Steve Bannon Denies Trump “Literally” Belongs In Ninth Circle Of Dante’s Hell (Hint: 8th)

Steve Bannon, in his interview with Charlie Rose of CBS, claimed that the Access Hollywood (“grab them”) tape had no lasting impact on last year’s campaign “yet, if you see the mainstream media that day, it was, literally, he was falling into Dante’s inferno.”  Let’s fact-check that statement.

The first circle of hell isn’t really hell proper but limbo, for virtuous pagans, and Trump does not qualify because he is a baptized Christian, sorry bad luck Mr. President, better luck in some other universe.  The second circle of Dante’s hell is reserved for the lustful.  Enough said.  Circle #3 is for gluttons, little doubt there (two scoops!).  Circle four is for the greedy, whom Trump literally tried to shove out of his way in a futile effort to get back to circle 2, but he fell back downward instead and encountered a few more of his fellow hoarders and spendthrifts (did I mention that Trump Dubai is using a Chinese-government-owned contractor, contrary to one of Trump’s campaign promises?) before descending to the lowest circle of upper hell, the one occupied by the wrathful (“lock her up”; “I’m the fucking president”).

And now unbar the gates of Dis and welcome to Nether Hell.  The River Styx will soon be the happiest memory you have left, Donald, as we cross from passive sin to active sin, starting with heresy and idolatry.  Trump might at first seem innocent of heretical ideas, but if we scratch just a little we remember his denial that ever needs to repent for anything.  If that is not heresy and idolatry, what is?  Trump is guilty of obdurate refusal to ever acknowledge humbleness.  And this is not yet the worst of the active sins.  Next is the seventh circle of Dante’s inferno, home to the violent: the war-makers, tyrants, plunderers, blasphemers, sodomites, the violent against art, and usurers.  Perhaps Mr. Trump has not yet committed all of these horrible sins, but we haven’t seen all the tapes yet either, have we?

Over the waterfall we go, over the great cliff, down to the eighth circle, where we are met by Geryon, the Monster of Fraud.  A truly Trumpian circle, containing the malicious, the panderers, the seducers, the flatterers, the falsifiers, the sowers of discord, the grafters, the barrators (think “emoluments clause”!), and the simoniacs (not sure about this, but Mueller ought to look into it too IMHO).  And finally, the ninth circle of hell, in which the traitors dwell.  Not that I feel any great sympathy for Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, but do you think in their hearts they harbor any doubt at all that Donald J. Trump belongs right here?  Anyone think they would lend him a hand or a rope?  Let’s leave Mr. Trump here where he belongs, bearing in mind of course that Dante wrote two more books.  And that Trump himself admitted that becoming president was probably his last best shot at getting into heaven–yes, he did really say that!



Even The Demons Believe They Know What Doctrine Is And Isn’t (Steve Bannon Edition)

In his recent Charlie Rose interview, Steve Bannon criticized Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York and other U.S. Catholic bishops for their opposition to President Trump’s decision to rescind DACA protections for “Dreamers.”  Bannon said that “as much as I respect Cardinal Dolan and the bishops on doctrine, this is not doctrine.  This is not doctrine at all.  I totally respect the pope and I totally respect the Catholic bishops and cardinals on doctrine.  This is not about doctrine.  This is about the sovereignty of a nation.  And in that regard, they’re just another guy with an opinion.”

Bannon does not want American Catholics to follow the bishops and cardinals on the immigration issue.  He wants Catholic voters, as well as evangelical Protestants and others, to follow his own nativist opinions.  But he is misleading or mendacious or untutored (or a combination) about what is and isn’t doctrine.  Christian doctrine is Christian teaching.  Whether it is sound or unsound doctrine depends first on how faithful it is to the Christian scriptures.  Sound Christian teaching also needs to be congruent (especially for Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians, but also, in sometimes complicated and conflictual ways, for Protestant Christians) with church traditions, as expressed, for example, in creeds, confessions, encyclicals, and other teaching statements.  If Bannon had said “dogma” instead of doctrine he might have been somewhat less wrong, but even putatively infallible Catholic dogmas [which are few] are statements of Christian teaching to build up faith and practice, not primarily metaphysical speculations.  Of course there is a distinction between “doctrine” and “life,” but a separation would be unscriptural, untraditional, and unfaithful.

Sound doctrine rooted in Scripture can certainly rely on the many Biblical injunctions to “welcome the stranger” going back to the book of Exodus.  If Steve Bannon believes that Christian doctrine has no pertinence to governmental restrictions on immigration and no claim on his attention when it is employed to criticize his nativist anti-immigrant viewpoint, he is really saying that Christian doctrine has nothing to do with any actual issue.  Bannon has plenty of company if that’s what he believes, but not good company, and he has effectively renounced his claim to grasp Catholic Christian tradition.  Bannon is not wrong to associate the immigration issue with “the sovereignty of a nation”  (but leaves Catholicity behind when he separates nation-sovereignty completely from sovereignty of God).  And the U.S. Catholic bishops are certainly capable of misconstruing Scripture and Catholic tradition in this or that way.  But when Bannon calls the cardinals and bishops “just another guy with an opinion” regarding welcoming or deporting immigrants, he has defined “doctrine” as conveniently irrelevant to all real-life controversies and left Catholic and Christian tradition in the dust.

P.S. Don’t trust me?  Let me quote from a guy with an opinion, St. Augustine, Book One, section 30 of his De Doctrina Christiana: after quoting Matthew 22:37-40 on love of God and neighbor, Augustine tells us that “it is clear that we should understand by our neighbor the person to whom an act of compassion is due if he needs it or would be due if he needed it.  It follows from this that a person from whom an act of compassion is due to us in our turn is also our neighbor.  For the word ‘neighbor’ implies a relationship…who can fail to see that there is no exception to this, nobody to whom compassion is not due?”  Is Augustine Catholic enough?  Does Augustine know what doctrine is about?  Does not even Thomas Aquinas say (Summa Theologica, first part, first question, articles 1, 4, and 5) that sacred doctrine is not just philosophical and speculative but also practical–and thus nobler than other “sciences”?  And if Mr. Bannon wishes to delve into doctrine in a serious way, I suggest he study the First Part of the Second Part of the Summa T., treatise on the virtues, q. 56, article 4: “Whether the irascible and concupiscible powers are the subject of virtue,” or not.

Could Meals On Wheels Make Any Good Use Out Of Mick Mulvaney, Paul Ryan, or Steve Bannon?

Other than cooking up a very pale and thin bone broth, that is (hat tip Jordan Weissmann of Slate)?  Mick Mulvaney channelled Lord John Russell’s laissez-faire ideology (hat tip to Charlie Pierce’s Esquire blog) during the Irish potato famine, on the day before St. Patrick’s Day!  He did not actually say that the poor should be boiled into bone broth.  Paul Ryan did not say that his legislative agenda owes even more to Lord Russell than to latecomer Ayn Rand.  Mulvaney, Ryan, and Bannon did not say that they are white and that that makes all the difference as far as immigration goes.  God apparently has not yet taught these sons of Ireland enough of a lesson about their history.  But until then their Anglo-Teutonic overlord Trump is making good use of them.