Friday, September 27, 2013

A Vortex of Wreckage

Roughly 10 years ago, a colleague of mine (no longer affiliated with the traditionalist movement) wrote a work about how traditionalists were addicted to nonsense.  That lit the traditionalist movement on fire, and probably led to a lot of the people addicted to wreckage trying to push him out of trad circles. (I am withholding the name at his request, but veterans of the business know of whom I speak, and I ask they respect his privacy.)  One could say with these words, I really began changing my approach as a traditionalist:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On The Whole Interview Thing....

What follows here won't necessarily be coherent, just a few observations.

1.) When I first read the interview (still haven't read it all the way through), I won't deny my first emotions were regret and anger. It felt like we were being betrayed. It seemed like the Pope was throwing in the towel on pro-life and pro-marriage issues, and delivering a giant wet kiss to the secular left, and especially liberal bishops who will gladly tell their flocks to stop caring about pro-life activities.

2.) When I'm honest with myself, perhaps Francis has a read on things better than I realized. He warns of a "collapse" if we don't change our approach. As a traditionalist, I say forget the warnings: that collapse has arrived. Eight years ago we were banning partial birth abortions, and gay marriage was a decisive loser at the ballot box. Now we have an HHS mandate the public mostly supports (seriously, stop deluding yourselves into thinking the public doesn't support "free" contraceptives, most Catholics support them!), and legalized gay marriage in America is an inevitability. In America we chose to fight a culture war, and we've lost decisively. If anyone has an idea why, I need to listen to them, and everyone else does as well.

3.) The Pope sees the Church losing the culture because Catholic social teaching has essentially become a creed of thou shalt nots. The decline is a really complex issue with a lot of causes. Yet let's not kid ourselves, this is a big part of it. We've done a lot of great work on pro-life causes, and there's actually a chance we might start moving the needle on the abortion debate, if ever so slightly. Yet how much of Catholic social teaching do we Catholics promote, especially in America? The conservative movement (of which I am proudly a part) for the most part looks at the concept of "social justice" as "socialist justice." Why? Because for the most part, we Catholics have ceded the personal responsibliity social teaching emphasizes to the welfare state. The support networks that have flourished in Catholic culture throughout history are non-existent today. Go to the USCCB website on marriage and family. You have to do a lot of digging before you find serious treatments on the issue that everyone is just starting to pay attention to in secular culture: the collapse of the nuclear family, especially amongst Catholic circles. We can't blame the liberals for this, this breakdown has happened amongst our own.

What are the problems the nuclear family faces in America? What can Catholics do to promote the nuclear family again? How can we do that without stimagitizing people who made mistakes yet still need salvation and compassion? What policies should Catholics lobby for to take our country in a more pro-nuclear family direction? How much do lay Catholics talk about these things? Are we talking a lot about how to deal with the long-term unemployed, and the real pain and suffering associated with that? This kind of stuff is where a lot of people really are suffering right now, and the Church doesn't have creative answers to that. We need them.

4.) Whenever you talk about this stuff, we hear "oh you are just a seamless garment liberal who wants to move away from abortion." This kinda proves the whole point. It isn't that the fate of the unemployed is on the same threat level to society that abortion and gay marriage are. They aren't. Yet these views really do flow from the dignity of the person and family that we use to defend marriage and pro-life views. We don't have to water down abortion when we talk about these things. We can also use these things to bring people to the truth of the dignity of the person.

5.) We can, but in the end, we also can do the opposite. Decline is a choice. We can choose to ignore abortion and gay marriage, become "pastoral" and just become another NGO with our talking points. Or we can flesh out our views on abortion/gay marriage with several other issues. We can do this without being a Bernadin seamless garment liberal. (And maybe it's just time for the tribalism to stop already, trads/conservatives can talk about this stuff as well!) Even if the Pope said we shouldn't talk about being pro-life (and he didn't), the Pope isn't the head of a personality cult where we must do his every bidding. Yet he is the Vicar of Christ who we should listen to carefully, and be challenged by. I heard two friends lately, one a traditionalist, and another who isn't, who feel we should just stop listening to what the Bishop of Rome says because of how confusing everything is. That can lead to a very dangerous place, and I'm not ready to walk that line unless I had no choice.

6.) I'm not saying I'm a huge fan of "the interview." Personally I don't know what to think. I do wish "The Vatican" (such as it exists) would develop better message disicpline and a communications strategy. (They had to know this was going to blow up the way it did.) Yet can we develop discipline yet maintain the "shoot interview" Pope Francis is notorious for, where he breaks the stereotype and says something which, for better or worse, is truly authentic? That's going to be a tough balancing act. I have my ideas of what "I would do differently", but honestly, you can get far better ideas from every other big name commentator out there. Me, I find myself being self-critical here. I certainly don't have a better idea, so maybe, just maybe, I should listen to the Pope. I don't have to do everything how he does it, but there's a chance that maybe some of it could help me be a better witness to the Gospel. I really wish people would do that rather than jump out with "what the Pope REALLY means is X" or "the Pope is just naive and doesn't understand the reality on the ground, etc."

We will never be able to escape battles surrounding abortion, contraception and gay marriage, nor should we. Yet I really think we should be more open to criticism and self-reflection, or at least as open to it as we are to throwing out criticism and reflecting on others.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Consensus on Vatican II

Over at Catholic Lane, I give what I think is a way forward for everyone to discuss the Second Vatican Council, especially in light of recent statements from bishops residing in widely diverging ideological schools. I blogged a little bit about that here before, but I've crystalized it in better form at CL. Hope to resume regular non column related blogging next week.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Theology of the Face at Catholic Exchange

Yup, the title pretty much says it all. That's my latest column at Catholic Exchange. I take a lot of the previous material from the notes I gave a few weeks ago, but this time put it into an actual article.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pope Francis and Tertullian

In his letter to an Italian atheist that is generating controversey for.... well I really don't know, Pope Francis makes a reference which may seem kind of obscure:
Christian faith believes in this: that Jesus is the Son of God who came to give his life to open the way to love for everyone. Therefore there is a reason, dear Dr. Scalfari, when you see the incarnation of the Son of God as the pivot of Christian faith. Tertullian wrote "caro cardo salutis", the flesh (of Christ) is the pivot of salvation. Because the incarnation, that is the fact that the Son of God has come into our flesh and has shared joy and pain, victories and defeat of our existence, up to the cry of the cross, living each event with love and in the faith of AbbĂ , shows the incredible love that God has for every man, the priceless value that he acknowledges. For this reason, each of us is called to accept the view and the choice of love made by Jesus, become a part of his way of being, thinking and acting.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

How NOT to do Apologetics

Way back in the day, I did apologetics. Even developed a bit of a following doing it. For a variety of reasons, I don't really do a lot of apologetics in public anymore, though I still do it on a one on one basis. I try to stay informed of the good arguments, and I still develop networks with apologists I like.

New Catholic Lane: The Case for Traditionalism

Over at my weekly Catholic Lane column I am beginning a new series. The next several weeks will be focused on laying the groundwork for what I feel is traditionalism at its best, and why these things will be so important for the Church when she inevitably comes out of the current crisis.

In today's introduction, I outline what I feel is one of the strongest cases traditionalism can make: we take the wisdom of the Book of Ecclesiastes seriously.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Find CSC on Twitter

Okay, so I finally broke down.  Several people suggested I do this for writing purposes.  So now you can find a quick reference to all my writings on twitter at @CatholicSmark.  Look forward to seeing ya!

Friday, September 6, 2013

You Got a Better Idea?

I've never been the largest fan of the charismatic movement personally, yet I've always been friends with a lot of charismatics.  We speak each others language.  I was reminded of this truth last night when I went to a speaking event hosted by a subgroup of Renewal Ministries, the Charismatic outfit of Dr. Ralph Martin.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why Pope Francis Proclaimed a Fast

Given that this Saturday is now a day of fasting for Catholics, my latest Catholic Lane column takes a look at some of the reasons for fasting provided in Sacred Scripture, and how they line up with what the Holy Father has asked Christians to do in the wake of escalating tensions in Syria.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Karl Keating on "Radical Traditionalist"

I concede that the term "radical Traditionalist" was misunderstood by some listeners--not by a large proportion, so far as I can gather, but certainly by more than a few. It was not the term I would have used had I been on the May 31 show. (I was vacationing in Germany at the time.)

I'm not sure what term I would have preferred; perhaps more than one term would be needed, to distinguish "run of the mill" Traditionalists (the large majority) from those who have gone off to an extreme (sedevacantists and those who claim Vatican II and the OF are invalid) and from a third group consisting, chiefly, of the SSPX, which, after all, is not in full communion with the Church and which takes some positions, with respect to Vatican II and its aftermath, that I don't think can be supported. So, I'm open to finding better terminology. I hope you would be too.

I would like to see "The Remnant" drops such unhelpful terms as "Novus Ordo Catholics" and "Conciliar Catholics." I don't think such terms can be used without inadvertently conveying a sense of condescension or disdain. I don't mean that you and your associates load those terms with condescension or disdain. I mean I think many people on the receiving end will think that you intend the terms to carry that kind of baggage.

This is what you and others are saying about the term "radical Traditionalist"--that it too easily is taken the wrong way. That's a valid criticism. I think there is terminological weakness all across the board.

The very interesting discussion just got a lot more interesting. That's a major concession from Karl Keating. Before, the standard defense (one never employed by Keating to his credit) is that traditionalists were dumb mouthbreathers who were too ignorant to understand that we were being done a favor. I think Keating attempted a defense, but also realized some things just aren't worth going to war over.

I think his request to The Remnant and others to drop terms such as "Novus Ordo Catholic" (I would also add Neo-Catholic) is a sensible one. Yet even if they decide to still use the terms, Mr. Keating should take the first step. He admits the term gets used the wrong way and that it damages legitimate traditionalists. So drop the phrase entirely. He himself admits "radtrad" is a slur and Catholics should be above that. They should also be above using the long form as well. Keating should have Catholic Answers say something like the following:
Here at Catholic Answers, we are committed to explaining and defending the Catholic Faith in a way accessible to our audiences. Sometimes this involves using terms that, while not perfect, we believed were sufficient. Due to circumstances beeyond our control, sometimes those justifications are no longer valid.

Such is the case with the terms radical traditionalist and rad trad that have been in use by our apologists and our radio hosts. We thought we were making the proper distinctions to seperate good traditionalists from those who held unacceptable views such as Vatican II formally teaching heresy, the Missal of Paul VI being invalid and/or intrinsically offensive to God, or the popes since the Second Vatican Council not being valid popes. 
Despite our intentions, these terms have been taken the wrong way too often, and a lot of good traditionalists were stigmatized in the process.
In confusing times, there are a lot of imprecise terms being used, and they frequently add to the confusion. 
To avoid any further confusion, from this moment forward, Catholic Answers, Catholics Answers Live and all her employees will cease using the phrases "radical traditionalist", "rad trad", "Mad trad" or any other derogative term. We believe that a more accurate description needs to occur, and we invite our traditionalist brethren from all circles to help us in doing so, and we shall be planning several endeavors to make this a reality. This is a dialogue all Catholics should have, and we hope this first step shows our seriousness.

We also call upon our traditionalist brethren to cease using imprecise labels on their side as well, such as Novus Ordo Catholic, Neo-Catholic, Concilliar Catholic, and the like. It is hard for this needed dialogue to take place when such terms are used. Even though you as well may have the best of intentions, these terms are being taken the wrong way, and are stigmatizing people who should be your ally.

As always we thank our traditionalist community members for bringing forth their concerns in a charitable and rational manner. We would like to especially thank The Remnant Magazine, who showed the honesty and candor to get these talks started. We should also like to thank Kevin Tierney, the new face of traditionalism.......

Sorry, fingers got caught on autopilot. You know, something like this.

Something Incredible is Happening at Catholic Answers.....

For the first time in the history of the blogosphere.... ignore the article.  The comments section is where its at.  Whether or not people wanted it, a real challenge has been given by traditionalists now towards the status quo of division.

After Karl Keating took to defending the behavior of his workers over the four hours of "radical traditionalism", a very lively discussion broke out on several fronts.  Here's what I think the highlights are:

- Mr. Keating says "radtrad" is something no Catholic should use..... but the long form "radical traditionalist" is better.  One can read his defense of it.

- Michael Matt (editor of The Remnant) offering one of the most moving statements of why traditionalists have such a visceral hatred of the term "radical traditionalist."

- Pete Vere renewing his call that Catholics should stop using the phrases as they are holding back the newer generation of traditionalists from being equals in the Church.

-  A proposal of real dialogue over the issues without any polemics

- A joint forum between the Remnant and Catholic Answers

- Some of the strongest condemnations of Anti-Semitism.  Let those who claim that trads have an anti-semitism problem read those statements and see if they wish to persist rolling in their own ignorance like a pig in their own filth.  Pigs like mud, and those individuals like their own blissful ignorance.

- A call for Mr. Keating and Catholic answers to actually come out and see what the new generation of traditionalists are really about.  They always talk in theory about the "good traditionalist", but they never put a name to the face.  Now they have an opportunity to do otherwise.

It really is Catholic Answers move.  They can continue the status quo of division nobody wants.  Their listeners don't want it.  Traditionalists don't want it.  The only one who wants it is the Divider.  So let's see if they want to step up and strike a blow for Catholic unity.  Your move gents.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Do We Really Need More Professional Catholics?

There's a lot of talk of "professional Catholics" lately. I'm really not going to go into too much of the detail. It was a stupid debate that got started and continued by more stupidity. Apparently intelligent people thought that the most gripping questions of the day were who makes what at what apologetics organization, and who applied for what job when, and the implication that people involved are just butthurt hypocrites. Even if this were true (who knows!) apparently detraction is the cool thing to do in the blogosphere nowadays.

This is what happens when the blogosphere gets bored during a slow news cycle. Instead of focusing on relevant issues, Catholic radio goes after "radical traditionalists", even when everyone has acknowledged those terms are incredibly damaging to faithful Catholics. Instead of using the wisdom of the tradition to live a holy and devout Catholic life, Michael Voris needs to throw red meat to his base about how awful others are. Some believe Catholic Answers lost donations money because of that show. Karl Keating denies that, and I see no reason to doubt him. Here's an alternate theory: people aren't coughing up money because this kind of talk is worthless. Most people look at these professional Catholics starting pointless fights and they correctly decide to use their limited money in a better fashion.

Fr. Longenecker believes we need more professional Catholics. If by "professional Catholic", you mean people extolling the Beatitudes such as blessed are the poor from luxury cruise liners, count me out. We don't need more of those professionals.

We need less speakers on cruise ships, and more catechists at the local level. We need fewer radio and youtube hosts looking to gin up controversy, and more priests in the confessional. We need fewer organizations that serve to rahrah their respective bases, and more groups like these. If they can focus on things of actual relevance, then yes, let's get some "professionals."