English journalist, academic and papal biographer Austen Ivereigh seems to have become somewhat of a loose cannon–rolling about on a leering ship, firing shots every which way, but while the cannonballs are flying they rarely hit their target but can do extraordinary damage to innocent victims.

Last summer, you may remember, Austen fired off an ill judged piece in which he opined that Catholic converts were “neurotic”. In other words, we who sacrificed much to become Catholic and have contributed much once we have joyfully joined the church are…well…mentally ill.

Thanks for that warm and gracious welcome!

To be fair, Austen did issue an apology, so all forgiven and forgotten.

But now in a series of tweets Austen fires off some further shots.

So let me see if I understand this correctly: US Evangelicals who support the State of Israel are not only fundamentalists but are on a par with Islamic fundamentalists? Somebody is crazy here, but it’s not the American Evangelicals.

Firstly, the term “fundamentalist” was coined in the face of rising liberalism for those who wanted to return to the fundamentals of the faith. However, the term (with good reason) is now equated with “racist” and “terrorist”. Its an insulting and inflammatory term. Austen’s a journalist. He knows this, so we must assume he uses the term intentionally.

The fact that he links “Evangelical” with “Fundamentalism” is one of those little tricks of the trade by which a shoddy propagandist equates two categories that are not equal without arguing his point.

Anybody can do this. It’s easy. So, for example, I might use the term “Ignorant English Snob” thereby suggesting that all English people are ignorant snobs. While it is true that some English people are ignorant snobs most are not so the term would really only expose my own prejudice and ignorance.

In American religion “Evangelicals” and “Fundamentalists” are not the same category. It is understandable that foreigners would not pick up on the subtle differences in American Protestantism. Austen could not be expected, for instance, to distinguish between the Presbyterian Church of America, The Presbyterian Church of the USA, the Reformed Presbyterian Church and the Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church. Such niceties would be lost on him.

However, being able to discern the difference between mainstream Evangelicals and the wild eyed fundamentalist Christians shouldn’t be too difficult. Instead Austen conveniently puts them in the same pot and boils them both.

Linking American Evangelicals with radical fundamentalists reminds me of this article— also written last summer– by Fr Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa which imagined some kind of conspiracy between American conservative Catholics and wild eyed racists and American fundamentalists.

Allow me to wheel out my own cannon. For his own sake, Austen really should not pontificate on matters that he does not understand. I live in South Carolina. My neighbors are Evangelical Christians. I graduated from Bob Jones University for goodness sake, so although I am happy to have left their fold, I do understand both Evangelicals and Fundamentalist Christians and their mentality. I also understand their distinctive characteristics.  Austen does not. Instead he is happy to put them together into a box marked “Fundamentalist Terrorist”.

I expect he chuckles with his English friends over the port, and sneers about all those who live in the American South who are married to their cousin, park their pick up truck outside their trailer, shoot anything that moves and vote for Donald Trump on their way to a snake handling Sunday service. If so, I’m sure it is all good fun–the way we joke about how trashy the English royal family has become and how dumb the English are to continue to fawn over them.

Of course there are some American Evangelicals who are hicks, and gun-totin’ fundamentalists, just as there are thick headed English toffs like Tim Nice But Dim. However, like most English people are good hearted folks, so most Evangelicals are simply down to earth Christian folk who work hard, love their families, love their country and happen to believe the Jews are God’s chosen people so they think its smart to support the nation of Israel.

They may be mistaken in their sincere zeal. They may be naive and not realize how complex the situation in the Middle East really is. They might be blind in their support of Donald Trump, they might be many things, but might even be dangerous… they’re not fundamentalist terrorists.

These are not people who fly airplanes into skyscrapers believing they will enjoy umpteen virgins when they die. These are not people who behead their hostages in public, burn children in cages and sell their captives into sex slavery. Their women might wear modest skirts, but they are allowed to get drivers licenses and jobs and vote and speak their mind.

Do they have a different opinion about the State of Israel? So what? Get used to it. We live in a pluralistic society. Maybe instead of generalizing and demonizing, a smart person like Austen ought to visit the American South and meet some Evangelicals and try to understand them and their position.

Now I realize that a re-tweet does not mean automatic endorsement, but Austen seems rather fond of the “fundamentalist” name slinging because he also tweets a link to an article that is so shallow and obvious in its name calling as to be embarrassing.

This article by a guy called Mike Lewis, states that Catholics who disagree with Amoris Letitia and wish Pope Francis would answer the cardinals’ four questions are also fundamentalists. They hold to a “sola traditio” form of Catholicism and do not trust the pope and the Holy Spirit to guide the church. I have commented further on Mike’s article here.

I try not to get entangled in the Amoris Letitia debate too much because I have other stuff to do and people more knowledgable and with more authority than me can slug it out if they feel called to do so, but this gross over simplification of what is a complex matter of ecclesial authority is simply another example of incendiary name calling.

Those who have sincere questions not only about Amoris Letitia but also the handling of the Synod, the corruption in the Vatican and the sleazy manipulation of people, facts and doctrine should be heard. They are not “fundamentalists” or terrorists, and to lump them into that group only exposes the weakness of those who oppose them.

Its a great shame that Austen Ivereigh has lowered himself yet again to such mud slinging.

As a smart and skilled journalist he should know that all this does is diminish his authority and weaken his powers.