Kevin Gallagher, a Yale graduate who likes to posture Marxist and anti-liberal on social media despite working as a manager for the asset and investment consulting firm Casey Quirk and Associates, has penned a piece for the Tradinistas which ostensibly claims to point out the “incoherence of The Josias.” In truth, it is nothing more than an uncharitable hit job on one of The Josias’s founders and First Things editor, Elliot Milco. Milco, as you will recall, recently took a hard (and humorous) look at the so-called “Tradinista Manifesto,” a document so riddled with vagaries and inconsistencies that it’s hard to imagine anyone defending it under their own name. This is perhaps why Gallagher opted to pen his smear piece under the pseudonym Coëmgenus (the same one he used when he wrote for The Josias). Still, if someone is going to dive-bomb another with public character attacks while saddling them with views they do not hold, you would think the attacker would have the integrity to do so under their own name.
There’s no need to defend The Josias from Gallagher’s words since he himself admits “[t]hose responsible for the recent publication of the Tradinista Manifesto have long looked with respect at The Josias and the works published there.” Moreover, just before taking his first swipe at Milco, Gallagher states that The Josias folks (who are mainly integralists) and Tradinista kids “should be allies.” Strange then that instead of demonstrating how the integralist and Tradinista projects cohere or laying the groundwork for forming an alliance, he quickly blasts Milco’s intelligence and integrity by stating that “it is no surprise that employment under a Trumpist masthead [i.e. First Things] has left him with a defective understanding of political argument.” I wonder: Would Gallagher, a man who is consciously part of the capitalist machinery he claims to oppose, say something similar about himself? But I digress.
The truth of the matter is that anyone who regularly reads Milco’s work knows full well that he openly dissents from First Things’s old neoconservative orthodoxy and that the decision of its lead editor, R.R. Reno, to endorse Donald Trump’s presidential bid has as much impact on Milco’s thought as it does on that of another First Things contributor, David Bentley Hart. So why bring it up at all except to suggest that Milco is somehow associated with the “Trumpism” that First Things as a publishing institution is allegedly associated with based on the personal politics of its head overseer. That’s not a promising start—and then it gets worse from there.
Over the course of numerous rambling paragraphs readers are treated to the claim that Milco endorses “vulgar Thatherism” and can’t understand the Tradinista Manifesto’s true meaning because he apparently hasn’t read the right books. Sure. What Gallagher so glibly ignores is that when it comes to the manifesto itself, the bulk of Milco’s criticisms are aimed at the document’s internal incoherence and not whether or not it properly uses Leftist jargon. Whatever value the Marxist critique of capitalism has for Catholics (and that has yet to be demonstrated by the Tradinistas), that matter is secondary (or even tertiary) to what Holy Mother Church has taught about politics, society, and economic ordering. Gallagher maintains that Milco (and others) suffer from the illusion that “Leftist politics” have received “an apodictic Apostolic anesthetization” without once acknowledging the numerous instances where people have pointed directly to those very condemnations. It is no great shock that the Tradinistas, in claiming to offer up a defense of “Catholic socialism” [sic], are quite selective in their proof-texting, ignoring as they do papal decrees such as St. Pius X’s Notre Charge Apostolique and Fin Dalla Prima Nostra. This allows Gallagher and his fellow Tradinistas to freely dwell in what the philosopher Eric Voegelin (following Austrian novelist Robert Musil) calls a “Second Reality” or pathological play land free from the burdens of reality. In this instance, ideology trumps magisterial proclamations.
The apotheosis of Gallagher’s senseless attack on Milco’s character is to accuse of him being monstrous for critiquing Fr. James Martin’s response to the recent gay-club massacre in Orlando instead of “providing the slightest comfort to the gay community.” (What comfort, I wonder, did Gallagher or the other Tradinistas provide?) Not only does Gallagher miss the point of Milco’s critique, but it’s dizzying that a man who has had no problem calling me a “wetback” should feign harboring so much concern for minorities of any stripe.
In the end, Gallagher’s overwrought, tendentious piece buckles under the weight of its own idiocy. As noted, not only does it fail to adhere to its title by saying nothing about any incoherency of The Josias, it self-consciously mischaracterizes its true target—Elliot Milco—in an effort to distract from his takedown of the Tradinista Manifesto. If this is the quality of “work” we can expect out of the Tradinistas going forward, then let us rejoice that the possibility of them ever winning thoughtful followers is nil and that the real work of articulating an authentically Catholic response to the errors of liberalism—political, social, economic, and religious—can continue without distraction.