Fr James Martin SJ is Diane Feinstein’s kind of Catholic: the dogma doesn’t live so loudly within him. His book Building a Bridge sailed to the top of Amazon bestseller lists, partly thanks to the generous panning it received from conservatives. Indeed, Fr Martin – soft-spoken and studious, in true Jesuit fashion – may well replace Pope Francis as the secular press’s token papist. But claims that he had said that celibacy isn’t required of same-sex-attracted people lost him an invitation to speak at the Catholic University of America (CUA) last month. In response, he tweeted an article from Religion News Service claiming that CUA had caved in to “alt-right cyber-vigilantes”. You have to admit, the good Father gives the Twitterati exactly what they want.

Massimo Faggioli also blames right-wing “cyber-militias” for Fr Martin’s misfortunes. Writing in La Croix, he waved off conservatives’ concern about the possibility of a Jesuit promoting heresy, claiming their criticisms amounted to nothing but “hatred and personal attacks”. This isn’t new ground for the Italian academic. Faggioli was also a pioneer of left-wing anti-convert sentiment. In August, he bafflingly compared the traditionalist “convert movement” to the cult of Apple products.

Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ edits La Civiltà Cattolica, a journal whose contents are vetted by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. That’s why an article he co-authored – “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism: a Surprising Ecumenism” – raised eyebrows when it appeared last July. In it, he calmly explained that the two “xenophobic and Islamophobic” groups share a “nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state” with Donald Trump as their leader. The whole thing was too bizarre to offend conservatives, except that it carried the Holy See’s implicit blessing. Even stranger, though, are claims that Spadaro uses a sock-puppet Twitter account: the troll @HablaFrancisco, whose posts Fr Spadaro had retweeted, is reportedly registered under his Civiltà Cattolica email address.

Michael Voris, the magnificently coiffed founder of Church Militant, trades in conspiracy theories. He’s claimed, for instance, that the 2015 family synod was infiltrated by Freemasons. He also supports the idea (never taught by the Catholic Church) that same-sex attraction is wholly a matter of nurture rather than nature. And he uses himself as an example. When rumours emerged that New York archdiocese was planning to “out” him, he acknowledged past gay relationships.

OnePeterFive is basically Church Militant for the under-30s. And, in true Vorisian fashion, its writers dabble in conspiracy-theorising. (“Did Obama force Benedict’s abdication?” – that sort of thing.) On July 10, they cited an anonymous source as saying that Francis met Cardinal Gerhard Müller to sound him out on radical changes to Church doctrine and discipline, such as instituting female priests and abolishing clerical celibacy. According to 1P5, the cardinal rejected the ideas, which is why he was dismissed as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Müller, who openly criticised the Holy Father’s decision to remove him, was nevertheless “flabbergasted” by the report and denied its authenticity. As well he might, given that it was obviously ludicrous.

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