At the risk of trying readers’ patience, I would like to raise a question about the Obama Dame controversy: Why is this news? I believe it was Richard Gaillardetz who wrote several years ago about the tendency on the Internet toward the online establishment of an ad hoc magisterium, preoccupied with making sure that, on behalf of the web-reading public, No Magisterial Utterance Is Left Behind.
In the online conversations regarding this recent controversy, and more generally in the broader online bloggish Catholic newsy conversations in the last few years, I’ve noticed a mirror image of that preoccupation with Magisterium: a seemingly insatiable appetite (whether in celebration or denunciation) for news of the doings of prelates.
I have never met Rocco Palmo, but it seems as if "Whispers in the Loggia" sets the pace for what counts as conversations of moment about Catholicism online. I admire and marvel at the sweat, discretion, and savvy it must take to do the kind of reporting he does. Yet, when I read "Whispers," or see "Whispers"-like preoccupations (which prelates said what about whom, with what effects--and often, wearing what?) in Catholic conversations online, I am reminded of nothing so much as the myriad celebrity gossip and critique sites which are the bloggish analogue to these Catholic preoccupations. Cardinal so-and-so as the Catholic Paris Hilton.
I know, I know: if we in the blogosphere didn’t worry about these things, who would? But I wonder if we do so at the expense of forgetting that going online with Catholic news and criticism not only affords an opportunity for "reportage" and "commentary" on an already-extant and presumably predefined Catholic world, consisting disproportionately of the doings of prelates, but also affords an utterly new occasion for the decentralization of what counts as Catholic news, reportage, and comment. The Catholic newso/blogo/sphere can in this way make its own unique contribution to the emerging turn in ecclesiology toward an ethnographic consciousness, the view from below, the particular.
If a condemnation falls in Indiana and bloggers don’t respond, is it still a condemnation?
Hastings-on-Hudson, New York