Thursday, August 31, 2023

Arresting The Insurrectionists -- The Rotund Rioter



Another violent MAGAt meathead is getting his comeuppance:

A North Carolina man has been arrested on felony and misdemeanor charges, including assaulting law enforcement, related to his actions during the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. His actions and the actions of others disrupted a joint session of the U.S. Congress convened to ascertain and count the electoral votes related to the presidential election.

Brett Alan Rotella, also known as Brett Ostrander, 34, of Kannapolis, North Carolina, is charged in a criminal complaint filed in the District of Columbia with felony offenses of obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder and assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers. Rotella is charged with several misdemeanor offenses, including knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, and impeding passage through the Capitol grounds or buildings.

Rotella was arrested on Aug. 29, 2023, and will make his initial appearance today in the Western District of North Carolina.

According to court documents, on Jan. 6, 2021, law enforcement authorities observed a man, later identified as Rotella, wearing a red skull cap, a black sleeveless puffy vest over a red sleeveless shirt, white or gray long shorts with a black stripe and black tennis shoes on the West Plaza of the Capitol building. Court documents say that Rotella held a long pole with at least two flags affixed to it at various points during the day.

At about 2:26 p.m. on January 6th, Rotella approached a metal police barricade, grabbed it, and pushed it in the direction of a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer, and yelled, “fuckin’ tear gas us, I didn’t do shit!” At approximately 2:33 p.m., the police line on the West Plaza fell, and police retreated away from the area. As the officers near him left their positions, Rotella led numerous other rioters in quickly following the police up the southwest stairs from the West Plaza. While leading the group, Rotella periodically paused and called out “HOLD!” or held up his fist, indicating to the group behind him to stop. Rotella then followed police into a long hallway leading into the U.S. Capitol building on the Lower West Terrace, referred to as “the tunnel.”

According to court documents, police retreated into the tunnel and shut and locked the first of two sets of double doors to the entrance of the Capitol building. Rotella stood outside those doors and stared in at the police line, holding a flag. Moments later, the rioters smashed one of the panes of glass in the doors and opened the set of doors. Rotella then reached around and opened the door on the left and was the second rioter to enter the tunnel. Rotella and the rioters then approached the police line situated behind the second set of doors.

A rioter then came through the doors and quickly began to physically fight the police. Soon, other rioters, including Rotella, joined in the fight. At approximately 2:43 p.m., Rotella turned his back on the police line and pushed against the police officers while using his hand to help leverage his weight and push against the door frame. During this time, Rotella briefly grabbed a police riot shield. Rotella then left the tunnel at about 2:55 p.m. after he was sprayed with OC spray. 

Approximately one hour later, Rotella was still located in the area near the tunnel. By this time, the police had successfully expelled the rioters from inside, but the mob was continuing to fight against the police from outside. Court documents say that Rotella was a member of the crowd, pushing in a concerted fashion and calling out “heave ho” from the outside against the police line. Approximately four minutes later, while still pushing with other members of the mob, Rotella extended his left hand in the air, extended his left index finger, then his middle finger, then his ring finger as if to count “1, 2, 3” and then pushed hard against the rioters in front of him.

Rotella then made his way through the dense crowd closer to the police line. While in the crowd, Rotella was passed a large orange ladder, which he then grabbed and pushed overhead into the mouth of the tunnel. After the ladder was pushed back out of the tunnel by police, Rotella continued to push against other rioters near him to collectively push and breach the police line... (our emphasis)

Since January 6, 2021, 1,106 MAGAts have been arrested for their roles in the violent insurrection, but more are out there and they need to face accountability for their actions.If you want to help bring more of these MAGAts to justice, please check the wanted page for insurrectionists

BONUSProud Boy thug Joe Biggs was sentenced today to 17 years in prison for his seditionist role in the January 6 insurrection.  Biggs was a leader and top propagandist for the group.  His co- defendant Proud Boys Enrique Tarrio, Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl* and Dominic Pezzola are scheduled to be sentenced over the next few days/ week.  They, too, should be looking at double- digit prison terms.

*BONUS 2:  Rehl just got 15 years.

(Photos:  Rotund Rotella leading the charge /

Today's Cartoons


(click on images to enlarge)

(Mike Smith, Las Vegas Sun)

(Michael de Adder, Washington Post)

(Steve Stegelin, Charlotte City Paper, NC)

(Lisa Benson, Counterpoint)

(Clay Jones,

(Jeff Darcy, Cleveland Plain Dealer)

(Drew Sheneman, The Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ)

(Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News)

(Bill Bramhall, New York Daily News)

(Matt Davies, Newsday)

(Alan Moir, Sydney Morning Herald)

(Liza Donnelly, @lizadonnelly)

QOTD -- Snow Job


"... The judges President Haley would appoint would also not be abortion moderates; they would almost certainly come from the Federalist Society’s judicial pipeline to guarantee their conservative bona fides, especially on abortion. Even if she wanted to appoint moderate judges (and there’s no indication she does), it would trigger a revolt within her party. In fact, it’s unlikely anyone she appoints to any high position in the federal government with an influence over health care would be pro-choice.

"And while the president can’t unilaterally make abortion legal or illegal, there’s a good deal they can do to shore up, or undermine, reproductive rights. The Biden administration likes to tout a variety of actions it has taken on that score, from defending the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of medication abortions in court to enabling members of the military to travel to receive abortion care. Rest assured, a Haley administration would do the opposite..."  -- Paul Waldman, cautioning everyone not to fall for the "moderate" Nikki Haley "snow job" on abortion.  Having suffered significant electoral losses since Dobbs and Republican state legislatures enacting draconian anti- abortion laws, Republicans are trying to find a way to thread the needle between what the most rabid forced- birthers in their base want (a total abortion ban) and something (anything!) that won't impel suburban women to flock to the polls to vote Democratic.  Haley is road- testing her weasel language to signal empathy while still intending to assuage the forced birthers.  It could become a more widely- touted tactic by Republican candidates trying to fool people, so be on guard.

Tweets / Xeets Of The Day


We DON'T think so, no, but this is just for show anyway --

Why this is not crystal clear to everyone is beyond us. Bar him from the ballot  -- 

America resembling North Korea in the Trumpist dystopia -- 

"Cancun Ted" Cruz actin' like a reg'lur guy in a totally unrehearsed moment --  


Rama-smarmy betting there's no bottom for "low information" Trump voters --  

Russian war crimes, torturing Ukrainian children edition --  

Woke tree attacks Gov. Ron "Bootsie' DeSantis' house --  


At least he'll never be the victim of road rage -- 


Musk's Exploding Car Company Under Investigation (Again)

Fascist- friendly Elon Musk's exploding car company is being investigated again, this time to determine whether Musk used company funds for personal expenses, in this case a glass house (!) for the meglomaniac:

Tesla is facing scrutiny over its mysterious "Project 42" that was believed internally to involve building a glass house for Elon Musk, according to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal.

The publication said, citing people familiar with the issue, that federal prosecutors are investigating whether Tesla used its own funds for Musk's personal use, and is looking into how much the company has spent on the initiative, as well as its purpose. The US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York issued subpoenas to multiple current and ex-Tesla employees, some of which have been asked to appear in court in September, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission has also launched a probe into the issue, the Journal said. Though, both investigations are in their "early stages," according to the Journal.  [snip]

In July, the Journal reported that the project involved plans for a glass building that would be set up near Tesla's gigafactory in Austin, Texas and was internally understood to be a house for the Tesla CEO. The project appeared to be for a "dramatic glass-walled building" and concept plans showed differing designs and features, but included residential elements like bedrooms, according to the report.

The project drew scrutiny last year within the company after an order for a special kind of glass was made as part of the building-planning efforts. At the time, the internal inquiry into the order had targeted Omead Afshar, an executive leading Tesla's Texas factory, Bloomberg reported last year. On Wednesday, the publication reported that federal prosecutors were seeking information related to internal communications with Afshar, who was said to be involved in purchasing the construction materials. [snip]

Tesla's board had also inquired into Musk's involvement in the project, and the amount of time any employees had spent on it, according to the Journal's July report.

It can be illegal to use company funds for personal expenses — especially when dealing with a publicly traded company. If a public company were found to have used company funds for an executive's personal use it could lead to an IRS investigation and lawsuits from shareholders.

Musk has denied that the project involved building a glass house for himself, though not under oath. But, as someone who clearly believes the rules don't apply to him, it would not surprise us in the least if the investigation bore fruit.  He's been in trouble before with shareholders, and the Tesla board of directors has taken heat as well for Musk's erratic behavior.  

An interesting side note:  one of the Tesla board members is James Murdoch, whose family owns The Wall Street Journal, the newspaper that's been uncovering the various difficulties Musk has had with the SEC and US Attorney's Office in New York.  Could he be feeding investigators with inside information about Musk's use of company funds?  Feel free to speculate!

BONUS:  Just another reminder, as if any more were needed, that Musk is a despicable thing.

(Photo:  the model of a modern multi-billionaire / Getty Images)

The Looming Financial Penalty Against Giuliani



Federal District Court Judge Beryl Howell's default judgement that scotch-swilliing former Trump consigliere Rudy "Toot Toot" Giuliani was liable for damages for defaming Georgia poll workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss will set him up for crushing damages. Howell's ruling came after delay after delay by Giuliani in an attempt to draw the case out. Now, Freeman and Moss have their case won, and it's only a matter of determining how much the disgraced, conspiratorial Giuliani will pay them. From Salon:

"After losing the defamation lawsuit, Giuliani is liable for the 'plaintiffs' defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, and punitive damage claims,' which will be determined at a future hearing. [snip]

In order to facilitate trial preparations, Howell ordered Giuliani to foot the bill by Sept. 20 for Moss and Freeman's attorneys' fees and costs associated with their first motion to compel discovery, which amounts to $89,172.50 with interest that has accrued since July 25 — the reimbursement's original due date. Giuliani was also ordered to ensure that his businesses reimburse the mother-daughter duo's attorneys' fees of $43,684 with interest accruing from Sept. 20 against him if his businesses fail to comply. [snip]

The suit will still go to trial to determine the exact amount of fees the poll workers will be awarded with Howell ordering the parties to propose a schedule for future proceedings in the dispute in the period from November to February 2024. In determining those damages, the judge writes, the jury will be instructed to 'infer that [Giuliani] is intentionally trying to hide relevant discovery about his financial assets for the purpose of artificially deflating his net worth' unless he adequately responds to the plaintiffs' requests for production that he was ordered to produce by June 30."  (our emphasis)

When NBC News correspondent Ken Delanian was asked about Giuliani's situation on MSNBC today, he remarked:

"'Now there will be a trial as to how much money Rudy Giuliani has to pay them. He owes them $90,000 according to this judge for their legal fees. It's a big blow to Mr. Giuliani. Of course, it's one of a long line of things he's facing, including criminal liability. You know, there are reports he's got a debt of $3 million in legal fees.'

'His life essentially is falling apart. He is losing his license to practice law. Just add this to the list of legal woes for Rudy Giuliani.'"  (our emphasis)

Let's hope Freeman and Moss strip him of his financial resources so that he'll have to cut way back on his expenses, maybe starting with his weekly case of scotch. 

(photo: Scotch sweat. Getty Images)

Horror In South Africa


In addition to news about Hurricane Idalia, we're waking up to this tragedy in Johannesburg, South Africa:

A nighttime fire ripped through a rundown five-story building in Johannesburg that was occupied by homeless people and squatters, killing at least 73 people early Thursday, emergency services in South Africa’s biggest city said.

Some of the people living in a maze of shacks and other makeshift structures inside the building threw themselves out of windows to escape the fire and might have died then, a local government official said. Seven of the victims were children, the youngest a 1-year-old, according to an emergency services spokesperson.

As many as 200 people may have been living in the building, witnesses said.

Emergency crews expected to find more victims as they worked their way through the building, a process slowed by the conditions inside. Dozens of bodies were lined up on a nearby side road, some in body bags, and others covered with silver sheets and blankets.

Another 52 people were injured in the blaze, which broke out at about 1 a.m. in the heart of Johannesburg’s central business district, Johannesburg Emergency Services Management spokesman Robert Mulaudzi said...

It's winter in the southern hemisphere, and it's believed people in the building started fires to warm themselves, but the cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Today's Cartoons


(click on images to enlarge)

(Bill Day,

(Ward Sutton, Los Angeles Times)

(Rob Rogers,

(Dave Whamond,

(John Buss, @repeat1968)

(Paul Noth, The New Yorker)

(Phil Hands, Wisconsin State Journal)

(Bas van der Schot, De Volkskrant, Amsterdam)

(Chip Bok,

(Michael Ramirez, Washington Post)

(Asher Perlman, @asherperlman)

Feds: "Was Rudy Drunk When Advising Trump?"

Special Counsel Jack Smith's team have been questioning witnesses in the Federal case of the Malignant Loser's effort to overthrow the 2020 elections whether his corrupt and buffoonish consigliere Rudy "Toot Toot" Giuliani was giving him advice while intoxicated, according to reports. From Salon:

"Investigators reportedly asked about how seemingly inebriated the former New York City mayor was during the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, a time when he was acting as an alleged co-conspirator in Trump's attempts to flip the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The special counsel's team also inquired as to whether Trump ever spoke with them about Giuliani's drinking habits and if Trump ever stated that he felt Giuliani's alcohol consumption altered his judgment or decision-making ability. Additionally, Smith's investigators wanted to know if Trump was ever warned about Giuliani's reported drinking problem, and if was ever told the attorney was feeding him advice legal and political advice following the election while drinking. Prosecutors wanted to know, in minute detail, 'how drunk witnesses and others believed Giuliani to be during specific and consequential moments.'" (our emphasis)

Giuliani's love for scotch in particular goes back some years, as indicated by his third wife's Judith's account, and by more recent evidence starting on election night 2020. His drunk speech on the 20th anniversary of 9-11 went viral. Moreover, the Congressional hearings on the January 6 coup revealed Giuliani's drunken behavior was a cause of concern. The recent sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Giuliani claims that he was frequently inebriated on scotch

The Malignant Loser was content to listen to a drunk tell him what he wanted to hear about the 2020 election, and a sloshed Giuliani, who was constantly trying to ingratiate himself to his patron, was happy to oblige as long as the scotch was flowing. 

BONUS:  Federal Judge Beryl Howell ruled today that Giuliani was guilty of defaming Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss. A hearing to assess damages will be held in the next few months. He needs to put down his scotch, and pay them bigly.

(photo: Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call via AP Images)


Tweets/ Xeets Of The Day


Genius Republican plan to attack Biden ... for lowering drug costs for seniors --



Reason for hope --


Vivek "Ramasmarmy" Ramaswamy, professional grifter --



The Georgia Republican Fani Willis "revenge" plans --



"Loose" Cannon making case for being removed in classified documents case --



On the redistricting front --


The right- wing "No Labels" spoilers --



The right- wing war on public education  --


Both sides (parody) --


Hit 'em again, hit 'em again, harder, harder --


What's that Musk-y smell?  A car without genitals --


What a storm surge will be doing to Florida's northern Gulf Coast --




Mid-Week Song


Known for her youthful boundary-stretching performances and lifestyle, Miley Cyrus has evolved from a teen pop star to a polished singer across several genres. She's Billboard's ninth greatest female artist of all time, and has given millions of her earnings to charities, from HIV/AIDs research,to PETA, to LGBTQ youth support programs and more (but of course: she's Dolly Parton's goddaughter). Cyrus has supported many progressive causes and candidates, too, including Black Lives Matter, President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Her newly-released single, the candid, introspective and beautifully sung "Used To Be Young," has been lauded by a variety of stars from Adele to Diane Keaton for its powerful narrative and her tearful raw emotion, sung in her trademark slightly raspy voice. Enjoy.

QOTD -- Against All Common Sense


"Last week, Donald Trump was arrested and arraigned for being part of a criminal organization that tried to illegally overturn the 2020 election. His mug shot was released and quickly went viral. Trump fumbled the COVID pandemic that cost hundreds of thousands of American lives and even more jobs; and he is personally responsible for overturning Roe v. Wade.

"On the other side, President Joe Biden conducted his presidency with decency and compassion, exceeding even the most optimistic expectations of what could be achieved with a Republican Party that won’t acknowledge the legitimacy of his electoral victory. Unemployment is under 4%, the economy is growing and inflation has been coming down for months.

"Yet somehow — against all common sense — the 2024 election between a competent President and an incompetent criminal — will be incredibly close..."  -- Dan Pfeiffer, in his newsletter Message Box, on why the 2024 race appears so tight right now, more than 14 months until Election Day (and what President Biden and Democrats need to do to win).  We're not so certain it will be incredibly close come November 2024, but there are so many intangibles that could affect the race that the best thing we can do now is to work like hell to make sure American democracy doesn't die.

Georgia Republicans Out To "Get Revenge" On Fani Willis


Nothing screams "he's an innocent man and we want him to clear his name" than this:

A Republican-led effort to reprimand District Attorney Fani Willis after she brought charges against former President Donald Trump in Fulton County is poised to expand, as state and federal lawmakers pursue new efforts to sanction the prosecutor.

State Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch said in an interview that Republican leaders could hold legislative hearings into whether Willis is using “her position in a political manner” after accusing Trump and his allies of a complex conspiracy.

The Dahlonega Republican also told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he sees Senate Bill 92, a new law that empowers a state panel to investigate and oust wayward prosecutors, as a powerful “tool in the toolbox” that Trump’s allies can deploy to delve into Willis’ use of public resources.

“We believe she is definitely tainted,” Gooch said. “She’s politicizing this, and we want to make sure these people get a fair trial and a fair shake.”

And Gooch (!) isn't the most mouth- frothing Republican/ Seditionist trying to obstruct justice:

Gooch noted there are limits to GOP attempts to exact revenge against Willis. He echoed other party leaders by condemning a fruitless petition by state Sen. Colton Moore, a first-term Republican, to force a special legislative session to impeach Willis. Such a maneuver requires support of three-fifths of the Legislature, meaning it needs Democratic votes.

Translation:  this is all for show and going nowhere.

And then, there are those January 6 coup - adjacent Congresscreeps from Georgia working fruitlessly at the Federal level:

The two initiatives are part of a broader effort by Trump’s allies at the Georgia Capitol and the U.S. Congress to punish Willis over the 51-count indictment, which accuses Trump and 18 co-defendants of a sprawling “criminal enterprise” to reverse his 2020 defeat.

U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde wants to use an upcoming appropriations bill to slash federal funding for Willis, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and federal special counsel Jack Smith. Each is a top prosecutor in one of the four cases Trump is currently facing.

And U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, is among the GOP members who urged the House Judiciary Committee to launch an investigation into how much her office receives in federal dollars and whether it has interacted with White House officials.

Once again, red meat for the MAGAt knuckle- dragging base, but going nowhere.

Every effort at the state and federal judicial level to head off prosecution of the Malignant Loser has to be seen as what it is, an obstruction of justice.  The obvious question is why would an innocent man and his supporters not want to clear his name as soon as possible?  The answer lies in the low nature of the people and the fascist rot in the party/ cult engaged in this behavior.

BONUSState Sen. Moore is quite the unhinged MAGAt.

(Photo:  bearded peckerwood State Sen. Colton Moore being interviewed / Michael Blackshire, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

West Point Time Capsule Opened -- Oops!


News item:

Ever since a box from nearly 200 years ago was found under a monument at the U.S. Military Academy in May, cadets have wondered what was inside. Their predictions included a flag, a bayonet, a class ring or a diary.

This week, academy leaders said they would “unlock secrets from the past” when they opened the time capsule during a live-streamed ceremony. “Exciting Reminder!” the academy tweeted on Sunday, urging viewers to set their alarms for the Monday unveiling.

The roughly one-square-foot box — hidden under a black cloth — took center stage during the ceremony in West Point, N.Y.

Historian Jennifer Voigtschild opened the event by asking cadets, military officers and civilians in attendance: “Are we ready to see what is in that box?”

But when the cloth was removed and an archaeologist carefully lifted off the top cover to reveal the interior, spectators laughed. There was only silt inside.

“The box didn’t quite meet expectations,” Paul Hudson, an archaeologist at the academy, told the crowd... (our emphasis)

So, in other words, they didn't find dick in the box. (Sorry.)

The rest of the news item is pretty amusing, with the Academy's expectations matching those of Geraldo Rivera when he infamously opened Al Capone's vault in 1986 on live TV, with similar results.

Today's Cartoons


(click on images to enlarge)

(Michael de Adder, Halifax Herald, Canada)

(Pedro Molina, Counterpoint)

(Rob Rogers,

(Dave Whamond,

(Randall Enos,

(Steve Benson, Arizona Mirror)

(Ben Jennings, @theipaper, London)

(Bill Bramhall, New York Daily News)

(James MacLeod, @MacLToons)

(Nick Anderson, Reform Austin News, TX)

(Christian Mirra and Bob Jeffreis,

(John Darkow, Columbia Missourian)

(Mike Peters, Dayton Daily News)

(Hilary Campbell, @cartoonsbyhilary)

Tweets / Xeets Of The Day


Scheduling the Malignant Loser's criminal trial dates got more interesting --


Another BIG win for President Biden (that Republicans will shamelessly take credit for) -- 

None other than Trumper Hannity hits Rama-squirmy on foreign policy. Fun!  -- 


Mike "Fly Guy" Pence's cowardly misdirection on mass shootings --  

War criminal and thug Vladimir Putin's limited travel options.... -- 


....also exclude travel to his victim's funeral --


"Cancun Ted" Cruz fooled again, has to be corrected by Community Notes --  


The beach chair message -- 


QOTD: The Insufferable Ramaswamy

The estimable Michelle Goldberg, writing in the op-ed page of the New York Times, about right-wing tech bro and GQP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy's appeal to the right:

"The question is what Ramaswamy’s supporters see in this irksome figure. Some Republicans, clearly, appreciate the way he sucks up to Donald Trump, whom Ramaswamy has called “the best president of the 21st century.” But that doesn’t explain the roughly 10 percent of Republicans who tell pollsters they’re planning to vote for Ramaswamy instead of Trump. It can’t only be his shtick as Fox News’s “woke and cancel-culture guru,” as one anchor called him, since at this point even the Florida governor Ron DeSantis has learned that railing against wokeness is a losing message. Nor is Ramaswamy’s appeal tailored to the downwardly mobile Trump voters who appreciated the former president’s pledges to protect their entitlements, since Ramaswamy’s promise to “dismantle Lyndon Johnson’s failed ‘Great Society’” makes Paul Ryan look like a social democrat.

Instead, I suspect that Ramaswamy’s fans are drawn to him for all the reasons his critics find him insufferable. Conservatives love being championed by representatives of groups that they think disdain them."  (our emphasis)

Think of past candidates for their presidential nomination like Herman "999" Cain, Dr. Ben Carson, and Alan Keyes and you'll see Goldberg's point. It's the political variation of "some of my best friends are black / Jewish / etc." to shield bigots from criticism, especially when the "friends" mimic your views and philosophy. Read her whole column to see how Ramaswamy fits the mold with his obnoxious and opportunistic style.

BONUS: Rapper Eminem tells Rama-smarmy to stop performing his songs at campaign events (as he's pictured above) or face legal action.


Vid: "The Rule Of Law Matters" Slams Trump


This won't penetrate the numbskull cultists of the Malignant Loser that still watch Fox, but it's good to keep rubbing it in their faces.

Pope Blasts "Backwardness" Of American Catholic Hierarchy

He would have a long way to go to root out the reactionary Republican rot in the Catholic Church in America, but at least give Pope Francis credit for recognizing the problem:

Pope Francis has blasted the “backwardness” of some conservatives in the U.S. Catholic Church, saying they have replaced faith with ideology and that a correct understanding of Catholic doctrine allows for change over time.

Francis’ comments were an acknowledgment of the divisions in the U.S. Catholic Church, which has been split between progressives and conservatives who long found support in the doctrinaire papacies of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, particularly on issues of abortion and same-sex marriage.

Many conservatives have blasted Francis’ emphasis instead on social justice issues such as the environment and the poor, while also branding as heretical his opening to letting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receive the sacraments.

Francis made the comments in a private meeting with Portuguese members of his Jesuit religious order while visiting Lisbon on Aug. 5; the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, which is vetted by the Vatican secretariat of state, published a transcript of the encounter Monday.

During the meeting, a Portuguese Jesuit told Francis that he had suffered during a recent sabbatical year in the United States because he came across many Catholics, including some U.S. bishops, who criticized Francis’ 10-year papacy as well as today’s Jesuits.

The 86-year-old Argentine acknowledged his point, saying there was “a very strong, organized, reactionary attitude” in the U.S. church, which he called “backward.” He warned that such an attitude leads to a climate of closure, which was erroneous.

“Doing this, you lose the true tradition and you turn to ideologies to have support. In other words, ideologies replace faith,” he said.

“The vision of the doctrine of the church as a monolith is wrong,” he added. “When you go backward, you make something closed off, disconnected from the roots of the church,” which then has devastating effects on morality.

“I want to remind these people that backwardness is useless, and they must understand that there’s a correct evolution in the understanding of questions of faith and morals,” that allows for doctrine to progress and consolidate over time.

Francis has previously acknowledged the criticism directed at him from some U.S. conservatives, once quipping that it was an “honor” to be attacked by Americans. 

With a few exceptions, the modern history of the Catholic Church in America largely has been  intertwined with the Republican Party, and not just on the issue of abortion, as the news item points out. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops and deranged zealots like Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez and San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone have unabashedly lined up with the Republican Party over reproductive freedom, environmental issues, vaccination policy, the Black Lives Matter movement, same- sex marriage, and LGBTQ+ rights.  The Pope had to intervene to quash their attempt to deny President Biden Holy Communion.  Of course, among their ranks are those who cover up or engage in sexual crimes against minors, so nothing to see here (except moral rot and hypocrisy).

Next to the Catholic Church on the African continent, the American church is perhaps the more reactionary, out of touch with its declining membership on many levels.  But these Republicans- in- albs aren't going to heed the Pope's remonstrances because, just like their political counterparts who've replaced faith in democracy with authoritarian ideology, they are threatened by and fear change and inclusiveness.

(Photo:  a picture that must frost some American Catholic bishops/ Vatican pool, Getty Images)