tv QA Ross Douthat CSPAN June 10, 2018 11:00pm-12:01am EDT
columnist ross douthat talks about his book about the catholic church. then, british prime minister theresa may followed en starr talking about the mueller investigation. ♪ announcer: this week on "q&a," new york times columnist ross douthat talks about his book "to change the church: pope francis and the future of catholicism." ♪ brian: ross douthat, when you were here nine years ago, here is what you said about the republican party. [video clip]
ross: i think the republican party is roughly where the democratic party was around the time that ronald reagan was elected president, which is to say it is coming off a long period of logical dominance and it has lost its dominance temporarily. the question is how long will it take for the party to come back politically and intellectually as well. [end video clip] was 2009. that was 2009. what do you say today? ross: i would say did not take that long for them to come back politically. whether they have come back intellectual he is an open question. we often have this nice idea that a party loses power because it does not have any ideas anymore and goes into the wilderness and find new ideas and is rewarded for those new ideas and is ushered into power. history does not work that neatly.
probably we should evolve and where that to begin with. -- probably we should have all been aware of that to begin with. the republican party has regained and maintained power primarily through a kind of anti-liberalism that has been pretty successful because liberalism has been culturally successful in various ways and republicans have been able to ride a political backlash against that. riseas an evoted to creative policy thinking, the republican party is still the wasteland it was with donald trump the fascinating figure. in many ways, he was a policy innovator in his very crude, trumpian way during the primary campaign. he ran against conservatism in all kinds of ways.
he would stand up on the debate stage and marco rubio or cruise "you areuz would say not a conservative." and president trump would say, who cares. he never had a plan to operationalize much of that, especially on economics. so the party has fallen back into the same -- i've used the term "zombie reaganism" sometimes to describe it. the same ideas that party has put forward before. they are not necessarily popular. you cut taxes and you call it a day. that is the republican party as a governing institution right now. brian: how has your thinking changed? ross: i looked so young. brian: you were 29 years old and
had just started writing a digital column. how has your thinking changed? ross: the trump era has pa vindicated some of the things i thought as a young man with more hair and less experience that than. i think trump's rise and victory shows that the republican party is an empty vessel that someone can fill. the natural way to fill it is an economic populism that uses the white working-class base. if you asked nine years ago where the republican party should go, it resembles a trump has done. but what trump has done is in a less substantive way and a morally darker way than i would have envisioned as an optimal scenario for republicanism.
populism.pan-ethnic trump started his presidential campaign as a birth certificate conspiracy theorist. some things that i had hoped for have been partially fulfilled but not the way i expected. i think the whole trump experience should make everybody think a little more pessimistically or a little more creatively about the kind of changes we need to make for our political parties and really our system of government to work again. something like trump's election is a sign that incrementalists. working with a bunch of writers and reformers on the right, they come a week, we had nice, incremental policy ideas that would move the republican party to the center and so on. if you had me here three years
ago, i would have said that we are slowly pulling the republican slightly to the center. if you had had been here three years ago i would've said, slowly but surely we are pulling the republican party into the right direction. blewnk trump came in and that outlook, leaving those of , iwho write about policy think we should feel our efforts were insufficient and we miss let where the country was and the seriousness of our problems in d.c.. brian: you told me you started that the atlantic. i think james bennett is the
editorial director for the new york times, do you work for him? ross: i do. he is my boss, as he was at "the atlantic." yes, i like him. in case he is watching this. brian: what would he say your columns are about over the last several years? ross: i think that he would say part of my job is everyone is aware that "the new york times" has a fairly liberal readership. thatnk one of the dangers the policy wonks fallen to is a sort of "inside the bubble" thinking.
i think he would say that the job of a good conservative columnist for his page is at least in part to sort of expose readers to ideas outside the bubble in a way that interest them without infuriating them or alienating them or making them dismiss conservatism as simple bigotry or simple racism or anything like that. so to the extent that he thinks i am doing a good job, i think you would say that, in trying to do things along those lines, helping to make the op-ed page a place that helps reveal the world in all its complexity and you have to have people writing fr aonservative perspective in order to do that. brian: do you write your own headlines? ross: not always, but i have a say. brian: this is digital but it says "pope francis is beloved, his papacy is a disaster." did you write that one? sponsible, yes.
it was in consultation. read -- "the conversation has become predictable. a friendly acquaintance, a real estate agent, asks about my work. i say i have been writing a book about the pope. the acquaintance smiles and nods and says, isn't he so wonderful? or, that must be uninspiring thing. or i have a friend who would like to read it. i eventually find myself saying uncomfortably, well, they should know that it is not entirely favorable." tell us how it is not entirely favorable. ross: it is a book that has taken his whole papacy. frances is probably the most fascinating religious figure of our era. he is the figure that people in my profession have been most interested in.
as john paul ii was, but in a different way. he is a celebrity pope, a pope who has successfully harnessed the pope's position as a focal point for media coverage of the church to a remarkable effect. and he is also a liberaliser. he thinks the church needs to change in various ways, particularly around issues related to the sexual revolution, marriage, divorce, and so on, where prior popes basically said these are changes the church cannot make. these are fraught places in his pontificate where he has clashed with his cardinals and bishops and theologians over just how far his reach is to change, what the church can change without undercutting its own traditions. or breaking faith with the new testament, the gospel of jesus christ.
just tryingbook is to tell this story, which i think is independent of whether, you know, how fondly you feel about the pope. it's an interesting religious story that has applications about any other religion that a esing match with modern society. also has book judgments. my judgment is that, on a lot of these issues, the pope has been making a mistake. mancourse, i am a lay catholic journalist. i am not a theologian or bishop. sothority to say these things are fairly limited. athe same time, i am speaking for a lot of people who are more theologically serious in various ways than i am.
part of the journalists' job is to share the story in a way that others cannot. there's something presumptuous for any catholic writer criticizing the pope. in offering it, i am speaking for an important part of the church and explaining an important side of what is the most important religious argument going on certainly in the western world and arguably the whole world today. brian: one of the recent things that has caught my eye is there is a fellow named skelfari. i have an article here from "the catholic herald of great britain." he quotes francis as saying, from an interview that he had with him, and i will show you some video in a second -- "the souls of those who do not repent and therefore cannot be forgiven, disappear. a hell does not exist. what exists is the disappearance
of sinful souls." now we don't have to rrabout going to hell. our souls just disappear. before i ask you to ask you to explain all this, let me show you some video. he is 93-years-old and he has a newspaper called "republica" in rome, italy. [video clip] >> the conversation we had started with some jokes because that is his way. said, some of my advisors said to be careful talking to you because you are a clever man and you will try to convert me. me, converting the pope? >> the pope had invited him for a chat. it would be a white-ranging skelfarin which
described had attracted worldwide attention. when it came to the church hierarchy, francis was uncompromising. heads of the church, he is quoted as saying, have often been narcissist, flattered by their careers. this vatican-centric vision neglects the world around it and i will do everything to change it. [end video clip] brian: put all this in the context of what we just heard. ross: essentially, the pope's position combines a kind of absolute power with absolute limits on his power. he is the monarch of the catholic church. what he says goes, except, as pope, he is not supposed to be able to change anything. in fact, the whole doctrine of papal infallibility that is a misunderstood is a limit. it basically says the pope is
supposed to be protected from the holy spirit from saying anything that contradicts what past popes have taught her said. -- or said. so every pope is very aware of this kind of pressure on their utterances, the constraints on what they can do. the interviews witfarih scal who is not merely in his early 90's, but he is healthy in various ways. he does not take notes in the interviews. so he is an atheist journalist reconstructs the conversations from memory. what having conversations with this journalist does for francis is it enables him to basically float theological speculations that a pope is not supposed to float in a kind of deniable you can't prove theallsaid that way.
scalfari is probably getting part of what francis says wrong. that is a reasonable assumption. at the same time, the holy father has conducted five separate conversations with him, in which consistently he floats theological speculations that skirt the boundaries of catholic orthodoxy. what you see is a pope trying to find ways, in some cases, to explicitly change the church. in other cases, to introduce a kind of ambiguity and openness for conversation and debate around official teachings, and using this kind of informal -- catholics use the word "magisterial" to describe formal papal teaching. the papal magisterium is what the pope has always taught and said. he is stepping outside that role in these interviews. francis is many things, but he
is very media savvy. he has an awareness that, if he talks to scalfari about hell what he says will make headlines around the world. so there is a kind of it intention outlet t about this intentionality about this that is the pope's way of dealing with these powerful constraints on the office. brian: what do you think of this idea of talking with scalfari, who is an atheist and doesn't take notes? ross: my reaction is, oh, lord, help us. not again. i don't think it is helpful to the catholic fai to have a pope sort of doing this. i think if the pope wants to introduce different theological ideas about hell, he should be
sort of open enough to do it publicly and risk the backlash. the controversy, and so on. and francis, to his credit, has done that on dorce and marriage and whether catholics remarried without annulment can take communion. that is a central controversy of his pontificate. there, francis did push for a certain change. he let bishops argue it out in these two senates in rome. the reaction from the bishops put limits on what he could do. but his response to those limits was similarly a kind of ambiguity, where he issued a long document on marriage that included a small footnote that seemed to open the door to communion for the remarried and basically became a permission slip for some countries and some dioceses and some bishops to go one direction while others went another. the ultimate effect is a kind of
shift for the catholic church toward a slightly more and work more anglican model. the anglican church had ideas about communion, substantiation, hierarchy,deas about different liturgical forms, all of these things, without central doctrinal teaching that has been the selling point of the catholic church. you know where the catholic church stands. the anglican model hasn't been working well for the anglicans. they have had schisms in a and almost schisms.
taking the catholic church in that direction is a betrayal of what the pope is supposed to do. the pope is supposed to provide unity and continuity rather than opening a perpetual conversation about what catholicism is. brian: let me be very simple. why would god care at the end of someone's life whether they fussed all over this liturgical stuff, divorce, not divorce, if you have basically been a good person all your life? are you going to be -- i guess there is a hell. he rejected that, basically, saying he did not say that. ross: the church is still teaches that there is the possibility of hell. it does not have a view on exactly how many people are there. brian: why all of this handwringing whether you are a protestant or a catholic or a jew? in the end, isn't it about how you lived your life and whether you have been a decent human being? ross: to some extent, yes.
but these issues are from the caliphate point of view and also the point of view of most religions, markers of that question. the state of a person's soul, what comes across in a secular frame as are you a good person or not is really a question of the state of your soul after 30 or 40 or 60 or 70 years of life. what kind of condition is your soul in? from the catholic perspective, the condition of your soul is shaped by the moral choices that you make, whether you confessed sins and repent them or whether you maintain that is part of your being and the sacramental life of the church, the mixture of the rights of marriage, the sacrament of confession, taking communion and so on is itself supposed to be a source of grace, a place where grace is entering your life and making you closer to the kind of ultimately if not good at least
better person. in the case of communion, when you are living in a second marriage in the church's eyes is effectively an adulterous marriage, at you are doing when you take communion and that situation, if you are doing it with the requisite amount of knowledge and so on it is a kind of sacrilege. and sacrilege is bad for your soul. instead of communion making you a better person by infusing you with divine grace, it turns your sins back on themselves and hardens you in the place of sinfulness you are in to begin with. so the church is effectively, the idea of withholding communion, while it it is perceived as a punishment and itimately self-punishment,
think it is very easy to see the very understandable, psychological reaction people have to these rules but they are in fact for your protection. so participating in the life of the church when you are in a state of mortal sin is not good for you. it's not how you get to heaven from the catholic perspective. does that make sense as an answer? not for you to say, i guess. brian: let me show you something you talked about in your book. i think it irritated you about. this is a stamp published by the vatican. it is a stamp with martin luther on the right-hand side, at the base of that crucifix. why did that irritate you? mildly irritated me. brian: why would the catholic church want martin luther on a stamp anyway? ross: there are a lot of people in the vatican making choices. but the view is the conflict between lutheranism and
something that needs to be effectively transcended, which is ideally something i agree with, too, but the best way to transcend it is to have these kind of ecumenical partnerships where everyone gets together. this was for the 500th anniversary of the reformation. and says wasn't this a regrete inand we can all agree the 16th century popes had good ideas and luther had good ideas and it was a shame they could not figure things out. again, i think the impulse behind some of this is that it is admirable and there are ways in which questions where catholics and lutherans have come to common ground about abstract theological ideas about
grace and sin and justification that were central to the reformation. at the same time, in other areas, the gap between official catholic teaching, where a lot of protestant churches are, has gotten wider, like religion sexuality since the 1960's. so it is not the case that there is this obvious convergence between catholics and protestant churches. and for catholic teaching to make sense, for catholicism to be taken seriously, i think it should be taken seriously in its claims to be the church founded by jesus christ and all the rest of it. the issues that split the church in the reformation were important issues. it was not just all a big misunderstanding. maybe it started as a misunderstanding, but within years and decades, lutheranism dissolved all kinds of catholic institutions. it changed the teaching on the nature of the eucharist, on
transubstantiation to this lutheran compromise. ways ine all kinds of which the church should be able to say we committed sins during the reformation. the popes of that era were corrupt. we should have done things differently without in effect elevating luther as the equivalent of a catholic saint. brian: in your book, you point out that there are 200 cardinals, they cannot all vote. if you are over 80-years-old, you cannot vote. there are 150 bishops, 400 priests. give or take. it ifer of things, why is -years-olds over 80
they cannot go for the pope? ross: i think that is a decision that john paul ii made. retirement from an active life as a cardinal, life as running an archdiocese or a department of the vatican and so on, corresponds to a sort of stepping away from responsibility. of course, there's issues of senility and so on the inter in -- that enter in. you get distant from whatever the competencies are that you want in choosing the next pope. , it is ange rule arbitrary choice that could be changed right a different pope. brian: and cardinals have to retire 75. ross: they have to offer their retirement at 75. brian: there are 200 plus
cardinals still live in the world. why are 40 of them from italy? why does italy have the most responsible people in the world in catholicism to have a kind of dominance? ross: if you want to go back far enough, st. peter was martyred in rome. the church sort of recognized rome as its capital. that was true then, and it has been true ever since. so it is natural in certain ways to have -- if the center your church is in rome, just as the politics of virginia and maryland loom larger in washington, d.c., -- there will always be italian influence. that being said, 40 cardinals in italy in a religion of over a billion people seems ridiculously disproportionate.
the things i think pope francis has done correctly it is sort of widen the spread of cardinals. benedict and john paul before him did that, too. italian influence has diminished somewhat over the last few generations. but clearly, francis has made an effort to appoint cardinals were -- who are not just from outside italy, but for more peripheral countries. so instead of making the archbish of the biggest city everywhere ae and cardinal, he has chosen more minor figures from small caribbean islands and places like that. the general intention is to address exactly that sort of disproportionate thing. it is a hard thing to change. you had that quote from francis where he is sort of criticizing [indiscernible]
-- the fascinating thing about his pontificate is that it is consumed more by these issues i am writing about in the book, these moral and theological controversies, than by the clinic every organization of the church's governance, which is -- francis was elected byted. mostly non-italian cardinals who looked at how the church was run under benedict at 16th and how rome was run and decided we can do better. he had a reputation as austere. he wasn't seen as a charismatic figure, but someone who rode the subway and had a personal humility and was not correct -- not corrupt. he was brought in as a kind of fix it man for the internal culture. he preferred to condemn the internal culture in vivid and often totally reasonable ways, but spend much more of his time on these -- this attempt to
shift the catholicism center of gravity to something more liberal. the vatican itself has languished unreformed in various ways under this pope. brian: let me ask you some basics. wh it that the catholic church thinks that it has to have men in the leadership only? and they have to be celibate, cannot be married, unless they were married and then became a priest? ross: it is a multilayered thing. i don't think there is any reason in catholic teaching why the entire leadership of the church has to be male. i think, in fact, another thing that francis has done that i agree with is try and find more appointments within the governance structure of the church for women. and i think you could go further. what the church says is that, in effect, the priesthood is for men only.
brian: why? ross: for two reasons. first because the priesthood is understood as having been instituted by jesus through the 12 disciples, all of whom were male. and generally, jesus was a gender a- he was gala terrien in almost -- gender egalitarian in almost all things in ways that were radical , by the standards of his time. the fact that he can find this choice of the first priests as men is a strong indicator. and it is confirmed by t catholic view that the main role of the priest is to stand in persona christi, to perform the part of christ in the second ice -- the sacrifice of the mass, the transubstantiation of bread and wine into christ's body and blood. that's the reason for the priesthood. and jesus was male. and the church is supposed to be sort of the bride of christ in
effect. the church thinks there's some sort of sex and gender intention in god's choices. in jesus's choice for the 12 disciples and god's choice to be incarnate as a man, that basically limit the priesthood itself. brian: but it sounds a lot like what happened in this country with women and african-americans when it all kicked off 200 some years ago. the white males said we are in charge and they don't get to vote. they don't have property and all that. isn't this just politics, men saying to themselves they are the only ones who know how to operate this thing? ross: i think there is unquestionably, in any male lead -- male-led institution, there is going to be a certain amount of sexism. i don't think anyone who has experienced the catholic hierarchy would say that there isn't sexism there. but in certain ways
historically, catholicism has , been an institutn that has -- it has this reputation now in the wake of the sexual revolution and second and third wave feminism as this foe of -- obdurate foe of gender equality and female progress. historically, the catholic church, compared to other religious bodies, including protestant churches in the 16th and 17th century, provided many more leadership opportunities for women than just about any other comparable institution, compared to the institutions of pagan rome that the church came in conflict with and transformed and so on. the church simultaneously had an all-male priesthood, but was more gender egalitarian. the litany of catholic saints is filled with often aggressive and influential women. so, the church has been put in an unusual position by the
cultural changes of the last 50 years where it has gone from being seen, often by protestants, as this feminized form of christianity, with the role of mary is elevated above the human race, to being seen the way you just described, an example of men running everything. i think the challenge for the church is to, in effect, prove that its view of the priesthood is theological, as opposed to just the sexist view, and i think the way to do that is to, in effect -- in some cases, this would be a restoration of the roles that women played in the medieval period. in other ways, you need to be innovative in church governance. my preference would be to have a lot more nuns running -- we haven't even got in into the celibacy -- gotten into the celibacy question. i think that -- i can imagine a version of the roman curia that has a very
different gender balance. and has a lot of very impressive nuns running congregations and so on. i think that is both compatible with church teaching and if it , happened, would be proof that the church's vision of why why it should be a man on the altar performing the sacrifice of the mass is compatible with a basic view of male and female equality. brian: another thing i would like to ask you about his -- is annulments. i have known enough people in my life who have gotten annulments known that they have been very close to the hierarchy of the church. and when you have to hire a lawyer to go through all this thing, why does that make any sense? somebody has got married, had children, and some people can get annulments and others can't? ross: that part of it does not make sense. that is just corrupt. to the extent that the annulment process is available to the well-connected and not available to the less well-connected is a
failed process. i think the church in this cohiuntry is not true elsewhere -- but the church in this country has worked pretty hard in the last 30 years to correct the problem. so, the annulment process can be burdensome in various ways. the fees are waived. it's not a financial burden on people, although it can be obviously a practical and emotional burden. and if you go through the process, at this point, again, in the u.s., many more annulments are granted than not at the end of the process. it is an something where 10% of annulments are granted and it is only people who know kennedy or something. of course the opposite is true, , too. there is the famous case of kennedy, who famously appealed the annulment granted to her husband all the way to rome and won. he did not get that annulment. that is where the influence
worked for him only until he did -- it did not. brian: wasn't that possibly the -- a case of embarrassment to the church if they had granted it and she was able to take it to the hierarchy and room and -- and go to rome and most people cannot afford to do that? ross: i'm just saying she was able to leverage her own celebrity against his and -- in various ways. the theory of the annulment process is that -- is that that should -- that is what is supposed to happen all the time. the annulment process is supposed to be distinct in various ways, but distinct from a divorce process, that in effect the church is judging by -- on behalf of the marriage that is not something that can , be unilaterally pursued by one spouse or the other. if one spouse says, no, he abandoned me and this was a real marriage and so on that , perspective is heard.
i think that, basically the way it ended up here in the u.s., different from around the world, is as a compromise with the culture we live in. it is a way to try and maintain the church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. i have very mixed feelings about it. but it's different from -- pope francis has pushed things one step beyond that to a point where, it seems to me, that the inthe solubility dissolubility is fully emptied out. if you say then on a process is not necessary and people can -- the annulment process is not necessary and people can effectively decide for themselves, then it is hard for
me to see what is different from that catholic teaching and from what the culture as a whole says. brian: let me put on the screen a list of the pokes -- popes that go back to the late 1930's and early 1940's and ask you to give us a brief. we go back to pope pius xii. he was there for 19 years. pope john was only there for about four years plus. pope paul vi was there for about 15 years. pope john paul i was 33 days. then you have john paul ii was there 26 years. pope benedict, seven years. pope francis has been there for five years. when you look back on that list, what is the difference between pope francis and the ones that came before him? ross: that's -- brian: besides the fact that you point out that he is a jesuit. ross: there are a lot of -- the jesuits -- him being a jesuit is one
interesting way of looking at it. the jesuit order has a fascinating reputation in church history, where, at certain moments in time, it is seen as the most conservative order, fiercely loyal to the pope. the shock troops of the counterreformation doing battle with protestants. at other moments, it is seen as the most liberalizing order. that has been true since the 1960's. it swung toward the liberalizing end. people think of jesuits as the liberal intellectuals of the church. but what both of those modes of being a jesuit have in common is that jesuits are extreme. they are willing to push the envelope in different ways in order to do what they think needs to be done to evangelize. so the mentality of the jesuit , order in the western world since the 1960's is, look, you are in a culture that is falling away from catholic christianity for all kinds of totally understandable reasons. you need to make the church as flexible and adaptable as civil
-- as possible. and if that means having a lot areas around hard teachings so be it. , francis is distinct from that, in certain ways. there are differences from latin america to north america europe, but he clearly partakes of that attitude as well. he sees too much of a focus on rules and doctrine at this moment in history as a big obstacle to preaching the gospel. the challenging thing is there has never been a jesuit pope. the papacy is -- the papacy has a different job in the church from the jesuits. so putting someone who belongs , to an order that sees itself as the envelope pushers at the center of the church creates a fascinating dynamic. i think francis's defenders say that he is exactly what the church needs, to push the envelope effectively from the center.
but the danger of that is that you lose -- that the center itself doesn't hold. that is the danger of having a pope who is always complaining about rigidity and literalism and all of these things. a certain rigidity is actually the pope's job, as sort of frustrating as that may be for the pope himself. that is one distinction. each pope -- francis is similar to john paul, as sort of this globetrotting media presence, even though his theological perspective is different from john paul in many ways. the arc of the papacy has been -- the crude way to look at it was that pope pius xii was a more conservative figure and john paul xxiii and benedict,
who had been sort of liberals in the context of the 1960's said, well, things have gotten too far and we need to reinforce catholic orthodoxy. and then francis sees that reinforcement as having gone too far and wants to swing things back in the other direction. as with political figures, there is a pendulum in the church that swings from one pope to another. brian: what grade would you give the catholic church in the way it handled the sex crisis and priests and what impact has that had on its membership? ross: f, f-. to the extent that -- there are two defenses you can offer of the church. one is that since the worst of , the revelations came out in the early 2000's, the church in the u.s., where things were a
public scandal, they have done a reasonably good job instituting protections and removing abusive priests. so, if you start the clock in 2005, you could give the church a b plus. but the clock doesn't start in the way the church handled it. 2005. it was a horrible mix of the worst of conservatism and the worst of liberalism in various ways. it was this intersection of this very hierarchical we have to protect the church, a bishop has to be a father to his priests and protect his priests, even at the expense of parishioners' children. joined to a lot of -- some of the worst abuses were associated with a kind of -- i don't want to say roman pilanski-ish. but that sort of -- roman polanski-ish. but that sort of -- there was a realm where it wasn't -- it was priests having affairs with teenage boys in the
-- and they would justify it in various ways as people justified having sex with teenagers in a secular context. it was this -- and you had liberal bishops leading coverups. and conservative bishops. it was comprehensively awful. i think we have more of it now than we did 15 years ago of how far this is -- how pervasive this has been outside the church. we have the penn state scandals and boarding schools candles. -- boarding school scandals, i'll kind -- all kind of scandals. at best, that shows that other places were just as corrupt. and the church's business is supposed to be better. instead, it was, at best, just as bad. and that's worse. brian: is it a fact that the church took parishioners' money that they gave to the church and paid off people in that process? in other words if i went to , church on sunday and dropped some money in the slot, that money was eventually paid back
to these parishioners? ross: the church paid out large settlements. brian: a couple billion dollar ross: that money is fungible. ordinary catholics pay for everything in the church. so, they certainly paid for that. and they paid for it in other ways. the archdiocese of boston, to take the most american -- extreme american example had to , close a lot of parishes. it would've had to anyway because boston is not as catholic as it once was and so on, but were there parishes on the margins that closed because the archdiocese had to pay these things out? of course. the extent to which the ripple ,ffect of that scandal was felt not just among the people directly affected, but in just about every aspect of catholic life. brian: what has happened with the catholic population?
has it gone down? ross: in the u.s. or worldwide? worldwide, it has gone up. brian: in the south? ross: in the global south especially in africa. -- a lot of that is conversions. a lot of that is the fact that africa is the only part of the world where the population growth is still rapid generally. in the u.s., the catholic population as a share of the country has been pretty stable, but a lot of that is because of hispanic immigration. if you look at mass attendance, you have a big collapse in the 1960's and 1970's, and then it sort of stabilizes, those slightly down across john paul to benedict. in the last five or eight years, including under francis, sort of contrary to some people's expectations, the decline has actually gotten sharper. in a lot of european countries the decline was steeper in the , 1960's and 1970's. it hit a lower point and has
plateaued. latin america, the church is losing large numbers of people to not just secularism, but pentecostalism and evangelicalism. the church presents an interesting picture. it's the largest christian community in the world. it has grown in various areas, particularly in the global south. there are 1.2 billion catholics. it's much larger than it was 50 years ago, but also institutionally much weaker. brian: let me, though, go to you, in our time remaining, what do you believe? ross: in catholic christianity? brian: yeah. the storyink that recounted in the new testament is very convincing and sort of the most plausible instance in human history where a direct
divine intervention into the drama of history. so, i am a christian because i believe that. i am a catholic christian because i think the catholic church has the most plausible claim to continuity with relates -- the early church. that relates to these questions about divorce and every thing else. one of the things that catholic church has done well for all its sins and compromises -- jesus says a lot of strange things in the new testament. he says that you can't get remarried if you get divorced. he says that you have to eat my flesh and drink my blood if you want to be saved. he places this incredibly high priority on a kind of radical poverty. the church, often in compromised ways, has been impressively true to that, true to the teaching on marriage, true to the view that it really is the body and blood in communion, true through the
franciscans to take francis' own namesake and many other orders down through history to radical experiments in poverty and service. so in all of those ways, i believe that-- i jesus christ was the son of god and i think of all the churches in christendom, the catholic church has the best claim to be the one that he actually founded. brian: back in 2010, you probably remember the "mother jones" article. ross: yeah. brian: let me read this and have you fill in the blanks. as part of her quest for relief, patricia snow, until then an episcopalian, attended a sermon by pentecostal faith healer grace james. i had an amazing encounter with christ, snow told me over lunch. from then on, the family allowed -- followed james around new england from high school
cafeterias to elks lodges to church basements. the family later began sampling church after church in what ross calls a tour of american christianity. ross: that was my childhood. brian: were you going from church to church? were you following grace james around? ross: yeah. first classho was a of woman, women at yale, sort of upper-middle-class southern connecticut person, had this very intense spiritual experience. in these faith healing services. i probably was six years old at the time. brian: do you remember? ross: yes. i mean, i had a childhood where i like to say, during the week, i went to a nice, liberal, secular public school. on the weekends i went and , watched my parents speak in tongues. i had an unusual religious experience, if you will, in that
i was along for someone else's religious pilgrimage. i am not my mother, who now writes about -- we all became catholic when i was a teenager. she is now a writer as well. writes about some of these issues in a different way, sometimes a more intense way than i do. but she is a more mystical personality than i am. part of the baseline for my approach to all matters religious is that i hate -- think religious experience is real. i can't claim these dramatic mystical experiences but i , watched them happen to people i was close to. whatever they are, they are not a fraud. they are not just an illusion. they are sort of a central part of the human experience. below the level of is the new testament true, is the catholic
church the one true church, my foundation is the idea that religion is more important and more important to figuring out the truth about the world than a lot of secular people tend to think. brian: in the same article, your mother recalls how her introverted son would read voraciously in his room or pace their backyard for hours, throwing a baseball against the backstop while talking to himself and making up stories. the one thing he resented about his upbringing, he says, was "an evangelical phase when someone would put us into a prayer group and you are holding hands and it was like, oh, do i have to make up a prayer?" ross: yeah. brian: you are obviously not introverted anymore. ross: i was not a totally introverted child. it was more than i like to get comfortable in us -- a given situation before i started
acting like a next her. which is why being a columnist is useful, because you always have an excuse to be extrovert the nature of punditry,. i would say,okingly, but n completely jokingly that one of , the things i liked about the catholic church is what protestants find unpleasant about it. you have prayers that you memorize. there is room for spontaneity, but the mass itself is not a spontaneous experience. you can slip into the back of a catholic mass in any parish and there won't come a point in the middle of the service where the priest says, all right, let's have everybody stand up and testify to how jesus changed your life. there's incredible religious pentecostalism and evangelicalism and so on, but my 16-year-old self was very happy not to be asked how jesus changed his life. brian: we only have two minutes.
what's the best thing that has been said about your book since it has been published and the worst? ross: there have been a few reviews that have said i'm just making things up and the complex -- conflicts i'm describing are not real. that is the harshest critique and it is wrong. i know it's wrong because i am not a real reporter so i just relied on much better reporters than myself and the best reporting bears out the story that i am trying to tell. the best -- i don't know about the best thing. i think there have been a lot of sort of critical reviews that have taken the form, of course, he is wrong about this, but he is a smart guy and a serious catholic and he makes an eloquent case. and since i'm in the weird position of criticizing a pope and on terms that the secular world finds bizarre and incomprehensible, sometimes, i have to take that kind of review as maybe the best that i can
hope for. brian: last question, the name douthat, where does it come from? ross: northern england. it was dowthaite at some time. my ancestors went to ireland, probably scott irish, probably my protestant ancestors persecuted my catholic ancestors and we ended up in america and we put a u in the name and no one has been able to pronounce it since. brian: married? children? ross: married, three children. brian: the name of the book is "to change the church: pope francis and the future of catholicism." our guest has been ross douthat. thank you very much. ross: thank you. ♪ >> for free transcripts or to
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do you think it is possible to legislate this issue? >> it is fascinating that the republican position has been this is something congress should decide. opportunity has the to decide with the congressional passed in ahat has bipartisan way and is pending in the house, republicans in the note say -- congress should decide. the fcc the chairman of has encourage of his convictions that what he is done is right for america and will stand up to a vote in the congress, he should pick up the phone, call speaker ryan, and say "schedule it for a vote in the house and let us see what the
representatives of the american people say." on "theight communicators" on c-span2. week's prime minister's questions, theresa may takes questions from members of the house of commons. this is 45 minutes. >> order! questions for the prime minister. the prime minister. may: sunday marks the one-year anniversary of the london bridge attack. i attended a very moving memorial service. i am sure others will join me in offering deepest condolences to friends and family of the victims. i would like to pay tribute to the