services. The issue of conscience protections is so foundational, I do not see how I ever could, in good conscience, vote for this man again.

(Is anyone here willing to bet that Winters will actualy keep this promise? I’m fairly confident he will find a reason to back out of his promise, most likely revolving around how “crazy” Romney and the GOP are, etc.)

I do not come at this issue as a Catholic special pleader, who wants only to protect my own, although it was a little bracing to realize that the president’s decision yesterday essentially told us, as Catholics, that there is no room in this great country of ours for the institutions our Church has built over the years to be Catholic in ways that are important to us. Nor, frankly, do I come at the issue as an anti-contraception zealot: I understand that many people, and good Catholics too, reach different conclusions on the matter although I must say that Humanae Vitae in its entirety reads better, and more presciently, every year.

What? Humanae Vitae makes sense? That’s crazy! Oh, speaking of “crazy”, Winters wrote a post on July 17th titled, “Bachmann Goes Crazy Again”, in which he wrote, with his usual winning combo of wit and wisdom:

Michele Bachmann released the text of a letter she sent to Cong. Keith Ellison yesterday, explaining why she is calling for an investigation into the possibility of infiltration by the Muslim Brotherhood in the u.S. government. The letter repeats earlier charges by Bachmann hurled at Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and wife of former Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Hard to judge whether this is more vile than crazy or more crazy than vile. But, it is a measure of where today’s GOP is on the zaniness spectrum. Look for Bachmann to get a rousing ovation when she addresses the GOP convention next month. She is not that far out-of-the-mainstream of today’s GOP. Sadly. Very sadly.

Crazy! Vile! Zany! Sad! Crazy! Whew. When Wintertime hits, count on the dictionary being cracked open with whipsmart vigor, the thesaurus plundered with brow-furrowing zest, and the realm of rhetorical reverie expanded as never before! Still, with all of that said, I suggest that someone such as Andrew McCarthy, who actually knows a thing or three about radical Islamic groups, might be a better guide than Mr. Winters to the situation with Rep. Bachmann. But, hey, what do I know? I’m just man with crazy morals. Or moral craziness. Or conspiratorial morality. Or something.

In the meantime, I’m mindful of Ambrose Bierce’s definition of “insane”: “Addicted to the conviction that others are insane.”

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About Carl E. Olson 1229 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.