Barbaro and his husband later divorced. When we spoke, he was on vacation with his wife and two children. “I’ve been through a long journey and I know Ross is generally on board,” he said. “But while I’m not here for him, it’s funny because I’ve had kids so I can feel his joy. It’s no secret that he wants people to have kids and have monogamous heterosexual relationships Yes.” Barbaro smiled. “It wasn’t my plan but I sensed he was happy with the outcome.”
“I’ve occasionally been accused of being a member of the New England Hornets aristocracy,” Douthat told me. “But unfortunately that’s not the case.” His father was a lawyer from California who became a poet. His mother’s family, in Maine, was a mix of shrimpers, carpenters and more nerds—”garage-sale rummagers and self-conscious outsiders,” Douthat once wrote. He described his experience at an elementary school in Connecticut where “there was a donkey who used to play the guitar.” Barbaro recalled that as teenagers, he and Douthat would say they attended “working-class private schools” in the area. (The more famous Choate Rosemary Hall is nearby.)
Douthat said he had an ostensibly “traditional liberal, Northeastern, upper-middle-class childhood,” but the suffering of his mother, Patricia Snow, set the family apart. different.As Douthat writes in Deep Down, her recent memoir about Lyme disease, “Throughout my youth, my mother struggled with chronic illness, chemical sensitivities and debilitating inflammation that devastated our family. Many strange paths have been taken – from health food stores before Whole Foods, to Pentecostal healing services where people spoke in tongues, to chiropractors, naturopaths and other providers of holistic medicine.” Snow Wrote about this journey for a religious magazine the most important thing. She described being unable to sit in certain cars “because of the new plastics and formaldehyde” and being unable to stand being in a closed car with another mother because of “the chemical fabric softener in her laundry soap.” in space. Snow became a follower of a charismatic therapist named Grace and took young Rose with him to services where people cried in the aisles and collapsed on the floor. She eventually gave up Grace’s ministry, but only because her own faith deepened. “All I know is that trying to satisfy this hunger with miracle food won’t work and may lead to sin,” she wrote.
To a child, Snow’s growing enthusiasm might be confusing or confusing. But by Douthat’s own account, he treated it with respect and curiosity then, as he does now. “Whatever the reality of charismatic healing is—speaking in tongues and all those things—that reality is 100 percent present in a lot of the places we go and hang out. There’s nothing false or fraudulent about it,” he told me. But, he added, “I would say I didn’t have a dramatic experience with the Holy Spirit. I was more of an observer of my mother’s and my father’s, my mother’s religious pilgrimages.”
Snow converted to Catholicism when Douthat was in high school — a relief, he said. “I’m very happy to be in a church where you can memorize prayers and you can sit in the back,” he told me. “The famous unkindness of Roman Catholicism was very much in tune with me at sixteen. After this long sojourn of glamour, I very much welcomed the lack of spontaneity and the fact that everything had ceremony.” Douthat, his father and sister Jenny also converted to Christianity. He told me, “I had a traditional experience of, ‘Read CS Lewis, read GK Chesterton, read some Catholic apologetics and find it compelling,’ as opposed to my mother’s more mystical encounters.”
“Mother is where it is, in both good and bad ways,” Barbaro said. When I asked him what he meant by that, he explained that while they were growing up, Snow “was always there. , and had a big personality, and was very smart, and very religious. I remember the things in the house being specific, like the food. The lifestyle had its specificities. People’s lives had to be kind of centered around her.” Snow There was no email or cell phone, so Jenny relayed my questions to her and then sent me photos of her responses. I asked Snow how her beliefs differed from those of her son. She replied: “I think Ross himself has commented on this in the past, saying that my faith is more ‘reverent’ (daily Mass, occasional pilgrimages, etc.) than his, which is more intellectual and detached , even more rational.” He said perfunctorily. “
Douthat elaborated on the contrast with his mother, telling me: “I think, from a religious perspective, ironic detachment is my weakness. You don’t read a lot of saints who have ironic detachment. .” He added: “I do have distance from the ideas that I actually hold. That’s part of my success as a writer in the world.” When I spoke to Douthat’s wife, journalist Abigail Of Tucker talking about his faith, she said, “He was always reaching out and observing, rather than being religious by rote. I think he wished he was. I think he fully expected himself to have that kind of constant perspective. It must have been very Be tired.”
In 2015, Douthat and Tucker purchased an 18th-century farmhouse with pasture and apple trees in Connecticut.In “The Abyss,” he wrote, “I had a vision of being able to go out and travel around the world, fly to various Babylons for important meetings and interviews, and then go home one summer night, along the A winding road, driving along the oak trees, looking for my two – no, three; no, do it Four—The children were waiting for me, swinging on a swing in front of a huge white colony in the July dusk, my wife behind them, the whole scene was like Arcadia. ” But on their first visit to the property, Douthat contracted Lyme disease, and what had been a promising revival turned into a debilitating nightmare. (Duthat Tate wrote that he and Tucker joked that it was “just like The Shining — except we were both screenwriters.”)
Douthat detailed his symptoms — mostly pain. “It’s a feeling invasion,” he wrote. “There was something under my skin, in my veins and muscles that shouldn’t be there. But “The Abyss” is largely about his efforts to recover, which in many ways brought him closer to his mother’s world. Douthat reports that he suffers from chronic Lyme disease, which many doctors believe is The disease didn’t exist. He met “Maverick,” a doctor willing to prescribe antibiotics for years in addition to standard Lyme disease treatment. Then he went a step further and tried supplements, more antibiotics (sometimes from the vet) available at pharmacies), magnet therapy, and Rife machines, which are said to treat illnesses by matching electrical frequencies.
Lyme disease changed his mind. “I am more open to the universe than I was seven years ago,” he wrote in the column. “And more skeptical of anything that claims to be a consensus.” He said it also deepened his faith: “So why would God let bad things happen to people and so on. It seems more skeptical when you’re not suffering.” Like an intellectual puzzle. When you’re really in pain, the intellectual confusion disappears.” On several occasions in “The Deep,” he describes praying to God or calling on God and receiving answers to appear on the beach In the form of sand dollars, or a brief cessation of pain. Snow wrote to me of her son: “I would say that his faith was both more rooted in his physical body (‘We put this treasure in pottery’) and more mysterious than before. . Suffering, even if it doesn’t completely destroy your faith, does the same to you.”
What followed was a difficult period since the worst years of his illness Coronavirus—In some ways, Douthat is a different columnist. He has written about UFOs and mentioned Jeffrey Epstein several times, saying he is open to the theory that Epstein was a foreign intelligence agent. In a column, Douthat lays out his own approach to evaluating fringe ideas. “Being a devout Christian, a practicing Jew or a Muslim is a bit like being a conspiracy theorist, in the sense that you believe there is an invisible reality that cannot be recognized by secular knowledge,” he explains. “But great religions are also full of warnings against false prophets and fraudulent revelations. My own faith, Roman Catholicism, is both full of the supernatural and extremely wary of the miracles and prophets it attests to. It makes its flock wary of The range of possible supernatural claims is completely unknowable.”
In recent years, some Catholic conservatives have been proposing a different vision for how modern society should work, with some praising Hungary’s Viktor Orbán’s Christian regime, which has taken control of the media and universities and passed several bills . Anti-LGBT laws, including bans on recognition of gender transition. In a 2021 column about Hungary, Douthat expressed sympathy for conservatives who admire Orban’s attempts to counter liberal culture. “It would be a good thing if American conservatives knew more about how to reduce the influence of Silicon Valley or the Ivy League,” he wrote. But, he concluded, “the impulse that quickly led conservatives to tolerate corruption, whether in their long-distance love affair with Hungary or their marriage to Donald Trump, points to the fundamental dangers cultural outsiders face.”
Other Catholic intellectuals—most notably Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeer—also expressed support for the Holistic concept, which would make Catholic teaching the foundation of the nation. Vermeer wrote that in his vision – which he called “constitutionalism of the common good” – “the central aim of the constitutional order is the promotion of good governance, rather than the ‘protection of liberty’ as an end in itself.” He went on Said, “Subjects will be grateful to their rulers because the ruler’s legal structures, which may have been coercive at first, encourage subjects to develop more authentic desires for personal and public interests.” Vermeer criticized Douthat for naively wishing to be liberal and conservative Catholicism can coexist. (Moyne told me, “Ross didn’t want to go back to the Middle Ages.”)