Saturday, July 7, 2012


There seem to be very few Catholic blogs and/or websites that have a really firm grip on what it means to live and breathe the Faith, a lamentable state of affairs in A.D.2012.  Fewer still are those who have an historical sense of the Church from the time She was founded by Jesus Christ to the present day, having been sort of warped by the shipwreck of Catholicism that has been proceeding apace for many, many decades.  Their judgments are formed not by the level heads of those who lived through historical epochs but by the opinions of current thinkers and experts who have little to no idea of what the Church was like before the distortions facing us in the here and now.
Thus, the simplest of issues facing Catholicism are drowned in a sea of convoluted thinking that a marked refusal to examine the past has wrought.  Since almost no one reads books anymore, especially not the great books written by our betters in bygone days, preferring rather to get their information in quick images flashed upon a computer screen, today’s Catholics have lost that solid anchor needed to see things in their proper light.
What brought these thoughts once again into the foreground was an interesting yet very old discussion which recently appeared on a popular Catholic blogsite, one noted for its interest in the negotiations between the Holy See and the Priestly Society of St Pius X founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.  (The site is also noted, alas, for a certain smugness among its young administrators.)  One of the regular “commenters”, who goes by the moniker “PKTP” and who always has rather interesting things to say, was quite understandably appalled by Pope Benedict’s appointment of Gerhard Ludwig Muller as the head of the Holy Office and said so in a comment.  Apparently he suggested that Muller held positions which can be construed as heretical and inimical to the Catholic faith.  I say “apparently” because his comment was banished in high dudgeon by the editors of said website and sent into cyberspace, so it is really not possible to form an opinion of the merits of his arguments.  That Muller holds some dicey opinions – especially those concerning the perpetual virginity of Mary – seems to be without doubt, and as long as he holds such views he can at least be credibly accused of being in material, as opposed to formal, heresy.  It is therefore more than a little understandable that “PKTP” would be exasperated by the thought of someone holding heretical views to be in charge of the very Office that watches over Catholic truth.  The blog administrator, in a note explaining why he removed the comment, proceeded to lecture PKTP in schoolmarmish fashion about the evils of criticizing Bishops.   Indeed it provoked a further post by the blog editor admonishing contributors to cease and desist from criticizing Bishops, bringing out for the occasion some words by Saint Anselm instructing the laity on the proper respect due to the hierarchy.  That this same website often carries reports highly critical of certain Bishops (Ochoa and Wuerl, to name but two – who, to be sure, certainly deserve criticism) was an irony lost on the editors.
What is forgotten in all this is the fact that the laity is entitled to point out the foibles of their erring fellow-Catholics, be they priests, Cardinals or even Popes, provided a respect for their exalted office is ever kept in view.  It is because of their exalted office that it sometimes becomes necessary to admonish them publicly, and in detail.  We cannot judge their intentions (we can hazard an intelligent guess, though) and we cannot judge the state of their souls.  But we can certainly judge their words and actions, and the fruit thereof.  St Anthony of Padua, gentle St Anthony, a help to mortals in so many ways, was known as “the hammer of heretics” and no one was spared his justified wrath when it came to defending the truth, even if the offender was an Archbishop.  Dante’s fury at the mediocrity of Bishops, priests and Popes is well known.  And Queen Isabella, the Catholic, upon hearing the news of the death of a particularly awful Prince of the Church had a Te Deum sung to honor the event.
One has to wonder if such bloggers have forgotten the history of the Arian infestation in which a third or more of the Catholic episcopacy was clearly in formal heresy, denounced so by laymen and clerics alike.  The comment by “PKTP” which was removed by the blog administrator might very well have been perfectly sound and edifying which, indeed, most of the comments written by him can be said to be.  St Anselm notwithstanding, the removal of this comment from a valued contributor was not an example of a thoughtful editorial policy.  It is not unreasonable to expect that within the limits of charity and good manners people should be permitted to speak their minds freely without fear that their words will be tossed into the dustbin by an over-zealous blogger unfamiliar with the Church’s long history.
If respected historians, respected Catholic historians like Christopher Hollis, can write that Papal dithering was one of the causes of the Protestant Reformation are these authors to be banished by ill-informed blog editors?  If the evidence I see is anything to go by, the answer is, apparently, yes.
There is danger in this.  Those who rely on their own ill-informed judgments and who take no time to examine what has gone before can very easily slip into the petite Eglise, or “little Church”, mentality.   Many of us can fall into that same trap, be we “traditionalists”, liberals, bloggers or even Princes of the Church (indeed it would seem that a Cardinal Policarpo can act as if he is a law unto himself).  That attitude can be found, unfortunately, not only among bloggers but upon certain religious orders.
We Catholics can be led astray just as easily as anyone else by ignorance of Church history.  Perhaps giving the computer screen a rest once in awhile and turning our attentions to great books of Catholic history might prove beneficial, especially to those new to the Faith.  Reading gives us time to reflect, to carefully sift through facts, to form correct opinions.  Sometimes we all need to slow down….and read.
Catholic blogs would improve greatly from that.

The blog in question, by the way, has recently ceased allowing comments, so I suppose they will now no longer have to be troubled by The Great Unwashed who might find areas of disagreement with them.

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