War in the Bubble

It is really hard to know how to be charitable in these instances.

We have gone from The Shire to Mordor in two posts.

Back when I was writing on Christopher West’s interpretation of the Theology of the Body, I experienced something similar.  People who were inclined to agree with me egged me on, while those who disagreed largely objected to the very fact that I had something critical to say at all.  It was a lack of charity on my part to criticize someone so committed to the work of God, so I was told.

My response was to say that it was not personal or an attack on Christopher West, but a critique of his ideas and methods.  When someone decides to use an authoritative voice and say controversial things in public, they implicitly agree to accept criticism.  It is the nature of the public forum and the free exchange of ideas.  They have made an argument in public about something important to them.  It begs for a response.

Even Christopher West painted himself as a persecuted man.  It was not a good move.

In both the cases of West and Rorate Caeli they know what they say is controversial and that it will generate significant negative response.  And in both cases we are talking about the faith at a time when there is great controversy and crisis—we all know this going to generate heat.

Those who stand up on a soapbox in Hyde Park know what they are in for.  They agree to it.  Otherwise they should stay out of Speaker’s Corner, or at least off the soapbox. Like it or not the blogosphere is the cyber-Speaker’s Corner of world.  I would agree, that the Catholic end of it ought to operate at a higher standard of fairness and respect, but in any case, it is not for the faint of heart.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is living in a bubble.

While the Internet has broken down the walls access so that now anyone who wants to have a voice may have one, certain peculiarities of cyber-space can make a bit like a bubble, or seem to some that it ought to be so.  Behind the protective bubble of screen names and anonymous comments, or sock-puppetted exchanges, comment moderation and blocking (even from viewing pages), we bloggers can create echo chambers to our own liking, while presenting ourselves as being fair-minded and responsible.  To behave in this way is not fair-minded or responsible.

This is my opinion.  It is not hateful or uncharitable.  It is an honest assessment, which no one is bound to read or take seriously, let alone comment on.  It is not a persecution or vendetta.  It is about keeping the discussion honest.

Yes, I have strong convictions about the ideas of those at Rorate Caeli and their methods, but I do not hate them.  I think certain aspects of traditionalist culture are pernicious and doctrinal purity is no excuse for it.  Rorate Caeli is the premier representative of this in the English speaking blogosphere.  That is my opinion.  It is not hateful.  Nor is it uncharitable to take what people say seriously and hold them responsible for their claims.

It is especially inconsistent for anyone in the blogosphere to use one standard with outgoing ordinance and then complain when fire is returned.  And I am not talking here about style or manner, at least not in the first place.  I would much rather be stabbed in the face by a working class barfly, than be stilettoed in the back by some well-dressed man of culture.  At least the barfly is an honest man, even if he is uncouth.  The bella figura here is thinly-mixed white-wash . . . in my opinion.

No, I don’t hate Rorate Caeli.  I don’t like their ideas.  I don’t like their methods.  And I don’t like that they’re not stand up guys, especially when they accuse someone in public of being a Judas, while hiding behind their screen names.

There are no sacred cows here: not me, not Mark Shea, nor Scott Hahn, nor Father Barron, and certainly not Rorate Caeli.  If they can’t take it, they should get off their soapbox and go home.  But that is the ambiguity of the whole thing, isn’t it?  They are not really at Speaker’s Corner on a soapbox.  They are at home in the safety of the bubble, where they can sling culturally impeccable rot at their enemies and then pretend they have no responsibility for it.

Their culture and ritual purity is impressive.  We of the vulgar caste are in awe.

But there is one thing I am still chewing on.  I am not sure whether the elitist bent is the real explanation, or if it is more like piracy, or asymmetrical urban warfare.  That is a question for another day, and it is worth talking about, even if it raises the hackles of those who hide behind their computers.  But it is a general problem on the Internet, and unfortunately a significant one in the Catholic blogosphere.

Just to let you know:  I am not tolerating any nonsense in the comments.  You want to get ugly, start your own blog or post a comment on Rorate Caeli’s Twitter feed.  The people who cannot stand me have already been given way more access in this exchange than can be reasonably expected.  I have been given none at Rorate Caeli.

12 thoughts on “War in the Bubble

  1. Father, respectfully: without taking a side in this exchange, and without stating a position on who has been less charitable than whom, I’d like to say the following regarding public anonymity.
    Putting aside issues particular to Traditionalism vs. modernism etc., there are certain controversial views regularly expressed on RR–pro-life, pro-traditional marriage etc.–that I’m assuming are shared by you and the non-anonymous laymen named here (Scott Hahn, Mark Shea etc.). I bring this up because while these views are par for the course for most conservative and all (as far as my experience goes) trad. Catholics, the public expression of them has vastly different implications and consequences for those who (for lack of better word) are employed by the Church (priests like yourself, monks, nuns, and those laymen who make a living–I don’t mean this cynically–off of being publicly conservative Catholics) on the one hand, and laymen who depend for employment on persons or institutions who may have outright hatred for such views. Such laymen, who might not only have to support themselves but a wife and children, would naturally have to be more cautious about expressing certain views in the public arena without the veil of anonymity than would one such as yourself, whose “employer” shares the same core values as yourself and supports or rewards one for expressing them. Figures like Mark Shea and Scott Hahn prosper in the world precisely by BEING “Mark Shea” and “Scott Hahn”–and I’m glad, in principle, for such men. If the world hates them, they will not suffer for it in the the world because they are employed by Catholic-friendly interests. But there are those in precisely the opposite situation if they speak “with the Church” and on behalf of the Church, the world may very well make them (and their loved ones) hurt for it. I am also thankful, therefore, for those who choose to disseminate the Truth anonymously.

    There are times, perhaps, when even Christ calls us–“wise as serpents”–to be anonymous for the Kingdom of God. It does not always point toward passive aggressiveness.

  2. John,

    you make a valid point. Anonymity is only one aspect of the problem I identify in the post. It remains, nevertheless a complex problem, in my view, even under the circumstances you mention.

    I would want to hold such men in those circumstances to a higher standard, which is precisely what is difficult to do, if not impossible. They are on their own recognizance, and that is not altogether reassuring. There is a reading public out there for almost anything.

    Everyone has a right to their good name. That is St. Thomas. So if the anonymous blogger is hurting people’s reputations we have a problem.

    And then there is the issue of whether there is really any necessity for it the first place. We apostles always want to think that our little project is the work of God and necessary to His plan, but no one really has to blog, and even if they do, they don’t have to say things for which people would expect the speaker to take personal responsibility. They are not exercising some office entrusted to them.

    And even if one had to blog and had to protect their identity, and had to say things that might hurt other people—I can’t think of a case when this would be necessary—then they just have to accept the hazard of their occupation, namely, that some good and reasonable people will find their work odious and will not trust them, will attempt to hold them accountable, and will criticize them, especially when they attack known persons under the cover of their anonymity.

    I find it remarkable that some who have the protection of anonymity can still be so thin-skinned, expect special treatment, and call foul when legitimacy of their choices are called into question.

    I suppose some would say—I am not suggesting you are—if this is the case, then there is certain important work that just won’t get done. And I would say, yep, I guess so. But we will be fine if we just get God’s work done His way.

  3. I am a regular, shall we say, devotee of AirMaria & Mary Victrix (only stated to establish the direction I am coming from). These are sites that have abundantly fed me in ways that I do not wish to take the time to bore you – let me, simply, state that I pray – may all God’s Servants – and those serving with them – that are involved in these sites, be Abundantly Blessed and bear great fruit for Jesus and Mary.
    When I hear/read some of the back-and-forth on some topics, from these sites, I struggle with proper discernment in the category which Jesus warned/cautioned in yesterday’s Gospel – “folly”.
    How do we “properly” discern whether a topic carries enough “weight” to involve our faith-and-reason abilities and faculties versus leaving it be?
    I trust there are shepherds, much further along in the journey of faith than I, to determine these matters, because I can be lured into struggle with them.
    As to the topic at hand – Tolkien, Lewis, myth, fantasy – would Jesus and Mary consider it folly and dismiss it, if they were confronted and/or asked about it – or would they devote time, significant time, energy and effort into exploring and resolving these questions?
    As I say, I struggle discerning the correct answer/approach/response – perhaps it is different for each individual depending on their particular calling and journey.
    I hope these comments contribute, usefully, to the conversation.
    God Bless.

  4. Father, I appreciate your taking the time to address these subjects. It’s silly that it took something so trivial as an attack on The Lord of the Rings to open my eyes, but I think I’ve reached the point where I need to step way back from the traditionalist movement before I completely lose my faith and you have helped me realize that.

    I do know who the priests are on Audio Sancto, and many of them are very good, but I ought to have removed myself from the seething nameless ones on the internet a long time ago.

    Thank you.

  5. Father Angelo, could you write an article on the virtues of valor and courage, on its natural level. (We are all called to practice both on a supernatural level.) Are these virtues considered a male attribute only in society? Should women possess these as well? And if they do, how do men respond when they see women exhibiting them? Or is it more appealing for women to be ‘delicate damsels’?

    St. Joan of Arc comes to my mind. She gave her life to help restore a king to his rightful throne.
    What say you?

  6. @ Katharine,
    Based on your own experience – how do do you explain that the traditionalist movement can make people lose their faith ?

  7. Gaudium:

    I have been a traditionalist for 25 years. The answer to your question is simple. So simple, in fact, that sedeprivationist Bishop Sandborn spelled it out clearly in his rebuttal to former SSPX bishop Richard Williamson shortly after the latter denial of the Holocaust on international television.

    Please note I am neither a sedevacantist nor a sedeprivationist. Although I have spent the last 25 years promoting the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), I recognize both the validity and the lawfulness of the Second Vatican Council, the Novus Ordo of Pope Paul VI, and the papal elections of Pope John XXIII to Pope Francis.

    So why do I find myself disgusted and embarrassed by contemporary neo-trads while agreeing wholeheartedly with something said by a sedeprivationist bishop? How does this relate to losing one’s faith because of the traditionalist movement?

    What Bishop Sandborn in his rebuttal to Bishop Williamson is that the traditionalist movement is about promoting and safeguarding Catholic Tradition. Bishop Sanborn then adds that the traditionalist movement is not about geocentrism, Holocaust denial, political conspiracies, multi-level vitamin marketing, 9-11 truthism, special apparitions (whether approved or unapproved), etc. Bishop Sandborn then points out that he has worked very, very hard over the past three decades to keep these issues out of the traditionalist (in his case, read sedevacantist) movement.

    When I first joined the battle for Tradition about 25 years ago, this was a point understood by the leaders and laity throughout the movement, regardless of whether one adhered to the Indult, Fenneyism, SSPX or Sedevacantism. Traditionalism was about preserving, practicing and promoting Catholic Tradition. Period.

    Today, sadly, it takes Mark Shea and a sedevacantist bishop to point out what should be as obvious to today’s generation of traditionalist activist just as it was our generation. Unfortunately, though, today’s generation is tripping over itself to see who can concoct and promote the weirdest fringe conspiracies under the banner of safeguarding Catholic Tradition while putting on the largest histrionic display when critiqued. This is why they are more correctly referred to as neo-traditionalists. Butthurt neo-traditionalists.

  8. @ Torquemada tequila,
    Thank you for your answer.

    The Holy Father went on to say that, in the Gospel, there are two telltale signs of those, who, “know what is to be believed, but do not have faith.” The first sign is a tendency to “casuistry”, represented by those who asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay taxes, or which of the seven brothers of the husband would have to marry the widowed woman. The second sign is a commitment to “ideology”:
    “Christians who think of faith as a system of ideas, ideologically: there were such as these even ing Jesus’ own day. The Apostle John says of them, that they were the antichrist, the ideologues of faith, of whatsoever [ideological] stamp they might have been. At that time there were the Gnostics, but there will [always] be many – and thus, those who fall into casuistry or those who fall into ideology are Christians who know the doctrine, but without faith, like demons. The difference is that the demons tremble, these Christians, no: they live peacefully.”
    Pope Francis
    Friday Mass in Santa Marta

  9. Gaudium: I am trying to locate the text from Pope Francis that you cited in your last post – from Friday Mass in Santa Marta. I don’t see it on the vatican site – can you point me in the right direction?

    Many thanks,

  10. @ William – gladly :


    “Christians who think of faith as a system of ideas, ideologically: there were such as these evening Jesus’ own day. The Apostle John says of them, that they were the antichrist.”
    Pope Francis, 2014-02-21

    “Unfortunately, Bishop Fellay stated many times that his hope was that trust in the postconciliar Church would disintegrate as a result of his dialogue with Rome and the new traditionalist advent resulting from Summorum Pontificum. Mission largely accomplished.”
    Father Angelo, 2014-02-24

    Pope Francis knows why Pope Benedict resigned.

    What happened last year was not “War in the Bubble”.
    There was War in the Sky.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s