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The Culture is Wrong, and The Church is Right: Zmirak’s New Book Reviewed

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism
John Zmirak
Regnery Publishing, 2016
256 pages

71dxbhek0olScurry out and buy two copies of John “Bad Catholic” Zmirak’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. Keep one for yourself, and give the other to your priest or clergyman (despite the title, this book is for all Christians).  Be quick: get it to him before the election.

If you have a clergywoman, buy three copies, because she might throw the first one out the window.

Cringe at that (anemic) joke, did you?  Then, boy howdy, do you need Zmirak’s book. Hyper-sensitivity to trivial and imagined sleights, and the notion that any disagreement to the prevailing progressive ideology is immoral, are the hallmarks of our age.  It’s pleasant to discover somebody who isn’t buying it.

Here is a partial list of the politically incorrect opinions Zmirak outlines. Catholics, and by extension all Christians, can’t support socialism. Catholics cannot support abortion in any form. Catholics can’t be personally against abortion but be happy to vote for it for the sake of others who do support it. Catholics must especially eschew artificial means of preventing conception.  Catholics can own guns and use them to defend themselves against maniacal intruders, even if those maniacal intruders are amnesty-seeking immigrants, and even if those amnesty-seeking immigrants are Muslims. Catholics don’t have to support wide open borders, nor do they have to believe in one-world government.

Catholics can support the investment of capital, and can support personal property rights. Catholics can even believe profit is good, while simultaneously professing the love of money is root of all evil. Catholics must believe same-sex “weddings” are evil and they must not participate in them. Catholics must also say that homosexual acts are sins that cry out to heaven. Catholics can support a just war and the death penalty. Catholics can be proud of the Crusades. Catholics can and should support good science. But no Catholic is obligated to support bad science, and this is so even if it the pope himself who is touting the bad science.

No Catholic is obligated to believe everything the pope said, especially if what he said is a flippant remark made on a low-oxygen aluminum tube hurtling through the atmosphere. Personal incredulity is even more justified if the remark appears to go against centuries of Magisterial teaching.

No Catholic must profess that every pope is above average. We must even admit that some popes have even been heretics.

But how do you know which statements made by a pope require assent?  All ex cathedra ones do, as most know; but these pronouncements are vanishingly rare. They are so few that Zmirak can list them all in a paragraph, of which there is universal agreement on only two. All the rest have to be weighed against both the Extraordinary Magisterium and Ordinary Magisterium of the Church.

The former “is the infallible teaching authority vested in popes and councils when they define dogmas”, while the latter “refers to the pope’s and bishop’s authority to pass along the teachings of Christianity that came down to us from the apostles”.

Yet for the regular guy in the pew, it isn’t always easy to figure out what a talkative pope is trying to say, since most of us are not up on Canon Law and Church encyclicals. Look, listen, and heed when a pope, in his official capacity, speaks on faith and morals, yes, but how do we weigh all those other statements?

We have “the moral law written on our hearts”, and that helps, though some confuse the law with “feelings”. And we do have men like Zmirak to help us sort it out. As an example: “[i]t is intrinsically impossible for the pope, as pope, to speak with authority on the details of climate science” (emphasis mine). And “Christ never intended the papacy to serve an oracular function on current events, party politics, and the details of economics.”  The chapters of the book where Zmirak leads us through these difficult, given current events, necessary subjects are the best.

Every taboo subject—many of which are mentioned at the opening of this review—is given a thorough treatment and justification. There is plenty of ammunition here for the Christian ready to fight back against not just the secular culture, but against Christians anxious to embrace the increasingly neo-pagan world. There is not only the wealth of material Zmirak’s provides, but there is also his many recommendations and pointers to crucial literature.

What’s that? Did I say fight back? Is that still possible when, except for pockets of resistance, we used only to steady retreat? Listen: there is only so far you can run before you come to a cliff. This is why Zmirak does not support the so-called Benedict Option. But he well understands the exhaustion of those who have been manning the ramparts for decades. “[L]ike you, I am bone tired…You’re sick of it all. You just want to hang around with your fellow Christians and live your life in peace.”

But think of this: “there is nowhere to hide, no ghetto so obscure that the gay totalitarians will leave you alone…Persecution…is coming here soon, if we don’t fight tooth and nail…The anti-religious Left has tasted blood, and intends to feed.”

If you have any doubts about whether to withdraw from public life or to reassert the superiority of Christianity, remember what America’s best general, George S. Patton, said. “Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.”

36 thoughts on “The Culture is Wrong, and The Church is Right: Zmirak’s New Book Reviewed”

  1. Excellent!

    From Belloc’s essay on the Conversion of England (which intention I regularly pray for, as it would undo a lot of the rot):

    (Quoting Lord Salisbury, from memory) Belloc said, ” Find out what particularly annoys your enemy, and then do it as often as ever you can.”

    He also did not believe in a war of defence, only that defence is sometimes necessary, but must turn to the attack ASAP.

    • “Find out what particularly annoys your enemy, and then do it as often as ever you can.”

      Therefore, chant the Rosary every day.

      • In Latin. In a long skirt and veil for the women, conservative suit and tie for men. For some reason men and women in neat and appropriate dress drives “liberals” bonkers.

  2. Zmiraks’ books have always been excellent reading for their truth, humor and ‘level-headedness’ (as in yes, things are bad but God is in control,folks) There’s just been too much influence by drama queens lately and just as in any female dominated thought-process tends to be over-wrought and shrill…and yes, I’m a female and believe me my sister and I BOTH believe this in almost every situation of life. Men were intended to lead and discern which does not presuppose that women may not discern for we’re very good with that, but when it comes to the actual doing, it’s no accident that throughout the Bible women usually did not lead. Actually, anytime they did anything it was rather an aside of action made on her own, except Esther. Usually, they were Eve and Sarah. Enough of that! Anyway, my point is, there must be hope, the Church is beautiful and true, even if Her shepherds are swine and I’m glad to hear some plain, cogent language with true humor, not snideness and superiority. My comments aren’t accepted on any female site because I’m not cool, but all too often am another over-the-top female, so forgive me if I do so here! God bless you Steve, John and ALL my fellow Catholics, who for good or ill, must come to the fact that we simply must love and support one another to get through this dark time. It may be our last chance. oops!

    • Well here’s a sistah who agrees with your comment entirely. I have long realized that men have a role and women have a role and they are not interchangeable without problems occurring in most instances. There are many personal supporting observations for this but of course all this files in the face of contemporary feminist thought, which has infected all our thinking, whether we want it to or not. Hence it feels “wrong” somewhere in our heads to say such a thing or to agree with it, but anecdotally, these are the same conclusions I have reached. It goes a step further, we have all but lost authentic femininity and the gifts we bring to the world have been decimated, to the utter detriment of children and the culture. We have traded a tapestry for a Kleenex, is how I like to put it. This has all become almost impossible for even women to express without being pummeled into oblivion by other women, for men, ah, whoa, I can’t imagine getting out of the room. God help us, we are in a lost culture and world, and church, and nation. I am enjoying what Patton said and what the Polish commander did. I believe this is true, completely true. Only by taking the offense can we hope to make a difference, defense gets you nothing but further back and you lose incrementally. Right now the attackers are Modernists, Homosexualists, Globalists, atheists, and we see how very successful they are. For as long as we’re here we ought not retreat, but fight on in whatever way we can. Mother Angelica begged her sisters to keep her alive as long as possible no matter what tubes they had to use, etc. Why, they asked her. She said this is my only opportunity, while I’m alive, to align myself to the will of God and do anything for him. I can’t do that anymore after I die.

      • I’m absolutely delighted with your brilliant response Evangeline. Nay, floored, actually because you’re as rare as you are insightful. I would write more but am recovering from a recent hospital stay and my thoughts seem to take flight. I hope to read more from you!

  3. The modern popes haven’t made many ex-cathedra pronouncements because much of what they have said is not worthy of such. Francis, for example, will never talk ex-Cathedra because his discourses are so off the track of authentic magisterial teaching that he wouldn’t dare. If he was to use his apostolic power to pronounce that climate change is man-made and we are to cease polluting or else face the pain of mortal sin then this would cause the schism that so many are predicting right now. Although he is using his apostolic authority to pronounce recent questionable canonisations. And yes some are questionable and the mere fact that they are such should technically delay canonisations until a time that the questions are brought to rest.

  4. I will get this book. As for being on the attack….in August 1920 the Soviet Red Army was on the brink of overrunning Poland. Pilsudski formulated a battle plan to evade teh front lines of the Red Army and hit the troops in the rear. “We do not have the numbers to defend, we must attack”. Attack they did. The Miracle of the Vistula hanged the course of the war and Poland chased the Red
    Army more than halfway back to Moscow. With a little bit of help Communism could have been finished.

  5. Catholic social teaching only “favors” (sic) capitalism to the extent that it is a bit less bad than socialism. The Church doesn’t promote capitalism as a good.
    The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church ( para 341 (Chapt 7 para 3 sub a) states
    “Although the quest for equitable profit is acceptable in economic and financial activity, recourse to usury is to be morally condemned…”
    No usury – no capitalism
    Usury is condemned because it is the expropriation of labour; as is the monopolisation of land.
    That is why Whigs throughout history have stolen Church and peoples’ land and made usury legal.
    Expropriation of labour by usury, land monopolisation or e.g. chattel slavery, serfdom or suasion, is a refusal to obey God’s commandment to live by the sweat of one’s brow.

    • Although “the Church doesn’t promote capitalism as a good,” it does promote the well-being of workers. Capitalism has proven its value in this regard. However, the definition and understanding of capitalism is the source of much confusion in the Church today. It is too often conflated with corporatism or with the dying Keynesian monetary system troubling the world at the moment.

      Capitalism is not synonymous with usury nor does it require usury for its functioning. Capitalism is about deferring consumption today in order to invest in future productivity. This has resulted in the unprecedented rise in the average person’s standard of living since the Industrial Revolution, accomplished by the improved purchasing power of wages due to increased productivity. The most accurate explanation of capitalism can be found not in the writings of Marx, who coined the phase, but in the work of Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian School of Economics. “Mises in Four Easy Pieces” is a great summary of capitalism’s many contributions to the common good ( Dr. Thomas Woods, Jr. effectively argues that there is strong congruence between free markets and Church teachings in “The Church and the Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy.”

      Likewise, the mutually agreeable loan contracts of today that account for the time-value of money and the inherent risk of loaning it are not synonymous with usury/exploitation:

      “Due to advances in transportation, communications and generally expanding economies, the nature of money itself has changed in the course of time. A loan that was usurious at one point in history, due to the unfruitfulness of money, is not usurious later, when the development of competitive markets has changed the nature of money itself. But this is not a change of the Church’s teaching on usury. Today nearly all commercial transactions, including monetary loans at interest, do not qualify as usury. This constitutes a change only in the nature of the financial transaction itself, not in the teaching of the Church on usury. “Still she maintains dogmatically that there is such a sin as usury, and what it is, as defined in the Fifth Council of Lateran”(ibid., 263).

        • The problem is that it takes very few words to make an error, and many to explain why it’s wrong.

          Usury is loans with interest that are secured, at base, by the person borrowing’s promise to pay (e.g., credit cards), which is inseparable from the person of borrower himself. It rests on the notion of “the time value of money” or “opportunity costs,” neither of which are real things, but only potentialities. If the lender gains an interest in either a real person or something intrinsically inseparable from him, then he practices usury. Thus, human smuggling and indentured servitude are usurious.

          Any contract which does not result in a lender having interest in or a claim against an actual person is not usury. That hardly means all such contracts are and must be licit, just that it is not right to call such contracts usury.

          If you want to actually understand usury, read Zippy Catholic’s Usury FAQ: I think he more than adequately refutes the arguments made in the Catholic Answers article linked by redbean, above.

          • I already actually understand usury in principle and detail.
            The problem is with those who start from the premise that usury is licit (because they have been propagandised) and then seek to rationalise why the Church is wrong, eg usury is not usury.

          • In that case, you are misunderstanding capitalism/free markets, which do not require for-profit mutuum contracts in order to function and create wealth. Zippy does not at any point claim that usury is licit; he is at pains to explain that it is always immoral, as it confers an ownership interest in *people*, rather than objects/things, and that it is the sale of a counterfactual, e.g. “opportunity cost” or “the time value of money.”

            If you’ll take a look at the article at that redbean linked above: ; you will find that Mises specified four essentials for free markets, often called “capitalism”: dynamic production (i.e., the ability to enter or leave a particular type of market or business without interference); consumer sovreignity (i.e., consumers may choose from whom they buy goods and services); mass production for the masses (exemplified by John D. Rockefeller’s exhortation that “We must ever remember that we are making oil for the common man, and he must have it cheap and good”); and Prosperity for the People (i.e., greater creation of wealth, which improves peoples’ standard of living from “nasty, brutish and short” to what we now have).

          • Just for starters “consumer sovereignty” is fantastically uncatholic. I suggest you go back to Aquinas before you take up the Austrians.

          • While I am generally minarchist and lean libertarian, I cannot go whole hawg big-L Libertarian or anarcho-capitalist because I recognize that some things are inherently immoral to sell (particularly sex and violence for hire, people, and counterfactuals like “opportunity costs”). If you think “consumer sovreignity” means being able to buy or hire anything at any time, from whomever you please, will they or nil they, you have a poor understanding of liberty.

            “Consumer sovreignity” here is meant to be an antomym for “monopoly” and lesser versions like licensing, cartels, and trusts, intended to limit supply and enable rent-seeking. The consumer can choose from those vendors offering goods to him to meet his needs, be they communication (post office, texting, telephone, email, personal messenger), transportation (automobile, personal lighter-than-air dirigible, bicycle, motorcycle, horse with saddle or buggy, shoes), food (far too many options to list), lighting (various vegetable oils or animal fats, beeswax, kerosene, various electrical technologies), or anything else.

            Now, if that’s fantastically uncatholic, I’d like to know why. And if that’s not what you mean by consumer sovreignity, I’d like to know what you do mean by it.

          • That suggests you see no difference between sovreignity and Neitzche’s Will To Power, and also that the meaning of the word cannot be modified by adverbs.

          • So there *is* a difference between consumer sovreignity and political sovreignity, now?

            Just to be sure we’re talking to and not past each other, let’s make the difference clear.

            Political sovreignity means holding police and legislative power, while consumer sovreignity means that laws are not used to prevent or discourage people from entering licit and moral businesses, or to prevent or discourage consumers from buying from them.

            If I am getting this wrong, please make the right way clear for those of us not so blessed with Catholic wisdom. Otherwise, I’m going to have to conclude your only real purpose here is to troll.

          • When someone makes a big Catholic mistake (eg capitalism is ok w the Church) I tell them they are wrong. I’m not interested in changing their mind, but in stopping the bad idea taking root elsewhere.

          • From the perspective of the rest of us, that looks like “it’s wrong because I say so, and I don’t have to prove it. Y’all just have to agree and then shut up.” What you’re doing is indistinguishable from arguing in bad faith.

          • I am glad that we agree that usury is not licit, the Church is not wrong, and usury is usury. Defrauding people is always sinful.

          • True but trite. You take your perception of fraud from the usurers who finally overthrew the Church 499 years ago, and injected reflex anti-Catholicism into the veins of Christendom to keep the land and live by usury (both of which they lost to more expert usurers – haha!). Reading Aquinas and the Scholastics helps one to see beyond the usurers’ paradigm.

  6. Hooray!! This is exactly what we needed to hear. Confirmation that we are right. Confirmation they are wrong. Encouragement to stand and fight them to the death of their liberal, pagan, Vatican II ideology. I ordered the book. Where do we enlist?

  7. Some cautions about Zmirak’s work.

    (Not having read this book specifically I can’t comment on it specifically; but if it follows the usual pattern it will contain enough agreeable orthodoxy to set the hook, followed by a rain of insults against everyone who doesn’t accept his ‘conservative’ full throated support for the version of liberalism/modernism which dominated a few decades ago).

    The cautions:

    1) Zmirak publicly derided people who declined to support Mitt Romney as onanists, comparing the potency of voting to the potency of sperm and saying that ‘wasting’ a vote by not-voting for Romney was ‘spilling your vote upon the ground’. If you didn’t vote for Romney, that is who Zmirak publicly says you are: the equivalent of an onanist.

    2) Zmirak’s public position on abortion is not anti-abortion but is in fact a version of pro choice, since he states that women should not face any legal penalty for procuring an abortion (he wrote an article stating this position after the recent Trump ‘punishing women for abortion’ kerfuffle). Abortion should be heavily regulated, but women who choose to have their unborn children murdered should in no case face legal sanction for doing so — this has become the new ‘pro life’ position, helped along by the likes of Zmirak.

    3) Zmirak recently published a book (by Sam Gregg of Acton) on finance which presents what it asserts to be an authoritative account of the history of usury doctrine, but which fails to mention any of the numerous Magisterial statements which seriously undermine the account given in the text. Think of it this way: the book (at least the part about usury) is structured like an account of the history of contraception doctrine written this year which presents contraception as pretty much a non-issue and fails to even mention Humanae Vitae.

    So again, caution.

    • Zippy: I don’t think Zmirak literally meant that non-voters are like onanists in some moral sense. I could of course be wrong about that but I think he was trying to be overly clever in his hyperbole.

      Overall I think Zmirak’s good stuff outweighs the bad, especially when one reads him knowing ahead of time where his ideas are weak.

  8. I can definitely recommend the new book by the author of this review though, despite my cautions about Zmirak’s work. We disagree about the actuality of ontological randomness but that is really just a technical detail: for all practical purposes William Briggs’ new book on statistics and the lies we tell with them is like Newtonian physics — accurate enough in every way that matters. Briggs opens up a well-deserved can of whoopass on a huge area of what passes for ‘the scientific consensus’ these days.

  9. Can I add one other thought here. We see the attack on the family, children, going on in even our schools today. Please read and promote the website MassResistance, which is a superb group run by Clark Kent, I mean, Brian Camenker, of Massachusetts, arguably liberal-central today. This website can help culture warriors or the plain fed up fight against homosexualist tyranny, they do it and have done it for years and know a lot about how to get things done and take back our culture. They support parents in learning to take back the reins in their children’s education and fight those who would teach disordered sexuality to even very young children. Please read them and consider supporting their great work. I can assure you, Brian Camenker IS Clark Kent.


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