Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Kooky Wife of Demoted Steubie Prof Compares Husband to Elijah and Critics to Prophets of Baal



Suzanne M. Lewis, the wife of Steubenville English Professor Stephen Lewis, took to web portal Patheos a few days ago to lash out at her husband's critics.

The piece was posted on January 9th, shortly after Stephen Lewis had come under fire for assigning a novel to his graduate students that included graphic musings about sexual activity involving the Virgin Mary. One day later Lewis was removed from his position as chair of the English Department. He remains a full professor.

Suzanne Lewis is co-founder with ex-Steubenville instructor Rebecca Bratten Weiss of Revolution of Tenderness, which organizes a yearly arts and culture festival in Pittsburgh, and co-editor with Weiss of its journal Convivium. Weiss is now the manager of Patheos Catholic.

Even though Revolution of Tenderness, Convivium and related sites were used by Lewis and Weiss to advertise, fundraise and recruit readers and attendees, they have now been made private. [Edit: Revolution of Tenderness is still private. I believe Convivium was also made private but now seems to be back up.]

Suzanne Lewis begins her post, "Which hill will you die on?", with Calvary:
A joy can develop, even during the most humiliating affliction, when the gaze of love is exchanged between two people who have shared a history and lived one life between the two of them. Think of how Mary and Jesus must have looked at one another on Calvary: how their faces must have become radiant when their eyes met during those last hours! There is nothing more beautiful than the face of a loved one whose gaze of tenderness tells us: It is good that you exist…
She then relates how she has seen Catholic spouses grow in their faith by taking care of each other during times of suffering and even death. Apparently her husband Stephen, a busy teacher and administrator, recently nursed her through recovery after fairly serious surgery.
He performed all these tasks with quiet kindness while also preparing the family meals, driving our daughter to school and back, and continuing to fulfill all his teaching and scholarly duties at work.
I saw the same gentleness and patience in my husband that I had also witnessed in those two men I described at the beginning of this essay. What a tremendous sense of certainty this newness generated in both of us!
That's quite lovely. And, yes, I'm serious about that.

But apparently, Stephen or she and Stephen ("we") are currently experiencing another Cavalry due to people criticizing her husband's teaching assignments. Or, rather, as Suzanne Lewis puts it, they're on a "new mountain . . . this time we have arrived on Mount Carmel, where Elijah once challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest (1 Kings 18: 21-39)."

Yet in this time of tribulation, they stand by God and He stands by them:
Instead of the prophets of Baal, we confront the prophets of Greed, Calumny, Power, and False Witness. Weirdly, these prophets also do a lot of hopping. In our corner, we stand by our God, whose name is Love. His respect for human freedom makes him appear, sometimes, as though he sides with those who are wrong . . . Still . . . he never remains aloof from those who call on his name. His response is to set fire to our sacrifices: each time we fit our person according to the dimensions of his mercy, he ignites our lives with an energy we could have never supplied.
Meanwhile, the prophets of petty gods continue to hop about and slash themselves in their aridity and shame. They will discover, one day, when they call out in their need, “no sound, no one answering, no one listening.”
It's important to note that as far as I have seen, the principle critics (this blogger included) of Lewis or the Lewises have not so far claimed that he or they are bad people or bad Catholics.

Indeed, it's been exactly the opposite. Here's one small example: On a long Facebook thread featuring many members of the Steubenville community, the wife of a professor there went out of her way to praise the Lewises as good and kind friends and colleagues. Among other things, the commenter said that Suzanne Lewis had helped to catechize her children. But she also refused to back down from agreeing that Stephen Lewis was probably wrong to assign the novel.

Was that charitable woman also a prophet of petty gods, hopping and slashing in her shame?

I do think Suzanne Lewis is kooky. And in a minor Facebook thread I believe I called her a "loopy liberal academic." I said that in part based on her work with Revolution of Tenderness. But I think it now also comes out in her Patheos post.

Let's state the obvious:

Stephen Lewis isn't Christ. Suzanne Lewis isn't Mary. (Or vice versa.)

Neither of them is Elijah.

And Michael Voris isn't Baal. But I digress.

Stephen Lewis got into hot water by assigning a dirty French novel to his graduate students, a novel which also gravely insulted Our Lady. That this was part of a pattern and that Lewis was defiant about it was also relevant.

The president of the university, Father Sean Sheridan, apologized to the Steubenville community and also apologized to "Our Blessed Mother and Her Son." In addition, a Holy Hour of Reparation to Mary, Mother of God was held.

It's odd that while Mary comes up quite often in Suzanne Lewis' blog posts and other writings, on this issue - that Mary was gravely insulted - she is mute.

Mary is a real person, not a rhetorical device.

And Suzanne Lewis' unseemly attempt to play the victim will in the end only confirm for some that the Steubenville administration acted appropriately in, at a minimum, removing her husband as chair.

But I want to look finally at the last line of the piece:
They will discover, one day, when they call out in their need, “no sound, no one answering, no one listening.”
Church Militant has a large and devoted readership, viewership and subscriber base. I think people are listening. And of course the thing has now gone well beyond Church Militant.

By contrast, the web traffic at Patheos Catholic is in free-fall, due in large part to its accelerating leftward lurch under Rebecca Bratten Weiss. Fewer and fewer Catholics take it seriously, let alone read it, though admittedly it does probably have influence in certain circles - the circles Suzanne Lewis travels in.

Five days after posting, her essay had no comments, though yesterday it finally received one.

No one listening?

In truth, Catholics are starting to pay attention to the left-liberal subculture at Steubenville, which includes current faculty as well as vocal ex-faculty and graduates. It's perhaps not even a subculture as it still has a large amount of influence, arguably going all the way to the top.

Catholics are listening because the subculture keeps talking. And they do not like what they hear.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

What is Stephen Lewis doing in the Steubenville English Department?


Stephen Lewis, who I believe is now in his early 50's, was Chair of the English Department at the Franciscan University of Steubenville for many years. He was recently removed from that position by the University (though he remains as a tenured faculty member) after a controversy erupted over his assignment of an arguably pornographic and certainly blasphemous French novel to five students in a graduate seminar. Sources have indicated that this was not the first such case with Lewis. In addition, while many have vouched for Lewis as being a faithful Catholic, Church Militant reported that Lewis indicated he would refuse to take the Oath of Fidelity to Catholic teachings that Steubenville may now require for all faculty.

My purpose in this short post is not to question Stephen Lewis' standing as a Catholic, nor even to question his suitability for teaching at Steubenville. Rather I wish to ask why he was ever given tenure, let alone made Chair, of the Steubenville English Department.

According to his Steubenville biography page, Lewis has only one quasi-obscure publication to his name in the field or on the topic of English literature (literature written by Americans, British or others in the language of English). It was published almost twenty years ago:
“Love and Politics in Wyndham Lewis’s Snooty Baronet.” Modern Language Quarterly 64:1 (December 2000).

That's it - literally only one publication.

Lewis does have an arguably solid list of other publications, but all save the above are either analyses or translations of writings in French.

And few of them involve French literature.

Rather, most are on French philosophy.

If phenomenology even counts as philosophy.

Okay, ignore the poke against phenomenology, though I am quite serious about the poke. But what is Lewis doing in the English Department?


ARTICLES:

  • “A Fitting Receptacle: Paul Claudel on Sensations of God,” Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 17:4 (Fall 2014), 65-86.
  • “Contestation and Epektasis in the ‘Discussion on Sin’.” Analecta Hermeneutica 4 (2012).
  • “Introduction: The Phenomenological Concept of Givenness and the ‘Myth of the Given’” in Jean-Luc Marion, The Reason of the Gift. Translated by Stephen E. Lewis. Charlottesville: The University of Virginia Press, 2011. 1-17.
  • “A Law Without Flesh: Reading Erotic Phenomena in Maurice Blanchot’s Le Très-Haut” in Kevin J. Hart, ed. Clandestine Encounters: Philosophy and Literature in the Narratives of Maurice Blanchot. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010. 119-155.
  • “The Lover’s Capacity in Jean-Luc Marion’s The Erotic Phenomenon.” Quaestiones Disputatae, 1:1 (Fall 2010), 223-241.
  • “Love and Politics in Wyndham Lewis’s Snooty Baronet.” Modern Language Quarterly 64:1 (December 2000).


BOOK TRANSLATIONS:

  • Jean-Luc Marion, Negative Certainties. Translated by Stephen E. Lewis. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2015.
  • Claude Romano, Event and Time. Translated by Stephen E. Lewis. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013.
  • Jean-Luc Marion, The Reason of the Gift. Introduction and translation by Stephen E. Lewis. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011.
  • Jean-Luc Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon. Translated by Stephen E. Lewis. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007.
  • Jean-Louis Chrétien, Hand to Hand: Listening to the Work of Art. Introduction and translation by Stephen E. Lewis. New York: Fordham University Press, 2003.
  • Jean-Luc Marion, Prolegomena to Charity. Translated by Stephen E. Lewis. New York: Fordham University Press, 2002.

Blanchot, a fallen-away Christian, has been described as a philosopher and literary theorist, "a strong influence (according to Wikipedia) on post-structuralist philosophers such as Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida."

How Catholic.

And Claudel was a playwright, among other things.

In fairness, he was very Catholic.

But Romano, Chrétien and Marion are generally thought of as philosophers. Lewis' professional reputation seems to be largely based on his Marion work. And Marion was at the University of Chicago for a number of years where Lewis obtained his PhD.

Where else could Steubenville have put Stephen Lewis? 

They could have put him in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures (there is one professor there with a superficially similar list of publications) or the Philosophy Department (obviously) or, arguably, even the Theology Department, given that Jean-Luc Marion has sometimes also been called a theologian.

But somehow he ended up in the English Department where he would eventually attain a minor infamy in Catholic circles for assigning a dirty novel (a French novel, of course) to seminar students.

Whatever anyone else might say, an academic at a good university has only a limited amount of time to do work in his field, especially if he has other duties as, say, a department head. But speaking now of Lewis, if he was doing the great bulk of his professional work in French phenomenology, where, to speak bluntly, was his time for, well, English?

What is Stephen Lewis doing in the Steubenville English Department?

Friday, January 11, 2019

BREAKING: Stephen Lewis Removed as Chair of Steubenville English Department


Stephen Lewis, the Franciscan University of Steubenville professor at the center of the recent controversy over his assignment of a "pornographic" and "blasphemous" French novel that included sexually graphic musings, some involving the Virgin Mary, has just been removed as the chair of the English Department.

The department description, above, listing Dr. Lewis as Chair, was I believe still up yesterday (the cache itself is from January 8th). But a new description, without the Chair designation, has now replaced it.



UPDATE: The new chair is Dr. Mary Ann Sunyoger.




This follows an initial defense of Lewis's actions by Steubenville's Public Relations Manager, Tom Sofio. However, after pressure from other faculty members, donors and alumni, the President of Steubenville, Father Sean Sheridan, quickly backtracked and issued an apology. 


According to Christina Niles at Church Militant, which initially broke the story, Stephen Lewis himself remained "defiant".

Lewis has been a controversial figure for some time. Among other things he had backed Rebecca Bratten Weiss, the self-proclaimed "leftist feminist" that Steubenville had decided not to re-hire in 2017. His wife, Suzanne M. Lewis still edits the journal Convivium with Weiss and the two worked together on the Revolution of Tenderness festival in Pittsburgh.


Suzanne M. Lewis and Rebecca Bratten Weiss
As I reported on my Twitter feed, just last night most web links to the journal and the festival were suddenly made "private", even though the until then very public pages had previously been used by Lewis, Weiss and others to raise money for and publicize their writings and events.

Obviously, you can still view most of the pages by choosing the "cache" option in your Google search.

The incident has been an embarrassment to Steubenville and perhaps a minor tragedy for its students. But I hope I will be forgiven for thinking it also has its comic elements. The Lewis-Weiss axis seems to have an obsession with juvenile vulgarity, whether it is assigning French "erotic" novels to graduate students or making political comments on Twitter.

Bratten Weiss spent much of yesterday defending Stephen Lewis in the twittersphere. "We're basically open-minded and unprudish Catholics. Why is Steubenville being so fascist?" was the general if predictable gist. But her last tweet was on an unrelated subject:


  
What a lovely young lady. Definitely Steubenville English Department material.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Sharif Don't Like It: Facebook Kindly Informs Me that I've Been Censored in Pakistan



I'm actually surprised this hasn't happened more often. Out of all the posts about Islam that I've made on Facebook (usually they are links to a Mahound's Paradise blog post, though not in this case) Facebook chose this one to censor, more than three years after the fact.

I had completely forgotten about it, of course.

The irony is that the post itself was written to draw attention to one of those ubiquitous temporary Facebook bans of prominent islamophobes. In that case the ban was against Bosch Fawstin, who had just won the Draw Muhammed Contest (itself the target of a partly preemptively foiled terror attack in Garland, Texas).  

Bosch Fawstin's page is still up. Miraculously he has survived on Facebook for the last three years. Please consider purchasing one of his drawings.

UPDATE: It appears that Fawstin was permanently banned by Twitter.

In and of itself, banning a three-year-old picture is of course silly. I doubt anyone, foe or friend, combs my Facebook posts that far back, though it's possible, of course, that this is part of some larger crackdown. I have no idea.

But the general issue of Facebook bowing to censorship requests from oppressive governments (to say nothing of Facebook's own censorship, quasi-censorship and news manipulation efforts) is very serious.

Would Facebook, had it existed at the time, have censored what the Nazis might have called "Jewish propaganda" in Nazi Germany? Of course they would have. They admit that they would have:
If, after careful legal review, we determine that the content is illegal under local law, then we make it unavailable in the relevant country or territory.
Facebook justifies this policy partly on the basis that having a partly censored Facebook in, say, country XYZ is better than having no Facebook in country XYZ.

Well, it's better for Facebook, of course.

But it's worse than that, Facebook isn't just in it for the money. Those in control at Facebook and at most of the other social media megacompanies see a positive good in suppressing "Islamophobia" - or "hate speech" as it is more generally called. They've said as much many times. Obviously for them, if posting a picture of a glowering Muhammed (complete with bloody sword) isn't hate speech, nothing is.

Western Civilization is destroying itself.



Thursday, January 3, 2019

Not a Parody: British Army Seeks "Snow Flakes", "Binge Gamers" and "Selfie Addicts" in New Recruitment Posters


What could be more symbolic of the emasculated and decadent state of much of Western Europe than this silly new recruitment campaign by the British Army?

The "snowflake" even has a sort of Morrissey This Charming Man expression.

Then again, the pro-Brexit, anti-Islam Morrissey is looking pretty good these days.

From Bianca Britton at CNN:
If you're a millennial who's addicted to taking selfies, video gaming or consider yourself a class clown, you could be exactly what the British Army is looking for. 
For its 2019 recruitment campaign, "Your Army Needs You," the army is seeking recruits from the "snowflake generation." 
The army drew inspiration from the World War I-era "Your Country Needs You" poster featuring Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, and recreated a series of videos and posters to attract people between the ages of 16 and 25. 
The posters feature six soldiers labeled with stereotypes of younger people, before listing a positive value for each that would be welcomed by the army. 
"Selfie addicts" have confidence, "snowflakes" have compassion, "phone zombies" have focus, "binge gamers" have drive, "class clowns" have spirit, and "me me me millennials" have self-belief, according to the posters. 
The army says the campaign shows young people who are ambitious and feel undervalued have the potential to work for a job with "real purpose" and "do meaningful work."

It also released several ads featuring young people being labeled a stereotype before portraying them in army roles working abroad in war zones and providing humanitarian relief. 
Portrayed is a late-night video gamer who the army claims has "stamina," and a slow supermarket worker who is bullied by her colleagues but who is described by the campaign as a "perfectionist" who's "resilient." Another video portrays a worker fooling around in the office, followed by the line: "there's always room for people with a bit of spirit."
... 
The campaign comes after it was revealed last year that the British Army failed to meet recruitment targets, with only 77,000 fully trained troops compared to its 82,500 target. 

Read the full story here.

I was initially shocked when I saw the 77,000 figure. That seems to be barely enough soldiers to suppress a flashmob attack on an Apple store. But in fairness it appears to be roughly equivalent per capita to the approximately 500,000 uniformed regulars in the US Army.

For comparison, the size of the British Army was around 3 million in 1945. I'm not suggesting they go back to wartime levels but still.

Speaking as someone who was once 16 to 25, I can't imagine this effort will be successful. Who would want to devote multiple years in the prime of one's life (with a small chance one might lose it) to an outfit so creepily patronizing? Whatever else modern young people might be, they're not stupid, or at least one assumes they would have a nose for this sort of bull.

It's a bit like the pitch for the Novus Ordo - come hang out with us on Sunday morning, we promise your experience will be just as banal as the rest of your life.

No thank you, Fr. Longenecker, I'll be attempting to better my sorry lot by attending the TLM.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

"Peter, this is the Lord himself! Abandon the position!" When a Future Pope Pretended to be God to Get a Current Pope to Resign

Benedict attending the remains of Pope Celestine V

Before Benedict XVI, in the almost 2,000 year history of the papacy, as many as ten popes may have abdicated or resigned. I say "may have" because most of the "resignations" are historically uncertain. What is known is that, assuming the truth of each resignation account, all but one occurred due to circumstances of violence or political necessity or pressure.

The only "peaceful" resignation was that which has the least attestation - John XVIII (1004-1009), who according to one (and only one) source voluntarily chose to end his life as a monk.

Pontian (230-235) and Marcellinus (296-304) were arrested, tortured and executed by Roman authorities, possibly abdicating before the end. If Liberius (352-355 or 352-366) resigned (which the Church itself and most historians now dispute) it was due to being exiled by the Arian emperor Constantius II. The unfortunate Benedict V (964, 1 month) was deposed by Emperor OttoSylvester III (1045, 1 month), Gregory VI (1045-1046) and Benedict IX (three non-consecutive reigns from 1032-1048 involving at least two abdications) all resigned due to the complex and violent political and family rivalries of the time. Gregory XII (1406-1415) resigned to end the Western Schism.

Arrest, torture, banishment, Italians fighting, schism.

Benedict XVI claimed that he resigned partly because he didn't feel up to attending World Youth Day. This is one reason why some people are a bit put off by the whole thing.

But I digress.

Perhaps the most interesting confirmed papal resignation story is that of Celestine V (1294, 161 days), the reluctant hermit pope.

"Peter of Murrone" was a celebrated monk who had founded a new Benedictine order that would later take his papal name.

In 1294 he was 79 years old and living in a hut on top of a mountain in Abruzzo.

In the meantime, the cardinals in Rome had been deadlocked for two years on electing a new pope after the death of Nicholas IV in 1292. It is recorded that Peter himself had warned them that Christ would take vengeance if they didn't quickly come to a decision.

This may have been a mistake.

The cardinals chose Peter.

In one of his popular histories of the Church, Malachi Martin colorfully describes the cardinals and others scrambling up to reach Peter and inform him of their decision. May I be forgiven for observing that it reads like something out of Monty Python:
One fine day in the year 1294, Peter had some visitors. Climbing laboriously up his mountain came three bishops, a Roman senator, a cardinal with his retinue, a group of noblemen and knights, and several thousand people. They suddenly invaded the mountainside clamoring for his approval, begging him in the name of Jesus to utter the magic words: "I accept the grade of Pope."
...A young monk rushed in whispering that the "Saracens were invading the monastery." Up the mountainside outside Peter's tiny hut about 7,000 people were led by mounted knights, the three bishops, and the cardinal, all at the end of their tether, each one intent on being the first to reach the pope-elect. Peter's hut was obvious to them. The oldest of the bishops advanced, peered in through the little opening and found himself looking at the haggard face and timid gaze of a very old man. "Peter, our beloved brother, it has seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit to choose your Excellency as successor of Peter the Apostle, Rector of the Universal Church, and Father of all mankind. Do you accept?" A shout went up from the 7,000: "Long live Pope Peter, our Father. Long live the Bishop of Rome! Long live Peter!"

It took Peter only a few minutes. His monks, now free of their initial fright, ran from their hiding places, shouting: "The Call! The Call! The Prophetic Kingdom is here! The Call! The Call!"
The waiting cardinal and bishops saw Peter's eyes gazing meditatively on the crowds, then up over their heads to the surrounding mountains and the skies. Certainly there was peace in his hermitage, the face of the sweet-smelling earth and shining skies, the nights alone with the stars and the whispering winds, his colloquies with streams and flowers. Could it be that the Lord wanted him to leave? The cardinal and bishops who were nearly beside themselves with worry that he would not talk, much less leave his hut, finally heard the long-desired words: "I accept the grade of Pope."
...The monks all ran about in a veritable ecstasy, chanting: "Paradiso! Paradiso! Come all ye Turks and Jews! Believe in Jesus Christ. Rise, Christian soldiers! Kill all infidels!"
The crowds knelt down, extending their hands and shouting: "Blessing! Blessing! Holy Father! Blessing!"
At length, Peter appeared around the corner of his hut. He raised his hand and blessed them in an immense silence.
Then they placed him on a donkey and the procession set out.
Peter was duly crowned. It soon became clear however that while he was a good and holy man (he would later be proclaimed a saint), Celestine, as he had named himself, was completely unprepared to be a pope, unable to deal with the worldly machinations of his court, to say nothing of actually reforming (as he had originally very much desired) the papal bureaucracy.

King Charles of Naples installed him in his own castle and, there, built him a special hermit's cell. Charles attempted to control him but also had a favorite, Cardinal Benedetto Gaetani, waiting in the wings to replace him. Here is Martin again:
But there was no peace for Peter. They extracted him from his cell periodically, set him on a throne, surrounded him with clerics, quick witted, wily, smiling, obsequious, whispering, always whispering. The people who came to see him never got to him. The clerics were always talking monies or politics or plots. Between him and the people there was woven a labyrinthine web—a wall—of intrigue, of lies, of servitude, of deceit. And always Gaetani in the background. Gaetani whispering, eyeing him sideways, never smiling, bowing his head at everything Peter said.
Perhaps he should resign? Martin narrates another Monty Pythonesque scene:
He now saw himself trapped. All he could achieve would be silent heroism of a particular kind: to be plotted against, to be laughed at, to be held a fool, to be deceived, to be treated like an idiot by the great and the mighty. Even to be done to death. Could that be what Jesus wanted?
Late one night in that November of 1294 when he was still pope, Peter was wakened by a sepulchral voice talking in the darkness of his papal hermit's cell. "Peter! Peter! My servant! Peter!"
Automatically, Peter said: "Yes, my Lord." Then he began to realize the pit of insane foolishness into which they intended to shove him. "Peter!" the voice went on, "this is the Lord himself!"
The undertones of that voice began to strike an eerie note of familiarity in Peter's consciousness. "Arise, Peter! Abandon this position! Retire to Murrone! Pray! Peter! Pray! Pray! Pray!"
There was much more of the same. Peter could not mistake those accents after a few moments. Gaetani had never been able to pronounce the "t;" it always came out sounding like a "d." He even called himself "Gaedani."
Peter was not fooled, but Gaetani's trick worked to the extent that by the following morning, Peter had made up his mind. He would abdicate.
Did this actually happen?

Malachi Martin, a learned but colorful figure himself, presumably sourced this from John Gower's Confessio Amantis, though as far as I know Gower, a friend of Chaucer, did not allege that it was Gaetani himself who pretended to be God but rather that it was a confederate.

Regardless, the record is clear that Celestine did resign. And Gaetani succeeded him, becoming Pope Boniface VIII. Ex-pope Celestine would soon be captured and imprisoned by Boniface and would die in custody. Some say he was smothered with a pillow on the pope's orders, though this is disputed.

The papacy enjoys supernatural protection. Or so Catholics believe. But the actual history is, shall we say, rough. To say nothing of the men who occupied the throne.

What will future historians say of our own period?

Will it be banal:

The annoyances of World Youth Day in Rio, to be replaced by writing, prayer and the occasional tall beer.

Or is there something more going on?

Who is the Bishop in white?

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Twitter Poll Result: Majority of Traditionalist Catholics Not Certain Francis is Pope


Okay, the post title sounds a bit like it's from the Onion.

I suppose I could have titled it "Twitter Poll result: Water is Wet."

But still.

The majority of traditionalist Catholics either do not believe Francis is the pope, are uncertain if he is, or are unwilling to commit to saying so.

Or so say two silly Twitter polls I just did.

Yes, they're silly Twitter polls and only silly Twitter polls. They feature, respectively, 597 and 732 "votes" from my followers and those who received retweets from my followers, etc.

But I have no good reason reason to believe they inaccurately track the views of traditionalist Catholics as a whole.

What is a "traditionalist Catholic"? I suppose we might define it as the label for those who take seriously the traditional teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. Since the Catholic religion is based on tradition - beginning with the "tradition" of the Old and New Testaments - one might be forgiven for saying it denotes those who take their Catholicism seriously.

I don't find the poll results shocking or surprising. I'm sure you don't either. Among other things it fits with the anecdotal evidence I've gathered from speaking with Catholic acquaintances, friends and fellow parishioners, both in person and online, over the past many months.

But looked at another way, the general fact is indeed a shock. Who would have predicted it, say, six years ago? While Vatican II and the pontificate of Paul VI did cause many thousands of Catholics to become (and remain) sedevacantists, sedevacantism has always been a decidedly "fringe" movement that, as far as I can tell, has essentially been frozen in numbers for many years.

That most serious Catholics have at the least doubts about the actual identity of the current pope, with a quarter to perhaps almost a half believing that the current apparent occupant of the chair is, to put it unsubtly, an imposter or anti-pope is of course unprecedented in modern times.

Some words about the voting sample: 

I assume most of my Twitter followers, or receivers of the retweets of my followers, fall into the "traditionalist" or "serious" categories. To the extent that some may not, it would only increase the "doubts about Francis" numbers among those who do - as one wouldn't expect many lukewarm or non-Catholics to vote "Benedict" or have doubts about the identity of the current pope, etc.

Do my Twitter followers (or those who receive the retweets of my Twitter followers, etc.) make up a diverse and relatively representative sample of traditionalist Catholics? Actually, I think they do. If you think it's all people who agree with me about everything, you haven't been reading my feed recently. 

But enough of the preliminaries. Here are the two poll questions and results:

December 24-25 (not the most optimum time for a Twitter poll, I admit, but still):
Who is currently the pope? (597 votes, total) 
Francis, 52%, 310 votes a. 
Benedict, 27%, 161 votes a. 
Someone else, 1%, 6 votes a. 
No one, 20%, 120 votes a.

This seemed to show a slight majority for Francis over the sum of the other alternatives, or a two-thirds majority if the "No one" category is removed.

As many pointed out, that poll did not include an option for, among other things, those who were unsure. Another twitter friend pointed out that the wording might have biased things a bit towards Francis in that before "pope" it did not include "true" or "actual", etc.

So I decided to do another poll, which only ended a few minutes ago:

December 26-27:
Who do you think is currently the true pope? (732 votes, total) 
Francis, 38%, 278 votes a. 
Benedict, 24%, 176 votes a. 
Not sure/not my call, 19%, 139 votes a. 
Other/the seat is vacant, 19%, 139 votes a.

I interpret the 14% fall off in Francis votes (and the only 3% fall off in Benedict votes) to indicate that a quarter or more of the original Francis total was "soft". Some voted "Francis" in the first poll because the options told them they had to commit to someone, but many were in fact unsure.

What would the poll results look like if we liberally (and almost certainly falsely) assume that all of the "no" and "other" votes were from classical sedevacantists - people who would have voted "the seat is vacant" in all polls for the last sixty years worth of popes? I ask this not to disenfranchise sedevacantists but to attempt to isolate the "Benedict/Francis" effect. The results would change somewhat. Francis gets a clear majority if one has to commit (Poll 1), but still fails to achieve one if one doesn't (Poll 2).

Poll 1:
Who is currently the pope? (471 votes, total) 
Francis, 66%, 310 votes a. 
Benedict, 34%, 161 votes a.
Poll 2:
Who do you think is currently the true pope? (593 votes, total) 
Francis, 47%, 278 votes a. 
Benedict, 30%, 176 votes a. 
Not sure/not my call, 23%, 139 votes a.
One could, if one wanted, make other methodological assumptions to whittle away the remaining slight "doubts about Francis" majority in the second poll. But what would be the point? It's clear that the Francis reign coupled with the bizarre circumstances of Benedict's exit and pope emeritus behavior - living within the Vatican, the white cassock and all the rest - have led to unprecedented doubts and uncertainty about the actual identity of the pope among serious Catholics, and it's reasonable to assume that such doubts and uncertainties will only grow.

Some have argued that the best attitude is to essentially punt on the question. It doesn't matter who is pope. We can't know. It's not up to us to say. And so on.

That, in and of itself, is of course damning. And who would have predicted it six years ago?

We don't merely have a bad pope. Not even merely a really bad pope. Something else is going on.

Or so most traditionalist Catholics now believe. At least according to our Twitter feed.