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.