Catholic Family News

Who is Rod Dreher Gaslighting?

As the Catholic #MeToo movement gains momentum over “credible and substantiated” allegations of sexual abuse against Theodore “Uncle Ted” McCarrick, the former cardinal and archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., The American Conservative magazine’s Ray “Rod” Dreher has led the attack on the cancerous and rotten Novus Ordo structure – specifically, the Lavender Mafia – that functions within the Catholic Church in America.

In many ways, Dreher is providing an invaluable resource for Catholics by exposing the extent to which the Church in America is almost entirely being led by sodomitical sex offenders and their enablers. Moreover, Dreher has taken the lead in unveiling the dark underbelly of the allegedly conservative and even “traditionalist” diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska (together with Steve Skojec of OnePeterFive), which, under the leadership of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz (retired since 2012), harbored what now appears to be several priests guilty of sexual abuse (see here for an essay on the subject).

Catholic Family News’ own John Vennari (requiescat in pace) exposed Bruskewitz as a modernist in traditionalist garb as far back as 1999, but it now appears that the Polish American prelate with a penchant for “smells-and-bells” aesthetic traditionalism was shielding a sexual predator in his diocese.

The current Bishop of Lincoln, James Conley, appears to be in damage control mode and is offering strangely minimalizing, therapeutic language about “boundary crossing” to describe sodomitical sexual predation by the former vocations director (and now, we have learned, other priests) of his diocese.

Rod Dreher has, in turn, attempted his own damage control, “writing”—which, for Dreher, often consists of lobbing large sections of copy onto a screen and pasted material from other people garnished with  his own rambling prose—and tweeting material that both attacks and defends the diocese of Lincoln.

This phenomenon of manipulating his audience to get them to think he is on their side while modifying their personal beliefs is often called “gaslighting,” a term which, although having a precise definition in psychology, has come to stand for any sort of psychological manipulation in which the manipulator presents him or herself as a friend of the manipulated.

Rod Dreher’s gaslighting and ideologically bipolar back-and-forth between attacking and defending Catholic leaders is not only indicative of Dreher’s own “crunchy con” politics, which contains a hodgepodge of social conservativism (although Dreher supports gay civil unions) and left wing, “bugman” SJW (social justice warrior) virtue signaling, it is a sign of his very confused theology, which he markets to a largely Catholic audience.

One of the loudest pied pipers of conservative Catholicism, Ray Dreher has been leading Catholics along for a long time. The only problem is that Dreher is neither a conservative nor a Catholic.

Currently a member of the schismatic Eastern Orthodox, Dreher is an apostate from Catholicism who left the Church after uncovering how intricate and elaborate the network of sexual abuse and cover-up is in the Church in America during the “long Lent” of 2002.

Dreher did not publicly reveal his “conversion” (departure) to Orthodoxy until 2006, when he was forced to do so because a Catholic blogger “outed” him as masquerading as a Catholic after leaving the Church in order to retain his largely Catholic audience.

This information must give us pause, for it shows that Dreher was either too much of a coward to admit that he had left the Church, or he is, in effect, a salesman who knows how to find the biggest consumer base.

Indeed, Dreher’s major works, which, after Crunchy Cons (2006), all have explicitly Catholic themes, are intentionally marketed to members of the Church he abandoned. His autobiographical narration of returning to Louisiana and his sister’s death from cancer, entitled The Little Way of Ruthie Leming (2014), for example, is framed around the spirituality of a Roman Catholic saint (Thérèse of Lisieux), who, it goes without saying, is not recognized by Dreher’s own Orthodox church.

Furthermore, seemingly unfamiliar with the many talented Orthodox novelists in the Western Canon, Dreher penned How Dante Can Save Your Life in 2015. While there are many Dante scholars and readers who are not Catholic, there is little question to which demographic the formerly Catholic Dreher was targeting his book.

Finally, in his most famous work, The Benedict Option (2017), Dreher takes as his model the founder of Western monasticism, not one of the more iconic Orthodox saints. Perhaps allergic to the cold of the Slavic, Orthodox East, Dreher spent much of the last year or so heavily promoting his book among Catholic communities in more temperate (and lucrative) Western Europe.

In The Benedict Option, Dreher exposes the heretical key to his success in marketing his books to gullible Catholics (and some Evangelicals): religious indifferentism (repeatedly condemned by the pre-Vatican II popes). Peddling his book to “theologically traditional Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox Christians,” who are part of the “three main branches” of “historic Christianity,” Dreher hopes to catch a large chunk of conservative Christians in his net, even if it means professing a strange heresy.

Such a heretical view that Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Protestantism are “three parts of the same church,” of course, is not traditional Catholic teaching, nor is it, for that matter, the view of “traditional” Protestants or Orthodox.

Either Rod Dreher is a deeply confused man who has imbibed the Liberal-Modernist heresy of religious indifferentism, or he knows that by marketing his books to “traditional Christians” he can gaslight his readers into thinking he is on their side, a lone John the Baptist lamenting the decay of Western Civilization, who can provide a remedy for their problems for only $9.99 on Amazon Kindle.

Ultimately, this critique is not meant to judge the interior life of Dreher (only he and God know his true motives). Based on his writings and your author’s minimal personal encounters with him, Dreher seems to be, like all of us living in the “postmodern condition,” a complicated and conflicted person.

Nonetheless, Dreher’s incoherent theological and heretical positions; his adoption of certain aspects of Cultural Marxism, which is, of course, one of the primary manifestations of the “errors of Russia” in our time; as well as his unmanly and hyper-emotional demeanor make the godfather of crunchy conservatism a distraction, if not a danger, for Catholics.

In the end, amidst all of his back-and-forth deception, it may be possible that Dreher has actually “gaslit” himself.



Jesse Russell, Ph.D. has published on literary theory, religion, semiotics, and politics in a variety of academic and popular journals.