The National Catholic Review

The Vatican is hosting a blog conference.  Sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture and Social Communications, the invitation-only meeting, scheduled for May 2, will “allow for a dialogue between bloggers and Church representatives, to listen to the experiences of those who are actively involved in this arena, and to achieve a greater understanding of the needs of that community,” said the council in a statement. 

Not a moment too soon.  The Catholic blogosphere is an immensely powerful tool for evangelization. The best blogs point Catholics to news items that might be otherwise overlooked, to resources that might be underappreciated and to personal stories from Catholic individuals that can inspire, challenge and provoke.  At its worst, though, the Catholic blogosphere is an arena for a self-appointed magisterium to engage in snarky commentary, judge without evidence and condemn with nary a thought for a person’s reputation.  One wonders when reading these condemnations: I seem to have missed the conclave that elected you as pope.  Or: When were you appointed to the CDF?  Some Catholic blogs are also so vituperative that they barely seem Christian, and hardly present a good public face for the church.  Who would want to join such a group?  What’s more, a few bloggers seem solely interested in “inside-baseball” Catholicism (I'm guilty of this myself sometimes), which the Pontifical Council has noted. “One of the things we are a little bit aware of is that sometimes the Catholic blogosphere can become a bit of a ghetto…rather than engaging in the world outside,” said Richard Rouse, an official from the Pontifical Council. 

So two good goals for Catholics bloggers (and for us here at "In All Things" of course!): Engage the world outside, be charitable to the world inside.  Actually vice versa is pretty good advice as well.

Comments

Anonymous | 4/18/2011 - 10:00pm
So, Father is "In All Things" bound for Rome?
Anne Chapman | 4/16/2011 - 3:10pm
Re Fr. Barron's video.  He  admits that God is not limited by the rules and rituals and teachings of the Roman Catholic church and that the Roman Catholic church (RCC) does not tell God who should get grace and who shouldn't.  So far so good.  Then he says that only the RCC has the ''fullness'' of God's grace.  That contradicts his earlier acknowledgment that God's grace is given by God alone and nobody tells God who gets it or ''how much'', implying that there are indeed RCC-defined ''limits'' to God's grace.  He may believe personally that the RCC is the ''only'' place that one can find the ''fullness'' of God's grace. That is his opinion, and there are probably about 5 billion people in the world who would find his opinion to be of no more import than his opinion on which color is the 'prettiest'' color. He carefully frames the discussion as to why people leave the RCC to acknowledging the failures of the men in leadership, but tossing it all aside since humanity is sinful, and he says also some leave because the folks in Rome made a major PR gaffe in equating women's ordination with sexual perversion.  He does not acknowledge that this is far more than a PR gaffe - it indicates what Rome truly believes. He does not ackowledge that others (including theologians) believe that this teaching is a man-made construct. Those who leave the church over it (and what it reveals about the men in Rome's views of women), believe that the church's stance on women's ordination is not supported by scripture (a conclusion shared by a group of noted theologians commissioned by the Vatican to study the issue.) They leave because they see this teaching as also being un-Christian, and an injustice, which makes the teaching itself sinful- far more than a PR gaffe. IOW, Fr. Barron carefully avoids discussing the substance of why people leave the RCC and simply repeats the arguments of countless other conservative commentators in the church.  All in all, the presentation was pretty shallow.

Millions have left the church, and many more leave every single day.  If their experience with the RCC has convinced them that the RCC is not a place to find the ''fullness'' of God's grace, but instead has become an obstacle in their spiritual journey, they leave.
Anne Chapman | 4/16/2011 - 1:43pm
Brett,

Thank you for your response.   You began with '''However, many Catholic commentators ARE at publicly at odds with the Magisterium and reject the teaching of the church simply due to political ideology, pride, anti-authority tendencies etc. etc. '.  You then modified this statement by introducing the word ''some'' - an improvement.  You have ''liberalized'' a bit more in saying ''It is not my place to distinguish between appropriate protests and open dissent in regards to the teachings on faith and morals.  If you say that it is your conscience requires you to leave the Church or oppose certain teachings, I will respect your free will and not try to assign motive - that is, I will take you at your word.  '' 

This is good progress! You have acknowledged that it is not up to you to judge others, nor to judge the motives of others - whether people dissent due to ''pride etc'' or whether they dissent due to conscience, especially since there is seldom any way of knowing for sure what motivates the dissent of any individual Catholic without close personal friendship.  It will improve discussion if those who call themselves ''faithful'' (implying that those who dissent are not ''faithful'' - Newman was not faithful?)  refrain from judging others in the church whose views differ from their own.  There is actually very little in church teachings that is ''infallibly'' taught (and many Catholics join Kung in rejecting the definition of infallibility of Pius IX. It is worthwhile thinking about Kung - one of the most famous theologians alive today notoriously and openly dissents from what some believe is a fundamental, must-believe teaching.  And yet the men in Rome have not excommunicated him nor have they removed his priestly faculties - worth reflecting on), and there is a hierarchy of ''truths.''  (Interesting concept, that, when you think about it).  When I (or anyone else) dissent from a church teaching, I do not ask you to agree with me. I do ask you not judge me nor label me nor impugn my motives.  It seems that you are willing to do that. If both ''progressives'' and ''conservatives'' would agree to it, discussions of church issues might be more fruitful.

Thank you, Brett.  I will respond to Fr. Barron's video and the issue of ''individualism'' in another post.
Anonymous | 4/16/2011 - 12:34pm
Personally, I criticize hyper-individualism of the left and right, i.e. laissez faire sexuality/morality and laissez faire economics (they are very much related).

As for encyclicals Caritas en Veritate would be the one for this subject.
Jeffrey Connors | 4/16/2011 - 11:12am
''INDIVIDUALISM. The philosophy that places the interests of each person above the welfare of society. It is the subordination of the common good of many to the private good of the individual. In practice it is the sacrifice of social values to the personal desires of those who are most aggressive in demanding that society recognize their individual liberty.''

Amen to that, but this is very interesting...  When it comes to critical thought, individualism is being criticized here, but when it comes to economics, the folks who come here on a regular basis to put the full court press on these lefty Jesuits at America, straightening them out from their collectivist ways on every single post related to public policy, are all for it. 

Whether the influence is coming from from the Tea Party, the Acton Institute, or the neo-con revisionist histories written by the likes of Jonas Goldberg and Michael Burleigh, or Lord knows where else (anywhere but the scriptures or the entire history of Catholic social thought), it's been made manifestly clear that enlightened self interest is the one and only path to follow, not communitarianism.  Ayn Rand would be proud.  Question it, and they hide it under the catch-all fig leaf term of ''subsidiarity.''  It makes it sound as if they've read and cared about an encyclical or two.
Anonymous | 4/16/2011 - 1:48am
Sorry this is so late! 

Basically, I agree with Mr. Ivereigh:

"The ecclesiological question, however, needs to be faced. The object of the Magisterium, exercised by the Pope and his bishops (with guidance from Vatican dicasteries such as the CDF), is to settle arguments over doctrine that might otherwise plunge a billion Catholics into endless energy-sapping disputes and parties. It's the task of the teaching authorities, and theirs alone, to determine who is in and who is out. Once they have declared someone to be dissenting from church teaching, then to call that person is a dissenter is a statement of fact; but if they haven't, no Catholic can assume the right to do so."

It is not my place to distinguish between appropriate protests and open dissent in regards to the teachings on faith and morals.  If you say that it is your conscience requires you to leave the Church or oppose certain teachings, I will respect your free will and not try to assign motive - that is, I will take you at your word. 

However, that does not mean that others required to accept such dissent as legitmate if only because the individual conscience can be - even with the best of intentions (via study, prayer, and reflection) - misguided or malformed by any variety of influences at the end of the day.  This is not a personal jab, it is simply a view of the history (e.g., utopian tendencies of our past century were always done in the name of freeing men and individual conscience)

As for individualism, I suppose that I would briefly say that it is the very foundation of our current culture of criticism: the very modern idea that everything must be questioned and deconstructed and that all ancient traditions/customs/limits removed in the name of human progress and knowledge.  The old slogans from the 60's come to mind: "it is forbidden to forbid!" or "question authority!"  They were correct to seek a type of individual authenticity; however, they went to far in the name of the atomized freedom of the modern individual.  It is a mix of the worst aspects of the enlightenment and the romantic period.

In any case, I will sign off with some Chesterton that should remind us of our current human condition:  "We're all in the same boat, and we are all sea sick."
Anonymous | 4/15/2011 - 10:41pm
Dear Father: Sometimes I feel like Ignatius on that donkey when people were insulting the Blessed Virgin Mary! It quickened a murderous impulse in Ignatius. Well, these sort of things can induce similar inclinations in those of us who wish we were further along in our spiritual life.

Tomorrow is St. Bernadette's Feast Day. Happy Feast Day St. Bernadette. This is for you, Padre: http://youtu.be/j_ZkdV0Q-hc
Anonymous | 4/15/2011 - 4:13pm
@ Brett: Thank you for the video. Yes, She is still our Mother.

@ Anne: I thought I would help Brett out here. The Modern Catholic Dictionary provides us with this definition of individualsim:


INDIVIDUALISM. The philosophy that places the interests of each person above the welfare of society. It is the subordination of the common good of many to the private good of the individual. In practice it is the sacrifice of social values to the personal desires of those who are most aggressive in demanding that society recognize their individual liberty.

Brett may have other ideas.
Anne Chapman | 4/15/2011 - 4:01pm
Thank you, Brett. 

And how to you personally differentiate between those who dissent because of "political ideology, pride etc" and those who dissent from thoroughly informed conscience (informed through study, prayer, and reflection)?

Don't forget to define "radical individualism." 

Thx!
Anonymous | 4/15/2011 - 3:11pm
PS - I would amend my statement to say that some people dissent due to political ideology and modern, anti-authority tendencies.

Anne Chapman | 4/15/2011 - 3:11pm
One more request, Brett.  When you return, could you define what you mean by ''radical individualism''?  One thing I have noticed in reading is that people use a lot of ''in'' phrases and descriptors, but never actually define what they mean when using them.  The phrase ''radical individualism'' is used a lot, but those who use it seldom define exactly what they mean when using it.

I also don't have much time right now. I have no idea who Father Barron is, but I will try to watch the YouTube video later (assuming it's not too long).

Anonymous | 4/15/2011 - 2:55pm
I have don't really have time right now - I will try to respond later today.

Here is an interesting commentary by Fr. Barron on those who dissent or have left the Church:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXql0zuRqCY
Anne Chapman | 4/15/2011 - 2:36pm
I forgot to include this -  in my earlier post I asked you about this statement:

'': 'However, many Catholic commentators ARE at publicly at odds with the Magisterium and reject the teaching of the church simply due to political ideology, pride, anti-authority tendencies etc. etc. '

How do you know those are the reasons they reject some teachings of the church?''

However, you did not explain in your last post how you know that people dissent due ''to political ideology, pride, and anti-authoritarian tendencies.''

Thanks again.
Anne Chapman | 4/15/2011 - 2:33pm
Brett,

This is not really very clear, I'm afraid.  Newman's ''measured'' dissent led to him being fired from his job as Editor of the Rambler and investigated by Rome for eight years, while silenced.  John Courtney Murray was also silenced. 

Since their dissent was considered to be serious enough to warrant silencing by those in power in Rome during their lifetimes (although those who were in charge in Rome later clearly disagreed with their predecessors' judgments), and you apparently believe that their dissent was ''measured,'' perhaps you could clarify who you are referring to with the phrase '' the open dissent/schism.''  The only group that I am aware of that fits that description is the Society of Pius X.  Is their schism due to the ''radical individualism of our recent history''?  If not, could you provide a specific example or two of those you believe are in open dissent/schism due to radical individualism?

Thank you.
Anonymous | 4/15/2011 - 2:20pm
 I believe there is a substantial difference between measured reform (a la Newman) and open dissent/schism, which is much more common due to the radical individualism of our recent history.
Anne Chapman | 4/15/2011 - 2:07pm
Brett,

You have made a questionable blanket judgment of those who dispute or dissent from some current Catholic teachings: ''However, many Catholic commentators ARE at publicly at odds with the Magisterium and reject the teaching of the church simply due to political ideology, pride, anti-authority tendencies etc. etc. ''

How do you know those are the reasons they reject some teachings of the church?

 Is it not possible that they reject teachings after solid study, prayer, and reflection, and find that they cannot in conscience give internal assent to all the church teaches?  Has not the church a long history of very distinguished ''dissenters'' who dissented for good reasons rather than out of ''political ideology, pride and anti-authority tendencies.''  Cardinal John Newman and John Courtney Murray are two relatively recent examples.  There are many more.
Anonymous | 4/15/2011 - 1:41pm
"What's missing is an obvious ecclesiological point. The principal purpose of the Magisterium is to resolve disputes and debates over purity and orthodoxy, precisely in order that Catholics can move together as a single body and evangelise the outside world."

Exactly.  However, many Catholic commentators ARE at pubicly at odds with the Magisterium and reject the teaching of the church simply due to political ideology, pride, anti-authority tendencies etc. etc. 

Perhaps the real problem is not simply the enforcers of orthodoxy that Fr. Jim cites (though they can be Jansenists, as you say), but also the subverters of basic teachings and who label themselves dissenters with pride or perhaps do so in a more passive aggressive manner. 

I can thing of some here who post controversial topics on a regular basis - like the promotion of homosexuality as a spiritual and social good - and then blame the commenters after they continually stir the pot...
Anne Chapman | 4/15/2011 - 10:43am
Mr. Ivereigh,

Mr. Oddie's blog does not actually represent an ideal for the blogsophere.  While he is slightly more polite in his tone than most of the ''reactionaries'' (his preferred term according to the article) in the Catholic blogsophere, he still managed to slip in his little digs, apparently thinking them clever and humorous, confident that his readership will chuckle as well -  little ''slips'' such as National Catholic ''Distorter'' are hardly original and no longer amusing, if they ever were. Mr. Oddie's column demonstrates why there is little hope for open discussion among those in the church who are so divided on so many things.

 An example - his quote from John Allen, whom he describes as ''moderate'' and ''genuinely liberal'' (many would disagree with that assessment):

 ''On the one extreme lies what correctly term[ed] ‘Catholicism Lite,’ meaning a watered-down, sold-out form of secularised religiosity, Catholic in name only. On the other is what I call ‘Taliban Catholicism’, meaning a distorted, angry form of the faith that knows only how to excoriate, condemn, and smash the TV sets of the modern world.’

So the beliefs of those who think that the promise of Vatican II has been betrayed by the ''restorationists'' are correctly described as ''Catholic lite'' as are the descriptive terms, while the definition of ''Taliban Catholicism' (coined by Mr. Allen, who is now recanting it), is rejected, although some of the ''reactionaries'' (Oddie's term) have suggested adopting it as a backhanded compliment to themselves.

The problem is clear - British politesse notwithstanding. Crystal's concerns (#4) are shared by many. More bloggers aren't needed. Rome and the bishops need to open their ears, minds, hearts and souls and LISTEN - they talk too much as it is, and more and more, they are talking only to themselves and the minority in the church who believe that due to their absolute 'obedience'' to Rome, only they are ''faithful'' Catholics.  What happened to the concept of the ''loyal opposition?''  In the church's history, it has generally been those on the ''outside'' - not approved by Rome, often silenced by Rome - who turned out to be the much-needed prophets of the times. 

Austen Ivereigh | 4/15/2011 - 7:21am
For an vivid example of what Fr Jim means, see the comments under a sensible piece by William Oddie at the Catholic Herald in the UK:

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2011/04/13/should-there-be-a-guild-of-catholic-bloggers-and-would-it-be-dominated-by-%E2%80%98taliban-catholics%E2%80%99/

A furious gathering of pharisees and Torquemadas, each rushing to be purer than the other. Oddie quite rightly asks them, as Fr Jim does: who appointed you to the CDF?

What's missing is an obvious ecclesiological point. The principal purpose of the Magisterium is to resolve disputes and debates over purity and orthodoxy, precisely in order that Catholics can move together as a single body and evangelise the outside world.

When people label each other "dissenters" they are arrogating that role to themselves. It is perfectly reasonable to challenge people to consider whether they are putting across views which reflect settled church teaching - but not to excoriate them as dissenters. Only the Magisterium (mostly exercised through the ordinary jurisdiction of bishops) can and should do this.

One interesting irony of the rise of the Jansenism in the blogosphere is the way that the Vatican is now seeking to claim back the role that some have tried to wrest from them.

And speaking of Jansenists, it's good to recall the words a bishop used of them in eighteenth-cenyury France: "pure as angels, proud as devils".

Let's hope that in Rome the bloggers - who include many intelligent, thoughtful people who care about the Church - agree some rules for civility, charity, and  (why not?) Christianity.
Crystal Watson | 4/15/2011 - 3:20am
I'd worry that the Vatican would want to use the conference to try to  turn bloggers into pro-Vatican publicists. 
Anonymous | 4/15/2011 - 1:49am
Much of Catholic blogging should be about "right teaching," no?
"Neither in the confusion of paganism, nor in the defilement of heresy, nor in the lethargy of schism, nor yet in blindness of Judaism is religion to be sought; but among those alone who are called Catholic Christians, or the orthodox, that is, the custodians of sound doctrine and followers of right teaching"

–St. Augustine of Hippo
Anonymous | 4/15/2011 - 12:31am
"At its worst, though, the Catholic blogosphere is an arena for a self-appointed magisterium"

Sure each side could be a bit gentler in their approach, but one does not have to be pope or seated within the CDF to take issue and raise a counter-argument against a theological position or social policy found on this, or any other, site. 

To label those who disagree with the staff's opinions as "snarky" or an authoritarian, despite the fact that the commenter's challange or counter-argument may be completely vaild, seems unproductive in regards to blogging. 

Positing the question or framing the argument with, "who made you pope?" is probably not the best way to foster constructive blogging as it shuts down the conversation before it starts.  No one is claiming to be pope; however, there is structure, logic, and tradition to Catholic thought - as you know - so blogging in this arena is not a purely subjective endeavor such as one finds in many other corners of the web.
NORMA NUNAG | 4/14/2011 - 11:21pm
This is great!  Yes, we do have a lot to learn about blogging.  For  ''the common good'' is  always a terrific target to aim at! 
David Cruz-Uribe | 4/15/2011 - 4:24pm
As a ''Catholic blogger''  (I am Catholic and I write a blog),  I find this an interesting and useful reminder.  The immediacy of blogging-I think, therefore I am in print-does work to retard self-censorship and reflection.  The fracturing of the domain of discourse-I read blogs I generally agree with, not those I don't-tends to reinforce extremism.  And the anonymity of the commboxes at many sites makes it easy for people to give free rein to their baser instincts. 

But at the same time, there is a vibrancy and freshness to the discussion that keeps me coming back, something that is so often missing in my local, face-to-face Catholic communities.  For all our (at times loud) disagreements, it is wonderful to engage a community of believers who really care and who think very hard about what they believe and why. 

Steering a discussion in fruitful directions, keeping the engagement lively while preventing it from degenerating, is hard.  It is as hard as managing a seminar of eager but naive students, but often equally rewarding.   I just hope my (small) contributions to the blogosphere are making a difference. 

St. Therese of Lisieux, letter-writer extraordinaire, pray for us!
Juan Lino | 4/15/2011 - 3:03pm
Austen - Jansenism had many components - would you be kind enough to clarify how you are using that word?  Thanks.