Remember Pontius Pilate? He’s often perceived as the consummate bad guy. But a close reading of scripture makes clear that, if not a good guy, he came very close to being a good guy, failing only due to his equivocation.
And so it is with Fr. David Nix, the reactionary conservative Catholic priest in Colorado, whose YouTube and other social media posts draw a large number of like-minded Catholics.
Long a thorn in the side of mainstream Catholics, Nix advocates Q-Anon type theories, conversion therapy, and other largely discredited beliefs on fora like Parler, all the while using his status as clergy to engage in partisan politics.
Even so, Catholic church officials not only refuse to lower the boom on him, but they urge others not to do so.
In short, they pull a Pontius Pilate, even as Nix and his weird theories undercut mainstream Catholics. tear at the fabric of American democracy, and violate US laws prohibiting churches from engaging in partisan politics.
Conspiracy theories galore
Among Nix’s strange theories is what appears to be a Catholic version of Q-Anon, in which he suggests Pope Emeritus Benedict is being held against his will. Leaving aside the logical fallacies in his arguments, one finds it highly improbable that Benedict cannot communicate with the outside world if he so chooses.
Even more unlikely is his notion that lockdowns are part of some vast Communist conspiracy, and that the COVID-19 vaccine is an effort to impose birth control on unwitting Catholics. And the Catholic Church is not immune to Nix’s weird ramblings, for he claims that a “deep church” is in cahoots with a “deep state.”
And in keeping with my previous posts about toxic masculinity,Nix wants to make sure we know he’s straight, blue-collar, and if not an alpha male, certainly no pushover. That begs the question: Why do we, or anyone else for that matter, need to know Nix’s sexual orientation? While he’s not my priest, and never will be, I prefer not to know too much about the clergy in my life.
For the record, if so-called traditional Catholics want to adhere to Nix’s religious views, that is their prerogative. But it is troubling when a priest engages in blatantly partisan politics.
For example, in one tweet, Nix suggests that both the White House and the papacy have been stolen. That, even as he appears to suggest he’s engaging in betting with the money that faithful Catholics donate to him as a “solitary,’ or person who lives along while adhering to monastic vows.
Indeed, one of Nix’s posts even skates close to the ugly canard about Catholics with guns in the basement, even as it talks about the French Revolution and suggests that Catholics should be prepared to resist a new world order.
In a post on Gab, haven of conspiracy theorists now displaced from Twitter, Nix manages some incredible sleight of hand, rolling assertions that Donald Trump is the victim of lies into assertions about invalid Marian theology. Of course, this conveniently sidesteps an inconvenient truth, which is that, angelic visitations notwithstanding, Mary and Joseph were refugees, skating the very edge of society, even as Mary delivered a child conceived in questionable circumstances.
All of this flies in the face of the law, which not only forbids churches from engaging in partisan politics, but in 1987 was amended to expressly extend to opposing political candidates.
Before we go further, it’s important to bring up an unavoidable issue when examining Nix’s so-called ministry, which is the possibility of mental illness.
To be clear, I have no first-hand knowledge in this area, and I’m not prepared to venture a guess. But the weird conspiracy theories, the suggestions of a new world order, the suggestions that traditional Catholics are being persecuted, and more certainly suggest serious issues.
This notion is supported by the Catholic News Agency (CNA), which recounts Nix’s multiple failed parish assignments, his inability to get along with others, his alleged threats and manipulation in an effort to control church officials, and more. One source allegedly told the CNA that Nix told him he was initially held back from ordination due to “psychological issues.”
All of this plays out in a church that some regard as the world’s last absolute monarchy. While the size of the church and its myriad layers of bureaucracy make this a somewhat questionable assertion, there is little doubt that, at the end of the day, the hierarchy is in control.
Indeed, one has only to look at my recent post on Fr. Mark White to realize that the Vatican and its hierarchy retains the right and authority to shut down dissent when it chooses to do so.
Thus, the response of the Very Rev. R. Michael Dollins, Vicar for Clergy in the Archdiocese of Denver, which I received after complaining about Nix’s flagrant fabrications and illegal involvement in partisan politics is troubling. Not only does it refuse to take action, but it urges me to do the same, even while acknowledging that there are Catholics who adhere to Nix’s beliefs.
Here is a screen cap:
That begs the issue: Can the Catholic Church legally ignore priests who violate the laws against partisan political activity? Is it ethical to do so? Or to allow practicing Catholics to be dragged into weird deep-church, deep-state theories? What about allowing a Catholic priest to willingly undercut our democracy with lies and falsehoods?
Nor is this the only damage wrought by Nix.
Alana Chan, the young lady who committed suicide after being encouraged to engage in conversion therapy by Nix, is one victim.
Another victim is Chan’s parents, who have roundly condemned the archdiocese, even as the latter denies that Nix or the church engaged in conversion therapy.
In its response to Chan’s parents, church officials confirmed that there have been problems with Nix, even while noting that he remains in good standing with the diocese. Supra.
Will the Archdiocese of Denver pull a Pontius Pilate by continuing to allow Nix to harm American democracy, even as it washes his hands of him? Will it allow faithful Catholics to be misled with his weird brand of “traditional Catholicism,” mixed with weird conspiracy theories?
Only time will tell.
In the meantime, this member of the “endless talking heads,” to use Dollins’ phrase, is going to continue to shine light on this issue.