Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thoughts on blogging: "Watch out for that one."

The other day I read a warning about a very fine priest in the com-box of a blog post; "Watch out for Fr. X...".  The commenter proceeded to explain how the priest had appeared to approve of something not approved by the Church.  Evidently the priest publicly corrected the misunderstanding.  Bloggers (me too) make similar mistakes all of the time - and if they are faithful Catholics, they usually try to correct any misunderstanding they've caused. 
Over the years, some bloggers have stood behind their errors and therefore revealed a side to themselves unknown to their readers prior to their 'coming out of their heterodox closet' as it were.  The most famous case being that of Gerald at Cafeteria is Closed, after readers realized his particular cafeteria was still open.  My big criticism with Naus was that he continued to solicit donations on his blog, even after he began posting things contrary to Church teaching.  I felt faithful Catholics were contributing to a blog they felt to be 'orthodox' when in fact it wasn't.
Interestingly enough, while I wrote a few posts pointing these things out regarding Cafeteria is Closed, I also received emails with information concerning Naus' history.  Nothing damaging, but I realized there are people who investigate us - readers delve into what they can concerning our personal lives - beyond what we expose on line, and 'talk amongst themselves' as yenta would say.  In other words, some Catholic readers are always on the lookout for dirt, to discredit one another.  Actually, there was a Sedevacantist site that publicly asked people to notify them if they found any dirt on Cardinal Mahoney - I'm not sure if the site still exists or not.
Perhaps it wasn't the most honorable thing for me to do - that is, writing about Cafeteria's relative 'apostasy', but I wasn't looking for dirt on the guy either.  The errors were just there.  I think it is important to point out a source that claims to be faithful to Catholic doctrine, while it is in effect promoting the opposite.  I also believe fundraising and commercialism changes the stakes. 
Everyone who reads me knows I've questioned Fr. Z's asking for donations on his blog.  While I have wondered about his status - never have I questioned his orthodoxy or his fidelity, which is impeccable.    I've actually met him, know him as a priest, and I like him very much.  I love his blog - his hobbies, his cooking posts, his posts on doctrine and liturgy, and so on.  Many times he really cracks me up, I think he can be very funny.  Indeed I pretty much agree with him on everything he writes.  I'm not fond of all his readers however, and most especially, many of his commenters.  And because I raise questions, about a public figure, I know people think I'm a bad guy.
Of course, there are features I don't like on his blog either.  Just as people do not like stuff on my blog.  Yet besides his commenters, I have to say I'm not too fond of the polling which takes place at his site, and the erroneous impression that the results have any basis in reality.
For instance, the polling about the TLM vs. the Novus Ordo Mass.  In one post an older reader was mildly criticized for saying he liked the Novus Ordo better than the TLM - the response was something to the effect of, "liturgy is not a matter of like and dislike" along with references to "aging hippies" as opposed to young people preferring the NO.  Thereafter, a poll appears questing people's preference - I know.  Later, Father expresses curiosity as to why "older' people do not vote to express their preference for the NO since stats seem to indicate so many favor it.  The answer to that question is relatively easy however.  First of all, the poll is not scientific; secondly, the majority of people who happen to be mainstream Catholics, Sunday Catholics, or even daily Novus Ordo Mass goers do not read blogs - and if they do, very few would be reading our blogs, much less voting on them.
On the scale of things, these are all minor points - perhaps not even issues when one considers what is going on in the world - not just Haiti or abortion - but everything that is happening.  I find it odd that Catholic blogs - mine included - are not more intent upon building up the Church - the Kingdom of God - as opposed to constantly criticizing and complaining, and in some cases, assessing one's orthodoxy or lack thereof.  Yes, I'm included in this.
Lately I've been amazed to find that some Catholic bloggers and/or commenters continue to say things like, "I hate the Novus Ordo!"  "The Novus Ordo is not the true Mass!"  "Yet another reason the Novus Ordo Mass is dangerous!"  (No - Fr. Z does not say that stuff or condone it.)  The Novus Ordo is the Ordinary Form of the Roman Catholic Mass.  I do not understand how people can regard it so contemptuously.  One may criticize and report to the proper authorities abuses which take place, but to condemn what the Church has formally approved and promulgated is not setting a good example for other Christians.
I could go on and on, and maybe I will in future posts.  I have to wonder at the experts who critique and sometimes condemn every form of art, architecture, vestment, music which veers away from the traditional.    As bloggers, I think we are getting smug, know-it-all, wannabes, and busy bodies.  And in several instances I doubt God is really being served by our blogs, nor is the Body of Christ being strengthened, and the Kingdom is definitely not being built up.  We say we blog for the glory of God - I wonder.


  1. Hey, you copied me! My post from yesterday should've been labeled "Nothing to blog about!"

    Great post.

    I think we do "wrong" to fail to question or point out failings in other or in their blogs that may lead others astray in their faith or give people the wrong idea about Catholicism or God.

    Re the polls on WDTPRS. Funny, I was called out by the host of that blog (not in an ugly way and I know he didn't take it personal)for asking how the polls could be valid. As someone who does research for a living, you can't call a poll result meaningful when your pool consists of responders who by a high percentage will largely tend to agree with you or your viewpoints. In other words, you will get a different result posting the poll on WDTPRS with that group of readers versus posting it on say, NCRev or even on the open web somewhere. A pool of repondents should be mixed to present a valid and meaningful result.

    You don't stock a focus group with the same demographic and preference unless you are really leveraging a certain group for info you already know about them. Like, we know this demographic buys "Tide" more than any other but now we want to know if we change the formula will they, our core group, leave us.

  2. Terry: Regarding the whole Ordinary Form (1970 Mass), the Holy Father continues to celebrate this publicly with certain changes that do not affect the form but highlight its sacredness and solemnity. He has not yet celebrated an Extraordinary Form Mass as Pope, yet has made it possible for it to be celebrated throughout the Church without special permission. His writings also emphasize the positive aspects of this Form that can "enrich" the present Ordinary Form of the Mass. There are reasons (complicated to explain here) why he may not be able to do the Extraordinary Form as Pope right now...but as a Cardinal, he did the EF, performing ordinations even, quite a few times.
    The celebration of the Holy Mass, no matter what its Form, must always be in conformity with the rubrics and prayed. Externals are secondary to the interior "active participation", although they give a witness to the faith and sacredness of the Rite.
    This is what will build up the Church. And I agree; we have to become less "polemic" and more ready to promote and serve communion among the members of Christ's Body, the Church.

  3. Maria1:43 PM

    Well said, Padre.

    Terry: Do I ever agree with you. Smug, wannabe. Like I always say, you don't want to know what I do not know about my Faith. My own ignornace has astounded me.

    The debates over "traditional" vs. "conservative" reminds me of the story Hardon SJ told of the priest who was asked if he was conservative or a liberal Catholic. The priest said: “I am neither. am a Roman Catholic". Isn't that more to the point. The other thing that bothers me is that there srpouts up a division between the young and the old--only the young are loyal and faithful. The old just don't get it et cetera. Division isn't the Holy Spirit, right?

    It seems that these sorts of debates mirror the secular drama of partisan politics. Where there is rancor, there should be understanding.

    The blog world is a mirror for my own pride and envy. It is as if a searchlight is placed on my own sin. Eeeeew.

    Cathy_ of _Alex: I think you are right about pointing things out. How I wish, though, this could be done, by myself and others, with more gentleness. Pride seems on big display in this arena. Envy feed pride.

    Terry--wonderful observations, as usual.

  4. I guess this is why I haven't disconnected my internet all-together. You have redeemed yourself and many other bloggers.

    Just yesterday I flashed on some pangs of conscience as to whether I was feeding passions or seeking edification on the interwebs. Most of it is rubbish. As you have admitted, even the finer contributions tend to focus way too much on criticism (even though "constructive").

    Still, maybe gems are much too sparsely scattered to justify the amount of time I spend reading such blogs.

    So, thanks for a glimpse of self-conscious humility; it will allow me to continue in my habits, but not unchanged.

  5. This highlights one of the reasons I don't do many "Catholic" posts anymore. I try to highlight good homilies by the likes of Father Speekman and others, but have always tried (not always successfully) to stay away from criticism of priests and bishops.

    I won't go near a "far left" or a "far right" Catholic blog anymore. The incessant "chattering" makes me tired.

    It's no secret that I am not a big fan of the Ordinary Form, as it is celebrated, in many parishes. The majority of the time we attend a NO Mass that is quiet, beautiful, and reverent The rest of the time we attend an FSSP chapel.

  6. Got me thinking as usual Terry!

  7. Good post. I do wonder what happened to Gerald though.

  8. I've Tried to Hate the N.O. is what came of that for me; posted Jan 24.

    A good post Terry and something that I, like Cathy noted above, have been thinking about a fair amount.

    As Christopher said above, I have come very close, so many times, to dumping the whole deal. In fact, truth, I nearly did it this very day. You may be partly to blame for causing me to remain.

  9. Maria6:22 PM

    Terry--Your blog has been of enormous spiritual help to me. I pray you stay on-line. You stand apart from other blogs precisely because of your humility. Please don't go away. Can I get an Amen?

  10. Maria: Amen!
    Terry MUST stay on-line!

  11. Yeah, I like your blog, Terry. It's one of the few I read regularly anymore, for just the reasons you stated.

  12. I've thought the same thing. Especially when fellow bloggers "followers" app swells.
    ( my social anxiety keeps any blogger jealousy that I might have in check and besides I love everybody!)

    I've decided - last week, that I was in need of an attitude adjustment - my Lenten project. More joyful postings and more joy in my personal life as well. It gets to be a real downward spiral feeding off of each other.

    We really should be blogging for Christ or otherwise not be "advertising" Catholicism. If I write something contrary to Catholic teaching I would want to be notified. At times I may be screwed up in my thinking but I'm a very loyal Catholic.

    Salvation comes through Jesus via the holy Catholic church and everyone needs to know this and all else , vanity, notoriety, etc should be brushed aside.

    My word verification is joyleik
    - see Gods working on me.

  13. Miss Cathy wrote..if we change the formula will they, our core group, leave us.
    It doesn't matter. God sends whom he pleases. Most of my readers aren't my blogger buddies and they cant stand me.

    Anyway, it's the pagans that we want the most and they don't return but hopefully I got inside their head with something about Jesus while they visited.

  14. belinda: You are doing great work for the Lord.
    And the pagans can be the best ones; they just want God...this present darkness is getting darker and Jesus and His Holy Church are the only rays of sanity and hope.
    Keep it up!

  15. Terry: I just want to take this opportunity to thank you for including us on you list of "blogs" and for all the other ways you have helped us.
    As well, I want to thank all of you who read this blog and have read ours and given us your support.
    We are very small; in fact, we are not looked upon very highly in our diocese in certain circles.
    The laity have been our real support and our joy.
    We are trying to be a point of unity between all Catholics; even if we have the Extraordinary Form regularly, we are not what you would consider "trads" fact I get blasted regularly on certain blogs for my comments. That's okay.
    We just love the Lord and the Church.
    We are trying to live an authentic monastic life while being in communion with our secular members.
    It's a new form of consecrated life; better known and understood in Europe, where the Faith is under terrible assault--they've lived with this much longer than we have in the USA. Our day is coming...maybe sooner than we think.
    Anyway, just another note of support for what you are doing, Terry.
    We need you.
    You are doing something very valuable and authentic; it is what God wants, I believe.

  16. Padre-- Ditto...And you as well. Why would you not be looked upon kindly?? For heaven's sake. I've checked out your site and what you are doing. It all seems wonderful. And I for one just love having you in the conversation. Sometime we imagine priests/monks/nuns to be something other than human. Your humanity, it all its wonderful glory, seeps through. And I am most appreciative.

    As I read things at America Mag I wonder: who would ever have thought that Chistians would be persecuted from within the Church. I think this is what Hardon SJ means about the need for heroic Catholics. He says being an ordinary Catholic just won't do.

  17. Belinda: I read you. And I think you are hysterical and it is obvious you love the Lord...

  18. Robin5:46 AM

    Terry, I am not a frequent commenter, but I would like to belatedly join those who have expressed such deep appreciation for your blog and fervently hope you will keep it. You are a breath of fresh air in a "blogosphere" (I hate that word, but I can't think of an alternative) that is full of vanity, ego, and worldliness. Your constructive criticism of Fr. Z as well as other "leading" bloggers is right on, but it is also funny and not mean-spirited. Your blog is THE best one on my list, by far -- I check it several times a day and am disappointed when there isn't something new! (And, for the record, I read Fr. Z every day, too, but I like your blog better.)

    PS - Belinda, Nazareth Priest, et al. - no offense about this one being the best - I haven't read yours! :-)

  19. Terry - great post, as usual. You are a much better (and more humble) writer than I, no matter what you say.

  20. michael r.8:00 AM

    Everything seems nastier than it used to be. I agree that it seems to be the extremes that are bad, but I tend to think it is the ultra-conservative blogs that are the worst. (Perhaps some of it is my own natural bias, which causes me to be offended more there?) I miss Gerald & his site. I was late in becoming a regular reader there, but I appreciate that he had a true mix of Catholic readers, conservative and liberal. It frequently got nasty in his combox, but at least it was all contained in that one spot, and everyone was on equal footing in a sense. If you were of either liberal or conservative persuasian, you knew you wouldn't be torn to shreds by everyone else. Clearly, he lost many of his conservative readers toward the end, as he seems to have lost his own footing. Let's pray for him. Maybe he will come back stronger than ever.

    I do keep up with Fr. Z's site. I don't comment anymore, and haven't even registered, largely because many of his regulars are so nasty. The polls that he conducts on his site don't bother me. I don't know what the results prove. It's already clear the majority of his readers are politically conservative and/or church traditionalists. The thing that really bothers me is when he calls his readers to flood polls conducted by other publications & sites. For instance, my local city newspaper conducts polls on different issues. The readership of the paper is almost all local, but there are some online readers, largely people who used to live here, or have some connections to the city. There is a local "uber-catholic" who has his own blog, and he seems to alert Fr. Z to whatever church controversy is going on in my city, and to the polls. The poll results then become completely irrelevant, as they do not remotely reflect anything like what is going on here. What is the point when a poll is open to assault by people who aren't regular readers of the publication in question?

  21. You guys are embarrassing me.

    Father - I have no doubt whatsoever your community is holy and good - I've met Sr. Petra you know... her joy is real. God bless!

  22. Maria: Fr. John Hardon, SJ was a prophet. He saw things within a supernatural context; God spoke directly to his heart, I am very sure, as we have learned He did with Mother Teresa (in the book "Come Be My Light"...her personal letters).
    The persecution of the Church from within is a terrible reality; it is not something new, however.
    But today with all the divisions, fighting, name-calling, etc. and the real ruptures between people and groups is of diabolical origin.
    For our particular group, it is a "political" game; you're too orthodox, you're not traditional enough, you just want the favor of the bishop, yadda, yadda, yadda. Most of it coming from religious and priests who are "doing their own thing" in every way you could possibly imagine; we're divisive (how many times have you heard that one? Our monastic community basically stays home, prays the Divine Office and writes can we be THAT divisive? We're not exactly the most politically active group that ever was!)
    You can be Catholic and have divergent ways of living it; Terry's post on Dorothy Day was a great example of this. Someone once said (don't remember who) that the Catholic Church is a very, very flexible phenomena: you have everything from hermits in solitude to apostolic witness in the midst of the poor, the dying and the forgotten, and everything in between. What is absolutely central is the belief in the Creed and the obedience to the Holy Father.

  23. Padre: Go to America Magazine and read comments on "Apostolic Visitation Questionnaire: Returned to Sender". It is at the Blog called In All Things.

    I really believe that Fr. Hardon is, will be, made a Saint. I am just stunned by the way in which one can read what he writes and be CHANGED. We are starved for the Truth. I devour him as if from starvation. I think he knew how actively Lucifer prowls souls in the Church. He understood sin.

  24. Padre: He makes that argument,i.e., there are people who do not believe in the primacy of the Papacy, who do not believe Christ institued the Sacraments, who do not belive in transubstantiation etc. These things matter. Mantillas. Latin. NO, EF. All the rest is just chatter. Irrelevant. Division is not does reflect the Love of the Holy Spirit...Look what Hardon did for the Missionaries of Charity. Mother Theresa tolerated NO disobedience. Obedience is just a concept Americans can no longer fathom. Isn't it good to know the Truth? Now I know: you shall know the Truth and it shall set you free. Fight to the death for the Truth and the Lord will war on your side... Be well.

  25. "Our monastic community basically stays home, prays the Divine Office and writes icons"

    Padre: They are comming to arrest you. TOMORROW. Knock it off. How much chaos can one community bear???

  26. "to condemn what the Church has formally approved and promulgated is not setting a good example for other Christians."

    Once again, a most excellent post. I like the NO, and sometimes I think those who like the TLM, as kinda snobby--but--that's just my observation. I like the NO, because it seems that I participate more in the Mass, rather than have my mind wander to everything else--but thats just me, and I'm happy the church does the NO Mass--thank you Jesus!

  27. I don't understand why this is such a big deal to people.
    If we're all ready to go, we'll go to the 11AM NO.
    If we're not (or if we're feeling lazy) we got to the 12:30 EF.
    I like them both.
    If something dramatic happens and we can't make the 12:30, there's a parish near my house that has an NO at 5PM we have attended before.
    Big deal. Just GET TO MASS, y'all!


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