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March 18, 2004

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» 3rd post of the day & stoppin' from haLf-baKed 'tAteRs
The current debate over liberal and conservative Catholics reminds me of Lent last year when we were doing the Stations of the Cross in school and the reader recited a line about Jesus being a "progressive Catholic". Many of us... [Read More]

Comments

Rod Dreher

Absolutely right, Amy. Conservatism/orthodoxy prevails in the Catholic blogosphere because the orthodox are, generally speaking, shut out of power at the diocesan and parish level, and because there are very few places in the Catholic press where our concerns can be openly and forthrightly discussed and debated. Even newspapers like OSV (for which I used to review movies) and National Catholic Register are very careful not to let strong criticism of the bishops and the institutional church onto their pages. I well remember the contrast between OSV and the Register in the first months of the scandal, versus this blog, Mark Shea's and others. So that leaves the blogosphere.

If you think about it, the lack of power bloggers and your faithful flock have in the structure of official Catholicism (in which I include diocesan publications) frees them up to say what they think without having to worry about offending Father, or His Excellency/Eminence. I hear from time to time from people who write for the official Catholic press, and they tell me how frustrating it is not to be able simply to write a story saying what's really going on, and what Catholics are saying, because the bosses are more interested in political correctness than in journalism.

For essentially the same reason, the most lively political blogs, at least until recently, were on the Right. The blogosphere was the only place where conservatives of all sorts -- libertarians, neocons, theocons, et al. -- could have open and robust public discussion. This phenomenon could be largely explained in terms of the marketplace, I think.

caroline

My own life experience as a school teacher suggests that the liberal folk love to talk, lead meetings and generally dominate a physically present group. A conservative to make himself heard has to be very pushy and behave in a manner which he naturally finds obnoxious. For the conservative writing comes so much easier and is downright enjoyable. The liberal would rather talk and sway people through speech and he loves meetings.

Christine R.

The blogs require some literacy. As Ann Coulter observed somewhere, Slander, I think, Conservatives read books, liberals don't. In my experience, most liberals in the Church have a reading level that gets them to the "Joshua" novels. They read and think goo, so what would they do with a blog?

TomM

As Rod says, Amy has already answered the question - conservatives have nowhere to go in the typical parish or diocese - at least if they want to express their opinion or exert influence.

Greg Popcak

I think it also has to do with the relative youth of the "New Orthodoxy" movement. Youth are more comfortable with online technology and the youth are also responsible for the New Orthodoxy.

I suspect a demographic analysis of the Church basement crowd would yield a significantly higher mean age than the mean age of St. Bloggers "conservatives."

cathy

what happens when the 2 forces collide. Well, that happened to me at a Stewardship meeting. Needless to say, I'm a Pre-VII type with my head in the sand and love no one except the Pope. So much for me asking that the Priest discuss abortion from the pulpit. The confrontations will typically happen at the Church or its property --- in other words, the home court of the liberal.

Mark Kasper

Dear Amy,

Excellent commentary. Please...write more, more and yet more posts of your quality social and religious criticism.

MKasper

Fr. Rob Johansen

Amy, thank you for speaking the truth on this one. I've seen the phenomenon you describe time and again as a seminarian and priest.

Gerard E.

All of the above are valid, and more.

1. Its the libs who populates the classrooms and chanceries. The traditionalists, who became bloggers, were regularly shut out.

2. The libs love meetings and policy papers and windy debate. The bloggers are loners and non-politicians.

3. The libs tend to skew older. I'm a 48-year-old blogger. That makes me a charter member of St. Blog's Senior Citizens Center. ("You say you don't like Church hymns today, Sonny? Back in my day, we had REALLY bad guitar music at OUR hootenanny Masses....")

4. As though the lib careerists were willing to jeopardize their jobs during the redhot pedophile revelations. Bloggers tend to work elsewhere.

5. In general- the older the person, the greater the allergy to the Internet. The aging chancery libs are ambivalent to communicating on-line. Serious bloggers spend too much of their lives chatting to folks 3000 miles away.

6. Perhaps I am too presumptuous here. But in my seven months of serious blogging, I have concluded that St. Blog's provides a prophetic ministry within the U.S. Church. Check the Old Testament- the superstar prophets- Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.- emerged when Israel or Judah were bottoming out morally. The wider Church, slowly but surely, takes Shea, Welborn, Dreher, the rest of us more seriously with each passing day. If only for our big mouths.

RP Burke

I wouldn't use Ann Coulter as a reliable source for anything. Too many instances of fabrications and lies.

Amanda

Isn’t Carroll’s The New Orthodoxy: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy accurate? Conservative Catholics are younger.

Blogging is certainly a newer use of technology. I'm assuming that there are 10x as many bloggers under 35 than there are who are over.

Gerard E.

7. Forgot the weird parallels to the New Media emerging in the past 15 years- how it aggravates the NYT/CBS/Newsweek Cartel. Amy Welborn is our equivalent of Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham. Rod Dreher is Bernard Goldberg, calling out the mainstream (secular, religious) media from years on the inside. Mark Shea is our Rush Limbaugh- by virtue of his popularity, influence, and ability to convey aphorisms (Most importantly, "sin makes you stupid.") Don't think the editors of Commonweal/America/St. Anthony Messinger/National Catholic Reporter/many diocesan publications are pleased with these cyberspace threats to their influence. Maybe they'd better get used to us.

S.F.

Most liberal Catholics couldn't handle the "Comments" section of a blog. Can you imagine how much work they'd have to do to block inappropriate comments? So, they might as well not have a comments section. And that would be boring.

Does anyone remember the VOTF message boards and the censorship over there? They shut the thing down once it became too much work to delete all of the posts regarding VOTF's speaking invitation to a pro-child sex advocate.

People like Amy and Mark only ban a person after they repeatedly attack others.

RP Burke

Those of us who are more 'classicist' than 'conservative' -- who think the baby went out the window with the bath water but who believe that the bath water was foul and needed changing -- also seem to have no place in many parishes. At mine, one spat out at me, "You're a classicist, eh?" as if accusing me at Fenway Park of being a Yankee fan.

Still, the idea that 'orthodox' Catholics have the right to loudly criticize priests and bishops -- while at the same time arguing that 'progressives' who do the same thing from a different angle deserve to be slapped down hard -- appears inconsistent at best.

Dale Price

I think the point is true, and I have an additional explanation: differing approaches.

As a general rule, more liberal types get involved more often at the parish. If you're sitting at home, you can't get anything done. Often, your conservatives (tending younger) are raising kids (often very young), which tends to put a crimp on the time. Liberals tend to be a little older, and their kids have grown up for the most part. They have the time, and they use it.

What conservatives have to do is *make* time. If addressing the problems you see at your parish is that important, then you can shelve a couple hours of apologetics reading time to participate.

Which leads me to:

Another thing conservatives have to do is learn the fine art of Nice. Nice works. It works very well. We are, after all, dealing with human beings, not abstractions.

Firing thunderbolts and waving the catechism at people you really don't know *doesn't* work. At all. Getting to know the "goofy heretic" can. And you'd be surprised to know how far genuine friendship and listening can go. One of my best friends in the Church is about as progressive as you can get--a fan of Richard McBrien and other guys I couldn't be paid to go see. But he's also a dedicated and decent man who does a lot of good and is worthy of respect, and doesn't deserve condemnation as abstract concept:

"Oh, he's one of *those.*"

Are we going to come to agreement on who is an ideal speaker to come to the parish? Unlikely. But I will get a fair hearing (and, ultimately, what I want) because there is mutual respect. To him, I'm not "one of *those*."

That doesn't always work in some places, and Lord knows there are entire diocese where you will never make headway. The Ideologues are in Fortress Mode. Shake the dust and move on. But in many places, you'd be surprised how far you can get by just warming a seat on a weekday, and getting to know people.

Liam

I think another thing skewing the perceptions is that the more liberal young Catholics (by birth if not much else) aren't much part of anyone's conversation -- in person or online -- and many are unchurched at this point. I got to hear a lot from folks of this sort during The Scandal (TM), and what they have to say would please neither the St. Blogosphere or the hierarchy. And they are finding the DaVinci Code delightful reading and keep on telling me to read it before I judge it....

These are not apathetic people. A number write and call their legislators, and tell them to do the opposite of whatever the institutional Church is seeming to demand.

Nancy

The blogosphere has probably kept me in the Catholic Church. Five years ago when our new pastor blew in and started plans for a renovation of our beautiful church and then announced we would be following Cardinal Mahony's "Gather Faithfully Together" (although L.A. is half a continent away), it was the blogosphere that gave many of us in my parish the information we needed to counter the misinformation we were being fed from the pulpit (and the bulletin and the newsletters, et., etc.). And it has given me heart to know that there are many Catholics who do not buy into the "progressive" line pushed by so many (who have a stranglehold on the more traditional means of communication).

Phil

To compare Amy Wellborn to Sean Hannity is no compliment at all. Even when I agree with the susbstance of his opinions (and I often don't), I find Hannity too distortive of the facts, too unfair and disrespectful in their arguments and comparisons. Two wrongs don't make one right. If the other side stoops down to that level, why do the same?

I have not watched Hannity in a long while, but I'm certainly glad that Amy is not like him.


Kirk

I think some of the arguments here are far too simplistic and overgeneralize. To suggest that liberals have the power in our Church is a joke. If so, there would have been no need for the creation of VOTF because the laity would have already been empowered.

The one consistency that I have seen among conservatives and progressives is that clericism is tarnishing our Church. Perhaps the solutions to clericism differ among idealogues, but there is a general agreement that it is a major problem.

I live in the Arlington (Va.) diocese where no one can suggest liberals rule. [I attend a parish in the Washington Archdiocese and while we have a relatively new Archbishop, no one would have called Apb. Hickey liberal.] Is Abp. Egan of NY liberal? Myers of Newark? Rigali of Philadelphia? I could go on and on ... but there are few 'liberals' in the Church hierarchy here in America.

Blogs are like talk radio where conservatives dominate ... maybe it is the conservatives who like to hear themselves talk and, generally, love to get the pat on the back from fellow bloggers (or listeners, in the case of radio). Liberals might argue that they are the ones working in the soup kitchens or building homes for the homeless rather than spending their days on the internet.

I just pray we can get beyond the liberal vs. conservative fights and focus on our Catholicity ... which means UNIVERSAL. WE ARE THE CHURCH. All of us.

ottanbrus

Here's yet another angle:

It's been my experience that so-called "liberal" folks equate committee meetings and "gatherings" and "sharing sessions" with actually doing something, so the train stops right there. The meeting IS the accomplishment.

For so-called "conservatives", meetings and gatherings and committees are more often seen as necessary evils. We attend them when we must, but we'd always rather be somewhere else doing something much more important and REAL.

On the blogs, you can check in and check out whenever you "feel the need". Add to that the fact that you can actually say what you think, off the cuff, on the record, and you've got the perfect coffee-break medium for busy and frazzled people who have to navigate their way through the (real) world.

Jason

>>>"Still, the idea that 'orthodox' Catholics have the right to loudly criticize priests and bishops -- while at the same time arguing that 'progressives' who do the same thing from a different angle deserve to be slapped down hard -- appears inconsistent at best."

There's nothing wrong with Catholics identifying problems in the Church and addressing them. The keys are Prudence, No Polemics, and above all else, Charity. And, of course, Doctrinal and Moral orthodoxy.

This is why I personally have taken to blogs. It's a place where Catholics can come together and discuss things. We don't have to bury our heads in the sand. We can discuss problems, share solutions, and in a sense, fellowship with others who are trying to live faithfully in the Church. You can't get that in Newspapers.

Anonymous

Kirk, this conservative spent 6 years visiting people in need through the St. Vincent DePaul society. I have recently returned after a two year break. ( I had one child when I started and 3 when I took leave). Let's not go into "conservatives are selfish" and "liberals are compassionate" territory. I know many orthodox Catholics who are caring and compassionate. If you go down that road, beware of someone bringing up the predominate ideology of the abusive priests and bishops.

amy

Kirk:

My take:

Remember that I qualified my remarks by geographic area/ diocese. There are areas where the c/c/o understanding reigns (Denver, etc.), and others where there can be absolutely no argument that those who control who meets, where and what they say and the nature of materials available, speakers, etc are liberal/progressive and would no sooner have Scott Hahn address a catechetical gathering than they would Jerry Falwell. That is just a fact. I've been involved in diocesan and parish ministry for twenty years, and I've sat in meetings and heard a bishop say, "We have to be careful who gets their hands on the Catechism" before it was released, and so on. Go to a gathering of diocesan directors of education, for example, as my husband has, and see what you find. Or even to the LA Congress of Religious Education, which he has also attended recently. They tolerate no dissension from the party line, which is mostly about the vaguest appropriation of the gospel possible from a liberal/progressive standpoint.

But further, what you will find beyond any ideology is, basically, bored-out-of-their minds careerism. More than ideology, most people who work in the church in leadership positions fear passion (from any side). They fear offending. They fear a drop in donations and losing their tax exampt status.

brent

You folks must be mixing up Al Franken with Hannity and Coulter. They are not dishonest and Hannity bends over backward to people who disagree. BTW, I only listen to hannity when Michael Medved is at a commercial. Michael Medved is brilliant and a great friend of christianity.

Rod Dreher

Dale Price:

Firing thunderbolts and waving the catechism at people you really don't know *doesn't* work. At all. Getting to know the "goofy heretic" can. And you'd be surprised to know how far genuine friendship and listening can go. One of my best friends in the Church is about as progressive as you can get--a fan of Richard McBrien and other guys I couldn't be paid to go see. But he's also a dedicated and decent man who does a lot of good and is worthy of respect, and doesn't deserve condemnation as abstract concept:

"Oh, he's one of *those.*"

I think this is true. I recently had a conversation with a member of the National Review Board, someone I understood to be liberal. I was surprised and impressed by this person's palpable love and concern for the Church, and came away convinced that this was a person worthy of respect. I've also learned in the past couple of years that people who hold orthodox opinions are not necessarily to be trusted to do the right thing, or be honest, whereas liberals can be, on certain issues, genuine and valued allies.

It pays to remember that prior to January 2002, Bernard Law was thought by very many of us on the Catholic Right to be One Of Us.

Tom C

I have a related question:

I'm currently going through RCIA, and at every meeting there's a table stacked with these "Catholic Update" handouts. Without fail, every one of them is full of theological mush that often appears directly contrary to the CCC and other Church documents. However, they are offered as presenting the authentic position of the Church.

What's going on?

brendan

I found the blogosphere after reading Courage to Be Catholic by George Weigel because i looked up the term "Catholic lite". I love the blogosphere because I get information and formation. I also get to see catholicism at its basic level where people from all over can gather and learn and discuss the Gospel and how it should impact all of life.
It may be seen as conservative-I think this is a bad term-I choose to be orthodox because it is the faith as it has been handed down from the apostles. This means that I am beyond political labels that reduce Christianity to an ideology that is rooted in disputes of power and control. There can be disagreements about the pastoral approach to issues but Truth can not waver. We in the Church of my generation were given heterodoxy at worst and protestantism at best.

My experience of trying to be hired in chanceries, parishes, and high schools was that they had standard questions to determine if I was a "progressive" or "conservative. needless to say, I was not hired because I was orthodox.

Keith

Nancy, would that happen to be St. Charles Borromeo? My wife and I were married there, but haven't been back much since. You may remember an incident with a good priest, Fr. V, who is no longer there. He gave a homily against contraception at the High Mass. He didn't appear again at that Mass for several months thereafter, theimpression being that was the price he paid for it.

Patrick Quinlan

Hmm. Interesting thread.
I guess my reaction to the liberal/conservative distinction is to ask people "How are you being stretched?" I would much, much prefer to listen to Scott Hahn, etc. but if I bristle and look angry when someone suggests that a parish brings in Fr. Andrew Greeley, what kind of witness am I giving? Essentially, I am agreeing with Dale Price's comment about respect. "Liberal" types don't care as much about the intellectual content of a debate. They look for whether or not the person debating has a spirit of gentleness, patience, compassion, etc. If a more 'conservative' Catholic demonstrates that spirit, that is a far more compelling witness (to a liberal) than anything they might have to say. Whenever I think about the issue of being liberal vs. conservative, I invariably ask God to help me "to worship in spirit and truth". The problem as I see it is when one emphasizes one of those to the detriment of the other. I continue to want to do more writing about this topic and hope to do so at a later point.
Peace,
Patrick

Todd

Peace, all.

Kirk's comments seem among the most sensible here to me. The spheres of influence are still wholly determined by a mainly conservative hierarchy. What the big cheeses doesn't care about within their influence, is left as table scraps for others. The USCCB never cared to expand into cable TV, so Mother Angelica did it. Most bishops don't give a hoot about liturgy, so lay professionals run it. Most pastors step back from the majority of parish meetings, so lay people (for better or worse) run them.

Speaking from the liberal side, I have no problem with reading comment boxes, or even commenting on comments. Likewise, I have no problem with welcoming conservative Catholics into ministries or committees I oversee. This has nearly always resulted in positive and productive experiences. Speaking personally, I would love to see two opposites on a panel discussion at a conference. Assuming one can keep the h-word out of the discussion and remain civil, I think it would be very productive for such presentors to be able to discipline themselves to address real points rather than straw folk. That's one reason why I choose to be a gadfly on conservative blogs here: to keep both sides (especially myself) honest.

I think St Blog's reveals another part of the Catholic Church that is "getting" Vatican II. Most bishops don't have it yet. Rome is nearly hopeless. But I welcome the development of the conservative Catholic voice in the Church. It's something we need.

Rod Dreher

Todd: The USCCB never cared to expand into cable TV, so Mother Angelica did it.

This isn't true, Todd, at least I'm pretty sure it isn't. I'm pretty sure that the Catholic bishops tried hard and spent millions trying to launch a cable network back in the early 1990s, but got nowhere. Thank God!

Maybe someone who has more detailed information can provide it.

amy

Todd:

Go to most diocesan catechetical and all regional catechetical and pastoral ministry gatherings. Peruse the speakers' lists and the materials distributed. That's the reality. These are the gatekeepers. They are not buying Ignatius Press books or bringing in folks like Madrid, Hahn, etc. There are two different worlds of discourse out here in Catholic land. The "conservative/orthodox" one is mostly outside the institution and the "Liberal/progressive" one is mostly attached to it. (Although that, as I said, is changing, slowly.).

And anyone who has been on this blog long knows how frequently I decry that situation. I've used lables lots in these posts, but only because I have to. I'm agin' 'em, except when absolutely necessary. In the everday life of being Catholic, labels are irrelevant - and damaging.

Further, I don't know about others here, but I am not suggesting a tit-for-tat kind of thing - let's have the other side get into power so THEY can ban speakers or cut off certain publishers. That's not the point.

Now, what's true is that this old guard is, indeed, aging. Which is why I don't get too wrought up about it - I trust the testimony of the like of Sherry Wadell (excuse my mispelling) of the Siena Institute (right? I'm in a hurry, not time to check) who travels widely around the country and sees great signs of people focusing on following Christ rather than mutually excommunicating each other becaue of ideology.

Patrick Quinlan

I wish to acknowledge that I was making generalizations about being liberal or conservative, because I believe those terms are generalizations. No one person should be seen as a system of thought, but should be treated as a person. Still, I think there is value in recognizing that most conservative or orthodox Catholics have a hard time listening to something that they know to be against Church teaching. Conversely, liberal Catholics have a hard time listening to someone who seems to have an angry or judgemental tone. My approach (hopefully most of the time) is to affirm the good that is present in another person, with the hope that we can both grow together. I enjoy being friends with JVC (Jesuit volunteer core) types, because I think that their emphasis on service can stretch me, and hopefully my affirming the good in the service that they do, can help them to trust me, especially when I tell them that Church teaching is not all bad. :-)
Peace,
Patrick

Peggy

Lots of good analysis here. I think there are a number of reasons why St. Blog's is "conservative," similar to those others have raised:
1. Generational differences in terms of internet comfort.
2. Generational differences in terms of holding "progressive" v. "conservative" views of Catholic teaching and social morality. [Though Rod points out how many "liberals" love the Church dearly and ought not always be disregarded.]
3. Generational differences in terms of being entrenched in positions of power--ie, the self-preservation of bureaucrats in the Church (who are more, often than not, of the more "liberal" mindset of the Church).
4. As a result of all above, "conservatives" are perhaps in the minority of the population of most Catholic dioceses, and, thus, geographically dispersed. They can obtain from St. Blog's the community of interest and like-mindedness lacking in their parishes or dioceses.
5. It sounds like other "conservatives" are like me and not big "joiners." I have been doing volunteer work to help folks w/a particular family problem (unaffiliated w/the Church) for a gajillion years and limit my involvement in the "administrative" meetings/positions b/c I do meetings at my job. Not interested otherwise. Lots of egos there getting little done.

I can get online and blog/comment between busy periods at the office or on weekends. Nonetheless, in-person relationships are vital and should not be replaced by Internet communications.

--I am in Arlington, VA, where the only "liberal" Catholics I know are generally those that do not go to Mass at all (or are concentrated at a couple of renegade parishes). I am in a parish where we'll hear Church teaching on contraception or homosexuality [the "sex sins"] any given week. There are only so many nights I have to trek out and do activities at Church, however. St. Blog's is a great education that works on my schedule!

Thanks Amy and other bloggers like Mark Shea, Catholic Light, etc!

Peter Nixon

I wrote a post last November which talked about the issue about why Catholic bloggers tend to be more conservative. I'm not sure I have anything to add on that question.

Even though I tend to lean more toward Commonweal than Crisis on most issues, I'm willing to concede that (in my experience at least) diocesan and parish staff tend to lean a little to the left. And yes, the "liberal groupthink" problem at the parish level is real and in some ways creates more problems than the "conservative groupthink" problem we have at Saint Blogs. But I'm not sure how happy I'd be entrusting my parish's religious ed program to the average Catholic blogger either.

What strikes me more than the liberal-conservative issue is the rather thin knowledge that many Catholics have of their own tradition. If I was running a book group, I'd rather have us read Saint Augustine's Confessions or Saint Therese of Liseux's The Story of a Soul than anything written by Scott Hahn or Joseph Girizone. It's hard to find people these days who have read anything (other than the Bible) that was written before 1965.

Mike

I do not know if St. Blog's is actually representative of conservative Catholics or those with axes to grind. From the comments that I have read, charity is not an adjective that comes to mind. The narcissism that some commentators have painted so-called "libs" is reflected as well in some of the above comments.
Personally, I think the tone of most Catholic blogs is frightenly destructive.

Someone above complained about the Catholic Updates. While they are simplistic (teaching doctrine in four pages is going to be simplistic) they are hardly herectical. I am willing to be proved wrong with specific examples, but a unsubstantiated broadside is not constructive, it's slander.

The bureaucratic and endless committee meeting model of Church is not something limited to liberals (see Curia, Roman). I work in a diocese that is conservative and I spend a lot of free time/family time going to inane committee meetings and workshops to rack up face time hours.

Liam

Without hijacking this wonderful thread, might I suggest that the most important way to consider this issue is sacramentally.

The important thing about We Are Church is to to understand it not as a power statement, but as a sacramental personality. And it was Pope St. Pius X whose sacramental and liturgical reforms laid this era's foundation for this.

Living as I have in some uber-progressive communities, I can assure you that progressives can get as judgmental and nasty as conservatives. So can folks in the center. And charity knows no ideological bound. Most people confound the boundaries of the boxes we prefer to stick them in.

It is so important for Sister Sophia Wisdom to remember that she is in communion with Msgr Foaming Traditionalist, and vice versa, and that that sacramental union of persons is perhaps deeper in important respects than any other relationship either have. Understanding people in truth, understanding us as sacramentally joined through baptism, the Eucharist and other sacraments and ways of being and doing, is key to developing the charity that opens our hearts and minds to each other. I realize this sounds terribly Up With People (shiver), but I am deadly earnest on this point. It's something that people need to be reminded of often, in my experience, starting with me.

Cheryl

An interesting discussion. My own experiences have been "unorthodox" on this score (and I'd like to second Dale Price's comments on genuine friendship/listening when encountering a fellow Catholic who tilts in the opposite direction.)

For example, my husband can be fairly described as an orthodox/conservative guy. But when he was beginning to "reconnect" with his childhood faith about a decade ago, it was a Call to Action member who helped spur him on. A stereotypical liberal nun (who belonged to Call to Action and served as DRE at our old parish) began talking with him and asking him to lead the Stations of the Cross, volunteer with RCIA etc. Ten years later, my husband belongs to Opus Dei! I guess you never know where inspiration will come from, or where it will lead :-)

I myself work for a small nearby diocese and have seen generally positive things come out of the oft-maligned "listening sessions," surveys, capital campaigns etc.. This particular diocese spent a lot of time analyzing demographics, surveying people in the pews, etc. Among the results: many parishes are now sharing resources and a large endowment for lay formation was created that IMO people are actually benefiting from.

And regarding the "conservative" bloggers who dominate the Catholic blogosphere: we have a good friend who has edited and authored many books on Catholicism and who could be described as very computer-savvy and very orthodox (many of you would recognize his name). I once asked him if he reads the Catholic blogs, and he said he rarely or never does. Said he finds it stressful and a big time-waster, basically. (No offense bloggers! I personally think you're tops :-)

My point (and I do have one!) is that most serious Catholics I know don't fit neatly into political categories like conservative or liberal.

john hearn

Liam,

Your point is well said and well taken. The problem with this prospective is, however, that many Modernists (to use a more accurate term) don't take that very sacrimentality that should unite us seriously: "Don't you know? The Eucharist is only a symbol!" In my life, I have been all over the map both politically and with regard to religion, so I have some small insight into the way folks from various camps think and feel about each other and the issues that divide them. What Modernists in the Church really fear is that all of "that orthodox stuff" is really true because to them it looks like a dark and terrible threat to the bright "liberated" and "free" Catholicism that they are so comfortable with. Lets face it, the Gospels are *not* comfortable for those who primarily look to the world for answers the questions of their lives.

So my take is that this divide is more along the lines of two incompatible and, for the most part, mutually exclusive visions to what the Church is and what it should do. There can of course be many instances of charity and team work between individuals of orthodox and heterodox beliefs, but in the long run there can be no lasting peace except through conversion or death.

Colleen

Rod, I *liked* Cardinal Law as far as I know him (orthodox homilies and Masses) but if you lived in the archdiocese of Boston you wouldn't have ever called him conservative. He was the driving force behind the catechism but he was also a proponent of inclusive language. There isn't one Catholic College in Mass. that you'd send your kids to. If my kids want a Catholic higher education, they'll have to leave the state.

Anyhow, I think most of the parishes reflect the USCCB offices... who advertise employment positions in the National Catholic Reporter but never in the National Catholic Register.

The scales are tipped now but most of the up and coming orthodox Catholics are poised to take the helm through attrition.

I think a good example of the difference in actions/ideas between orthodox and progressive Catholics would be Mother Angelica's EWTN station - started by her with $200 and no meetings aside of the ones between her and God and CTA/VOTF effectively launched by progressive Catholics with different agendas and the prime end result is meetings and more meetings. CTA was founded by mostly religious and x-priests gathering in Detroit in 1976 - VOTF was apparently the brainchild of Fr. Richard McBrien and several Boston progressive priests along with a few wealthy and progressive members of the laity - both groups marked by meetings and agendas and more meetings.

whitcomb

New to this site, so maybe I've missed something along the way. But when I look at the "Catholic Writers" section and see no mention of Graham Greene, F. Scott Fitzgerald or James Joyce, am I to think that these writers are simply out of fashion with blogger RCs--lib, con or ortho--or that because they were apostates, they have been stricken from the "Catholic" reading lists? Hope not on either score.

amy

And do remember....this is a blog that posts more frequently from Commonweal, America (when it's online...grr) and NCR than any "conservative" organs.

But yeah, faith in Jesus, lived out through witness and the sacramental life of the church is what is supposed to unite us. But note that the most contentious subject of all, the one that generates the most heat when I or any other blogger posts on it, is liturgy. Without question or exception. That says something. There is something about what has happened to the liturgy in the past few decades, and the way we approach it that has made it divisive, rather than the source of our unity.

And that is the greatest tragedy of all.

ottanbrus

Aside: I love threads like this that really get the ol' grey matter percolatin'.

I was thinking that, yeah, I agree with those folks who say that we need to respect others and try to be civil. But it seems to me that there is also a value in having a place where one can throw ideas around without any posturing or overly contrived politeness--a place to simply put your two-cents out there and allow others to do the same.

Thankfully, the blogs are not like parish committee meetings. The blogs more closely resemble what takes place at the back-corner table of the local pub--you know, that place where the world's problems REALLY get solved.

Joe McFaul

I disagree with John Hearn.

I am in communion with a large number of Catholics, who are heterodox under his definition. I am in communion with a large number of Catholics that apparently reject the teachings of Vatican II. I am in communion with a large number of Catholics who reject the teachings of the Church on Just War, capital punishment and social justice. I am in communion with the Roman Catholic Faithful, even though I don't agree with everything they say. I am in communion with VOTF, CTA (even though I don't agree with all their positions either) and I'm in communion with Catholics who self identify as orthodox, yet are heterodox in some of their beliefs. Even though I have strong feeling about anti-semitism, I am in communion with those Catholics who expressed antisemitic opinions in Amy's comments boxes ove rthe past few days.

I do see the Eucharist, the Real Presence, Communion, as the Uniting Force. I learn a lot by reading here and the "group knowledge" is very high, but nobody has all the answers.

I'm not convinced it's generational at all, becasue I know my own children would be quite put off by presentations from some of the apologetics mentioned above. I think there is a large disaffected group of young (under 25) Catholics who will become more connected with the Church over the next several decades but will not get there until the Church hierarchy demonstrates that it can responsibly and honsestly handle the sex abuse crisis in a genuinely Catholic manner with the Gospels as its guide.

tso

If the internet was big in the 1960s, does anyone doubt that St. Blog's would look like a liberal's dream? Conservatism and greater orthodoxy are fashionable now (partially as a result of a backlash to what obviously didn't work in the '60s and '70s).

Glenn Juday

Some randon personal reflections on the question.

Responding to blogs has become a hobby or even a way of living out my vocation. I am strengthened by some of what people share and also I gain new insights. The oldest principle in education is to hang around and interact with people who know things. Some of the contributors are very well informed. Sending out a call for in-depth information or commentary usually works. I really like that. Occasionally I might offer something that fellow Catholics find helpful. Personal strategies of witnessing, or coping with the debilitated condition of the Church are a form of learning too. As the “progressive” approach to teaching our Faith has evacuated content and focused nearly exclusively on personal experience I find myself out of place in gatherings of people who are ideologically committed to that approach. When the opportunity to reflect, share, mutually strengthen, and learn in blogs came along, it was too good to pass up.

I think many parishioners of St. Blogs are stimulated by the opportunity to add a thought or to object to something. Many of us hear the silliest things that mock the power and beauty of the Catholic Faith, and we generally lack the venue to respond and say WHY a proposition, an approach, a formulation is something other than Catholic. Now if it is true that a quasi-relativism has crept into our society and the Church, then the consequence would be that analysis, reasoning, careful formulations, even historical documents and experience would be found essentially useless in confronting the challenges of being a Catholic in today’s world. Mere antiquarianism. Well, we’re there in many of the structures and institutions dominated by Catholics with a careless disregard or disdain for orthodoxy. But you can’t enforce relativist rules in the blogsphere. Catholic blogsters include a number of people who submit themselves to the discipline associated with seeking after objective truth. Faith seeking understanding. Of course, we do this as big, fat imperfect sinners. But if relativism is your ticket, then analysis, debate, the past are enervating, and the people and tool (blogs) they use to do it are BORING.

I do think the tension between adherence to (even passionate love of) dogma, infallibly delivered, and personal charity is one of the biggest issues in the Catholic blogsphere. I think about it a lot. I try to pray for people struggling with their faith, people angry with the demands of being a Catholic (both orthodox and heterodox). I worry sometimes that I haven’t said the right thing. Orthodox Catholics, in general, need to keep focusing on seeing the good in other Catholics who don’t have a passion for the Church or some vital truth of the Faith, but may otherwise be good people. At the same time we can’t be afraid to stand up for the Truth. That balancing act will never get easy.

Sulpicius Severus

I have great sympathy for those of you in good faith, and pray for you; you're trying to save your church, your faith. It pains us catacomb Catholics to see close friends and family remain in the Vatican II church and suffer in confusion, as you do.

Sede vacantists argue that the disunity you are discussing is symptomatic of the vacancy of the Holy See. I don't expect many of you to consider this seriously, but please pray over it. The Faith of catacomb Catholics is the Faith of Our Fathers. What is the Faith of your church? Does everyone in your church agree with your answer?

I believe JPII's successor and the direction he takes will force the hand of many of you calling yourselves conservative Catholics. Please know that we in the catacombs are praying for you, and we await your return. UIOGD,

jerry

Speaking for my parish, the problem is critical mass. Much easier to get a group of like-minded orthodox Catholics together on the www than in my neighbourhood. Also, this thread has led me to realize that for some reason those Catholics I know who most demonstrably live the Gospel are the ones whose "liberal-conservative" position on the spectrum I don't have a clue about.

David Kubiak

The best thing about blogging is that you can say (more or less) exactly what you think. Has anyone told Mr. Severus that sedevacantism is a form of lunacy? Hutton Gibson can plead senility; what's his excuse?

jerry

Easy, David. Don't be so hasty to judge. I suspect Suspicious' problem is environmental. Can you imagine the toxins that develop in those poorly ventilated catacombs? He probably went down there to deliver a pizza, and never came back...

Liam

Joe:

Amen.

And might I add that this sacramental understanding needs to be undergirding with the sense that we are united in a Person, the Person of Christ. Truth is not an idea first: Truth is first a Person, in all His Glory.

And I have found that, if one pursues this approach patiently and persistently and lovingly, many a Catholic with a Modernist gloss on his or her beliefs (btw, some are quite conservative, while we treat the issue of labels) feels invited and embraced and enabled to discover afresh an assumption they perhaps neglected but that is often pretty fundamental to them, too.

What a joy to live a faith where God loves us so, well, Personally.

Michael King

Peter Nixon's comment about reading books before 1965 does implicitly bring up the traditionalist/conservative divide among orthodox RCs. Conservatives are more interested in making the most out of the Novus Ordo and V2, while traditionalists (both SSPX and canonical ones) look to Holy Tradition as a whole, not just the incredibly large amount of encyclicals, etc. that have been published in the last 40 years.

Rod Dreher

Liam writes:

It is so important for Sister Sophia Wisdom to remember that she is in communion with Msgr Foaming Traditionalist, and vice versa, and that that sacramental union of persons is perhaps deeper in important respects than any other relationship either have. Understanding people in truth, understanding us as sacramentally joined through baptism, the Eucharist and other sacraments and ways of being and doing, is key to developing the charity that opens our hearts and minds to each other.

I hear you. But where is the line between recognizing this sacramental unity, and saying, with the Episcopal Bishop of Virginia, that schism is worse than heresy (which is a way of saying that unity is more important than truth)?

jerry

Interesting point, Michael, but I'm not sure that I agree with it. The post referred to great classical spiritual works and isn't it true that conservatives (like our Pope) who "make the most" of V2 can read Theresa of Avila, Francis de Sales, Cardinal Newman, Catherine of Sienna etc.without seeing any disconnect between their spirituality and what we should be aspiring to post V2?

Peggy

tso,

You are quite right that, if the I-net had come to pass in the 60s, it probably would have been the tool of the "spirit of V2" generation. It happens to be that the oldsters who have the generally entrenched positions in bureaucracy are generally "progressive/liberal", while the younger generation in few positions of authority happen to be more "conservative" in their views.

I do agree with the points made that labeling Catholics may not be just and can tend to stereotype or limit. The differences between the "conservative" and "liberal" Catholics seem to me to center on differences in views of: (1) sexual morality; (2) social justice (ie, "liberals" seem to place it above personal sexual morality; though I do not believe that "conservatives" do not care about social justice, I know my approach toward it is quite different than the standard Catholic Democratic approach.); and (3) liturgy, as Amy pointed out.

Good example: I know my aunt (came of age in 60s) really enjoys the "looser" and more touchy-feely liturgy, while I do not care for "loose" liturgy. She is on parish committees and does pre-cana, while I go concentrate on Stations or Holy Hours at my parish, sometimes adult ed, if I have a free nite. I know she is a truly, faithful Catholic woman and believes no less in the Eucharist, the Passion and Resurrection, the Virgin Mary, etc., than I do.

Kevin Miller

Well, in that case, I'm neither a conservative nor a traditionalist - since Scripture and the Fathers and Aquinas and the stuff people like de Lubac wrote before the Council are important to me, along with the Council and JPII - indeed, I doubt that the latter can, or mean themselves to be, understood out of the context of the former.

But at the same time, I really think they must, and mean themselves to be, understood as having brought about genuine (and positive) development.

Rod Dreher

Jerry:

Speaking for my parish, the problem is critical mass. Much easier to get a group of like-minded orthodox Catholics together on the www than in my neighbourhood.

That's true. I lived in south Florida from 1995 till 1998. I had exactly no orthodox Catholic friends. I wouldn't have known where to find them had I wanted to. I was sustained in my faith by the daily friendship of a group of about 10 to 12 orthodox Catholics from around the country, all of whom were living a similar form of "exile". It was not the same as having actual communion with others, but thank God (literally) I had it! I had left Washington DC, where I had good, serious Catholic friends, after only two years as a Catholic, and moved to a place where I couldn't find any. My e-mail buddies helped keep me Catholic, and kept me from being lonely. I had plenty of Florida friends, but not one with whom I could discuss my faith, which was the most important thing to me.

Blogs didn't exist then, but man, they sure would have helped me if they had.

On the other hand, my wife, who is not a fan of blogs, chastises me for living out my faith chiefly on the Internet...

Kevin Miller

To clarify: My previous comment was in response to Michael King's - several others posted between his and mine in the seconds it took me to type mine!

... And, an addendum: Incidentally, I think the notion of the "conservative" who has all the use in the world for VatII/JPII but none for what preceded is something of a straw man. (Example of why, that happens to come quickly to mind: the premier Catholic "conservatives" Novak et al. were drawing as much from Augustine/Aquinas - unmediated by VatII/JPII - as from anyone else in making their case for the Iraq war.)

Whereas, I might further add, I've encountered "traditionalists" - including those in communion with the Church - who do, I think, rely on earlier stuff at the expense of VatII/JPII. (Example: something I saw on the web a year or so ago by a FSSP priest - Rippenburger? - complaining about the way the latter have broken with "tradition" in certain respects.)

Kevin Miller

Regarding Rod's question about the line between recognizing sacramental unity and saying schism is worse than heresy -

The line seems fairly clear to me. There's nothing inherent in affirming that so-and-so is a Catholic that precludes my also saying that some of what he says is heretical.

Nor is there anything inherent in the latter judgment that precludes my recognizing that he and I have, by grace, been made sons of the Father, and hence brethren, in Christ. And that how I deal with his heresy needs therefore to proceed from within that unity.

Now, I agree that there may be need for discussion of how to live that out in practice.

Kevin Miller

... Put differently: In a very carefully qualified sense, it is true that schism is worse than heresy. Namely, because the whole point of conformity to Truth - and Goodness and Beauty - is union with the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, which includes union with one another in that union as well.

So, it's not (pace that Episcopal bishop) true that we ought to sacrifice truth to unity. But it is true that truth must always be pursued so as to strengthen unity - with God and with one another as brothers and sisters, as members of the one Body and Bride, as the one Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Liam

Rod's point is a fair one and one that I had considered addressing in advance.

The beautiful thing about recognizing the Personhood of Truth as a first dimension is that then Truth as a Person has an objective identity, independent of our subjective view or (mis)understanding of Him and how we are graced to be members of His Body as Church across the bounds of time and space. And that agreeing to disagree about Him (the choice you fear) does justice to neither Him nor us (and us broadly understood to mean the entire Body of the faithful past, present and yet to come). This is not the end point, just a starting point, joined with a heart and mind that embodies faith seeking understanding.

Bill

Kevin,

I think this is the article you referred to above, by Fr. Chad Ripperger, FSSP:

http://www.latinmassmagazine.com/conservative.asp

RC

Rod's got it right: the bishops poured millions into a TV project, but instead of feeding a channel direct to local cable-TV providers, they distributed the programs to dioceses, to be used in Catholic institutions or on diocesan Catholic cable systems. As far as I remember, little use of made of the system.

One Catholic media guy observed that the bishops had spent enough money on the project to pay for a personal phone call from the Pope to every US Catholic.

Rich Leonardi

Rod's comment about finding fellowship with faithful Catholics online is perhaps one of the chief reasons for the popularity of blogs. I have many Catholic friends where I live, but few--two actually--with whom I can discuss my faith. Without blogs, I think I'd be a whole lot crankier, most likely the Catechism-waving caricature of an orthodox Catholic that someone described above.

Donald R. McClarey

Occam's Razor: othodox bloggers outnumber heterodox bloggers because there are a lot more orthodox catholics than heterodox catholics. Please note that I do not include fallen away catholics, or catholics who appear in church twice a year at most, in either camp.

Rod Dreher

You may be right, Donald, but I don't see that the greater number of odox Catholics in the blogosphere has any necessary correlation with the number of odox Catholics in America. I think it makes more sense that odox Catholics simply felt they had nowhere to voice their concerns, and found the blogosphere. Perhaps liberal Catholics are satisfied with the media that they dominate.

Rich Leonardi

One additional comment. I was part of a "market-oriented" think tank a few years ago that focused on state policy in a state where many of the politicians cared more about the price of highballs at the local country club than actually doing anything.

During one of our roundtable discussions, an advisor stated that all our work is pointless unless someone with authority decided to do something with it. In those circumstances, he was talking about politicians and policymakers.

I suspect there's a parallel to the need for more orthodox, effective bishops in our situation. Mark Shea, Kevin Miller, Greg Popcak, Pat Madrid et al. are doing excellent work. Many of us have learned more about the Faith from these sources in the past five years than we did during the first two, three or four decades of our lives.

But having effective bishops is crucial. Look at Chaput's and Burke's accomplishments. At the very least, we should always keep the need for good shepherds in our prayers.

chris k

In following the blogs since the eruption of the scandal in the press, I have to say that I've noticed a lot of currently classified conservatives who appear to be rather gun shy of those liberal types (McBrien, Greeley etc.) due to remembering their own pasts, ignorance, naivete which perhaps involved them in veering the wrong and more liberal way. They therefore know enough now from their own hard earned experience to keep a safe distance and wish to prevent others from falling into the same traps and having to pay the same price. Of course those others will most likely also have to learn the hard way - via the emotions, passions, ego - before they will also join the crowd. Of course some love it on the wider path and would never even consider narrowing it. I could be wrong too with some of the younger generation, those who have had the experience of observing all of the above mistakes being made by their elders and who therefore choose a different road in order to avoid same. Those others who still have yet to learn, don't wish to hear from the experienced ones at their meetings, discussion groups, whatever, thus the hope of getting some points across through blogdom looks more realistic.

Jason

>>>"It is so important for Sister Sophia Wisdom to remember that she is in communion with Msgr Foaming Traditionalist, and vice versa, and that that sacramental union of persons is perhaps deeper in important respects than any other relationship either have. Understanding people in truth, understanding us as sacramentally joined through baptism, the Eucharist and other sacraments and ways of being and doing, is key to developing the charity that opens our hearts and minds to each other. I realize this sounds terribly Up With People (shiver), but I am deadly earnest on this point. It's something that people need to be reminded of often, in my experience, starting with me."

Catholics are only in full communion with the Church and with each other if they submit to the Doctrinal and Moral teachings of the Church.

Insofar as "Sister Sophia Wisdom", as you call her, rejects the teaching of the Magisterium, she is not in full communion with the Church, or its children. She is in the same lot as Protestants (probably even worse), until she repents.

This is not to say we cannot deal with the heterodox of the world. Charity extends to all men, Catholic or not. But Doctrinal and Moral orthodoxy, as the Catechism notes, is just as necessary for salvation as Purity of heart and mind. The form one Purity.

It saddens me when people give credibility to people who reject and undermine the Magisterium. Such people are anti-christs (unless they are truly laboring in ignorance of the Church's teaching, of course).

Lord, heal thy Church, for thy servants trust in you!

Sherry Weddell

I'm joining this conversation late in the game, but since Amy was kind enough to quote me, I'd like to add my two cents.

I guess that I'm tired (like many of you) with the labels. As I travel, I find them quite deficient. Last month I traveled to a famously "liberal" diocese only to find, to my delight, that we'd been brought in by an exuberant, older, and most decidly "orthodox" pastor. A late vocation to diocesan priesthood who come up through the local system and didn't seem particularly scarred.

On the other side, I was recently told by two orthodox, and mature Catholics of two separate incidents of being on the receiving end of something perilously close to public verbal abuse in a retreat given by a famous "conservative" priest.

At this retreat, one parish staff person that I know well, and who has effectively championed evangelization and lay formation in her parish for 10 years, was reduced to tears. One of her parishioners "deduced" from the famous priest's passionate remarks about the demonically-inspired collapse of priestly vocations that the people in her parish were going to hell because they didn't have a resident priest and solemnly informed her that she was an accomplice.

Of course, there are only *40* Catholic priests in the entire state and my friend certainly had no choice in the matter - but the retreat master was apparently too fired up to worry about such details, much less anticipate the impact of his rhetorical flourishes on a fairly unsophisticated audience.

(I know, its staggering for easterners to contemplate but a number of inter-mountain and mid-western dioceses find themselves in this situation and it isn't entirely due to bad theology,etc. They've been missionary dioceses since the beginning and have always been dependent upon imports from other coutries. When you hear a heavily Ugandan-accented homily in a tiny church in a white bread prairie town, you know that the times, they are a-changing.)

One of these people also told of hearing unwise and theologically misleading comments from another well-known conservative lay speaker/apologist in the same gathering.

In my experience, both "conservative" and "liberal" Catholics behave remarkably like human beings. That is, they are all over the map. You can be dead-on theologically and pastorally ineffective, stupid or even malicious and you can be a genuine, loving disciple and hold tenously to bad theology.

The idealogues on the fringes are the scariest (and the most immune to outside influence) but there are many in the mushy middle who are there in good faith and are searching. Many have undergone conversions and trust whatever they have been told by the local Catholic leadership because they don't have the wherewithal to do otherwise. It is their right to have access to the riches of revelation that reaches us through the Church just like anyone else.

There is a Dominican saying that I like very much: Seldom affirm, never deny, always distinquish! Those of us who seek to teach with the Church would do well to remember this. We must constantly srive to make the necessary distinctions to ensure that those who hear us hear what the Church is saying. (As one Dominican friend was told in his homletics course, "You'll probably never preach a homily without a material (inadvertent) heresy in it, but you should know which one it is!"). Righteous indignation and drama is no substitute for theological clarity and hopeful charity and makes for bad preaching and teaching. We can actually "deform" Catholics by forgetting that the witness of who we are speaks even more loudly than our words.

Sherry Weddell

One last comment:

I do belive that it always comes down to "Do we fundamentally trust the Church as Mother and Teacher?" As living Heart of the Body of Christ on earth, sacrament of salvation, unity of the human race, and trustworthy source of the fullness of the Apostolic faith?

(Obviously, I don't mean automatically trusting the wisdom, holiness, or decisions of any particular bishop, priest, sister, staff person, lay person, etc.)

Those on the far left and right do not do so for very different reasons. Those of us who do, however we may differ on matters that are open to prudential judgement (such as politics, economics, musical taste, etc.) are essentially united.

I think that this sort of trust, which can endure a stunning amount of corruption on the hierarchy's part (think St. Thomas More here) is the lived intellectual equivalent of the sacramental union that we all share, willy-nilly. with every baptized person. It is a kind of trust that is fundamental to being Catholic in any era.

Anna

Another factor that might want to be considered in this discussion is the mobility of people. I am currently in my third state, since becoming Catholic 7 years ago. With blogs, and other Internet places, I can maintain contact with both like minded people and those who are not.

I have also noticed that many of the leaders in parish life are more liberal theologically, and more social justice active than I am. I try to work within their bounds, but plant conservative views while I am teaching.

Like one of the other posters said, it is much easier to meet people on the Internet. How can I meet anyone at church, when they don't have any adult activities in the evening?

Neil Dhingra

This discussion reminded me of an article I read in America back in the pre-blog era (May 2000, to be exact) by a certain Ronald Landfair entitled "Chat Room Theology." Now, Landfair did have much to criticize:

"I was led to something called 'Being Catholic' in the chat room forum. Now then, I thought, this has some potential for curious, insightful, intriguing dialogue--a chance to engage in some enlightening theological discourse with other inquiring minds. What I found, instead, were some pretty outlandish dialogues, focusing on topics from the sublime (the historical ethnicity of Jesus) to the ridiculous (Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?). I wondered if this was the state of theological cyberdiscourse--a hit-or-miss hodgepodge of opinionated, bargain-basement, wannabe theologians.

"Maybe I just had a bad experience. To test my theory, I returned each day for a week only to discover that I wasn't wrong at all. The conversations continued to digress into the fringes of religious irrelevance, ranging from what I termed 'conservative ostrich-thinking' ('Why do we always have to question the authority of Rome? We should just get down on our knees and thank God for the church!') to 'nouveau liberals' ('I think women should be priests and get married and have children, and we should be able to use any bread for the Eucharist'). Rarely did I note the presence of tolerance or patience for an opinion expressed or an idea conveyed in opposition to one held dear by another chat room participant. It was as if the very concept of consideration for an alternative viewpoint was rejected outright because it might shake loose longstanding personal foundations."

But, despite it all, Landfair ended on a positive note. The chat room redeemed itself:

"Perhaps the best thing about my foray into chat room theology was responding to a young man who entered the chat room apparently in some pain and confusion. There was something about his appeal for answers that seemed genuine. In a private message, I informed him right off that I was not a priest but that I was willing to practice the 'ministry of the ear' with him. That, he said, was enough. Like most of us, he just wanted someone to talk to. He was having a hard time seeing Christ in his life; he was down and quite depressed. With that, my new cyberfriend, the Holy Spirit and I took a walk--just some new and old friends doing what new and old friends are able to do online: taking a cyber-'Emmaus Walk' together."

Has anything changed?

Neil

Han Ng

I just wanted to respond to some of Kevin Miller's comments.

Regarding the relative merits of heresy vs schisim, I agree with Mr. Miller to the extent that he is saying that we ought not let our zeal for being orthodox drive away those who are in error, I disagree that heresy is better than schism. I think one must distinguish dogma from theology and heresy from error. Certainly there may be competing theologies each seeking to explain the same dogma, and these theologies may emphasis different aspects of the mystery, different theologies are not heresy. Heresy is the positive denial of proper dogma. In contrast, error is the inadvertant or uninformed denial of dogma. While we must not drive away those who are merely in error, heretics are already schismatics because they have made themselves schismatics. There can be no unity if there is heresy. On the other hand, there can be orthodox schism such as, well, the Orthodox. I therefore believe that when dealing with genuine heretics, not simply orthodox schismatics or those who are in error, we should do nothing that could cause scandal--that is we should do all we may to prevent somebody from thinking that the heresy is orthodox.

With regard to traditionalists who believe that everything since Vatican II is a breack with tradition, I do not think the scare quoates are proper since for many things, the traditionalists are correct. I believe that the dychotomy between "big T" tradition and "little t" tradition is false. Tradition is not simply "unwritten revealation" but rather what was truly handed down through the ages by the living Church. The problem with the traditionalists is that they are in danger of turning the Church into a church of archaeology instead of the Church of history. Incidentally, this is the same disease that many Vatican II-inspired reforms suffered from. The notion that there was some utopian time that got corrupted, be it 1958 or the first century, denies that the Church is historical. To the extent that one of the goals of the new Mass was to re-create a more primitive liturgy supposedly celebrated in apostolic times, this new Mass is very protestant in that it denies that development of liturgy over the ages is part of providence. There is a sort of unbecomming ultramontist legalism, the sort that led to the false spirit of Vatican II in the first place, to separate out Tradition and tradition, holding that we are free to change the latter. We have no right to freely change the latter, but rather the obligation to ensure in a sober manner that it develops organically. This is especailly true ecause unlike the former, we have no gurantee from the Holy Spirit that tradition will be preserved.

Of course, the traditionalists should pick thier fights. It is one thing to be upset that the Roman Canon has been relegated to also-ran status in favour of a prayer that has been grabbed out of time supposedly from a primitive litury (EP2), one that is loosely based upon the Anaphora of St. Basil, never part of the partical Roman tradition (EP4), and worse of all, one that is completly made up (EP2) (not that any of these are bad per se, but all, as relics, imports or inventions, are nontraditional in the sense that none are organic developments from what existed previously). It is another thing altogether to get upset about the Luminous Mysteries for breaking the connexion between the Rosary and the Office, especially since the Fatima Prayer had already done so. The sad position that traditionalsts find themselves in is that on the one hand, they really ought to move ahead with the genuine reforms of Vatican II from the stronger foundation of the traditional liturgy, but on the other hand, they are riddled with a seige mentality brought on by the very real necessity of holding on to all the good that has been lost in the novus ordo Church. It does not help that the lack of a universal indult prevents achieving a critical mass of traditionalist parishes such that they can move forward with confidence rather than hold out with paranoia.

Thanks for reading.

Han

Glenn Juday

Well, moving the subject over to the overtly political, one commentator reaches the opposite conclusion over at CNN.

"For years, conservatives have successfully used talk radio to excite their base, raise new issues, target opponents and raise money. After years in the wilderness, liberals may have finally found an answer. Not the new liberal talk radio network, but blogs -- formally known as web logs. The online discussion groups have become the liberal version of conservative talk radio.

"Most political reporters now read blogs - just as they listen to conservative talk radio - so news coverage is also shaped by the online chatter. That's not to say that there aren't any conservative blogs. Of course there are -- such as Zogby Blog and AndrewSullivan.com -- just like there are some liberal radio shows.

"But as a recent George Washington University study of the Internet notes, Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 2 to 1 (49% to 27%), among the nation's 15 million to 20 million who the study dubs 'Online Political Citizens.' "


If this CNN item is true (many shaky assumptions make me cautious) one could speculate that for liberals, politics takes the place that religion holds for conservatives (that of ultimate meaning). As a result the liberal Catholic pool of blogsters would be more likely to be involved in a political blog than a Catholic blog, resulting in the preponderance of orthodox and conservative Catholic blogs.

Christopher Rake

In my experience, both "conservative" and "liberal" Catholics behave remarkably like human beings. That is, they are all over the map. You can be dead-on theologically and pastorally ineffective, stupid or even malicious and you can be a genuine, loving disciple and hold tenously to bad theology.

This sounds exactly right to me.

Mark Shea

I will now do my Brother Giles impression. Brother Giles, for them that don't know, was a companion of St. Francis who was afraid to preach. Francis dispensed him from preaching, so he followed Francis around and, when Francis was done, Giles would stand up and say, "He's right! Listen to him!" and sit back down.

Ahem: Sherry Weddell is right! Listen to her!

amy

I had no idea this post had been linked on the Corner until right this minute (10 hours later.)

I would have tried to sound smarter if only I'd known. Oh well. Maybe next time.

I guess I'll mention, as I have before, that in the past, Catholics didn't have intramural labeling as they do now, with a single exception.

There was always the "bad Catholic," sometimes rather cheerfully, if ruefully self-identified.

We are all good Catholics now.

(For more on the bad Catholic, see Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy, of course.)

Therese

Sherry writes:
do belive that it always comes down to "Do we fundamentally trust the Church as Mother and Teacher?"

Sherry, I'd go one step further: do we fundamentally trust Jesus? Do we really believe that is is bigger and stronger than our failings and scandals and weaknesses? Do we have enough faith in him to remain faithful to his last and most fervent prayer: remain one in Me as I am one in the Father????

The beauty of Catholcism is 2000 years of souls who have had THAT much faith!

In Christ
Therese

Therese

Normally a thread with so many comments is a chore to read..not this one..excellent comments on all sides..feel compelled to say thanks for giving me some good things to think about...

Dave P.

Interesting how these discussions over lefties vs. righties, wherever they’re held, inevitably end up being hashed over by folks who, to a person, are easily identifiable as either a lefty or a righty.

Goes without saying, sure, but consider that what can’t show up on weblogs or in church basements is that the great, teeming masses of church-going Catholics are neither lefty nor righty, orthodox nor heterdox, when it comes to matters liturgical, ecclesiological and spiritual. They care about such matters like a diner at a Chinese restaurant cares which province the chef is from. The food all tastes pretty much the same. You eat. You leave. An hour later you can hardly remember what you had.

Those of us who love and care deeply about the Church, on both sides of this great divide, are in a relatively small minority.

Sherry, correct me if I’m wrong, but in your travels, have you not found that only a tiny percentage of people in the parishes really care about liturgy? How many have read the Bible or Catechism? How many have paid subscriptions to Catholic publications? Aren’t most once-a-weekers who do their Sunday duty, dryly, so they don’t feel too much "Catholic guilt" the rest of the week? Then they go their way and do all the things the secular culture does (contracept, cohabitate, etc.). They’ve been formed to view the Faith through the eyes of the culture rather than viewing the culture through the eyes of the Faith.

I say this not out of despair or pessimism. Quite the contrary. I say it because I believe the fields are ripe for the harvest. The fannies are in the seats. The hearts are hungry for something even if they don’t know what it is ("… till they rest in thee, O Lord").

The challenge for all those of us who love and care about the Body of Christ –- to the point where we have genuine zeal for souls -– is not to hash out issues on weblogs or in church basements. Don’g get me wrong -- these activities can be good and nourishing; some real community can come of them. But our real challenge is to witness the faith to the lukewarm, barely-with-the-program teeming masses so they have a chance to catch it. (There's truth in that there axiom "Faith isn't taught; it's caught.")

As the independents will decide between Bush and Kerry later this year –- not the Dems or the Repubs -– so will the future of the Body of Christ be determined, in large part, by who wins the hearts of the men, women and children in the vast, muddled middle. The bishops aren’t likely to reach the shoulder-shruggers no matter what they do or say. But we can.

Sam

Two potential reasons (not yet mentioned) for generally more conservative/orthodox bloggers:

(1) Blogging is more successful as a form when it engages in interesting argumentation; such argumentation is likely to be more appealing to the orthodox, who have and value the experience of intellectual conversion. Witness the large number of converts among the Catholic bloggers, for whom the Church's claim to consistency and truth is a large part of the initial appeal; I can't quite see how you'd get a parallel intellectual experience resulting in heterodoxy.

(2) The reinforcement effect: blogs are highly dependent on other blogs for material and reinforcing links. Hence, without any direct effort, a network effect could be helping to starve out the formation of liberal Catholic blogs.

Sulpicius Severus

David K. & jerry: I suppose I'm happy you derive pleasure from dismissing my comment off-hand. Might I kindly inquire, however, what is the Faith of your church -- the brick & mortar church where you receive the sacraments, the one where, God willing, you can find Our Lord present in the Tabernacle when the electricity goes out and the doors of "St. Blogs" are no longer open? Is it the Faith of "St. Blogs"/conservatives? Is it the Faith of McBride, Greeley, & co.?

jerry, you say the problem at your parish is "critical mass." So your only recourse, then, is "St. Blogs"? Why do you continue to go to your "critical mass" parish? If you kids are receiving inadequate instruction in, say a public school, would you not try alternatives (private school, home school)? Why, then, when your souls (and those of your families, if you have) are in the balance, do you continue to go to your brick & mortar church without protest? Are your comments on "St. Blogs" enough? Why no action to save your parish?

I'm resigned to the notion the two of you (and others) will dismiss my point of view outright without a second thought, but I hope you do ask yourself the serious questions about your Faith and your church; perhaps before Our Lord exposed in the Holy Sacrament, after Benediction. Or if He is not available to you in your brick & mortar church (the Novus Ordo pastor of our local Novus Ordo parish is dead set against Eucharistic Adoration; I pray it's not the case in your "critical mass" parish), perhaps in the solitude of your prayers and meditations, if not in the comment boxes of your digital parish. UIOGD,

David Kubiak

This thread has been entirely too conciliatory
about the deep divisions in the Church today. Contra Ms. Wadell, someone who is a 'genuine loving disciple and holds tenuously [was 'strenuously' not meant?] to bad theology' is to me a nice liberal Protestant. I leave it up to God to figure out a solution to the problem, but the faith of Cardinal Mahony as evinced in his infamous pastoral letter on the liturgy is not my faith, and I would be a liar if I tried to claim that it was. Amy put her finger on the crucial point. It used to be easy to say who a bad Catholic and a good Catholic was. The Church has for thirty years now been minded to tolerate such widely divergent attitudes and practices -- I see that the Pope has just praised that Neo-Catechumenate cult again -- that it has lost any claim it might once have asserted to intellectual consistency. The movie has made this glaringly clear. On what is the most crucial doctrine of Christianity my faith is closer to an Evangelical Protestant than to people like Fr. Greeley, who are members in good standint of this supposedly shared community of faith. I do not choose to press this fact to its logical conclusion, but it is naive to try and wish these contradicitons away.

mary

Gerrard E. wrote: "Its the libs who populates the classrooms and chanceries. The traditionalists, who became bloggers, were regularly shut out. The libs love meetings and policy papers and windy debate. The bloggers are loners and non-politicians. The libs tend to skew older. ... As though the lib careerists were willing to jeopardize their jobs during the redhot pedophile revelations. Bloggers tend to work elsewhere."


This is Christian sentiment? This is humility and love for your fellow?

Rod Dreher

Just read a bunch of posts, so maybe I'm mixing something up, but it seems to me that somebody just above said that when he went to a Catholic chat room or somesuch thing, he noticed that conservative and liberals talk past each other. That was my experience completely on the AOL Catholic discussion board 10 years ago, which led to the formation of the small e-mail list to which I still (!) belong -- some of those fine friends even came to my wedding, and one, a priest, even married my wife and me.

Anyway, our little group came together after dropping out of the AOL message board altogether, out of sheer frustration. We found we simply couldn't discuss much of anything with the liberals. Whenever an issue would come up, we'd march out the Catechism, encylicals, Scripture, you name it ... and none of that mattered to the liberals. As I recall, they would cite personal experience, or feelings, or "the spirit of Vatican II" -- and we had no real common ground on which to base a discussion.
It was like boxing a shadow, and it was immensely frustrating. I've had more fruitful dialogue with Evangelical Protestants, who at least recognize some external authority, and that theological truth is not entirely subjective.

Thinking of all this, I am reminded of the article Cardinal George wrote for Commonweal back in November of 1999 (I can't find it online), in which he explained what he meant by his much-quoted declaration that "liberal Catholicism is an exhausted project." As I recall, his point was that it is unable to reproduce itself, because it will not hold on to what is distinctly Catholic, and it cannot form a distinctly Catholic mind because it does not recognize boundaries. I was still a fairly new Catholic when I was participating in those AOL debates, and I remember thinking that my opponents belong to some other religion, because they seem to hold very few of the beliefs I hold, and indeed very few of the beliefs set out in the Catechism. And the key thing is, they didn't seem to think that was any big deal.

Naturally, the one that was the most far-out of the lot was educated by the Jebbies at Santa Clara University, and was really active in the institutional church. Seemed like a real nice guy. But not recognizably Catholic.

Patrick Quinlan

Amy,
I have certainly not read all of your material (what I've read I've liked), so you might have covered this question before, but as an Eastern Rite Catholic, who mentioned in an earlier comment that most disagreements are about liturgy, would you say that your Rite's liturgy has kept a healthier emphasis on God's transcendence/awe/majesty than the Roman Rite?
Peace,
Patrick

Carrie

A comment was made way up there somewhere that a friend emailed to me. This was it:

Nor is there anything inherent in the latter judgment that precludes my recognizing that he and I have, by grace, been made sons of the Father, and hence brethren, in Christ. And that how I deal with his heresy needs therefore to proceed from within that unity.

So "unity in diversity" has progressed to "unity in heresy"?

How nice for us.


Sherry Weddell

Dave P:

Re: your question: Sherry, correct me if I’m wrong, but in your travels, have you not found that only a tiny percentage of people in the parishes really care about liturgy? How many have read the Bible or Catechism? How many have paid subscriptions to Catholic publications? Aren’t most once-a-weekers who do their Sunday duty, dryly, so they don’t feel too much "Catholic guilt" the rest of the week?

Actually, after workshops in 46 US dioceses (which is about 1/4 of them) what really strikes me is how many spiritually hungry Catholic adults there are and how many are passionately trying to discern God's call.

Of course, those who come to our workshops are self-selected. Very few are there out of mere guilt and those who are (often because their pastor or spouse applied pressure) often tell us afterwards that they dreaded the weekend in anticipation but are now delighted that they came.

Those who come are often badly-formed, rather than unformed - because in their hunger, they turned to the readily available "spiritual" food that was right in front of them - which is seldom good solid Catholic fare. So they've been heavily influenced by evangelical Protestantism (many use the Called & Gifted as a way to return to the Church or to figure out what it means to be a Catholic once they have returned)or New Age or some other cultural thing. But that doesn't invalidate their desire for God or the power of grace in their lives. And their response to the whole wheat Bread of Life when it is offered to them is phenomenal. Revelation really is like "a two edged sword" and when offered with confidence and enthusiasm, speaks directly to the hearts of 21st century people.

Few care about liturgy in the way that some on this blog do but come on, folks, liturgy really is a pretty sophisticated and specialized concern. I know that *I'm* not concerned about (or knowledgable enough to make definite judgements on) liturgical matters in the way that some people who frequent these comment boxes are - and it doesn't make me any less orthodox or serious about my faith. Most people simply aren't called to it or equipped to wrestle with it. We're not supposed to be a church of liturgists.

Like most adults, my time and energy is limited. Since I show no signs of the charism of bi-location, I'm having to focus on mastering the narrow areas to which God has specifically called me. In this case, the theology and apostolic formation of the laity, redemption, and vocation - which is enough to keep my leetle grey cells moving at a brisk pace for the rest of my life. God bless those of you who are called to focus on liturgical matters.

Many who come to our workshops are involved in Bible study - the majority in Protestant run or flavored Bible studies that teach private interpretation because relatively few good Catholic materials intended for small groups are out there. Far fewer are studying the catechism although I met many individuals who do so by themselves.

And you know the most stunning thing? Although many have read the fine works of our Fearless Leader, almost no one I have met out there knows about St. Blogs! I have introduced dozens of people to the whole weblog phenomena as a side-line. Mark owes me a fat commission.


Neil Dhingra

Dear Rod,

Your mention of Cardinal George's 1999 Commonweal article actually reminded me of Peter Steinfels' response. Steinfels identified some problems in liberal Catholicism -"theological promiscuity" and an excessive reliance on "personal experience, witness and testimony" were distinctly mentioned. Most interestingly, however, he talked about a liberal Catholic "crisis of irony":

"... somewhere in the passage from 1968 to 1978, in the years of Pope Paul VI after Humanae vitae and of Richard Nixon before and after Watergate, and somewhere in the passage from liberal Catholicism to the Catholic left, irony seemed to disappear and a rather deadly earnestness took over. Many of the new recruits to the ranks of liberal Catholicism and the Catholic left changed their thoughts but not their way of thinking. A postconciliar triumphalism too often became the order of the day, with naysayers, doubters, and skeptics dismissed, ignored, or condemned as unspeakable reactionaries. Many sixties and postsixties movements of political and personal liberation were seized upon with no more than minor reservations. New therapeutic and spiritual practices replaced old devotions with a remarkable rapidity and parallel fervor. This was also the era that inspired the now well-worn quip about the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist--that you could negotiate with a terrorist.

"That wisecrack itself demonstrates that not everything escaped the ironical gaze or the skeptical comment. But that balking tended to be private and unofficial; publicly, it was muted by constant evocations of the bad old days and a fear that open criticism of others would only give ammunition to their conservative persecutors...

"Is it a lingering consequence of Catholicism's long-imposed isolation from modernity that liberal Catholicism and the Catholic left can sometimes exhibit so much innocence of (the twentieth century's) disillusioning history? It is legitimate for us to have sharpened the tools of the hermeneutic of suspicion, but we cannot wield them selectively. A sense of irony opens space for self-criticism in reviewing the results, planned and unanticipated, of postconciliar changes within the church and of the various postsixties quests for personal emancipation."

Perhaps the problem with liberal Catholicism is its distinct lack of irony; conservatives should then try to expose liberals to the historical depths and forgotten Christian witnesses that can give them the sort of self-critical irony that opens up to the freedom and responsibility of our living tradition. The question then is how best to go about doing this.

Neil

Sherry Weddell

Dave Kubiak:


Contra Ms. Wadell, someone who is a 'genuine loving disciple and holds tenuously [was 'strenuously' not meant?] to bad theology' is to me a nice liberal Protestant.

Ah Dave - you simply aren't being imaginative enough. So many Catholics' heads are full of several mutually contradictory worldviews simultaneously. Mere liberal Protestantism would be far too consistant. I met people who have somehow merged bits of pre-Vatican II Catholicism, fundamentalism, New Agy Buddhism, Pentecostalism, and pop psychology unconsciously into a quaint personal religion of their very own. I've fielded questions about reading auras and Nostradomus as well as the inevitable Enneagram, personal apparitions of our Lady, etc.

But while our heads are full of who knows what, it doesn't invalidate our attempts, however feeble, to respond to God's grace. Liberal Protestants *can* be genuine disciples of Jesus Christ, however their theology may make me shudder. Come on, people, when Jesus talked in Matthew 25 about what would keep us out of "the joy of the Lord" he didn't mention theology or liturgy. What is essential is that each of us respond *now* to grace we have been given.

Dave, I have dedicated my whole life to making really good, really Catholic formation available to lay Catholics at the local level. You know what my laughably modest goal is? to evangelize and form 100 million Catholics! (You get 10%, you get em all, right?) I am literally the last person on the planet to underestimate the importance of good catechesis and effective evangelism.

But good catechesis is just a tool, not the end. The end is sharing in the life of the Blessed Trinity itself. All of us who reach the Beatific Vision will find that we have entertained a host of ludicrous notions about God and his purposes during our earthly lifetimes. We might as well get used to the idea here.

Liam

It's time for another homily from Br. Giles.

Rod Dreher

I know what Sherry means when she says most people really don't pay attention to liturgy. And indeed it's not the main thing; one thing that's kept me at arm's length from the Tridentine mass crowd is how they seem to regard the old mass as a sort of magical incantation, almost an idol. I've detected a gnostic disdain for Novus Ordo Catholics among some in this crowd, as if they (we) were somehow inferior.

Nevertheless, there's no denying that the atmosphere at the Tridentine rite is so very much different, and much more elevated, than at almost every Novus Ordo you'll attend. I worshiped for three years at a Maronite parish in Brooklyn, where our liturgy was in English and Aramaic, and I tell you, it was phenomenal how sacred and mystical the atmosphere created by that liturgy was. It made it almost painful to go back to the Novus Ordo.

(BTW, when Fr. Paul Weinberger here in Dallas would celebrate the Novus Ordo in Latin, you'd get that same sense of sacred mystery. Naturally, Bishop Grahmann couldn't stand that, and suppressed it).

Now, my guess is that most people don't really pay attention to liturgy, as Sherry said. But whether they are conscious of it or not, the liturgy sets the tone for the mass. You couldn't walk into an Eastern Rite or Eastern Orthodox parish and observe 10 minutes of their liturgies without seeing how dramatically different -- and dramatically better, IMHO -- their liturgies are at orienting ones mind and senses to the holy.

Rod Dreher

I do believe that it's a tragedy -- I choose the word carefully -- that so much liberal Catholicism has gone totally off the rails theologically. In my 11 years as a Catholic, I've learned a lot about the limitations and defects of me and my tribe of orthodox RCs, the Daddy Catholics -- limitations and defects that liberals, the Mommy Catholics, would ameliorate in a healthy church body.

I'm generalizing here, but I can say without fear of serious contradiction that many of us on the right tend to be overly focused on the Law, so to speak, and in that our vice is Pharisaism. Until the scandal, I was quick to want to find out if a given priest or bishop was "orthodox," and if they were, I didn't question much further. I see now that I had a rather Manichaean view of the Church, and it didn't quite occur to me that Jesus' constant warnings to the Pharisees not to become whitewashed sepulchers might have something to do with my tribe, those of us who were sticklers for liturgy and dogma, but who were less critically observant about how the faith was actually lived out in spirit.

Fr. Tom Doyle's example, in particular (but there are others), made a profound impression on me. Fr. Doyle, as most people know, has traveled very far from the strongly orthodox priest he was back in the mid-1980s, when he first began to get detailed information about the abuse crisis. My tribe is very, very quick to dismiss Fr. Doyle as a liberal, and he is a liberal, but as someone who is more intimately familiar with the burden of knowledge he carries about Church corruption and the effect of sexual molestation on children and families, I am skeptical of how well any of us on the Catholic Right would have carried his burden and kept our orthodoxy intact. I know only the tiniest fraction of what Fr. Doyle knows, and I myself went through a terrible crisis of faith back in the fall of 2002. And the little bit I know is a lot more than most Catholics do.

Anyway, Fr. Doyle, virtually alone among priests (though there have been others, and no doubt there have been those whose names we'll never know, but Jesus does), sacrificed a great deal to reach out and help those victims at a time when my tribe, most of us, was busy trying to deny what was happening, and lecturing others about orthodoxy, standing by orthodox bishops, yadda yadda. I used to look up to Cardinal Law as a model of orthodoxy; all that mattered to me was that he was tight with the Pope, and that he stood up to the hated Bernardin. And that's all I thought I needed to know. Well, I was terribly wrong.

Fr. Doyle is my friend, and I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide him to truth. It is a false dichotomy to say that one can be either orthodox or caring, but not both. We are required to be both. Yet when I come before the Great Judge, I would find it easier to explain to Him why I failed to believe all that I was supposed to believe as a Catholic than why I failed to aid and comfort and defend raped children and their families. Living through the scandal convinced me that for many of us orthodox -- me chief among them -- living the Catholic faith was little more than praying in a proper way, holding the correct opinions, and keeping our pants up if unmarried, and the condoms out of the bedroom if we were married. And that is Pharisaism.

I have a lot to learn from liberal Catholics in that regard. I am unwilling to condemn them all as I used to be. I know real heroes who are liberal Catholics, and I see in some cases them showing an active love of the poor that I tend not to see among our tribe. Again, I'm generalizing, so don't be quick to take offense. I know I lack conversion in that area, and I need their witness to lead me to truth. Unfortunately, because in my experience so many of them have cut themselves off from the Church as Teacher, I find myself in real conflict with them, and unable to join hands in any but the most tentative way, because I feel that too often we're not really of the same religion. If it's true that conservatives need to learn that holding correct belief is insufficient, it is also true that liberals need to learn that correct belief is necessary. But I almost never see that kind of humility from liberal Catholics.

Michael Tinkler

I buy the simple, demographic, "they're older and FAR less computer competent" explanation found above. There are lots of other reasons, but I like that one best because it makes me feel younger and smarter as well as more orthodox!

RP Burke

"Whenever an issue would come up, we'd march out the Catechism, encylicals, Scripture, you name it ... and none of that mattered to the liberals. As I recall, they would cite personal experience, or feelings, or 'the spirit of Vatican II' -- and we had no real common ground on which to base a discussion.
It was like boxing a shadow, and it was immensely frustrating."

A fair criticism of the Catholic left. A priest once my pastor and now Amy's put it succinctly in a homily: in his loudest voice of the day, "We stand for something!" A lot of folks on my side of the church spectrum seem to forget that, or think it means "We stand exclusively for what I think we should stand for."

Donald R. McClarey

Unusual and good to see a thread of this length that hasn't degenerated into a quasi flame war. In addition to my own belief that orthodox Catholics simply outnumber their heterodox counterparts, I think it is also the case that the orthodox who blog are used to defending their beliefs against an often hostile world and sometimes a hostile, or uninviting, parish. Heterodox Catholics agree much more with what passes for common wisdom among the chattering classes. If you don't defend your beliefs frequently, one's debating skills atrophy, and you certainly don't seek out an opportunity on the blogs to engage in give and take with others eager to expound their views.

Todd

Peace, all.

Scattered comments from loose threads:

Schismatics are more personae non grata in the same way a person gets more incensed over a close family member's minor indiscretion as opposed to a stranger's felony. It's just a interpersonal/sociological reality.

I know the USCCB poured a ton of loot into media. They still missed the boat. They needed a leader and a direction more than the cash.

The divisiveness that underscores the Catholic undercurrent (as well as the open stream in St Blog's) is a scandal. I fear it will get worse before it heals. I call as evidence the recent St Blog's People's Choice awards: that Mark Shea's vituperative blog would landslide out our host here, despite her more thoughtful and clearly superior writing. And again, the name-calling in this thread alone: anti-christs, infamous, and the like. People get angry. They take it out on other people. It's an indulgence in passions, a warm-fuzzy for the outraged gut.

People who use such language in regard to "others" who happen also to be good Catholics, has simply rejected St Paul. "Orthodoxy," which used to mean something as a theological term, has now become a justification for saying, "I don't need this eye, this hand, etc."

Liam started an outstanding thought above. Most progressives would agree with his approach to sacramentality. I certainly find my views totally congruent to Liam's in this matter. I would underscore the value of reconciliation as a general approach that does not dovetail much from a Sacramental approach.

I have not been perfect in the regard of welcoming all Catholics into "my fold." But I do it a good bit better than most, I think. I disagree with Cardinal George that liberalism has spent itself. A new Catholic liberalism will need to address the sacramental issues Liam suggests. It will need to address its obvious shortcomings as well. For St Blog's, we too will need to address our failings. Otherwise, we will get stuck in another self-congratulatory koffee-klatch, just like Amy's diocesan experiences.

Despite the flaws, I see St Blog's as an authentically post-conciliar Church. Its challenge to authority (on both sides) is a welcome gift. If we could get beyond the name-calling, I think we'd be on better ground.

And Anna, remember, you are living in a Vatican II church. Just start something if you think it's a need.

Liam

Rod:

A wonderful pair of reflections. Thank you.

To continue my prior thought in a way that might help you engage the liberal Catholics you encounter re correct belief.

If Truth is a Person -- namely, Christ -- with an objective identity, then subjectivizing truth does violence to Christ, personally. This, I find, gets liberal Catholics (starting with myself) thinking about the idea of seeking objective truth so as not to do violence to Christ personally. (Starting with truth merely as an assent to concepts does not invite this reflection, by contrast). This approach has the virtue of being seen as an invitation rather than a demand to Agree With Me, the latter approach being usually a bad one for a variety of people all over the spectrum.

Liam

Rod:

A wonderful pair of reflections. Thank you.

To continue my prior thought in a way that might help you engage the liberal Catholics you encounter re correct belief.

If Truth is a Person -- namely, Christ -- with an objective identity, then subjectivizing truth does violence to Christ, personally. This, I find, gets liberal Catholics (starting with myself) thinking about the idea of seeking objective truth so as not to do violence to Christ personally. (Starting with truth merely as an assent to concepts does not invite this reflection, by contrast). This approach has the virtue of being seen as an invitation rather than a demand to Agree With Me, the latter approach being usually a bad one for a variety of people all over the spectrum.

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