An Illiberal Catholic Assault on Hobby Lobby

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Note: once again, this is a guest post by Stephen Herreid, not Bonchamps.

“Well, it turns out our Founders designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change than I would like sometimes.” – President Barack Obama

“…America was never well-founded, so either needs to be differently re-founded or at least endured, even survived.” – Patrick Deneen

Faced with the historic government overreach that is the HHS mandate, it ought to be easier than ever for Christians to know who their enemies are. One would hope that in this desperate time conservatives and Christians would unite against the enemies of the Church, and defend the religious liberty that has already been half-robbed from us. Unlike in many other countries, where Christians are already third class citizens and some are killed and violated by the thousands, America is the home of a long-standing Constitutional Republic, a Rule of Law tradition that explicitly protects and honors our religious liberty. The army of the Left is united in its effort to topple that grand tradition and the Church that it protects. Appallingly, the army of the Right is not so united in their defense.

Last February, Patrick Deneen came out as an “illiberal Catholic” when he wrote “A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching.” He argued that, while some may wrongly think their country and their Church can coexist, true Catholics must reject “the basic principles of the American founding.” Even in the midst of a federal attack on the economic liberty of Christian employers, Catholics must come to understand that the coercive government of the Left is less to be feared than the free-market principles of the American Founding, which are “leading inexorably to civilizational catastrophe.”

I responded with my own article, “Illiberal Catholicism: A Sharp Critique,” in which I addressed myself not to Deneen but to conservative Catholics in general. I observed that the illiberal Catholic position that Deneen takes is “anti-American and anti-liberty first, Christian and pro-life second.”

I also outed several of the allies whom Deneen cites in his original piece: One is a proud Catholic Obama-voter, another suggests that the pro-abortion Democratic Party is more worthy of Catholic support than the pro-market Republican Party, others altogether reject the duty to vote, and another denies the legitimacy of all states, claiming that Catholicism is inherently oriented toward the “overthrow” of any government under which she happens to find herself.

Finally I noted that these wildly divergent positions have only one objective in common: As Deneen put it, to “re-found” our country, destroying the American political order—an objective to be accomplished by any means, even by cooperation with the Left as it “fundamentally transforms” America into a socialist regime. “They see that the coercive, all-pervasive state is on the rise in America,” I wrote, “and they have decided to cast in their lot with it. They have decided to collaborate.”

Less than a month after my prediction that illiberal Catholics would “collaborate” with the state rather than defend the Church, Deneen came out with an article entitled “Even if Hobby Lobby Wins, We Lose.” Written for publication on the very day the Supreme Court would hear oral arguments for the case, this attack on Hobby Lobby could not have been more aligned with the Left’s attack on religious liberty had it been commissioned by Barack Obama himself.

Indeed, Mike Fragoso has already made my point (far more cleverly and subtly than I could) at He gave a list of nine hostile statements about the Hobby Lobby case, challenging his readers to distinguish between quotations from Patrick Deneen and Sandra Fluke. At the bottom of the list, Fragoso simply wrote, “It isn’t easy.”

Deneen’s article begins with an officious nod to Hobby Lobby (he “hope[s] their case prevails”). But then he launches into a 1500-word invective aimed at everything that Hobby Lobby stands for. “Hobby Lobby is a significant player in a global economy that has separated markets from morality,” he complains. “[T]he economy in which Hobby Lobby successfully and eagerly engages” is “no longer ‘religious’ or even ‘moral.’” Lest we be deceived into thinking that Hobby Lobby is unlike other, secularist corporations, Deneen makes use of not-so-subtle rhetoric to undercut its credibility. Hobby Lobby, he explains, is just as corrosive to civil society as “every chain store of its kind.” “They have contributed to the displacing of smaller, local businesses…” he continues, arguing that the government-subsidized infrastructure that favors national chains over mom-and-pop stores is a major threat to civilization.

Now one could argue that Deneen is simply attacking the cronyism that many other thoughtful conservatives oppose. But we can’t ignore what’s unique about Deneen’s attack: That before critiquing cronyism, he makes a point of pinning it on the one company that happens to be standing for religious liberty in the Supreme Court. Also significant is the fact that he does not address the governmental actions that currently threaten the Church, actions designed by an administration that not only hates Christianity, but hates small businesses just as fervently as do the large corporations with whom it engages in crony capitalism. If Deneen just wanted to critique the social ills that come with crony capitalism, he wouldn’t need to touch Hobby Lobby.

Let’s face it. Side-stepping the defense of the Church, Deneen has decided to join the Left’s attack on the economic freedom of Christian employers. Talk about kicking them when they’re down. This decision calls for a damned good explanation, but instead Deneen continues to blithely offer us diatribes against the free market, largely not concerning himself with the well-being of the Church. Of Hobby Lobby he has this to say: “Purchases in these chain stores result in a net outflow of money from these communities into the coffers of distant and absentee owners” like the Green family. Of the disadvantaged Church he says … nothing.

If he persists in writing this way, why should Deneen still be published in conservative and Catholic journals? Do conservatives have more loyalty to Deneen than to the country that he hates and would like to see “re-founded?” Are Catholics more devoted to Deneen than to the Church whose defenders he disdains? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We cannot include Deneen’s anti-American agenda among us while maintaining the moral objectives of the Church in America.

More to explorer

Thought For the Day


I am truly surprised by this:   The Arizona Democratic Party is planning to hold a vote this week to determine whether

Saint of the Day Quote: Saint Joseph of Cupertino

  I like not scruples nor melancholy: let your intention be right and fear not. Saint Joseph of Cupertino     There


  1. Deneen’s argument is appalling. Hobby Lobby goes out of its way to incorporate its Christian values into its daily operations. It has put everything on the line to challenge this mandate. And I would love to see this smug academic lecture people with limited budgets about shopping at over-priced mom-and-pop stores instead of affordable chain stores. These people don’t care about “the common good”, they care about an ideological vision that would inevitably harm the common good in order to be realized.

  2. It is a pretty vicious attack and tragically misguided. Hobby Lobby bucks the dehumanizing trend by (1) staying closed on Sunday, and (2) paying a living wage at hire and (3) offering health coverage to all employees.

    Sadly, Deneen has made his ideological demand for the perfect a savage enemy of the good. What is he trying to achieve with such an essay?

  3. Deneen is trying to make himself the ideological leader of a “third force” in American politics, to agglomerate to himself the discontent and frustration of Catholics who have failed to make any real impact in national policy. Instead of trying to remedy that futility, he is trying to make it a badge of honor, an implicit condemnation of the American constitutional system.

    Check out Deneen’s self-congratulatory manifesto for Catholic separatism:

    To which I would answer: How well is the Church doing by its own standards? Sex abuse, instant annulments, 95% of Catholics rejecting Humanae Vitae…. Why should anyone look to US for leadership?

  4. What is the function of intellectuals, bar to tells us things are not as ordinary people see them? Do you ever get the impression that Dr. Deneen’s writings are a series of onanistic exercises?

  5. Patrick Deneen doesn’t approve of what many of us do with our freedom, he doesn’t trust what the citizens of Bedford Falls will do in Bailey Park and he doesn’t much Like Hobby Lobby and its customers. That’s OK. He’s free to be that way.

    (Deneen uses liberalism to mean something close to what the American Founders meant by liberty.)…/

    “…liberalism is not a “shell” philosophy that allows a thousand flowers to bloom. Rather, liberalism is constituted by a substantive set of philosophical commitments that are deeply contrary to the basic beliefs of Catholicism… ”

    Is Deneen saying a good life won’t happen under liberalism? Is he saying that If people have too much freedom they will do bad things (I agree) and they shouldn’t have the freedom that allows them to do bad things (I disagree)? Does he want to make virtue mandatory? I think he does think that it’s bad that people are free to choose for themselves what he would not choose for them.

    In a 2012 review of IT”S A WONDERFUL LIFE, Deneen suggests that Bailey Park is a bad thing in much the same way that he thinks that Hobby Lobby and WalMart are bad things. People shouldn’t choose them and (maybe?) shouldn’t be allowed to choose them.…/12/its-a-destructive-life

    “By contrast, Bailey Park has no trees, no sidewalks, no porches, but instead wide streets and large yards with garages. Compared to Bedford Falls, the development is pedestrian-hostile, and its daily rhythm will feel devoid of human presence, with the automobile instead displacing the ambulating passerbys. The residents of this modern development are presumably hidden behind the doors of their houses, or, if outside, relaxing in back patios. One doubts that anyone will live in these houses for four generations, much less one. The absence of informal human interaction in Bailey Park stands in gross contrast to the vibrancy of Bedford Falls.”

    Here is my favorite comment from the review.(Read the whole review and the comments.)

    “Chesterton Fan • a year ago
    Community is not a matter of proximity or housing development fashions. Farmers live in isolation, but come into town to meet up with neighbors that live 5 miles away. They meet up at church, at a cafe, at a sporting event etc. Meanwhile, in New York City, a person can live 5 years in an apartment and not interact with a single person on their floor who has also lived there more than 5 years. Same goes for suburban neighbors. Some suburban neighborhoods are close knit. Kids play with each other, and parents take turns hosting. Others are just collections of families that happen to live near each other. While I love mom and pop places, one can evidence community in a Starbucks that has regulars who come to meet and share joys and sorrows. With good leadership, a chain store can foster community among employees that expresses itself in good service to customers. Industrialization was transformed, not by abandoning the technological improvements and going back to cottage industry, but by way of cultural transformation. Houses now have family rooms and game rooms that can function in much the same way as the porch used to. After all, even with a porch, a neighbor still either needed to be invited to come up for a glass of lemonade or a beer or have some kind of connection whereby he felt free to stop by. As Chesterton so often made clear, academics often miss the forest for analyzing the individual trees.”

    Fortunately, Patrick Deneen does not rule the world.I’m glad.

  6. I don’t know if this question’s been raised or not, but what is it exactly that Deneen is lobbying for, a nation that’s more Catholic, or more illiberal?

  7. Fred Siegel, in his 2013 book about the modern roots of American liberalism, “The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism has Undermined the Middle Class,” notes:

    “Liberalism is anti-business and anti-democratic. It despises the small town business ethic which drove too much of American life. In its place was a heroic model populated by elite experts, writers and social scientists who fundamentally distrust the public and place great confidence in the “leading role” of the state, to borrow the Marxist term. The scorn and fear generated among liberals by the Tea Party movement illustrates the basic contempt that liberals hold for the common man and the American middle class.”

  8. From the sounds of it, Dineen seems to be the sort that writes for the Remnant. The hold everything but traditional Catholicism in contempt. Religious freedom? Their response is that the only suitable state is a Catholic confessional state ruled by a Catholic monarch. Kinda like Europe was centuries ago. How did that turn out?

    Their views on economics are as bad as the current Catholic hierarchy. From what this bunch wants, it sounds like a combination of mercantilism and distributism.

    Sorry but the genie is out of the bottle. It is not possible to return to the Middle Ages.

    The American Conservative is a journal that is influenced by Pat Buchanan. I do not know how Buchanan has credibility with anyone. He has spent his adult life in Washington, DC, a place detached from reality if there ever was.

    The world is as it is. What can we do to make it better for our succeeding generations? One of the things we can do is to ignore Pat Buchanan and his followers.

  9. Leave Pat Buchanan out of this, please. I was at the first meeting which organized The American Conservative, and have had close contact with its editors for most of its run. Buchanan NEVER exercised any editorial functions; he simply lent his mailing list and his name. The magazine has gone very far left in recent years, and is now virtually indistinguishable from the Distributist Review. Its money man, Wick Allison, endorsed Obama in BOTH elections. It should rename itself more candidly.

  10. Pat Buchanan has credibility with me. But then, I agree with his non-interventionist foreign policy, while PF has a personal anti-Russian axe to grind.

  11. My problem with non-interventionism is that, historically speaking, its loudest proponents aren’t opposed to interventionism per se, just Amerian intervention.
    Just a passing observation. I’m not trying to derail the thread any further.
    I have no idea where Deneen is coming from. But then, I don’t understand why more Catholics don’t understand that the Democrat party left them a long time ago. On the other hand though, Penguins Fan has a point about confessional politics in European history.

  12. Penguins Fan and Ernst Schreiber

    I sometimes wonder whether American (and British) Catholics are as aware as they should be of the dangers of a sort of “political Catholicism,” like that that bedevilled France from1870 to 1959 and that reached its zenith in Action Française and the Catholic atheism of Charles Maurras; this was “civic religion” with a vengeance.

    Nor is the danger only on the Right; Le Sillon’s attempt to align Catholic Action with the labour movement was equally dangerous and was also roundly condemned by the Holy See in Notre Charge Apostolique, which could be read with profit by some (politically) progressive Anglophone Catholics, as well as more recent condemnations of Liberation Theology.

    The danger arises whenever loyalty to a political movement is seen as, not merely compatible with, but demanded, by the Faith itself. It also manifests itself in a denial of the legitimacy of any political authority that refuses to accede to its demands.

    The spiritual mission of the Church in France was gravely hampered, during the first 70 years of that period, by the open hostility of most Catholics to the Republic, which neatly matched the anti-clericalism of the bouffeurs de curé. Leo XIII had exhorted Catholic to “rally to the Republic,” explaining that a distinction must be drawn between the form of government, which ought to be accepted, and its laws which ought to be improved, only to be accused by the Catholic press of “kissing the feet of their executioners.” In 1940, alas, too many Catholics rallied, not to the Republic, but to Vichy. After the Liberation most of the leaders of the Catholic parties were in jail, a few were shot and the rest fled abroad. It was De Gaulle and the Fifth Republic that began to heal the divisions.

    The state of the Church in France today owes much to this bitter legacy of turning faith into faction

  13. The sad truth is that ultimately we’ve done not much better in a modern “democracy” which has been declaring false aherence to Christianity for so long it is finally giving up that charade to betray the religious foundations most Americans (cumulatively counting from the beginnings of the nation) understoodf as essential to the survival and later, the explosion of success which both marked the United States as an economic and military superpower and within which were contained the seeds of its destruction.

    I have no more belief in the efficacy of a Catholic confessional state than I do in what passess for democracy today, if for no other reason that the world has turned inward in self-aggrandisement and self-worship. Nobody would tolerate the return of monarchy – Catholic or otherwise. Overall, however, I can’t see where modern democracy has any worse a track record than European Catholic monarchies decried by PF.

    How did that turn out? Not much worse than what we’re headed for now. There were many solid devout Catholic monarchs interspersed with heathen-minded tyrants. We have a pseudo-Christian fascist in the White House, and the next election will give us eight years of the first woman president unless something unforeseen occurs.

    By the end of that time institutional fascism will be thoroughly cemented in place throughout our political, governmental, and military infrastructures. Likewise, in all the other social and cultural institutions which the Left nearly owns now in toto. Our much vaunted democratic republic barely exists today.

    This character Deneen would only deliver us into this hell all the sooner. However, he’s a zero who ultimately will receive benefits and position only as it is pleasing to his masters who will despise even his watered-down form of faux-Catholicism. RINOs engage in the same wasted energy in their continuing betrayal of America through their never fulfilled yearning for love and approaval from liberals and their media sycophants.

    Since Obama stole the 2012 election (this is the first time I’ve EVER seriously believed an American presidential election has been hijacked), I no longer believe the battlefield is ANYTHING but spiritual. We have lost the political, social,and cultural battles. Even the military is lost to anti-Christian, lesbian-loving, Wiccans or at least atheists.

    Persistent prayer and lots of it is the first and last line of defense and offense. Yes, by all, means let’s expose fraudulent Catholics like Patrick Deenen who are no better than quislings, but let’s not think that a focus on such responses are anything more than satisfying gestures which won’t do anything to win this struggle against the forces of evil arrayed against the last best hope for man – the Roman Catholic Church.

  14. If the state humbly acknowledges its existence brought about by the sovereignty of its citizens with respect, the shenanigans brought about by closed door conspiracy would not have taken place.
    Penguins Fan : “Their response is that the only suitable state is a Catholic confessional state ruled by a Catholic monarch. Kinda like Europe was centuries ago. How did that turn out?”
    Had the Catholic confessional state stayed Catholic, with virtue and charity, Europe would have turned out alright. St Joan of Arc set them straight. When Catholic principles were abandoned the countries fell.
    Blessed John Cardinal Henry Newman said speaking of separation of church and state:
    “It in no way depends upon the caprice of the Pope, or upon his good pleasure, to make such and such a doctrine, the object of a dogmatic definition. He is tied up and limited to the divine revelation, and to the truths which that revelation contains. He is tied up and limited by the Creeds, already in existence, and by the preceding definitions of the Church. He is tied up and limited by the divine law, and by the constitution of the Church. Lastly, he is tied up and limited by that doctrine, divinely revealed, which affirms that alongside religious society there is civil society, that alongside the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy there is the power of temporal Magistrates, invested in their own domain with a full sovereignty, and to whom we owe in conscience obedience and respect in all things morally permitted, and belonging to the domain of civil society.”
    And again, Thomas Jefferson said in his Danbury letter:
    “Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”

    What is it that Hobby Lobby is guilty of? Denying the state transgression into its own conscience? Concerning a mandate that was not given by the people, not voted on by Congress but inserted in the ACA after Congress made the bill into law. The HHS Mandate was unconstitutionally imposed on a free people without their informed consent.
    Hobby Lobby is hauled before magistrates to defend its right to be a free enterprise or at least assent to just laws imposed. Unjust laws, not at all.
    This is about patriotism, about constituting our United States as a free nation. Only a nation conceived in liberty can form the virtue of patriotism. People are not stupid. When a citizen cannot love his country, his conscience and his country need to be reassessed. This is about the government imposing totalitarianism to serve one faction of the public opinion. The HHS Mandate is not equal Justice for all, especially for the innocent souls conceived and obliterated by abortaficients. Every citizen, from atheist to Catholic, must insure that the sovereign citizen must be free to constitute his nation in peaceable assembly. or in Penguin’s words: “How will that turn out?”

  15. Phil Steinacker: “We have a pseudo-Christian fascist in the White House, and the next election will give us eight years of the first woman president unless something unforeseen occurs.”
    Let us pray that the next president is more than a mouth and face for demonic activity. Even the devil is being disgusted with this nation’s human sacrifice and violations of the civil rights of man, whom our Created created in freedom. Human sacrifice is unconstitutional. As worship of the devil, abortion cannot be imposed.

  16. Americans used to have- at least I grew up with – a real confidence in America. At the same time the “ascendance”of Catholicism seemed (again- to me) to be a natural progression of Truth and Justice.
    Now Americans and Catholics alike have lost their self confidence. Lift up your heads!
    Orestes Brownso his reflections on the publication of the Syllabus of Pius IX: “The civil power is bound to obey the law of God, and forfeits its authority in going contrary to it. We shall not suffer those who refuse to believe the infallibility of the Pope, [only] to assert the infallibility of Caesar or the state.”
    First thing for Patrick Deneen and for all of us is to remember who we are.

  17. Bonchamps can worship at the feet of Washingtonian blowhard Buchanan.

    Bonchamps accused me of having a personal anti-Russian ax to grind. To clarify it, I expressed concern for Catholics in areas taken over by Putin and linked to a news story highlighting incidents where Russian military units harrassed Ukrainian Catholics. I do not and have no advocated the US government getting involved.

    Now, it is true that i have an ax to grind. I presume that most people who post here have heard of the terrible attack at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, PA, a Pittsburgh suburb. 19 high school students were injured, four critically. One nearly died last week.

    An incident that made the Drudge Report and the Washington (Com)Post, but was curiously ignored by the local Pittsburgh media, surfaced this week. A 15 year old special needs student in South Fayette High School (the school district I pay a fortune for in property taxes -and everyone else here, too) was continuously bullied by other kids. This 15 year old recorded the actions of the other kids bullying him. when faced with the evidence, school administrators told him to erase the evidence and reported him to the local police, who accused him of violating a Pennsylvania anti-wiretapping law. This 15 year old was cited for disorderly conduct, was chewed out by the local magistrate, and paid a $25 fine plus court costs.

    Due to the Franklin Regional incident, this story has grown legs and is now all over the Internet , although the local socialist rag, the Post Gazette, which now charges for online content, had no coverage that I could locate. I put up with bullies in Catholic grade school and a crummy Northeast Ohio public school district and I have no patience for this BS from overpaid school bureaucrats. I am showing up at the next school board meeting, which i anticipate to be overflowing with irate parents.

    Net time you wantto tell the world that I have an ax to grind, Bonchaps, ask me first. Otherwise, do the Internet version of shut up and don’t purport to talk for me again.

  18. Mary, my point is that there are some hard core Traditionalists who believe in their hear of hearts that the only legitimate state is a Catholic confessional state with a Catholic monarch. Europe had these but no more. Kings, queens and emperors are no more immune from the human condition than prime ministers, presidents and elected legislatures. Our system of government, if people cared enough, provides us with the ability to get rid of incompetent or criminal politicians. Instead we have a political party – the Democrats – who resemble organized crime, and another, the Republicans, who are either too timid to speak up or just want to go along.

    Could the English Catholics who rebelled against Henry Tudor get rid of him? They tried but could not. Charles V, who debated Luther, invaded the Vatican.
    Charles V’ great grandfather, King Henry of Spain, was a weak man and easily manipulated. There was a King Phillip of France who pressured the Pope to suppress the Knights Templar because he wanted their money.

    I’m going to sign off of here – at least for posting – for a few days. Senora Penguins Fan has a 45th birthday coming up. She is in her ninth week of pregnancy. This is her fifth pregnancy – we have two terrific little boys and we lost two babies due to miscarriage. We are expecting guests for Easter and the house needs “redd up”. I have spent too much time here arguing and being annoyed by a Paulbot. My school district has me angrier than a hornet’s nest. All in all, not a great Holy Week.

    Please remember the Catholics in this world who live under repression or terror (Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Nigeria, occupied Ukraine) and be grateful that this hasn’t happened to us – yet.

  19. The magazine has gone very far left in recent years, and is now virtually indistinguishable from the Distributist Review. Its money man, Wick Allison, endorsed Obama in BOTH elections. It should rename itself more candidly.

    Left? You’re assuming they have a recognizable perspective.
    The whole point of the publication is to provide a display window for the self-aggrandizing idiosyncracies of its editors and staff, including each one’s frequent and repetitive references to their superiority to ‘movement conservatives’. Truth-in-labeling kills the joke.

  20. Penguins Fan: “Bonchamps accused me of having a personal anti-Russian ax to grind. To clarify it, I expressed concern for Catholics in areas taken over by Putin and linked to a news story highlighting incidents where Russian military units harrassed Ukrainian Catholics. I do not and have no advocated the US government getting involved. ”
    My parents’ families reside in north eastern Poland, on the Russian border. My father’s family was started by Tartar rape of my mother’s family in 1595. Being somewhat Polish I recommend that Bonchamps’ observation be taken as a great if not wonderful compliment, and I take it as such. Half of my dad’s family went to the concentration camps. Then, there was the Katim Forest blamed on Hitler. My dad’s brother went to the seminary to become a Catholic priest. He was harassed until he had a nervous breakdown from which he has not recovered. When my dad visited Poland several years ago, he was arrested and placed on house arrest. Money is usually extorted for release. Another man promised money for release, when the man got home to America he found Russian agents IN his house for the money.
    Bonchamps has a lot to learn.

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