The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism by John Zmirak
Regnery Pub, September 26th, 2016
I’ve only recently heard of John Zmirak and I believe it was this article that introduced him to me as well as being a review for the book I’m about to review here. So I’m reviewing a book I bought based off a review I read. Everybody wins.
I don’t normally go for books presented and marketed the way this one is. I’ve since learned there is a whole series of “Politically Incorrect” books across a wide range of subjects though not yet (or perhaps ever) one on race. The simple reason is they give the appearance of covering serious topics in a simplistic way and I’m usually not into that. I’m also just quite sick of the term “political correctness” and we’d be much better just calling it Cultural Marxism or perhaps newspeak. That all said, you can’t judge a book by it’s (outrageous) cover and what’s behind the pages is certainly not a simple treatment of the subject matter.
Zmirak immediately endeared himself to me (and I’m sure many) a few chapters in with his anecdote about his interview for Yale, when answering a question about his extracurricular high activities he said:
“Not much. Mostly, I just prosecuted my religion teachers for heresy.”
I was born post-Vatican II and raised in the Anglican Church. However I attended Catholic Schools from five years old until I graduated from high school. So I had no idea how far away a large section of the Catholic leadership and an even larger section of the laity had fallen away from the faith. It slowly dawned on me as I got older that what was taught in religion class and what was practiced was far away from the teachings. As a simple but illustrative example; I recall being laughed at by my class when I brought fish to eat for a BBQ our class had on a Friday during Lent. I can also recall a lot of religion classes delving more into modern social justice and an awful lot of time spent on comparative religions. In short, my Catholic schooling wasn’t particularly Catholic. Had I been more conscious of this as well as more confident, I would like to imagine myself being just as mischievous as Zmirak in high school.
This is a book then that I can already recommend to most of my teachers and not a few priests if they’d be willing to look past the title. To someone already hostile to the title, the contents page will give no relief as they make clear the statements on the cover weren’t an accident. The book covers some history of the change the church has underwent particularly since the 1960s and covers gun control, the death penalty, global warming, abortion, capitalism, immigration (yes, really), contraception and human sexuality.
It also covers global warming. I did mention that already but he does go on a bit too much about it and I thought the space allocated could have been better used. People just don’t seem to care anymore and if ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ was real, we should definitely be burning up on a horrible desert planet by now. It has been ten years since it was released and we didn’t “act”, you see. Still this is my only major criticism of the book and this is maybe more because I have exhausted myself on the topic over the years.
What was truly refreshing was some common sense talk on immigration. This was kind of easy because he goes straight to the Catechism:
“The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.”
If you’d been listening to public figures within the church you’d think it read, “Western nations are obliged to unconditionally accept and provide for however many people want to come and live within their lands. If they don’t, they’re a racist.”
“Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.”
This puts a whole new perspective on things and makes it quite clear that importing hundreds of thousands of (mostly) non-Christian migrants is not, in any sense, within church teachings. Zmirak even goes further to consider immigration as a form of conquest which it very much is.
But enough about my pet issues and more to what I found particularly useful. One observation I’ll make before proceeding is that despite the very grave subject matter, Zmirak conveys the jovial and hopeful outlook of a man of faith. As a life time cynic, this is something I’ve been working on and failing to achieve for quite a while.
Zmirak does cover the convergence that has occurred at many levels of the church and continues. My schooling gives some idea of how far it has gone but Zmirak covers how what was called the “Spirit” of the second Vatican council was used to avoid following the actual text. Vatican II is something I’ve long been of two minds on and Zmirak addresses this complicated subject very clearly. The same goes for other documents and subjects that are frequently (and deliberately) confused by the mainstream media.
Another interesting point was the subject of divorce and annulments. I had no idea how corrupt the issuing of annulments had become within the church. Much like contraception (which I have an upcoming post on), this is a seriously divisive issue among Catholics though the actual teaching is quite clear. As with immigration above, you could simply look it up but research is hard. On the personal side, I have thought hypothetically about divorce on a number of occasions. If (heaven forbid) I sought an annulment, wouldn’t I be seeking also to say my children were therefore conceived in a sinful act? If I were to do that, it wouldn’t show much love for them. And even if I was okay with that, knowing as I do the teaching I wouldn’t be able to see being granted an annulment from a bishop as a “Get Out of Hell Free” card. God knows my mind and I find it hard to believe observant Catholics don’t realise that he knows theirs too.
One final note is that while he covers many political topics from a Catholic perspective, he is quick and careful to point out that the church is limited in a number of ways politically. A comprehensive teaching on economics for example is beyond the scope of the church. It is only able to offer guidance on specific matters.
So, I naturally recommend the book and found it personally helpful as well as entertaining and informative. I don’t know if I’d consider buying another of these guides but I have no regrets about this one.