LiveTweet of #LaudatoSi: Part One

Here you go, all Storified and everything. I plan to return to the task tomorrow morning.

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#LaudatoSii: Hold Your Breath, Make a Wish, Count to Three

do908 laudato siTomorrow I will begin reading Laudato Sii, and I plan to tweet as I go. I’m already seeing the overheated freakouts online and it’s a sorry spectacle. Everyone needs to cut the crap, m’kay?

It seems like all we do lately is replay the right’s reaction to Mater et Magistra and the left’s reaction to Humanae Vitae. American Catholics need to be a little less American, and a little more Catholic. In case you hadn’t noticed, America hates us. It is the Church that will survive, and we’ll need people to keep their heads.

This time around, it’s the American right’s turn in the cafeteria line, and they’ve built a strong head of Francis-hatred over the last two years to power them through any qualms they may have about dissenting from an official exercise of the ordinary magisterium.

These are the actions of children. I don’t doubt there may be much to criticize in the document. If I do disagree with the Holy Father, I try to do so on point, without slotting it into some grand statement about how the Smoke of Satan Has Entered The Church. I read way too much of that already, and it sickens me.

I am a traditionalist conservative–the kind Republicans dismiss as a Paleocon. I am also a global warming skeptic. I expect to find points in Laudato Sii I do not agree with. I will read them with an open mind. That is: I will try to be Catholic first and American or conservative second. I will try to discuss them candidly yet with charity and respect for the office. Most of all, I will not imitate the left’s Magisterium of Me and pick and choose what to accept and what to reject.  I don’t expect any of this to be easy.

Let’s remember that Lumen Gentium doesn’t just apply to contraception and abortion:

This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

If you try to reconcile your faith and your politics, and if it’s your faith that gives, you’re worshiping the wrong God.

And before you read the new encyclical, maybe you should review this:

I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.

Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.

Anyone suggesting that anything less is acceptable is the one letting the Smoke of Satan into the Church.

What Happened at the Secret Synod Planning Session?

pentinEdward Pentin has done some first rate reporting on the factions forming to push through radical change in the Church’s unchangeable moral teaching. He has a new story in the National Catholic Register* about a secret meeting that took place at the Pontifical Gregorian University on Monday with “the aim of urging ‘pastoral innovations’ at the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family in October.”

Around 50 “bishops, theologians and media representatives, took part in the gathering, at the invitation of the presidents of the bishops’ conferences of Germany, Switzerland and France — Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Bishop Markus Büchel and Archbishop Georges Pontier.”

It’s fairly clear that this was a strategy meeting for people aiming to change Church teaching on divorce and homosexuality at the upcoming Synod. And they didn’t like it when Pentin found out about the gathering, which was open only to hand-picked, friendly media:

No one would say why the study day was held in confidence. So secret was the meeting that even prominent Jesuits at the Gregorian were completely unaware of it. The Register learned about it when Jean-Marie Guénois leaked the information in a story in Le Figaro.

Speaking to the Register as he left the meeting, Cardinal Marx insisted the study day wasn’t secret. But he became irritated when pressed about why it wasn’t advertised, saying he had simply come to Rome in a “private capacity” and that he had every right to do so. Close to Pope Francis and part of his nine-member council of cardinals, the cardinal is known to be especially eager to reform the Church’s approach to homosexuals. During his Pentecost homily last Sunday, Cardinal Marx called for a “welcoming culture” in the Church for homosexuals, saying it’s “not the differences that count, but what unites us.”

Cardinal Marx is also not alone, among those attending the meeting, in pushing for radical changes to the Church’s life. The head of the Swiss bishops, Bishop Büchel of St. Gallen, has spoken openly in favor of women’s ordination, saying in 2011 that the Church should “pray that the Holy Spirit enables us to read the signs of the times.” Archbishop Pontier, head of the French bishops, is also known to have heterodox leanings.

The meeting’s organizers were unwilling to disclose the names of everyone who took part, but the Register has obtained a full list of participants. They included Jesuit Father Hans Langendörfer, general secretary of the German bishops’ conference, who has been the leading figure behind the recent reform of German Church labor laws to controversially allow remarried divorcees and homosexual couples to work in Church institutions.

There’s a lot more, so read it all.

It’s possible the talk of same-sex union support is just a feint to cover the push to readmit divorce and remarried people to communion. Even the most rabid progressives can’t imagine the Church would change the prohibition on homosexual acts. (Just so you know where I stand on this: I would back some revisions to the way annulments are handled, but readmitting the divorced and remarried to communion is a non-starter. “Gay marriage,” being an ontological impossibility, doesn’t even rise to “non-starter,” and anyone who attempts to justify it is a theological illiterate.)

What Pentin’s reporting has shown is an ugly heterodox underbelly that is threatening to throw the Church into schism. They’re emboldened by rhetorical incaution on the part of the Holy Father and the presence of known dissenters in his inner ranks. I do not believe they will succeed, but I do think they will continue to sow dissent and confusion that damages the Church.

All of these pipers play the same tune, urging us to “read the signs of the times” and change truth. Being truth, of course, it cannot change. It can merely be denied and abandoned by cowards who choose to be led not by the Heiligen Geist (Holy Spirit), but by the Zeitgeist (Spirit of the Age). That Zeitgeist is the voice of the devil.

I think the heterodox are a minority and will be defeated in October. I do not believe we are heading for schism. Pentin’s own reporting indicates that the European bishops are hardly a monolith. And as the growing and conservative global south asserts itself, the chances for a radical change in teachings will be less likely. Smiling on divorce and gay marriage will not fill the pews. In fact, it would empty them even faster. See also: every other Church that did it.

Perhaps the dissidents are pressing now because they feel they have the wind at their back with the current papacy and the lack of a clear “Third World” (for lack of a better descriptor) block among the bishops. It’s just possible that their reckless actions will cause that block to form, and lead the global south to speak as a single, clear, prophetic voice in favor of the unchanging truths of the faith.

______

*Disclosure: I write for the Register.

Grace West Meets Pope Francis, And Has a Curious Encounter at the Tomb of Padre Pio

I had the pleasure of interviewing Grace West and her mom Sharon for the National Catholic Register. Grace is an amazing 11-year-old girl fighting stage 4 neuroblastoma. Her request to the Make-a-Wish Foundation was to meet Pope Francis, and they made it happen:

“He came around to where the wheelchairs and sick people were first and then to our row. I was so excited!” she added. “He touched my forehead and gave me a blessing and shook my brother’s hand. It was his birthday, so I gave him a birthday card with a personal note inside and a picture. It was magical there. It was so nice. People who were around us were so kind. While he was talking to a man, he was holding my hand the whole time. It was so amazing. He was so welcoming and warm and fuzzy.”

Read the whole story at the National Catholic Register.

S.Giovanni_Rotondo_(19)There was one section of our interview which I needed to leave out for length reasons, but which I want to share here.

Now, I want to preface this by making clear that Grace and Sharon told me this story very carefully and without making any extraordinary claims. They did not claim to see an apparition of St. Pio. They simply related the story.

The tomb of Padre Pio is a good four hours from Rome, but they had developed a devotion to him and wanted to make the pilgrimage. The great saint, who is famous for popping up in unexpected places, kept appearing in their path. “We could do a whole interview on places we’ve encountered Padre Pio,” Sharon told me.

I’ve read and heard about this many times in my research on Padre Pio: people suddenly having multiple instances where his name or picture seems to show up more than chance, or even the pattern-seeking behavior of the human mind, would suggest. The West’s story, in fact, was prompted by my mention of Padre Pio during our interview (his statue sits on my desk next to St. Benedict and Pope Benedict), which I guess makes that yet another example of him showing up in their lives.

I’ll let Grace tell the tale in her own words:

We went to see his tomb, and it was beautiful down there. When you looked outside it was looking at a screensaver or a postcard. We went to the gift shop there and I got rosary beads. Me and my dad were going  back to the tomb to touch them to the glass and say a little prayer. This lady stopped us and gave us a card with a prayer in Italian. She told us we have to say the prayer, in Italian, at the tomb. Now the first time we were [at the tomb], there were lines and crowds of people. When we returned to say the prayer in Italian there was nobody there at all. It was completely empty except for one man in the very last pew closest to the door. We went up and we touched our beads to the glass and we had our hands on the glass. I see my dad open his dictionary and take out the prayer the lady gave to us. We were trying to say it in Italian. All of a sudden the man who was in the back walked up to us, and he looked exactly like Padre Pio. He had a robe on, the beard, the sandals. I’m trying to not make it obvious that I’m looking at him. Padre Pio was a big guy and he was the same size. He walked between me and my dad and put his hand on the tomb on the glass between hours. He was still there when we left. It was crazy. I am not exaggerating. He looked exactly like him.

 

Who knows? Maybe San Giovanni Rotondo is filled with Padre Pio impressionists, just like you find Elvis at Graceland.

However, after being a real skeptic about Padre Pio, I did my own research and read the original documents of the investigation, as well as many account of unusual encounters with him.

I initially had suspected the man might have been a zealot or fraud, with his community milking his postmortem fame. I don’t believe that any longer. He was the real deal, and I don’t think the way he appears in the paths of various people can be dismissed as mere apophenia.

Even if the Wests did not experience an apparition of Padre Pio, their encounter was unusual enough in the context of a long pattern of like encounters to have meaning.

Please, I’d ask anyone who has read this far to pause a moment to pray for the intercession of Blessed Miriam Teresa in the full healing of Grace, and strength for the West family.

Watch Pope Francis Speak to Children on Google Hangout

The Holy Father talked with children who have special needs or certain disabilities that they are overcoming with technology. A braille reader, a video camera, and an adaptive bike were some of the technologies highlighted by kids from around the world. Some of them asked questions, while others just talked about their lives and how they learn. The program was hosted by Scholas, an “educational entity, launched by Pope Francis, where technology, arts and sports are used to encourage social integration and the culture of encounter.”

He spoke with them for about twenty minutes. Here is the video. Turn on the closed-captioning for a translation.

Pope Threatens to Punch Aide

"One of these days, Alice!"

“One of these days, Alice!”

Oh, sorry, did I forget the #TrollSoHard tag in that headline?

On the plane from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, the pope addressed the Charlie Hebdo issue, saying there were limits to free expression and that

 “One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith. There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity … in freedom of expression there are limits.”

The Holy Father and I are going to have disagree on this one.

“Should not”? Certainly.

“Cannot”? No.

“Every religion has its dignity”? Every one? Eh, not so much.

However, his illustration of his point was vividly candid. Referring to Alberto Gasparri, an aide who was by his side on the plane, he said:

“If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, then a punch awaits him.”

Dude.

No, Pope Francis Did Not Call the Koran a “Prophetic Book of Peace”

kNQTCaJThe Moonie-owned Washington Times has a story headlined Pope Francis: Koran ‘is a prophetic book of peace’. That would indeed be a shocking thing for a pope to say, not so much for the “peace” part as the “prophetic” part, so let’s look at the quote from the story:

Pope Francis, in Rome after a three-day trip to Turkey, told reporters that Islam was a religion of peace and that those of different faiths shouldn’t be “enraged” at the Muslim community as a whole when acts of terrorism are committed.

“The Koran is a book of peace. It is a prophetic book of peace,” the pope said, United Press International reported.

Pope Francis, in Rome after a three-day trip to Turkey, told reporters that Islam was a religion of peace and that those of different faiths shouldn’t be “enraged” at the Muslim community as a whole when acts of terrorism are committed.

“The Koran is a book of peace. It is a prophetic book of peace,” the pope said, United Press International reported.

Indeed, the UPI story does include that wording.

But that’s not the full quote. Let’s look at what he really said, emphasis added:

“You just can’t say that, just as you can’t say that all Christians are fundamentalists. We have our share of them (fundamentalists). All religions have these little groups,” he said.

They (Muslims) say: ‘No, we are not this, the Koran is a book of peace, it is a prophetic book of peace’.”

Not at all the same thing. He’s not saying the Koran is a prophetic book or that it is a book of peace, just that Muslims say it is.

I would not be at all surprised if Francis thinks the Koran is a “book of peace,” because there are elements of peace in Islam. It’s simply foolish and reductionist to measure an entire faith by its worst elements, even when the worst elements are pretty bad. That’s what our enemies do to us. We shouldn’t then turn around and do it to others. A critique must be both honest and generous. With Islam, violence is baked right in the cake, but so is charity and devotion to God as well. Whatever we think of it, we have to consider the real thing, not a caricature.

More problematic is the, Hey we all have our nuts, amIright? comment from Francis. Christian fundamentalists are tacky and stupid and annoying, but only very rarely violent.

When a Christian goes fundie, you get Jack Chick and bad music and, sometimes, Eric Robert Rudolph.

When a Muslim goes fundie, you get the armies of ISIS, 9/11, jihad, beheadings, Jew-hate, and the destruction of civilizations.

Of the two faiths, one has tendency to violence and extremism that is rooted in elements of the faith itself, while the other does not. It’s a false equivalence.

But I get what he was trying to do. He was encouraging Muslims to speak out against violence and appealing to the better angels of their nature. That’s what a pope should do. We’re not going to get anywhere by saying, “Gee, you’re kind of a bunch of violent idiots with a rotten holy book.” We have to share this planet with 1.6 billion Muslims, and the majority of them are peace-loving people, or the world would be far more violent than it is.

Remember that “pontiff” comes from “pontifex,” which means “bridge-builder.” Extending a hand of peace, even to our enemies, is not just the job of Peter: it’s the job of us all.

The “Thank You God the Synod Is Over” Post

RWell, that was fun, and by “fun” I mean “let’s never do that again.”

At least not for another year.

What a mess. The twitchy year leading up to the Synod on the Family has seen a steady rise in anxiety in the very tiny corner of the Catholic pool represented by social media and blogs.

The nature of the synod is nothing new: different factions arguing about doctrine and pastoral concerns are as old as the Church itself. Remember Galatians? “When Peter came to Antioch I rebuked him to his face, because he stood condemned.” If bloggers were covering the Council of Jerusalem, their comments would have been “zOMG! Dissidents trying to weaken doctrine by relaxing rules on circumcision!” It was All Panic All The Time.

Were there reasonable concerns about the way this synod would unfold? Very much so, and many people managed to express these concerns without headlines about “Our Doom in the Making” or posts illustrated by GIFs of wolves wandering the ruins of Rome.

I was certainly concerned that Pope Francis not only thought it was a good idea to summon a middling theologian like Cardinal Kasper from semi-retirement to shape the dialog heading into the synod, but then heaped lavish praise on his theologically faulty and wholly untenable proposals for re-admitting the divorced-and-remarried to the Eucharist. That Cardinal Kasper subsequently proved himself to be a thin-skinned, arrogant liar confirmed some of the worst fears about the Pope’s judgment.

Kasper’s “we doan need no stinkin’ Africans” gaff revealed his paternalistic Germanic colonialism. That he was perfectly willing to ruin, or at least damage, the career of a respected Vatican journalist by lying to cover his own caboose is shameful, and it would have worked if the reporter hadn’t recorded the interview. Watching a publication like Commonweal labor mightily to spin his comments even after he repudiated them was a fine reminder that the progressive wing of the church is overpopulated by political hacks.

Kasper needs to return home and we should never have to hear from him again in any serious debate. He has nothing of value to offer on the subject, and he shouldn’t have been asked to advance his opinions in the first place.

The synod proceeded to run like a broken merry-go-round, as these things often do. This time, however, the chaos of various factions fighting to advance their views was broadcast in real time thanks to social media. Add to this the usual awful Vatican media management, and you wound up with explosive headlines guaranteed to sow confusion, possibly for years to come.

The amplifying quality of modern electronic media made all this rise from mere procedural quarreling into The Pivotal Moment in the Church in Our Time and Maybe in All History No Really I’m Not Even Kidding You Guys! It’s in our nature to inflate the importance and uniqueness of our times. I read comments about the church being poised on a knife edge and think, “Yes, as always. Get a grip.”

That people could write, in all seriousness, that the “Relatio post disceptationem” was “the worst official document in the history of the church” just shows the state of ignorance of some of the people shouting the loudest. It would be nice if some who profess to love Latin so much would bother to learn it, so then maybe they’d realize that “Relatio post disceptationem” means “report after a debate” and is thus not an “official church document,” much less the “worst” official church document in our history. Have these people even heard of Siena or Pisa?

The Relatio landed with a thud as people took turns either praising its prophetic willingness to discard actual Catholic teaching or condemning it as some kind of latterday Thalia purpose-built to destroy the church. It was neither. Most of it was perfectly fine, although it provided an incomplete portrait of the debate as it stood and thus failed its basic brief. Four or five paragraphs were utterly awful, and the language in the section on homosexuality was simply a disgrace. (There are suggestions that these paragraphs were inserted–perhaps without the knowledge of Cardinal Erdo–by Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte.)

Now that the synod has come and gone and the October Schism anticipated by certain doomsayers failed to materialize, I wonder if some of the reactionaries are disappointed. There’s a radical fringe that would like to be shed of not merely the progressives and dissidents, but also the moderates. As 2014 unfolded, they filled social media with a nonstop klaxon of fear. I do not doubt that those who wailed the loudest did so out of love of the church and genuine concern for Her, but they were reacting from a place of anxiety not reason, and there is no fear in love: perfect love drives out fear.

Pope Francis attempted to bridge the divide in his final address to the synod fathers, but it seems to set up false equivalencies between those who want to maintain the continuity of doctrine and those who don’t. He spoke of …

… a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

– The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

– The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

– The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfill the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing!

The very nature of the process–Francis deployed the word “parrhesia,” a rhetorical term meaning to speak frankly without fear of offense–means that the synod would produce documents and statements that would run against the grain. People can’t conduct a full debate without the freedom to put all points on the table and evaluate them honestly, candidly, and without fear.

The synod is a process, and the process will continue. We say some alarming things in any vigorous debate. Modern culture suffers from a sexual insanity, and any debate which touches on sexuality–as debate about the family must–will be tense, often controversial, and almost certainly misunderstood both within and without the church. The process and the perception of the process are thus at odds. We shouldn’t fear it, but we should understand it, and continue to do our best to discuss faith in charity, without undue anxiety and with confidence in the Holy Spirit Who guides and inspires us.

 

Being Catholic Online

Internet Catholicism has been a true boon for me. As someone who works at home, it plugs me into a network of people who share my faith and help me figure it out and build it up. It will take years to understand its true impact as an evangelization tool, but I think it’s an important one, if only because it allows people to witness to their faith in a public way.pope-francis

And that’s also the problem. When we project ourselves into this online space we are, for some, the only witness to Catholicism people will have. That doesn’t mean we have to be sunshine and puppydogs, but it does mean that what we say and how we say it matters.

Even good people get drawn into the anger, anxiety, and factionalism that occurs whenever two or three are gathered in just about anybody’s name. Factionalism dominates the Catholic news sites, blogs, and social media, and it’s an ugly and unproductive thing.

I’ve been trying to figure out my place here as a blogging Catholic, and it hasn’t been easy. Sometimes I just put up something I find interesting or amusing, and those posts usually find their audience.

I can tell you from experience that poring time and work into good, noncontroversial pieces about things you love will usually yield far fewer clicks than rancor, controversy, and attacks. For all we may complain about negativity in the media, we are draw to it like moths to flame. Or, more accurately, like flies to crap.

The reason isn’t that hard to figure out. Controversy provides a jolt of emotion and allows us to situate ourselves on a moral spectrum. It draws the circle around “us” and lets us recognize “them.” That’s simple tribalism, and we’re hard-wired for it.

The latest controversy to blow up the Cathonet is the appointment of Bishop Cupich to Chicago, which comes right on the heels of Cardinal Dolan’s Big Gay Parade controversy.

Cupich is being hailed as the second coming of Bernardin, and for those outside of the Commonweal/America/National “Catholic” Reporter tribe, that’s a bad thing.

Choose one, but remember: the Holy Spirit did not descend as a hawk.

Choose a side, but remember: the Holy Spirit did not descend as a hawk.

Bernardin was the prototype squishop, and the only appropriate thing about his elevation was that his hat could finally match his politics. He is the saint of the Catholic left, which never gets tired of being wrong about almost everything.

The appointment of a bishop to a major see is not a small thing. Squishops steered the American church into a ditch after Vatican II. Whether or not Cupich is one of them remains to be seen. His past behavior is certainly troubling. His bizarre and strident opposition to the pro-life movement* don’t leave me feeling very hopeful for Chicago.

But even if we assume that Cupich is a nightmare, and that by extension this indicates that Francis is shaping the church in ways that may reverse progress made under St. John Paul and Benedict (and let’s not forget that Mahony and Bernardin were both elevated by John Paul), what exactly do the most vocal and hostile critics think they can do about it?

When you do something, you should have some achievable result in mind. Sometimes, being human, our “result” is mere venting of emotion. I get that. I do it too. Sometimes it’s extremely therapeutic.

Bitching about inside baseball in the church or, worse, in the very tiny world of online Catholics, is pretty small beer. No matter how much people bloviate about the important issues at hand, there’s no escaping this sense of an internet populated mostly by 8th grade girls gossiping around their lockers.

When we’re Being Catholic in this space, we need to check ourselves and ask hard questions. How exactly does it all contribute to our spiritual welfare and growth? How does it build up ourselves, our families, our community, and our church? Am I preaching truth in charity, or just blowing a gasket? Am I spreading hope, or fear?

As I never get tired of saying, the internet is an amplifier. It doesn’t just distribute information: it amplifies it, often making small things seem more important than they really are.

Does that mean we don’t speak hard truths, even if they involve criticism of our leaders right up to the pope himself?

Of course not. It’s our duty to speak clearly about our faith, particularly when our leadership seems to be drifting off course. I’ve made my reservations about Pope Francis’s leadership pretty clear, but I don’t think any of those issues come even close to the serious, schism-provoking levels we’re hearing from his more hysterical critics.

You know what does provoke schism, however? Constantly talking about it!

As someone steeped in church history, I’m aware that we’ve already been through the worst of times. Despite this, we still have a tendency to dramatize our own times as somehow uniquely filled with dangers to the church.

Understand this: every age is full of dangers to the church–both from inside and out–and always as been, every single year, for 2000 years. Among the first bishops, one out of twelve was a traitor, and eleven out of twelve were cowards.

When we survey this whole vast history and ask ourselves “Are our times/leaders uniquely bad/dangerous?” the answer is obviously no. Even the horrible persecutions in the middle east are of a type we’ve seen before and will see again. All is as it was foretold: “The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is doing the work of God.”

We were promised a couple things:

First: the gates of hell will not prevail against our Mother, the Church.

Second: a cross.

These people who sneer about “The Church of Nice” always make me wonder, “You’d prefer a Church of Total Bastards?” They haven’t understood Benedict at all. The idea of affirmative orthodoxy has flown right over their heads.

Yes, we have to criticize, and some people won’t like that at all.

Yes, we have to stand up and make our voices heard when leaders attempt to distort or weaken the unchangeable teachings of the church, or fail to lead as they did in the abuse scandals.

But we have to do more than that. We have to be a witness to the true happiness and fullness of life that is only found in Christ and the One True Church.

And lately, all I’m seeing when I log into Facebook or check some of my blogs is a Litany of Despair offered not by people attempting to speak a hard truth, but by people who are afraid, and fear breeds fear.

All this inside baseball is, as practical matter, of no interest whatsoever to 99% of Catholics, and all of this doomsaying does nothing–not a damn thing–to help the church. It is, in fact, poison. No one in leadership is paying attention to a bunch of internet denizens kvetching on Facebook. There is no Blogosterium. There are only everyday ordinary people, and those people are in need of solid faith formation and guidance in their lives.

The only thing we can do online to change the church is to teach and be.

Teach the truth, hard as it is, always and everywhere, even when our leaders don’t, and even when they need to be corrected in charity.

Be people of hope and joy, as much as we can, always and everywhere.

Everything else is just sound and fury.

Related: Catholics Coming Unglued

Update: Abbey Roads has similar thoughts.

*After posting this, I cut a reference to some personal knowledge I have which, on further thought, I don’t feel I have the right to share.

Vox: Pope Francis Calls For New Crusade

Max Fisher wrote the dumbest thing I’ve read in ages. Even for something appearing on Vox, it’s Epic Stupid Level 5000 Plus Bonus Troll Points. Here it is:

popecusadefisheridiot

So, Max is going with the whole “Pope Calls For New Crusade” angle. (My response to that is “If only…”)

Sure, the writing is laughably bad, the history is junk, the spin is pure hit-trolling, the hatred of Catholicism is palpable, and the tone is standard-issue juvenile sneering, but it’s the pure unvarnished ignorance that really shines through it all.

Here’s what Francis actually said:

“In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.”

As an exhortation to a Crusade this lacks a certain panache. I checked with Pope Urban II to see what he thought:

B_Urban_II2

Here’s the funny part about this: like all the kiddies at Vox, Max thinks he’s clever (that’s why they gots to ‘splain the news to us yokels), yet in attempting to appear clever, he only exposes a profound and provincial obtuseness.

Related: What Is Your Middle Schooler Being Taught About the Crusades