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How Orthodox Are You?! Let Some Non-Authority Decide!

March 25, 2008

One of the strangest, and possibly most dangerous, tendencies that many Catholics have on the internet, priest and lay alike, is that they view themselves as authoritative judges of the orthodoxy of others. They think it is their job to engage such practices. Sadly such judgments are not based upon authentic teachings of the Church and the recognition of the theological diversity allowed within Catholicism. Rather, they seem to be based upon subjective means, such as whether or not one follows a favored political ideology. However, some are worse, and judge the orthodoxy of others solely on sectarian positions, such as whether or not one is a perfect Thomist. Sadly, this kind of judgment ignores the breadth of Catholic thought. More importantly, is totally ignores one’s need to treat the other with Christian love, with agape, and seems to be aimed more at promoting oneself than it does with finding a way to work together with others who hold different positions than one’s own.

There are many examples of this on the net, but one which I think is one of the most important, because of how influential it is, comes from the website, Catholic Culture, where one can read their Website Reviews. Now they claim to rate a website’s fidelity, resources, and usability. And their approach to fidelity, at first, appears to be sound:

Orthodoxy – Fidelity to the Church as Teacher
Obedience – Fidelity to the Church as Ruler
Fortitude – Fidelity to the Church’s Prophetic Mission.

However, when one begins to read their reviews, and see the reasons for why various websites are considered “dangerous” and given a low rating of “orthodoxy,” one can quickly note something is wrong. They are not providing examples of heretical thought or teachings; rather the reviews often use one of the most fallacious methods of judging orthodoxy possible – guilt by association. And it often seems that the places judged as “unorthodox” seem to be judged for reasons often left unstated by the review.

Let’s look at a few examples:

The review for Ancient and Future Catholics suggests one must exercise caution while reading that site. While they give high ratings to the site for its resources, the review questions the fidelity of the website because 1) it has links to Protestant and Orthodox sites (as if guilt by association makes one unfaithful) and 2) the site has ads from google. That is enough to give Ancient and Future Catholics a “yellow” rating, indicating it is not entirely bad but one must be weary of what one finds on the site.

The review for Christianophobia in Europe suggests this website is an authentic, orthodox site one can go to and read without worries. It gives high ratings to the site because it finds “no weaknesses” and many strengths, i.e., examples of Christian persecution in Europe. Of course, there is little discussion on the site itself as to what the Christian response to persecution should be. One can wonder what purpose making this list actually can serve without that important discussion, especially since many “orthodox” observers on the net like to make lists of grievances and think that is all one needs to do to justify retaliation. Moreover, many “orthodox” observers are unwilling to see how they have contributed to these situations by their own sins. Nonetheless, Catholic Culture gives the site the all clear, so we should assume there is nothing dangerous here.

The review for the Notre Dame Center for Pastoral Liturgy is given a red light, telling the reader that the Notre Dame Center is unorthodox and dangerous for anyone to visit. What is interesting is that Catholic Culture points out in the description that the center “is the major credentialing organization for liturgists in North America.” So this site should be an important one and one already examined by Catholic authorities. Yet, Catholic Culture thinks this site has no strengths they can mention, and many weaknesses. Indeed, the site is dangerous for the fact that 1) it’s bibliography is “full of dissenters”, 2) it has “questionable links” and 3) repeating the previous point, it has “many non-Catholic liturgy and theology links.” The pattern this shows us is obvious – one’s links is enough to make one unorthodox; guilt by association is all one needs to do to besmear the reputation of a Catholic site. Let’s be clear, the reviewer feels qualified to judge the orthodoxy of a website for the premiere liturgical center in the United States, and thinks the way to judge it is not via content, but by links.

Finally, let us turn to their review of The Aquinas Institute of Theology. Once again, we are told this is an unorthodox site by the red light they give to it. It’s a danger and should be avoided. But, unlike the Notre Dame Center, Catholic Culture admits that the Aquinas Institute has some strengths: its resources are good, but the reviewer finds the institute to be unorthodox for the following reasons: 1) unorthodox links (once again), 2) it has a course on ethics of human sexuality (yes, sex is evil, there are no ethical ways to practice it, I am sure), 3) theology courses have books published by a Lutheran Publishing House (of course, the book is written by Catholic theologians, but that doesn’t matter), and 4) course on ecclesiology “promotes ‘spirit’ of Vatican II theology.”

Well, Catholic Culture, I think we know enough on how you judge the orthodoxy of Catholic websites. So I think we will use your own criteria to judge how orthodox your site is.

Catholic Culture

Description:
At Trinity Communications, we care passionately about helping Catholics to live their faith. That’s why the slogan for this site is “Living the Catholic Life”.

Strengths:

  • Library (resources)
  • Liturgical Year (resources)
  • Catechism (resources)

Weaknesses:

  • Unorthodox Links (fidelity)
  • Promotes “spirit” of Vatican II Theology by having Vatican II resources on site (fidelity)
  • Ignores Ut Unum Sint (fidelity)
  • Uses criteria which would condemn the Pope (fidelity)
  • Uses criteria which would condemn Doctors of the Church (fidelity)

Rating: Danger. Avoid at all costs.

See how easy that is? This means that their reviews are unorthodox, and should be taken with a grain of salt. That is, if we agreed with their methodology. Obviously, I do not.

“Orthodox” polemicists often do not appreciate how true orthodoxy is ecumenical in spirit and universal in depth. Orthodoxy looks for truth wherever it can be found, and it is willing to learn from others. Just because one studies Protestant, Orthodox, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist or Atheist writings does not indicate anything of one’s orthodoxy. St Thomas Aquinas read the writings of Muslims theologians and learned much from them – yet clearly he was orthodox. Instead of trying to divide humanity up into sectarian groups which cannot dialogue with one another, the Church tells us that we are called to learn from one another and appreciate one another, no matter what the background of the other actually is. This is not the “spirit of Vatican II” speaking; it is the basic way of Christ, followed by the Apostles, continued by the Church Fathers, embraced by the schoolmen, and re-emphasized by Pope Benedict XVI.

True orthodoxy includes orthopraxis, and indeed, requires it. This means one must be charitable in how one acts.

True orthodoxy is broad enough to allow differences of thought in Catholic theological circles without thinking it means one side or the other is unorthodox. Judging the orthodoxy of others on the web tends, for the most part, to view oneself as holding the only orthodox position and then judging others according to one’s own limited scope. That is not how one judges orthodoxy. That is how one creates schism.

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64 Comments
  1. March 25, 2008 9:48 am

    The reason I find “Catholic Culture” to be so important is that leading the reviews is Jeffrey A. Mirus, whose influences come from the fact 1) he is co-creator of Christendom College, and 2) he owns Catholic World News. This should tell us that his reviews here could reflect the kind of methodology engaged in Christendom and Catholic World News. Noticing how fast and loose he plays with things here should make us stop and pause at what comes out of Christendom and Catholic World News. Indeed, as has been reported here many times, CWN is capable of false reporting, and often for ideological reasons. So looking to Catholic Culture’s reviews, one can begin to see where the problem comes from..

  2. sbuck permalink
    March 25, 2008 9:51 am

    One of the strangest, and possibly most dangerous, tendencies that many Catholics have on the internet, priest and lay alike, is that they view themselves as authoritative judges of the orthodoxy of others.

    Examine thyself, as Socrates said.

  3. Morning's Minion permalink*
    March 25, 2008 9:52 am

    What I find rather amusing about these self-appointed guardians of orthodoxy is that they frequently themselves diverge from core Church teachings (on war, for example) When you delve deeper, you realize that their “orthodoxy” is often to an ideology, not the submission of intellect and will to the God who reveals. And of course, there is the “definitive source of all things Catholic”– David Hartline– who defines orthodoxy, quite explicitly, in terms of love for America. Is this some form form psychological transferance to block out their own failure to think with the Church, their own embrace of Protestantized (“pick-and-choose”) Catholcism?

  4. sbuck permalink
    March 25, 2008 10:00 am

    Can you come up with a good reason to dislike the “Christophobia” site, by the way? Your stated reasons seem a bit desperate (i.e., suggesting that the site is somehow suspect because unnamed other people might desire “retaliation,” or suggesting that the people described in Christophobia stories brought beatings and vandalism upon themselves). A better criticism would be that some of their stories probably reflect run-of-the-mill crimes rather than anything based on hatred of Christianity in particular.

  5. March 25, 2008 10:00 am

    Stuart

    I do examine myself. And I will criticize errors, even in myself. But I won’t write people off as unorthodox so quickly and completley dismiss them if I find them to be such. Of course, I might engage those who claim to be authorities and judge others, and address their problems as a point of reflection. Moreover, I do have some background which I can engage these issues on. But if you read carefully, I rarely play the “heretic card” even if I think elements of someone’s thought is wrong. And people can tell how I am willing to engage those who hold other views — when they are open to such dialogue. Criticism of mistakes is not the same thing as proclaiming one an authority to determine one’s Catholicity and to judge people as totally heterodox and unCatholic. I reflect for the point of dialogue; those who act as judges do so to silence the other. That’s a big difference.

  6. ben permalink
    March 25, 2008 10:03 am

    The Catholic Culture website is not designed for professional theologians, but for rank and file catholics who wish to enrich their lives by trying to live out their faith more fully. The Catholic Culture website is an excellent resource for families who may not have the time, ability or training to judge and evaluate the content of the catholic resources that come into their homes.

    As long as they have not mislabled something heterodox as something orthodox, they have not failed in their mission.

    They have answered the call of Vatican II to the laity to live up to the fullness and dignity of their vocation.

    Just because their work is not especially relevant to theologians does not mean it is without value. They provide good cousel to some and lead none astray.

  7. March 25, 2008 10:04 am

    Stuart

    I agree that some of their stories probably DO reflect run-of-the-mill crimes which are not based upon Christianity as such. I didn’t give a conclusive review of the site myself because I don’t think it is my place for it. I do find such sites odd. It reminds me, for example, of “Foxes’ Book of Martyrs” with the problems associated with such a work. And the type of people who like to associate with such sites often have desires which are not so pure. As I said, the site did not seem to have a good enough discussion on what to do, and I think that is necessary; it has a very short description which I didn’t find wrong in itself, but it was also vague if you know what I mean? Sure I am being vague — but that is all one can do when discussing someone else’s discussion which is itself vague! I just find the idea of collecting “incidents of hate crimes against Christians” without any significant discussion of the meaning and interpretation of the data to be dangerous. Surely you can see the danger when it is not giving hermeneutics to interpret the data?

  8. March 25, 2008 10:08 am

    I used to run the web site at Aquinas Institute of Theology and I always got a kick out of going to that site and reading the reviews. What always struck me was the unstated assumption, especially regarding course content, that one should never engage in the thought and writings of those one disagrees with. How apologetics or evangelization could ever be done in such a context remains a mystery to me. =)

    America Magazine had a good article on this trend a few years back: “The New E-Magisterium” (May 6, 2000). This quote seems appropriate and scary:

    “The growing impact of this e-magisterium has been confirmed in university classrooms. I have received a growing number of papers from theology students that draw on sources obtained from the Internet. Well-meaning theology students, including some who are preparing for both ordained and non-ordained ministry in the church, increasingly look to these sources to ascertain the ‘authentic Catholic position’ on a particular matter. As but one example I might mention a document downloaded from a ‘Catholic’ Web site entitled, ‘A Short Catechism on the New Theology.’ The document suggests that the theological perspectives of Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar, among others, are incompatible with orthodox Catholic faith. As both theologians were later created cardinals without recanting earlier held positions (Balthasar died before actually receiving the ‘red hat’), this is a rather provocative claim!”

  9. Mark DeFrancisis permalink*
    March 25, 2008 10:11 am

    Henry,

    These types of organizations live and thrive on spotting heterodoxy anywhere they can either find or manufacture it. They operate under a siege mentality, believing their ability to throw out anything potentially unorthodox somehow is their ultimate means of salvation. They forget that it is Christ’s love they receive in the Church that saves them, and instead, see their fundamental position as ‘having to ‘save’ the Church, through a spastic process of rejecting of anything that does not immediately and on the surface conform to their fideistic checklists. They sacrifice charity for fear; prudence for zealotry; and reason for a misguided, fideistic propostionalism.

  10. March 25, 2008 10:13 am

    JSullivan

    Indeed — that is a good quote and funny about Lubac and Balthasar (of course, I know many who question their orthodoxy and could even provide legitimate reasons to debate them on issues, it is different from the kind of remarks you get on the net).

    I forgot to mention the thing with classes — I am glad you did. I thought the same thing when I first read the review. Obviously one who is engaging theological studies must study even those who are not orthodox; but that isn’t a judge of orthodoxy!

  11. Policraticus permalink*
    March 25, 2008 10:14 am

    They have answered the call of Vatican II to the laity to live up to the fullness and dignity of their vocation.

    Taking “orthodoxy” into one’s own hands apart from the teaching Church is not answering the call of Vatican II. Perhaps a refresher on the Church’s teaching on the lay apostolate is in order.

  12. March 25, 2008 10:16 am

    Ben

    When their own methodology for judging the orthodoxy of others would condemn themselves, one must find something is indeed wrong with their methodology. Condemning major centers of Catholic thought as not being faithful to the Church is a big judgment call which is not theirs to make. Whether or not it is for the layman or not, the truth remains — many places they judge as unorthodox and a danger are neither unorthodox nor a danger. And so the tool is not just to help families and laymen, but to stir them to sites which encourage a prefered ideological content instead of the universal Catholic appeal which knows there is no one school of thought by which you judge one’s Catholicism.

  13. March 25, 2008 10:19 am

    Mark

    Sadly, that is true. It’s why I thought something should be said. I am not judging CC’s orthodoxy (it is not for me to do so), but only used their own methodology to judge them. I hope such a path will help people see the problem. And that is why I think Stuart’s comments didn’t appreciate or understand the point (nor the point of much which is said here).

  14. March 25, 2008 10:42 am

    Henry,

    Do you find that many of these sites reflect an Evangelical temperament?

  15. sbuck permalink
    March 25, 2008 10:55 am

    By saying “examine thyself,” I wasn’t referring to this post itself. I was referring to the many other post or comments on this site that most definitely judge someone else’s orthodoxy simply by looking at their political positions on many different issues where there is no infallible Church teaching.

  16. Michael Enright permalink
    March 25, 2008 10:55 am

    How is this any different from Moarning’s Minion finding calvinism under every rock?

  17. March 25, 2008 10:57 am

    I respect the reviews of Catholic Culture, even though they gave the websites I help run yellow ratings. I knew beforehand that if they ever rated our sites (Ancient and Future Catholics and ChurchYear.Net), they would give them lower ratings because of the google ads (although some sites they review have google ads and get a green light, so I am not sure exactly how they actually determine their distinction between yellow and green regarding ads). I think the idea of rating sites for fidelity is a good idea. However, I think reducing the ratings to green, yellow, and red is a bit narrow, because some sites are purposefully unorthodox, others purposefully vague, and others purposely orthodox (as the sites I run are). Because we have google ads for funding, we are lumped in with those who purposefully deny or soften church teaching. Personally, I would like to see some sort of guidelines/rating (perhaps an online imprimatur?) done by a diocese or bishop, with clear criteria. Has any website sought an imprimatur. Is this even possible?

  18. M.Z. Forrest permalink
    March 25, 2008 11:19 am

    Imprimaturs are generally only sought for things offered as church teaching. Classroom materials would be an example. It is commonly understood, although often mistaken in the U.S., that opinions are those of the presenter and not the Church unless offered by the proper teaching office. People should be able to understand that even L’Observatorio Romano is only offering unofficial opinions, even if they are highly informed ones.

    What is more distressing for me at least is the ease with which a heterodox charge is thrown at the USCCB, various relgious orders, and even bishops. The lay stuff for me is in the category of can’t do anything about it so why try. I simply won’t frequent sites anymore in the habit of making such pronouncements. There is a world of difference between disagreeing with an opinion or even the articulation of a teaching on an occasional basis. Even that should be done with humility, possibly even an acknowledgement that one could be wrong. Many of the sites however that claim the orthodoxy mantle spend over a quarter of their posts criticizing some bishops or religious institutes. They all will claim an obligation to truth, or at least a truth that can reduce a bishop to a heretic in a post under 100 words.

  19. March 25, 2008 11:21 am

    On the web, everybody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

  20. March 25, 2008 11:27 am

    Gerald

    I think there are many different factors going on, and the internet finds people of various backgrounds joining together into common associations for different reasons.

    First, there are the anti-Vatican II types; so-called “traditionalists” which look at everything with a very fundamentalistic, unreasonable light. If you don’t hit the checklists exactly as they exemplify it, you are automatically a heretic. But since many people are willing to accept the view that Vatican II is a problem for contemporary Catholicism, while the extreme view is often rejected, a modified form of this critique is acceptable and ultimately has ties to extreme groups which are marginalized or outside of Catholicism.

    Second, there are many Protestant converts who have not yet accepted a Catholic sensibility. They are Catholics, to be sure, and I will grant them this. But their way of looking at things retains their Protestant frame of mind. They just look at Catholicism as the truth in the way they once thought Protestantism was the truth; but their positivism in dogmatics does not understand or comprehend complexibility, mystery and paradox. Therefore, they want simplified answers and anything else is automatically wrong.

    Third, there are political hacks who try to take aspects of Catholic Social Teaching, and demand adherence to it, while finding a way to undermine other aspects as “not so important.” They then judge others based upon how well they follow the political ideology.

    These three together can and often do cause strange bedfellows. They are not in complete agreement with one another, and infighting often happens. But they have enough crossovers between the groups, and they have enough feeling that their views are not being heard by Catholicism in the normative sense, they feel they have to undermine the normative experience by becoming vocal online. We can see the result of this. It’s unreasonable to the extreme.

  21. March 25, 2008 11:28 am

    David

    The problem I have is that their methodology is inconsistent, and seems little to do with orthodoxy and has more to do with ideology. Again, judging people as unorthodox just because they read Protestant theological textbooks is indicative of a problem. Moreover, it is not a person in authority speaking, but yet taking the mantle of authority. That is becoming a side magisterium as can be seen how they judge bishops ever so quickly (per MZ’s point).

    A couple years ago, I remember there was a great amount of discussion done by the Vatican about how many people use the name “Catholic” on the web without having any authoritative ability to define Catholic thought. The Vatican clearly views as you do — and as we should all do — that there is need for an authoritative source to examine the content of the web. The problem is not that, the problem is who becomes the authority and the kinds of ideology they use to judge others. Political ideologues who have been known to distort news teachings (CWN is famous for this) are not good sources for this.

  22. March 25, 2008 11:30 am

    Michael

    MM isn’t decrying people as unCatholic; he is pointing out how people are often influenced by things which are not Catholic and they don’t often appreciate those influences. Moreover, he is making the associations which normal theological discussion often makes and recognizes: as a culture, the US is Calvinist. He’s even shown Bishops explaining this to be the case. Certainly that’s different from condemning people as heretics.

  23. bill bannon permalink
    March 25, 2008 11:36 am

    HK
    You are forgetting the sites that see the Latin Mass and the priest facing to the east
    as the solution to every sin under the cirrus clouds. Do you have a daughter who has run off with a juggler from Cirque du Soleil? It’s because of the NO Mass. Frankly if he’s with the Cirque du Soleil, they won’t starve.

  24. March 25, 2008 11:38 am

    Bill

    I would equate those with the pre-Vatican “traditionalists” who think Vatican II and everything afterwards is unCatholic.

    I think we can agree. If everything went back to 1950s Latin Mass, the cultural problems would still be there.

  25. Policraticus permalink
    March 25, 2008 11:40 am

    I was referring to the many other post or comments on this site that most definitely judge someone else’s orthodoxy simply by looking at their political positions on many different issues where there is no infallible Church teaching.

    I beg you to find a single post on this blog that calls into question the orthodoxy of anyone according to their political positions.

    Side note: Infallible is not the same as authoritative. There are many non-infallible teachings of the Catholic Church that are binding, as the infallible Lumen Gentium tells us.

  26. sbuck permalink
    March 25, 2008 11:40 am

    Second, there are many Protestant converts who have not yet accepted a Catholic sensibility. They are Catholics, to be sure, and I will grant them this.

    A gracious concession indeed.

    But again, throughout that very comment, you yourself are rating the “orthodoxy of others.” To be sure, you’re not giving people labels of “red light” and so forth, but you’re judging their adherence to the Catholic faith. That’s one of the “most dangerous” tendencies to have, as one might say.

  27. sbuck permalink
    March 25, 2008 11:42 am

    I beg you to find a single post on this blog that calls into question the orthodoxy of anyone according to their political positions.

    Are you serious? Search for “Iraq War” or “immigration” or “heath care” for any number of examples.

  28. March 25, 2008 11:43 am

    Stuart

    You are being purposefully obstuse. I will leave it at that.

  29. sbuck permalink
    March 25, 2008 11:48 am

    One of the strangest, and possibly most dangerous, tendencies that many Catholics have on the internet, priest and lay alike, is that they view themselves as authoritative judges of the orthodoxy of others. They think it is their job to engage such practices. Sadly such judgments are not based upon authentic teachings of the Church and the recognition of the theological diversity allowed within Catholicism.

    The only way to say the above, and at the same time to salvage your own posts (as well as the posts of many other people here), is to make a sharp distinction:

    1) Judging the orthodoxy of others is BAD if it’s based on the wrong criteria (i.e., position on Joan Chittister).
    but
    2) Judging the orthodoxy of others is GOOD if it’s based on the right criteria (i.e., position on Iraq War).

    Is that what you’re trying to say?

  30. March 25, 2008 11:50 am

    One can judge the comments of others based upon official, authoritative positions of the Church on specific topics. But that is different from judging personal orthodoxy. One can be in error and not a heretic.

    Now I will leave it be.

  31. March 25, 2008 11:52 am

    Henry, I do think you guys, some more than others, have a tendency to admonish others re: their ‘Catholicity’. It’s just not as hysterical (unless MM smells Calvinism :P) than people who think Mahony’s an apostate cause he uses picnic pitchers. I just think that constitutes bad taste and a violation of liturgical norms. It doesn’t mean he sacrifices animals to Baal :P One thing that must be kept in mind is that the average reader doesn’t comment at all, so comments tend to be written by more ‘enthusiastic’ people. I’ve been doing it for so long that I’ve calmed down considerably. I’ve withdrawn from the ‘more Catholic than thou’ business. To begin with, I usually argue more on a level of taste and feasibility than morality. Eg, I think Catholics can support all kinds of political and economic models (excluding some, of course), so if I disagree it’s on a merely political and personal preference level.

    Thankfully, my blog isn’t rated on the site you cite :P I consider my blog a personal rather than a Catholic blog with claim to orthodoxy (TM). Admittedly, ex post, the blog title was a bad idea. It was meant as a bon mot re: Ratzinger. Apparently, on the internet the accusation of ‘Cafeteria Catholic’ is ubiquitous. In my defense, I was a pup when I started. I hadn’t even known how far out some people are, Frequently, they have a lot in common, regardless of whether they’d be viewed as ‘left’ or ‘right’. Dislike for democracy and individual rights, for example.

    Another issue is the impersonal nature of blogging. We’d never be as rude in person.

  32. March 25, 2008 12:01 pm

    I consider my blog a personal rather than a Catholic blog with claim to orthodoxy…

    This is interesting.

  33. March 25, 2008 12:02 pm

    Henry writes
    First, there are the anti-Vatican II types; so-called “traditionalists” which look at everything with a very fundamentalistic, unreasonable light. If you don’t hit the checklists exactly as they exemplify it, you are automatically a heretic. But since many people are willing to accept the view that Vatican II is a problem for contemporary Catholicism, while the extreme view is often rejected, a modified form of this critique is acceptable and ultimately has ties to extreme groups which are marginalized or outside of Catholicism.
    That I prefer the Old Mass is for intellectual, aesthetic and artistic reasons and many of the reasons cited in “Heresy of Formlessness”. It doesn’t mean my wife looks Amish :P There are many who truly love the TLM but I think that there are also people who prefer the TLM simply because they associate it with the time before the crazy 60s, Then there’s the fringe of course, where you just have to say “Jew” and you get a hate crime. I banned the latter from commenting.

    The looney hippie segment is definitely under-represented online. Too busy making felt banners, I guess :P

  34. sbuck permalink
    March 25, 2008 12:04 pm

    One can judge the comments of others based upon official, authoritative positions of the Church on specific topics. But that is different from judging personal orthodoxy. One can be in error and not a heretic.

    That’s a non-distinction. Who’s judging personal orthodoxy or labeling anyone a “heretic”? In the links above, all I see is that the website is just giving a “red light” to various institutions that (purportedly) take too favorable a view of dissenters. (Am I missing something?) Just as you might give a “red light” (if you used that system of labeling) to a website that took too favorable a view of the Iraq War.

  35. March 25, 2008 12:09 pm

    Gerald Augustinus (because there are two Geralds here):

    While I think you still go too far in personal attacks on some people, I have seen a change on your blog of late which is different from other places which still view itself as the determination of all orthodoxy, but in doing so, also ignores the holistic approach of Catholic thought and how everything inter-relates. That — I think – can help, though you must admit the kind of people who post on your site tend to be knee-jerk reactionaries of one sort or another…

    I do not think Vox Nova is judging the orthodoxy of people; but debates can often discuss the Catholic sensibility of various positions. Indeed, I think everyone does this and it is fine to do so. And one must differentiate the two. We must understand that a criticism of one position might not mean a wholesale condemnation of everything the others stand for (which would then be an ad hominen in the traditional, logical sense, if it was seen to be doing that). Rather, as with academics, it is engaging people to go deeper and not just judging and dismiss.

    Vox Nova, I think, causes many people to be upset and gets many labels because people cannot appreciate what is going on. They have not seen the fullness of Catholic positions and the broad range of Catholic thought. Moreover, they have not experienced the inter-connectedness of Catholic thought. One teaching relates to all teachings, in one fashion or another. Finally, I think many people who like to claim orthodoxy are upset because they view orthodoxy in a limited sense, and often connected with political party affiliation, while Vox Nova points out the problems of such a simplistic approach. We do stand for orthodox Catholic teaching and 2) we are calling people to uphold it in all ways and not just some, and not to quickly dismiss things because they are not convenient. But that is different from viewing oneself as an inquisitor who has some authority to determine personal orthodoxy. And so it remains, on Vox Nova, a discussion of ideas and principles from a Catholic standpoint. Of course, a with all places, there are disagreements, even infighting, and human reactions; but people focusing on those issues are also engaging ad hominen debates instead of looking to the bigger picture. Vox Nova is aimed at showing how some thing bigger.

    Finally, in analysis, as with all critical analysis, things need to be done and not just in a dismissive fashion through labelling others and thinking that is the answer. Sometimes the labels can be correct or point to influences and so it is not necessarily wrong to use them, but one must show why one uses them and how one is using them if they do so. Things which might seem to be “Catholic” could end up being a possible Catholic position — and one of many possible positions, and if so, it should be noted. Or it could be influenced from a non-Catholic source. The second is not necessarily bad. Even Balthasar, for example, was highly influenced by Barth. But it is good to be honest to see what is going on when this happens, because such influences, when left without recognizing that fact, can bring many negative connotations with them, rather than the positive Catholic sense which tries to bring truth together with truth. Thus by pointing out, for example, America is a Calvinist Culture, something which is clearly established from ecclesial and theological and historical sources, it can point out why people thinking within American lines which differ from the rest of the Church could be getting such disagreement. And so honesty about it is helpful.

  36. March 25, 2008 12:10 pm

    Michael I, I kinda screwed myself with my blog title :P
    So what you called …what was it… my repulsive, sub-Christian views ? I’m not saying they’re mandatory for Catholics to be good Catholics :P

    Unless I’m writing pure polemics, I try to differentiate. Eg, I never said it was wrong to oppose the Iraq war. On the other hand, I did say I found it immoral to oppose America’s fighting of the Nazis, while saying that I can understand that one would refuse to fight but rather work as a medic.

  37. March 25, 2008 12:14 pm

    Stuart — you are still being obtuse… and I wonder why I am accepting the bait one more time… but I will. One last time.

    I think many of us could accept people who take a favorable view of the Iraq War if they did so with critical analysis and pointed out how it was indeed in dissent from the normative position of the Catholic Church instead of making it appear as something other than that. Also it depends upon how they do so and what they say. I don’t think one could accept a position which said “nuke them all” even if it was admitted to be dissent. To ignore the Church is different from intelligent theological dissent; the second is possible and acceptable if given just explanation. That is lacking from so many. I actually like many from all theological perspectives – I mean, de Maistre is a major influence of mine, and he is as authoritarian as they come –but again, it comes from how the discussion is engaged or not.

  38. March 25, 2008 12:16 pm

    Henry:
    though you must admit the kind of people who post on your site tend to be knee-jerk reactionaries of one sort or another…

    Well, you got your knee-jerk liberals, (Hi, Mark D!) I got my knee-jerk reactionaries :P I’d say I am a knee-half-jerk libertarian conservative. In defense of my ‘reactionaries’, many of them are very well-informed, like John Hetman and Donald. Some of course shoot at sparrows with cannons. (I shoot sparrows with Canons). Some of it is just plain entertainment, like poking fun at political correctness. Not to mention that some people really deserve venting about church stuff after having sat through yet another ‘Mass of Creation’ and ‘Be Not Afraid’ :D Others have a legitimate grudge because they went almost blind due to tie-dyed liturgical dancers.

  39. March 25, 2008 12:18 pm

    Now I have to get back to work, many more photos of Pope Benedict (and ‘his’ Munich/Freising) to be finished !

  40. March 25, 2008 12:21 pm

    okok one more. Comment just left at my blog, in response to me decrying the Christian history of antisemitism

    I concluded:
    “It’s sadly a common human feature to persecute those who are different, whether it’s because of religion, race, sexual orientation, you name it. This is why a secular, pluralistic state is a must.”

    “Liam the Oager” responded
    Uh….no thanks. I live in a secular, pluralistic republic.
    Error has no rights and those who propagate error must have no right to do so.
    I’ll opt for a confessional Catholic (legitimist) monarchy the first opportunity that I get!
    Charles X Borbon, we need you now!!!

    How does one respond to that? Hehe.

  41. March 25, 2008 12:24 pm

    Gerald Augustinus

    We get a lot of knee-jerk reactionaries who comment on Vox Nova. This is clearly true. Look to the people who are constantly commenting on Vox Nova and you will see they are often the same you find elsewhere — on your site, on Mark Shea’s site, on Jay’s site, etc. But the kind of response tends to be different; and many of us on VN are upset that it can get sidetracked because of it. Hence my post underneath this one.

    But I will take exception to Mark D. You might want to call him “liberal.” I find such a label invalid. Moreover, he might respond, but I would say it is more than just “knee jerk” reactionary. If you want to say some people who post on the Cafeteria are educated, Mark D. has more than shown himself to be one — and he posts there and here. Notice how much he talks about Balthasar and you will see this…

  42. Mark DeFrancisis permalink*
    March 25, 2008 12:39 pm

    Gerald,

    I’ll take your comment as typical of your propensity to sloppiness at key times.

    As trying to have a reasonable discussion with many of your posters requires a life-jacket to fend of their vitriol and outright ignorance about the basics of the faith, I have chosen to be only an occasional gad-fly there. Unfortunately, I believe you have brought some of these people to you and encourage(d) their polluting the waters in this manner (particularly, recently, in the Obama posts).

    This is sad, as you have much to offer and many other posters (ex.,Dim Bulb or FRBP) of good will and sufficient knowledge and complexity

    And I have never heard John Hetman or Donald even attempt a Catholic defense of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

  43. March 25, 2008 12:44 pm

    Henry,

    Kudos for pointing out that orthodoxy isn’t tantamount to dividing up humanity into sectarian groups, but rather calls us to learn from and appreciate one another. My own interest in figures such Derrida would undoubtedly give cause to the magisterium of the Magisterium to place me in the dark side of the Catholic blogosphere.

  44. March 25, 2008 12:45 pm

    I tease Mark D all the time, We enjoy talking about classic music. It’s too bad he’s not here right now, probably busy blowing kisses at his Obama poster. He inhabits my blog, too – I think that’s how he found you. He’s not bad, just misguided :P One problem of the internet is that tone of voice doesn’t come across. This is why I take to the somewhat silly custom of using smileys.

    pope smiley: +:¬O

  45. March 25, 2008 12:46 pm

    hmm the smileys got messed up, Some HTML thing I guess. I had more plus that’s not the pope smiley. If you could erase it and this post please, thanks

  46. March 25, 2008 12:50 pm

    Kyle

    Thanks for returning the discussion to the main point. Exactly the point indeed! And btw, the “magesterium of the internet” might find you unorthodox, but you know as well as I, that many theologians do as you do with Derrida for some great benefit for the Church. It’s difficult for Catholic theology to be proper to itself if it ignores the contemporary philosophical landscape.

  47. Mark DeFrancisis permalink*
    March 25, 2008 1:20 pm

    Gerald A,

    I knew you were joking, but thought I’d take you task anyway.

    However, whenever I go into your archives, I am taken at the differences between your early posts and some of the stuff you have later allowed yourself the liberty to put up.

    There was earlier an extended reflectiveness, broadmindedness and absence of a certain ideological entrenchment. I think your humor many times works to balance your later, more ideological slant, but not nearly always. This feeds some of the ‘out-there’ responses you get from your self-appointed minions. You are not absolutely responsible for this cadre, but should see some of the reasons why you got them. I understand your humour and multi-levelled irony in many instances, but I think some of your unsolicited ‘followers’ fail to see your spirit and talke your stuff as pure red-meat. But some times even the humor and irony cannot balm the sharp, personal content…

  48. March 25, 2008 1:40 pm

    But Mark, I used to be far more toe-the-line earlier in the blog. Just look at posts on homosexuality 2 years ago and now. I regularly get criticized for being ‘gay-friendly’. I used to talk about the ‘gay agenda’ and what not. Maybe you’re referring to political rather than religious topics ? I am really a nowhere man, but have allied myself with the right because to me the left is the far greater threat to liberty and safety. It’s not that I am not unhappy with people on the Right, I just dislike the left far more and its influence will influence ME negatively. Whether someone thinks all Catholics/Sodomites/Jews/Protestants etc are going to hell doesn’t hurt my rights or my pocketbook. Today’s influential do-gooder-Puritans tend to be liberals. My political views are simple really. Leave me alone, tax me less, let me have my gun/car/house etc. Don’t legislate morality in ‘no-victim’ situations. You’ll see that I disagree with ‘Defense of Marriage Acts’ just as much as I do with ‘Affirmative Action’.

  49. March 25, 2008 1:41 pm

    (I think I should maybe audio-record my polemics – it’s really more like stand-up. The over-the-top mockery would come across better. My wife calls me ‘Denis Leary’. She likes Denis Lear.)

  50. what? permalink
    March 25, 2008 4:00 pm

    Poli wrote: “I beg you to find a single post on this blog that calls into question the orthodoxy of anyone according to their political positions.”

    Surely you can’t be serious Poli. Didn’t Michael I. question the sincerity of someone’s conversion to Catholicism a couple weeks ago? Have you read Michael I. on the war, particularly Catholic soldiers? Anything by MM and Calvinism (which apparently is expanding exponentially to include a dizzying array of contradictory principles)? If you are serious, and would rather I not call you shirley, then I can find the links for you if you would like.

  51. March 25, 2008 4:23 pm

    Didn’t Michael I. question the sincerity of someone’s conversion to Catholicism a couple weeks ago?

    I don’t recall doing that.

    Have you read Michael I. on the war, particularly Catholic soldiers?

    I’m not sure my arguments on these matters have been put in terms of orthodoxy vs. heterodoxy. I am well aware that the official Church position allows for soldiering. I critique the Church’s silence when it comes to pastoral guidance to soldiers, as well as those soldiers who do not take Church teaching on war seriously enough to do the math themselves.

    Do find the links on the first matter, will you? I think either you have me mixed up with someone else, or I have been misunderstood (or misrepresented — it would not be the first time).

  52. Eddie permalink
    March 25, 2008 8:35 pm

    Michael I.

    Apologies, it was Morning’s Minion who questioned someone’s conversion
    https://vox-nova.com/2008/03/10/vetoes-of-evil/#comments. See Below

    Morning’s Minion Says:
    March 10, 2008 at 11:52 am
    Jonathan: First, to choose between two intrinsically evil acts based on “lesser evil” is an exercise in proportionalism and is illicit, if not heretical. But your argument is even worse. You claim that waterboarding was only undertaken on “homicidal maniacs”. Are you trying to argue that that makes it more justifiable? This is truly abhorrant. This constant Calvinistic reasoning makes me wonder abour your conversion.”

    As far as your statements, I was referring to the following…

    “The Church’s views on this war are well known, and less than 1% or Catholic soldiers have the ___s to do what is right. This statistic indicates to me that few soldiers take the Church’s teaching seriously.”

    Sorry again about imputing MM’s comments to you.

  53. March 25, 2008 11:06 pm

    Sorry again about imputing MM’s comments to you.

    No problem. I will make no judgment about someone’s conversion experience, nor will I judge whatever MM said or his reasons for saying it. I just think it’s important to carefully distinguish who says what on this blog, lest we misrepresent each other.

    As far as your snippet of my views on the war and soldiers go, I will simply again point out that I did not refer to anyone’s orthodoxy or heterodoxy. I think those are technical terms, as is the term heresy, and I don’t throw them around lightly.

    As I have repeatedly pointed out, u.s. soldiers who are fighting in the Iraq war are technically within the bounds of “orthodoxy” as the Church’s teaching in this particular context are not, on the whole, coercive (with the exception of the courageous Bishop Botean who forbade his flock to participate in the war). That this is so does not mean, however, that Catholic soldiers are doing what is right, or that they are in fact taking the Gospel or Catholic teaching on this particular war seriously. And while the Vatican and two popes have given their judgment of the war in light of the Church’s very clear just war doctrine, as articulated in the Catechism, the Church is clearly not interested in opposing the war in much of concrete, pastoral, practical sense. The fault rests with our individual bishops and priests and pastoral teams and Catholic school teachers — in short, all of us! — just as much as it does the soldiers. We are all a part of the Church, and if the Church is not clearly opposing the war then we are all guilty, and we all have blood on our hands.

  54. March 25, 2008 11:10 pm

    Let me add that the more I study the stuff, the more I think the Roman Catholic Church is in a transitional stage in its teaching on war and peace. We have seen many developments over the last 20-30 years, from John XXIII’s Peace on Earth to the present. I have faith that the Church is learning more lessons as we sit by and watch this War on Terror unfold like the sinful nightmare that it is. I think the Church will recover its public voice and its ability to be a Body that actively resists violence, and I think Benedict might be the pope who helps this to happen.

  55. March 25, 2008 11:32 pm

    A timely and long-overdue critique of the e-magisterium.

    A worrying thought is that it is these heresy-hunters who may have the ear of the Vatican. The notions of orthodoxy brought into play against Dupuis and Sobrino and Phan are quite close to those of The Wanderer and rightwing Catholic blogs.

  56. March 26, 2008 12:53 am

    Teaching authority abhors a vacuum.

    Lets face it the religious education, whether it’s in a Catholic primary and secondary school system or via the RCIA is at best very weak in the USA.

    Additionally until recent years bishops allowed all sorts of questionable seminars in local parishes.

    The majority of Catholic sadly don’t have the desire, time, resources to check primary resources just what the church permits and what is closed for discussion. They seek a concrete black and white general explainations to most theological questions.

    The net provides these “answers” which should be given by the parish priest and o bishop, but for what ever reason doesn’t.

    Good article overall.

  57. March 26, 2008 3:43 am

    Michael

    I agree about the Church being at a transition stage; it is clear that the Church is moving more and more to re-evaluation of “just war principles” and not in favor of widening them, but narrowing them even more, just as it has done with capital punishment.

  58. March 26, 2008 3:44 am

    Spirit of Vatican II

    It is sad that the net has so many inquisitors; it makes dialogue near impossible at times.

  59. March 26, 2008 3:49 am

    Quickbeam

    Certainly there is a catechesis issue going on; and so it makes the situation to me that much more grave. Good catechesis is helpful, and is to be recommended. But net authorities often tend to provide the exact opposite, alas.

  60. asimplesinner permalink
    March 26, 2008 2:03 pm

    hmmm… We garnered the attention of this group eh?

    I am kind of delighted by being a “yellow” – gives us a bit of a bad boy edge I think – dangerously risky with our linking to Orthodox websites!

    Before today I had never heard of them… I wonder how many people use them.

  61. Mark DeFrancisis permalink*
    March 26, 2008 4:00 pm

    The absurdity manifests itself particularly in CCs giving te Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops a cautionary yellow.

  62. March 26, 2008 5:59 pm

    The absurdity manifests itself particularly in CCs giving te Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops a cautionary yellow.

    Indeed.

    I mean God forbid we let american Catholics in on the secret that most people in throughout the world (Catholics, no less!) DO NOT THINK LIKE THEM.

  63. April 1, 2008 8:58 pm

    You know the more that I have been thinking about this, the more I see it as pretty much a non-issue. Inasmuch as the website in question holds no authority and inhibits no one… Well, opinions are like what opinions are like – everyone has one, no one thinks theirs stinks…

    That being the case, it really doesn’t bother me that these people make asessments of websites in nearly the same fashion that you are making an asessment of them. In turn people who don’t agree with my opinions on this, that, or the other thing either leave a comment in the combox… Or quit reading my blog.

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