Upcoming from Verbum (Logos)

Verbum is charging ahead with more releases, many now on “pre-pub.” This means they’re gathering interesting by taking pre-orders, at a reduced price. That enables them to determine user interest in a certain title or bundle.

For example, Edward Schillebeeckx Collected Works (14 vols.), isn’t really something at the top of my list. But tell me you’re working on Select Works of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI (21 vols.)The Homilies and Angeli of Pope John Paul II (8 vols.) by John Paul II, or the first English translation of Aquinas’ Commentary on the Prophet Jeremiah: English and Latin (2 vols.), and I’m there, baby.

A new, larger Benedict/Ratzinger set is also on the way. The Select Works of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI (21 vols.) includes the following items:

 Another nice set, currently on community pricing, is Post-Reformation Catholic Thought and Piety (27 vols.). With community pricing, people bid on the highest price they’re willing to pay for the set. If the set goes lower, you pay the lesser price.

Here’s the official description of this set:

The Catholic Church has honored only 35 people with the title “Doctor of the Church,” recognizing them for their eminent learning and great sanctity. Nine of these thinkers have lived in the past five centuries: St. John of Ávila (1500–1569), St. Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582), St. John of the Cross (1542–1591), St. Peter Canisius (1521–1597), St. Lawrence of Brindisi (1559–1619), St. Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621), St. Francis de Sales (1567–1622), St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696–1787), and St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897). Their brilliant works vary from Scriptural commentary, to mystical poetry, to catechetical instruction and spiritual direction, and will add historical, intellectual, and spiritual depth to your Logos library.

The Post-Reformation Catholic Thought and Piety (27 vols.) collection offers writings from each of these modern Doctors (with the exceptions of St. John of Ávila and Thérèse of Lisieux—whose Story of a Soul is available separately). Taken together, their writings provide a window into Catholic thought and piety as the Church faced the struggles of the Reformation and of modern society. But they are of more than historical importance. As is evidenced in their continued and profound influence on contemporary Christian thought and piety, the insights and spiritual accomplishments of the modern Doctors are of enduring value.

Do You Remember Bobby Sands? [Catholics Blogging to Close Gitmo]

Susan Windley-Daoust (The Ironic Catholic) and Sherry Antonetti (Chocolate for Your Brain!) are launching one of those perennial Doomed Quixotic Efforts that makes Catholicism the Greatest Thing in the World.

See, we’re a little weird, and America has always rightly understood this and been suspicious of us. Our beliefs cut right across party lines. We value truth over the pretty lie, beauty over efficiency, sacrifice over selfishness, God over mammon.

Even when confronted with grave evil, we know that we must not sink into evil ourselves. We may not be able to save the world or even another life, but we know we must–must–save our own souls, and try to save as many other souls as we can in the process.

This is what causes us to break our lives in service to something higher. It’s what led the martyrs to sing on their way to death. It’s what led St. Maximilian to step out of line at Auschwitz and say, “Take me.”

See, there is something worse than misery, loss, and even death. There is damnation. And it is real. And the pit is always looking to swallow us up.

And so we must be better than the world.

That is why we don’t torture, even when the bomb is ticking. And that is why we don’t hold people in prisons conveniently located beyond the jurisdiction of our laws.

It’s why we have to, once and for all, close this chapter in our history and shut down Gitmo.

Susan and Sherry were prompted to start this blog-around by the news that many–if not most–of the 166 prisoners at Gitmo are on a hunger strike to protest their detention

The first name that came to mind when I read the story was, “Bobby Sands.”

Being an American of Irish descent, I was marinated in love for the old sod and hatred of English oppressors who divided the land and kept my brothers in chains. Active support–or at least tacit approval or excuse-making–for the IRA was rampant in the Irish-American community in the 1970s and 1980s. We might have shaken our head at a bombing and said it was wrong, but we still made excuses for it.

I was quite enamored of the IRA, the way dumb, thoughtless kids often are for grand and violent gestures aimed at injustice and tyranny. As time went on and the violence died down, I thought about it less, but it wasn’t until 9/11 that I really grasped full horror of what I supported.

It’s to my great and lasting shame that it took that long.

When I read about prisoners going on a hunger strike, I went back in my mind to 1981 and the ten men at Maze prison who starved themselves to death to demand political prisoner status. Led by Bobby Sands, the men wasted away and died, causing humiliation for the British government and a huge boon for the IRA and other anti-colonial factions in Northern Ireland.

The men became martyrs and heroes. I remember seeing their faces on posters and t-shirts. People wrote books and songs. The Provos and their US apologists used the incident to milk money from dumb Americans for years.

In the process, many lost sight of a simple fact: these men were terrorists. Sands was implicated in a bombing and involved in a gun battle with the police. He was finally imprisoned on a weapons charge. He was a violent man.

The IRA in the 1970s and 1980s were not a revolutionary force anymore. They were just thugs and murderers: people who would blow up musicians and murder a war hero and his teenage grandson, and claim it as some kind of brave political statement rather than a raw act of cowardice. They were scum.

Yet the English treated them better than anyone brought to Gitmo. Bobby Sands was indeed in prison, where he died trying to make a foolish point.

But he was only imprisoned after a trial. He wasn’t disappeared into the shadows of an unaccountable complex located on a spit of land in a foreign, hostile nation. He was kept in a prison 9 miles south of Belfast. Somehow, the Empire did not crumble because of this.

I have little doubt that the majority of people in Gitmo are violent men. If released, they would probably take up arms and plot against us.

But here’s the thing: like most actual conservatives, I don’t trust the government. I certainly don’t trust any system that claims the right to hold people indefinitely without trial, even if those people are my enemy. Especially if those people are my enemy. The law must be just, even when the person is not. Justice does not serve the criminal: it serves society.

Margaret Thatcher let the Maze hunger strikers die rather than concede their point and treat them as something more than just garden-variety gangsters. We’ve done the opposite. We’ve made ignorant fanatics into political prisoners.

Closing Gitmo will not be easy. Figuring out what to do with these men, how to try them, and where to put them will be a challenge. It will not be convenient. Some of the men may well be completely innocent. We will look bad. The terrorists will get a propaganda victory. The spectacle of a terrorist standing up in open court to proclaim his jihad will be simple nauseating.

Tough. We need to do it anyway.

We do it because if we are not better than the monsters we fight, we deserve to lose. America doesn’t stand for power or victory or prosperity. It stands for freedom and justice. We’ve lost sight of that. Our freedoms are eroded, and our justice is sold to the highest bidder. Perhaps we need to reset our course. Perhaps we need to put the last 11 years behind us, and prove to the world that the greatest nation on earth no longer fears 166 bearded fanatics. Most of all, we need to get right with God, who does not smile on the unjust man.

However we do it, and however hard it will be, the time has come. We must close Gitmo.


Frank Weathers:  Message From the Front Lines of “Operation Enduring Travesty”

Mark Shea: Close Gitmo

Erin Manning: Monstrous inhumanity at Gitmo

Kim Kardashian and The Pilgrim Soul

If you think modern society is humming along just fine and we all need to hope aboard The Good Ship Future, then you probably haven’t seen this picture:

“That’s horrible!” you may be thinking, if you’re still sane. “Clearly the woman has been in a terrible accident.”

Nope: that’s a Kardashian, and she’s just had what’s called a Vampire Facial. It’s A Comin’ Thing! Here’s how Popular Science explains it:

A “blood facial” or “vampire facial” is a cosmetic procedure during which a doctor draws a couple vials of blood from your arm, centrifuges the blood to separate out the plasma and platelets from the red blood cells, and then adds the platelet-rich plasma back into your face. For extra absorption, the doctor pokes your face all over with a bunch of micro-needles before applying the plasma. Reminds me a little bit of making a Jell-O poke cake.

There’s no evidence at all that this gory procedure works.

Look, it took me a couple years to figure out what a “Kardashian” even was, and then someone explained it was a child of OJ Simpson’s lawyer. Now I’m just trying to figure out why I should care, and why their blank expressions gaze at me from supermarket magazine racks.

But, since she’s famous, and since at least 60 million Americans of voting age are stark, raving mad, Vampire Facials probably will become some kind of trend. Because FAME! SEX! YOUTH!

I remember hearing, ages ago, about someone (Rod Stewart? George Hamilton?) getting fetal lamb tissue injected into his face to keep him looking young, so quack youth treatments are hardly new.

But men and women shouldn’t look young forever. It’s just kind of creepy, and shows a fatal misunderstanding of the arc of life.

Look at this:I’m sure someone, at some point, suggested Tommy Lee Jones should get some work done. Smooth out those canyons, tuck in those bags.

First, as an actor, that face is his instrument, and every wrinkle conveys meaning. Second, that meaning was achieved through a long life. Age takes away our youthful beauty (if, indeed, we ever even had it), like the tooth fairy taking away a molar, and in its place we get, not a quarter, but wisdom, experience, perspective. I’d like to imagine that Tommy Lee looks in the mirror and sees a life lived and experienced earned, rather than something smooth and featureless as a baby’s butt.

Think only a man can get away with it? Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, and Jamie Lee Curtis have all, allegedly, skipped the knife and simply aged into their faces the way God intended.

And what is wrong with that? Remember the words of Yeats:

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face

The pilgrim soul in you. A pilgrim is not the same at the end of a journey as at the beginning. If he is, he’s done something wrong. Pilgrimage changes us. It marks us.

Life marks us too. Wood enters the ocean as little more than a dying tree, and is plucked out, miles further and years later, a beautiful piece of art shaped by no human hand. When we try to use technology to strip away that effect of time and tide on ourselves, we don’t retain our youthful looks. We simply put on the mask of a child we no longer are.

I don’t want to be a child again. I’m getting older, as is my wife. We wrinkle and sag and creak. We also love and create and grow. We’re slowly being called home, our bodies bearing the years and the miles on their return trip to the earth from whence we come. Technology could give us back only a facsimile of youth, and a grotesque one at that. It cannot give us back the real thing.

We will never be young again, and that’s okay. Even young, we weren’t truly who would we should be, because we were born deformed by sin. None of us are perfect at 20 or 25, but we will be so at the end when, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed: for this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. All else is just dust.

Pope Francis Is a Dangerous Modernist!

Pope Benedict XVI wrote everything longhand, the way God intended.

Now, word is leaking out that Pope Francis …

I can’t even say it. I’ll let the report speak for me:

In a fast-paced, globalized world in which billions send emails, share photos on smartphones and get their instant news online, the newly elected pope still uses a typewriter for work. On his time off, he follows the games of his favorite soccer club on the radio.

Yes, a typewriter! And a radio!
This is just a monstrous concession to modernity, and something directly condemned in the syllabus of errors. (Well, maybe not “directly,” but it’s there if you squint and then hit yourself in the head with a Zip drive.)

If these trends continue, the next pope might just use a Commodore 64. Once a pope starts using a Newton, it’s game over, man.

Because we all know what comes after that:


ht: Tony Rossi


Aliens Over the Vatican!

Or, you know … not.

Here’s the “story“:

A UFO was caught on tape by the BBC as the world awaited the naming of the new Pope.

The object, caught as the camera showed a view of the Sistine Chapel at night, is circular and glowing a strange red color. The UFO doesn’t move at all, which seems to rule out the possibility it’s a balloon. Even a drone usually makes more movement. Why would there be a drone over the Vatican?

And here’s the video:

There aren’t enough “eh”s in “meh” to capture my thoughts on this one.


Roger Mahony: Twit UPDATED

What a contemptible little weasel. I know I should respect the office, and I’ll have to confess that, but this man is beyond the pale. He needs to just shut up.


UPDATE: Yeah, I blogged this one angry and intemperate, and shouldn’t be hurling insults at a prince of the Church. But this is so outrageous. He wasn’t content to praise Francis: he had to make a direct insult to Benedict. Why? This isn’t just a bit of opinion from a disgraced, possibly criminal, cardinal: it’s positively diabolical. Satan must cheer every time Roger takes to his keyboard or opens his yap. He’s sowing dissent.

And, as one private correspondent remarked, isn’t it an absurd thing to say for a man who spent hundreds of millions on his own tomb (the Taj Mahony) and hundreds of millions more on abuse payouts?

By the way, he seems awfully preoccupied about clothing for a man who should be in an orange jumpsuit.

UPDATE 2: On thing understood by most bloggers is this simple rule:

I popped off on Cardinal Mahony because of my deep affection for Benedict … who would not have wanted me to pop off at Cardinal Mahony. So … RATZINGARIAN FAIL!

My apologies to the Cardinal for not addressing this issue with respect and decorum. I do not believe we need to avoid criticizing the hierarchy. It’s that kind of clericalism that gave us the abuse scandals. But I do believe we can do it with dignity rather than rage. So, I am sorry.

I will not take the post down, because that’s not how the interwebs work. My shame is here for all to see, as is my tiny bit of redemption.

Humbly yrs,


Tom McDonald

Press F1 For Help: Thoughts on Francis

On a computer keyboard, the F1 key is used to get help. An F1 is also the fastest car on the race track: it holds the road tightly but corners quickly.

(Memo to pedants: I know he won’t be “Pope Francis I” until there’s a Francis II. Duly noted. Now go bother someone who says “nuclear” wrong and leave me alone.)

Does this mean anything? Of course not, except in the way we make connections through language and symbols. A pope is there to help us navigate this world unto the next! Francis hardly seems the speedy type, but maybe he’ll hold the road of dogma while turning the church in a new direction!

And with that, I have bludgeoned the meager symbolism of “F1” senseless.

Of course it’s silly, but we’re a people attuned to meaning, and we read meaning on various levels. We tend to make huge intuitive leaps based on scattered pieces of information. Sometimes we read things incorrectly. The data isn’t all there, so our mind fills in the gaps with personal experience and prejudices and wish-fulfillment.

A great deal of this is going on with Francis right now, hustled along by the most instantaneous communication infrastructure in the history of humanity. People are snapping off impressions and ideas at lightening speed, and rather than those impressions merely staying in the gut or emerging as musings at the bar, they’re gelling into Twitter and Facebook updates, memes, articles, and hysterical blog posts and combox screeds.

Michael B. Dougherty started the ball rolling with an amazingly ill-considered broadside against Cardinal Bergoglio on Slate, giving them a chance to kick the church from the right in addition to their usual leftist screeds. Called “Why Pope Francis May Be a Catholic Nightmare,” it was pushed out mere hours after the election. Dougherty faults Bergoglio for a lack of passion for traditional liturgy, ignorance of curial politics, and absence of a reforming sensibility, slowing down long enough to dust off a few shots into the legacy of Bl. John Paul II.

Dougherty took to Twitter to criticize the pietistic tendency of Catholics to praise and support the pope, as if this is a bad thing. He seemed to sneer at the people who were impressed with their first sense of the man. He reminded people that there have been bad popes in the past (thanks for that news flash) and there’s no reason to think we’re immune from having one now.

And all for what? Because people were … what? Hopeful? Impressed with the humility and demeanor of a man about whom we know very little? Trusting the wisdom of the conclave and the guidance of the holy spirit? Was Dougherty afraid Slate might not have a proper forum for 1700 comments, each more bilious and hateful than the one before? Was he afraid someone else might beat him to the punch and get their hate-on for Bergoglio before him?

If so, he needn’t have worried. The tradosphere exploded, with Latin mass aficionados on sites like Rorate Caeli coming completely unglued about Bergoglio’s lack of interest in high liturgy and papal trappings. Proving that rad-trads are a subset of Protestants, they said things about Francis that could have been trawled straight from any Chick tract or Friendly Atheist post: seriously deranged, hateful, poisonous stuff. Dougherty at least was measured in his criticisms, tried to make a case, and held out hope. The Rorate Caeli crowd was already Googling SSPX churches in their area.

I say all this, by the way, as someone who likes and occasionally attends an EF mass. I’m a Ratzingerian to the bone. I am, personally, not a fan of low liturgy. Summorum Pontificum was important. The restoration of the liturgy was important. Liturgical standards are not a small thing.

But they’re not the only thing.

If you think the Novus Ordo is an illegitimate or heretical mass, you’re really just a Protestant who likes lace and incense. Maybe it’s time you move along, because the NO isn’t go anywhere.

And when rock solid traditionalist such as Fr. Z, Taylor Marshall, and Larry D have to step in and tell you to get a grip, you’re on the wrong side of the aisle.

I have no idea what Pope Francis’s liturgical sensibility is, but I suspect it will be rather less grand than I prefer. I like my beer cold, my scotch neat, and my popes in mozettas.

So what? A pope doesn’t bring sweeping changes to doctrines or dogma into the see of Peter. What he brings is his personal approach and style. I think people forget what a sharp difference there was between JP2 and B16. John Paul II was the grand man of action striding the world stage like a colossus (And no liturgical purist. His style was alarmingly loose.) Benedict XVI was the quiet, brilliant master catechist and liturgical restorationist that reset the church back on a good and solid heading.

We are seeing another sea change in papal style. I don’t know what it will bring, and neither does anyone else, but I like the way it’s starting, and I’ll tell you why.

Not long ago, someone (on Slate!) criticized Catholics for praising Benedict for resigning, saying we had also praised John Paul for hanging on to the end. The writer saw this as some kind of contradiction. (Isn’t it odd for a liberal to believe that one can only approve of a single way of doing something in Church matters, when they’re always urging us to accept diversity in everything from sex to … more sex?) John Paul provided a powerful witness to the importance of every life and dignity in death: of continuing to the bitter end. That was an important example in a world that sees people–particularly the old–as disposable.

That approach came with a price: JP2 didn’t have a grip on the papacy in his final years, and the church was rudderless at a time when we could least afford it.

Benedict witnessed that end, grasped the lesson, saw the problems, and acted accordingly. I believe he wanted to set a precedent so popes didn’t feel they had to hold on to the last. They could choose another option. The church in the modern world, perhaps, cannot afford another lesson like JP2’s. The abuse scandal changed things. A pope needs always to be clear and able to react.

There’s no contradiction there. Just an understanding that all popes are different, and the church needs different approaches for different times.

Which brings us to Francis. He offers another sharp turn, more like the stripped down, on-the-street simplicity suggested by his regnal name. He’s a mostly unknown quantity. Cardinal Ratzinger had a vast body of writing, most of it already in English, to give us a clue as to his approach and theology. We knew him. There was no question of what to expect, and those who pronounced themselves “surprised” at his lack of rottweiler qualities were people who really hadn’t been paying attention.

Mark Shea has already commented on pseudoknowledge and written several other worthwhile posts about Francis. While others are spinning wild theories about the Holy Father’s antipathy to the EF and his participation in military dictatorships, I’m just going by what I’ve observed, which is this:

*A conclave of his peers elected him rapidly. The Holy Spirit doesn’t pick the pope, but we do believe He guides the process in some way. The process itself may have certain “political” (for lack of a better term) elements, such as alliances and negotiations But if we don’t feel that the the heir to Peter is chosen in a process that operates under some form of divine guidance, do we have much business being Catholics? Yes, the process can be (and has been) hijacked and resulted in unworthy popes, but that was when powerful forces ignored the promptings of the Spirit to suit their own selfish ends. Does that seem likely in this case? Is someone seriously arguing that we’re looking the second coming of John XII?

*In choosing his name he conveys a wealth of information deeply embedded in the life of Church and its reverence for St. Francis. St. Francis focused on the least and the lowest, but he was not a bunny-hugging, clown-mass-attending hippie. We’re talking about a man who walked into hostile enemy territory to try to convert al-Kamil, the Sultan of Egypt, in a three-week dialog, and lived to tell about it. We can presume based on his comments that he was someone who embraced the liturgical greatness of his age. St. Francis was a kind of second Christ, resetting the Church at a vital time. We could do worse that return to Franciscan priorities.

*Pope Francis cut a humble and gracious figure in his first few moments on the world stage, with the striking dual gestures of asking the crowd to bless him and praying for Benedict. Since then, we’ve heard much about the pope who rides the bus, cooks his own meals, has a small apartment, mingles with the crowd, and eschews some of the grander trappings of the office. I think that’s great, and it’s not any kind of criticism against the style of Benedict. There are times to focus on the glory of the faith, and times to get down with the people and kiss the feet of AIDS patients.

We should be capable of embracing both those styles. The Church, like Walt Whitman, is large: She contains multitudes. A shift in focus is nothing more than that. It’s not a repudiation, but a simple matter of approach and emphasis.

And, perhaps, with Benedict setting the church on a course to straighten out her liturgy, we can now safely turn to the focus of the papacy more directly and dramatically on the preferential option for poor. It’s not that Benedict ignored those issues or that he was not humble (he was), but every pontificate will strike a tone. We hope that tone remains in true continuity with what came before. Benedict was quiet and shy: less inclined to the big gesture. In some ways, riding a bus when you’re pope is a big gesture. It calls attention to itself, which I cannot imagine Benedict doing. Although even humility can be ostentatious, there is something useful in both approaches.

No pope can be all things to all people and all aspects of the life of the Church in equal portions. Administrator, politician, teacher, liturgist, servant, reformer, theologian, philosopher, evangelist: that’s a lot of hats to wear. Something is bound to be emphasized more than something else. Francis seems, in these early days, to emphasize radical simplicity and solidarity with the lowly. Is someone going to argue that this a bad thing? And if so, how long have they been under the delusion that they’re Catholics?

“Brick by brick,” Fr. Z likes to say. I agree. And I think Benedict has laid out those bricks to build a large, solid, and firm liturgical and catechetical foundation. The silliness of the post-Vatican II era is passing into history. Thanks to Benedict, the ship has been set back on the proper course.

Now Francis can take that helm, and, while maintaining course, make some important ports of call. Return us to the trenches. Evangelize. Serve. Humble ourselves. We are greatest when we do that. Our liturgical heritage doesn’t vanish in a puff of smoke just because the pope’s Latin is rusty. To everything there is a season. There’s a time for camauros, and a time for Franciscan brown.

Maybe, in this wounded and struggling world, in these horrible times of upheaval and economic distress, we need a Church that can be mighty in power and grandeur, but also humble in service. Christ the King is also the servant. Christ the High Priest is is also the man who washed the feet of a doubter, a traitor, a coward, and 9 other sinners.

That is what Francis seems to offer. I’m not worried about him at all. In fact, I have great hope. The Church gives us the popes we need when we need them.

Now is the time of Francis. Rejoice and be glad.

Update: Also: this.

Here’s an excellent example of how a traditionalist expresses reservations with charity.

The Pope of Social Media

Something I wrote for the March 10 issue of OSV. Dated now, but perhaps still interesting.  

On December 12, 2012 (12/12/12) Pope Benedict XVI did what no other pope had ever done: he used Twitter. Not only that, but he mastered the medium on this first try with a Tweet that was exactly 140 characters long:  “Dear friends. I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.”

It was a simple and humble introduction freighted with significance. The internet is something more than a communication tool: more than wireless radio or telegraphy or television. It is a place. Paradoxically, it is a place that does not exist, yet allows people to “congregate” for the exchange of ideas.

When St. Paul went to Athens, he preached in temples and marketplaces, but finally was brought to the Areopagus, where people came “to tell or to hear some new thing.” The internet is that Areopagus. It is the modern agora, and Benedict knows that the Church must be present in this place. If we are to become an evangelical Church once again in this post-Christian world, we need to evangelize where the people are. And the people are on the internet.

The decision speaks to the fundamental characteristic of Benedict’s reign: it was a teaching papacy. Bl. John Paul II was larger than life: a charismatic figure that moved millions and changed the fate of nations. Benedict, by contrast, was the professor pope: the master catechist of his age. His encyclicals and books were not densely argued philosophical texts. Rather, they brought us right back to the basics of the faith, and infused those things—love, hope, the life of Christ—with a new meaning for a new age.

This is why he made the decision to reach out to Twitter’s roughly 100 million active users. As he observed in his message for the 47th World Communication Day, social networks were “increasingly becoming part of the very fabric of society.” It was not a decision free of risk, and the moment the @pontifex handle went live, we saw just why. An eruption of pure hatred and ignorance threatened to overwhelm the moment. People threatened, insulted, jeered, and derided the Holy Father. His presence in this place was a magnet for evil, creating a kind of digital via dolorosa for this small, scholarly man of peace, as he was pelted with verbal bricks from thousands of people who didn’t know the first this about him, his Church, or his message.

The haters latched onto each subsequent tweet like lampreys, using simple messages of love and peace as platforms to preach hate and violence, share explicit images, or merely try to shock. A simple message like “If we have love for our neighbor, we will find the face of Christ in the poor, the weak, the sick and the suffering” generated hundreds of responses, each sicker than the last. But it was also seen by the pope’s 3,000,000+ followers in various languages, and retweeted or favorited over 11,000 times. And, in the end, even the haters were exposed to the Gospel truth.

The hate revealed a great deal about people tweeting their ignorance, but it also validated his decision to be in this place, at this time. The light of Christ and the Church needs to be brought to these dark places. As The Church and New Media author Brandon Vogt observes, “Pope Benedict’s tech activity can be summed up by his predecessor’s favorite phrase: he’s not afraid. Despite the patronizing laughs at an eighty-five year old Pope tapping messages on an iPad, regardless of the extreme vitriol people have tweeted his way since embracing Twitter, he’s done exactly what he’s encouraged all the faithful to do over the years: ‘without fear we must sail on the digital sea.’”

Long ago, Marshall McLuhan, the great Catholic prophet of the mass media, saw this exact moment coming: “When electricity allows for the simultaneity of all information for every human being, it is Lucifer’s moment. He is the greatest electrical engineer. Technically speaking, the age in which we live is certainly favorable to Antichrist. Just think: each person can instantly be turned to a new Christ and mistake him for the Real Christ.”

In a medium teeming with false Christs, the voice of the Risen Christ, in the person of his vicar, was vital.

Prior to his Twitter debut, Benedict had already urged Catholics to engage online in his “Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age,” delivered for the 45th World Communications Day. He noted that the new technology was changing “communication itself” while “giving birth to a new way of learning and thinking, with unprecedented opportunities for establishing relationships and building fellowship.” He suggested that we find “a Christian way of being present in the digital world” with “communication which is honest and open, responsible and respectful of others.”  We were not merely to insert religious content into different new media, but we had to “witness consistently, in one’s own digital profile and in the way one communicates choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically. “

And then again, in anticipation of the 47th World Communications Day, he wrote “Social Networks: Portals of Truth and Faith; New Spaces for Evangelization.” He makes the point that we’re not just sharing ideas or information on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, but “our very selves,” and thus we have a chance to “reinforce the bonds of unity between individuals and effectively promote the harmony of the human family.”

To succeed, Benedict realizes, will call for a “new language” that works more effectively in these environments in order to bring the Gospel message where it is needed. Making the case for the use of imagination, signs and symbols, sounds and images, he urges those using social media to share “the profound source of their hope and joy: faith in the merciful and loving God revealed in Christ Jesus.”

There’s an irony in all this. Benedict is unlikely to have much first-hand experience with social media. He continues to write longhand, is not known to use a computer, and needed assistance with his first tweet.

Yet the master teacher is first a good student, and sensing the importance of the these new technologies, Benedict learned about them in order to create a theology of new media that’s firmly grounded in the truth and reality of the faith. He leaves behind a Church with a digital footprint that can be assumed by his successor, offering a firm foundation upon which the Church can continue to build. He did this because the message remains the same as Mark 16:15: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.”

Only the medium has changed.




An Interview With Cardinal Bergoglio

An interview with Cardinal Bergoglio from a few years back. Read it all. Fascinating insight:

BERGOGLIO: Jonah had everything clear. He had clear ideas about God, very clear ideas about good and evil. On what God does and on what He wants, on who was faithful to the Covenant and who instead was outside the Covenant. He had the recipe for being a good prophet. God broke into his life like a torrent. He sent him to Nineveh. Nineveh was the symbol of all the separated, the lost, of all the peripheries of humanity. Of all those who are outside, forlorn. Jonah saw that the task set on him was only to tell all those people that the arms of God were still open, that the patience of God was there and waiting, to heal them with His forgiveness and nourish them with His tenderness. Only for that had God sent him. He sent him to Nineveh, but he instead ran off in the opposite direction, toward Tarsis.

Running away from a difficult mission…

BERGOGLIO: No. What he was fleeing was not so much Nineveh as the boundless love of God for those people. It was that that didn’t come into his plans. God had come once… “and I’ll see to the rest”: that’s what Jonah told himself. He wanted to do things his way, he wanted to steer it all. His stubbornness shut him in his own structures of evaluation, in his pre-ordained methods, in his righteous opinions. He had fenced his soul off with the barbed wire of those certainties that instead of giving freedom with God and opening horizons of greater service to others had finished by deafening his heart. How the isolated conscience hardens the heart! Jonah no longer knew that God leads His people with the heart of a Father.

A great many of us can identify with Jonah.

BERGOGLIO: Our certainties can become a wall, a jail that imprisons the Holy Spirit. Those who isolate their conscience from the path of the people of God don’t know the joy of the Holy Spirit that sustains hope. That is the risk run by the isolated conscience. Of those who from the closed world of their Tarsis complain about everything or, feeling their identity threatened, launch themselves into battles only in the end to be still more self-concerned and self-referential.

What should one do?

BERGOGLIO: Look at our people not for what it should be but for what it is and see what is necessary. Without preconceptions and recipes but with generous openness. For the wounds and the frailty God spoke. Allowing the Lord to speak… In a world that we can’t manage to interest with the words we say, only His presence that loves us, saves us, can be of interest. The apostolic fervor renews itself in order to testify to Him who has loved us from the beginning.