Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Fr Rosica: are liberal and conservative blogs cesspools of venom, hatred, and vitriol?

Conflict is inevitable. Here is the Oxford Pro-life Witness last Saturday, with attendant
counter-demonstration, who try to stop us praying by playing music.
Never one to ignore the mote in someone else's eye, Fr Dwight Longenecker has used comments by Fr Thomas Rosica about how horrid the internet can be to attack 'traditionalists', and lists his least favourite blogs as examples.

It is interesting to note, however, that Fr Rosica does not single out traditionalists, and I think it is extremely unlikely that he has ever sampled the wares of little-read, marginal figures like Mundabor, 'Novus Ordo Watch', and 'TradCathKnight', mentioned by Longenecker. The Crux article reporting his remarks noted, instead, his conflict with 'conservative and pro-life' sites. This is Fr Rosica's description of what he doesn't like:

the obsessed, scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering virtual guardians of faith or of liturgical practices are very disturbed, broken and angry individuals, who never found a platform or pulpit in real life and so resort to the Internet and become trolling pontiffs and holy executioners!

Obviously, that can apply across the spectrum of opinion. Fr Rosica's personal conflicts aside, the interesting question is where we find this kind of 'venom, hatred, and vitriol' among those who are widely read, who are taken seriously, who are respected as mainstream voices among their ideological fellow-travellors: as opposed to those who are not.

What I mean is: Mundabor and the others are not linked to, praised, or even discussed by other traditional Catholic blogs and publications. They are simply not part of the conversation. They are useful only to the enemies of the traditional cause as alleged examples of trads being strange. But they aren't good examples of that, because they are so out of the mainstream, even among trads. They don't represent anyone.

Fr Longenecker's inclusion of OnePeterFive in this list can be put down, charitably, to ignorance. Unlike with some of the other sites he mentions, he is unable to think of anything they've said which puts them into this category. Fr Longenecker really should be more careful about detraction.

So what about blogs and sites, and for that matter hard-copy periodicals, conferences, and books, which are linked to, quoted, and respected by people with a similar overall world-view? Let me give some examples of venom, hatred, and vitriol. As you read them, ask yourself if, supposing the judgements they are making are accurate, is this be the best way to discuss important and sensitive issues with charity and reason?

1. 'The author of the piece hates Francis with a white hot passion, a fact that must be as surely known to her editors as to anyone else with a pulse capable of reading her many literary acts of voiding her rheum in the Holy Father’s face.'

2. (Talking about people attending the Traditional Mass.) [They look] like an escapee from an Amish farm. If mainstream Catholics who attend usus antiquior Masses feel as though they have landed on the set of a movie based in a nineteenth-century American mid-west or Pennsylvanian town, populated by Protestants who have a problem with modern forms of transport...

3. (Critics of female altar servers):
a) 'dissidents', 'rubricists', 'ideologues' and 'misogynists'
b) [they should] 'abandon the Church and join the SSPX', [they are] 'not on [Pope] Benedict's team'

4.  [The] monstrously over-intellectual new English translation of the Roman Missal, which far from furnishing us with a ‘grammar of simplicity’, obfuscates the whole Mass through tortuous constructions, contorted vocabulary, and a plethora of dependant clauses.

5. (Talking about bishops.) a few members of the Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales ... are the most secretive, devious, duplicitous and schemingly oily inside operators I have ever come across.

These are playground insults. It should be obvious that this kind of thing makes sensible discussion harder, nor easier. It deepens divisions, it embitters differences of opinion, it obscures common ground, and it makes mutual understanding, let alone reconciliation, more difficult. And yet in each of these cases the quotations are taken from settings respected by their favoured section of opinion in the Church, whether that be neo-conservative or liberal. None of the authors need fear being thrown off a major blog, or excluded from a prestigious periodical, for this language. On the contrary, mainstream conservatives and liberals just smile at this stuff and turn the page.

For the most part, it only traditional Catholics who get worked up about such things, and take steps to turn their backs on blogs and writers who have lost the plot. This is partly because it is only traditional Catholics who are held to account, who are tarred by association with such writers.

To give an example (here's another), I was never a regular reader of Mundabor, and didn't have a detailed idea of his views, but when I saw him, back in 2013, defending the 1944 Ardeantine Massacre - out of some kind of sympathy for the methods of the Nazi occupiers of Italy at that time - I just dismissed him from my thoughts. I wasn't the only one: I can't think of a reference to him among trads on social media since then. He can go on writing his blog till doomsday, but as far as the traditional Catholic scene goes, he has effectively vanished. This is just good housekeeping. It is something neo-conservative and liberal Catholics need to learn how to do.

So: who are those people I was quoting above?

1. Mark Shea: 'conservative' Catholic blogger.
2. Prof Tracey Rowland: 'conservative' Catholic theologian.
3. a) Dr John Casey: liberal Catholic academic, writing in The Tablet.
3. b) Stuart Reid: 'conservative' weekly columnist in The Catholic Herald.
4. Mgr Basil Loftus, weekly columnist in The Catholic Times, published with ecclesiastical approval and sold in churches.
5. Fr Dwight Longenecker: the man himself

Examples could be multiplied, ad nauseam.

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  1. No they are anti-venom. Those that don't succumb to the venom develop resistance and produce antibodies from which anti venom is made. Long live the resistance!

  2. As someone who maintains a small and insinificant blog on the outermost fringes of Catholic respectability, I didn't mind Fr. Rosica's string of insults. I try to remain charitable in my writing, even towards those I suspect of material heresy, but I'm far from perfect in the practice of the requisite virtues for impartial, unpolemical Catholic blogging. What bothered me is that his insults appeared in the context of his being awarded for his skills as a communicator. The hypocrisy approached the unbearable when America Magazine, immediately after quoting Fr. Rosica's rant, followed up with this gem:

    "In this Year of Mercy, Catholic communicators have a special responsibility to model the merciful relationships they seek to encourage in others."

  3. I think you make some good points, Mr Shaw. Neither extreme has red itself in glory of late and I can think of a group of four - two from each side - who seem to have descended into a spiral of mutual abuse and invective. I have stepped aside until it calms down.

    One thing - while I understand your point about Mark Shea's accusation, did you READ what Ann Bernhard said? She was (and still is) absolutely appalling; she describes the Pope as a "fag hag". And yet she is allowed to post that sort of venom on The Remnant and is at least referred or linked to by OnePeterFive. One may find oneself being judged by the company one keeps...

    As for Mundabor - I fear that I have seen him referred to more often than you have, it would appear. And at least one person associated with your organisation has done so. He's still about - but, like you, he could be in a different ocean from me, such is the width of the berth I give him.

    But thanks for being a reliable oasis of sanity in a noxious desert that seems to have sprung up over the last few months. Even when I don't agree with you (fewer occasions, of late - I must be mellowing in my advancing years!) I respect the manner in which you put forward your arguments and that the considered and substantiated basis on which you do so.

    1. Mark Shea wasn't writing about Ann Bernhard and the Remnant. Follow the link to see the context.

    2. I beg your pardon. The link wasn't immediately apparent to me - I pressed repeatedly on the quote but noting happened!

      I have read the column you linked to - your own - but I haven't read further for the context. I will say, however, that it looks intemperate.

      Although I misattributed the target of the attack, it does remain true that Ms Bernhard is hosted and quote by The Remnant and has been referred to approvingly by 1P5. Her columns are at the cesspool end of the spectrum, IMHO.

      With best wishes

  4. Dr. Shaw,

    Rorate Caeli - which can be claimed to be a mainstream traditional Catholic blog, and a site to which you contribute occasionally, does link to Mundabor.

    In my opinion, this post demonstrates how some "mainstream" traditional Catholic commentators, evidently appalled by blunt language, fail to understand that the Church is comprised of sundry personality types with their correspondingly sundry modes of expression when defending the Church against Her enemies, without and within. True, not all less-read traditional Catholic blogs always get it right, but to focus on this and use it as an excuse to dismiss them in entirety does not hold water.

    Based on this analysis, we might as well dismiss John the Baptist and his harsh words against Herod. Or how about this phrase from the New Testament: "The dog is back at his own vomit again" (2 Peter 2:22). Not pleasant.

    If present in the audience, would a contemporary "mainstream" traditional Catholic commentator be embarrassed or cringe by the sight of Belloc (member of Parliament) - a blunt writer himself, considered distasteful and brutish to not a few - pulling out his Rosary and declaring his fealty to Catholicism in a public speech? It's a fair question, methinks.

    Taking matters in a wider context, in my view this post is unwittingly setting up a false antagonism between that severity and discernible sense of crisis in the writings of, say, St. Augustine versus the calm, serene, sequential writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. Both are giants of the Faith.

    Harsh and blunt language comes from all sides, this is a fact. Although, the "mainstream" traditional blogs (good) contra obscure, mostly unread traditional blogs (bad) is a red herring. Truth is truth, and whether it is expressed straightforwardly or in a manner more discreet or with a "civil" tone is largely irrelevant, especially now in the age of Francis where the post-Conciliar implosion is accelerating at a dizzying rate. Also, readership, large or small, is irrelevant.

    A traditional Catholic - remaining silent for years while seeing everything collapse around him, emasculated and apostate bishops omnipresent - suddenly comes up to me, angry, frustrated, "fed up", screaming that liturgical dance is irreverent, disgusting and mocks Holy Mass. I may not like his manner of expression, but what he speaks is the truth. And I cannot in the least blame this so-called "angry Trad" (i.e. obscure blogger) for an alleged lack of civility considering how Traditional Catholics - the minority when contrasted with the Modernists and Neo-Catholics - have been vilified, suppressed and persecuted since Vatican II. A distinction must be made, and it is an error when one's personal sense of being affronted is elevated above the truth being enunciated.

    As a blogger myself, I am honoured *not* to be one of those "widely read, who are taken seriously, who are respected as mainstream voices ". Thank you for keeping me in my place.

    There is a degree of snootiness here, a whiff of un-Catholic English elitism in this post, a dismissiveness of those in lower stations in life, that would best be left for cocktail parties in London's west end.

    1. You seem to have missed the point of this post quite spectacularly.

    2. Joseph.I agree with TH2 on this!The Catholic Church has failed miserably to teach the faith over the last forty to fifty years and we have suffered pathetic Liturgy and deplorable Heretical teaching for years.If i mentioned who the Mystical Body of Christ is no one would know what i am talking about.!Mundabor is a brilliant blog-he speaks the Truth while the intellectual weaklings and heretics in Rome spout undiluted bile.God Bless.

    3. I have to agree with TH2 as well. This catering to the modern sensibility of "being nice" and calling anything else "lack of charity" has to stop. Its like the ultimate ad hominem. Today, a person can present an entire argument but he will simply be dismissed by the other person as lacking in charity, as if that had any effect on the validity of the argument.

  5. I don't know much about this mundabor person, but the link you provided to his blog seems to talk about giving a funeral to someone who seems to have manifestly repented? What is so bad about it that you would want to distance yourself from the author?

    On the particular matter you speak of in this post, I think there is a tendency today more than anytime in history perhaps, to attack the person rather than the arguments or facts they present. So the center of attention tends to be whether the person was "nice" in the way they presented, or "avoided confrontation", came across as "loving" etc.

    When the truth of the matter is, none of those are really important as long as the message is clearly articulated. Do trads tend to include a bit of punch in their writings? They probably do, but that is probably due to the fact that they are more familiar with doing so. Unlike people of today, our ancestors were pretty blunt when they spoke and this type of speaking tends to be considered offensive in our modern culture. Even your own blog may have been deemed offensive by many Catholics for the same reason.

    Also, its not like the average Catholic is going to read a trad blog and become a traditional Catholic. Usually, these blogs cater to those who are already in the group and are looking for others who share their concerns. If someone comes looking for good reasons to become a trad, they aren't going to be too concerned about the bluntness present in them. They might even find it a bit refreshing. I know I do.

    1. Do you think it is traddy bloggers I'm criticising in this post?

      And do you actually want to defend the morality of killing civilians?

    2. Hold on a bit there! I am not defending the morality of killing civilians. The point is, I do not see the author of that post doing so either. Perhaps you are referring to his very first paragraph. In that case, this is my 2 cents.

      According to your wiki article, there seems to be some debate on how to view the original act committed on the Germans that provoked retaliation. Some view it as an act of terrorism while others as an act of war.

      The author Mundabor points out that the killing of three dozen unarmed German troops was something wrong. So he seems to be a person that takes the position that it was an act of terrorism. According to the wiki article you cited, it appears to be the case that he was not the only one who thought that way. Even Pope Pius XII seemed to have shared a similar opinion. Then the author seems to take the stance that given this was an act of terrorism, it did call for a retaliation to maintain the peace. I don't think that necessarily means he approves all the exact details of the retaliation.

      At the end of the day, I don't even know this Mundabor person personally and I haven't read his other posts to make a conclusion on his sanity. So I don't really have any stake on whether people consider him to be a nutty trad who has gone over the edge. Maybe he is.

      But I just thought I'd point out that he hasn't really said anything that is completely insane. He just seems to take a position that one would not usually take upon first hearing the event. I do think that his reasoning is based on a unclear point on how to delineate an act of terrorism from an act of war in such a situation.

      But even then, it wasn't really the focus of his post too.

    3. There's nothing unclear about it. The 'retaliation' he defends as justified was the killing of civilians. End of story.

    4. I'm not sure this particular part of the discussion is going down the right rabbit hole...

      T-C: as someone who is at least familiar with the writings of Mundabor over a number of years, I have to stand with Joseph Shaw. Mundy (as some of us came to call him) is a bit "outre" - although without the vitriol and foul language deployed by some.

    5. Dr. Shaw,

      If I may ask, did you ask Mundabor about your perceived view? Did you ask him to clarify whether he meant he was OK with the killing of civilians or whether he was OK with the idea of punishing terrorists? If you did not, what is this claim from you here about end of story? If indeed you asked him to clarify and he made it clear that he was all for taking innocent civilians to a cave and shooting them dead in piles, I think this is far from the end of story.

      Think about it Dr. Shaw. The core argument in the article you cited was of something completely different from that which you got fixated on. I think that might be a hint...

    6. Ruari,

      I understand that this guy "Mundy" might actually be insane. But I am just pointing out that the idea that he is OK with killing innocent civilians might be unwarranted. I actually read the article after reading this post by Dr. Shaw because of the magnitude of the assertion. To my surprise, it wasn't really as Dr. Shaw said. Granted, the sentence structure of the first paragraph was a mess and it took me a little bit of time to actually grasp what he was saying. Still, afterward, it did not feel like this guy was actually advocating cold blooded murder. He seemed more concerned about a repentant person getting a funeral, which, didn't sound so bad.

      But yes, I guess this discussion is really of not that much value. Mundy might be still very much insane even though he doesn't advocate the killing of innocent civilians :) So it would certainly seem a moot point to exonerate him of one charge....

    7. T-C it is not unclear. The context at the time helped perhaps. I am not in any doubt about what he meant and in any case I wasn't in the business of delating him or accusing him of heresy. It is just a matter of saying to myself: here's someone I don't want to have much more to do with, thanks very much.

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  7. I think this is a well written post and makes some very good points.

    It is worth remembering that this robust language (call it vitriol if you must) comes from all corners. It isn't something restricted to "traddy blogs".

    Our own Holy Father has himself dealt out as much as anyone. My own favourite is "Journalists sometimes risk becoming ill from coprophilia and thus fomenting coprophagia".

    I think it is interesting that Fr. Longenecker is more concerned with robust language than the content matter. Fr. Rosica has time and time come out with comments that certainly don't strike me as being Catholic. What causes more harm, Fr. Rosica leading people astray or people calling him out on it robustly?

    What is the bigger issue, Fr. James Martin undermining the Catholic faith at every step, or bloggers angrily reacting? I am personally of the very strong view that Fr. James Martin is far more divisive and causes far more harm than any "traddy blogger" does.