Friday, March 21, 2014

That Catholics Find Refuge in the Catholic Blogosphere is a Symptom of a Larger Problem

So this editorial from Catholic Herald (UK) asks the Bishops to embrace the blogosphere.

This in the wake of the commotion of the censoring of Deacon Nick Donnelly who posts at Protect the Pope.

One of the most annoying things about the Catholic Church, and the professional Catholic class in general, is its hiding behind what I dub "officialism".

Go to any "professional Catholic" website, like a diocesan website. What do you get? Lots of "official words". Lots of documents (we're not shepherded by men but governed by documents!).

It has the feel of a bureaucratic undertaking. Now I understand that in a hierarchical organization it's virtually inevitable that some officialism will abound.

But the problem is that for a large number of Catholics (and others) their contact with the Catholic Church consists only of that.

And the worst part of it is that a lot of it is a damned facade.

I don't think that there are that many overtly modernist bishops in Canada. But there are many who are [what I dub] "modernist-by-omission".

They don't openly dissent or doubt the more culturally unpopular doctrines, but they remain silent on them, which reflects a certain lack of commitment to them.

Let me give you an example. Take for example our personal salvation: the idea that Jesus Christ came to save men from Original sin, from personal sins and from man's own wounded nature; the idea that Jesus Christ came to pay the debt that mankind incurred through sin, which merits hell.

How many clergy, let alone bishops, ever address that extremely salient point of our faith?

Now of course we don't expect clergy to call down fire and brimstone ad nauseum, but maybe now and then it might be good to remind people of the central reason for the Incarnation: the alienation of man from God and the hell it creates now and in the afterlife.

I realize this doctrine comes off as a little bit vinegar to our age. What a party-pooper of a doctrine.

I have no problem with smiley clerics, and joyous clerics, and clerics who want to focus on people and their problems. We need that!

But, maybe once in a while, it might be a good idea to remind the faithful (and maybe, especially, the NON-faithful) that their souls are at stake.

And this cuts to the heart of the problem, in my view of the Church: is that there is a lack of commitment to all Catholic doctrine, and that to mask that lack of commitment, clergy hide behind officialism "well, the Church teaches this (insert Catechism quotation)" like a good bureaucrat, but you get the distinct feeling that because they need to quote the Catechism, because they never mention it otherwise they don't really believe it themselves!

And because of this lack of commitment, there's a lot of dissimulation, and there can be no genuine heart-to-heart concern for the flock in the Church.

The clergy hide behind officialism behind if they really said what they thought, the masks would drop. People would find out: yeah Father-So-And-So doesn't really care about all that heaven-and-hell stuff. He doesn't really buy Church doctrine on contraception. He doesn't feel especially committed to Church infallibility etc.

And they know that's what they are bound to uphold. They uphold it, sure. Through "officialism".

And the orthodox faithful, the ones like me, would get upset and call them out on it.

And so because of this "officialism" this "modernism-by-omission", Catholics can't be honest and sincere with one another. Clergy have to hide. They have to hide behind the Catechism, which they cite but don't believe; they have to hide behind their institutions; they have to hide behind all sorts of Vatican words taken out of context.

This is not the workings of a family. The Catholic Church is supposed to work like a family. The Bishop is supposed to be a Father. We're not all supposed to be strangers to one another. Documents are a guide; they're not people. It should be People running the Church, emitting teachings, talking about Truth.

Documents are so easy. We read them, and we know where everybody is supposed to be, but it contributes to all the isolationism, doesn't? If I have a document to tell me what to believe and how to act, why do I need my bishop or my priest? Oh sure, he's a useful sacrament dispenser, but other than that? I'm off on my own, I can be orthodox on my own, and those social justice modernists can just play church without me, I'm going to be faithful on my own.

That's how it is in the Church, isn't it?

The Church is not meant to operate this way. The chancery, the parish, the schools, they're not supposed to be ideological fiefdoms for dissenters. The-Church-of-Documents kinda reinforces this idea. Documents are for people who follow the rules, and then there's reality.

As long as we have officialism and government-by-documents, we're not going to cut the bull*** in this Church. We can't have an honest conversation. We can't call people out. We can't educate anyone. We can't have genuine relationships with our clergy. It's all government by the facade of being Catholic, not actual relationships and not actual orthodoxy.

And so this is one reason why so many people go running to the blogosphere. They want authentic Catholicism. Not officialism. Not that half-hearted crap they get from all level of professional Catholics.

When someone thinks I've said something contrary to the faith, they call me out. There's polite smiling here. And I do the same. And maybe it gets nasty at times, but it's person-to-person, not document-to-person. And you know what? Even after a long debate, we can still smile and talk to each other. There's none of this is in real-life Catholicism. I wouldn't expect a two-day debate between a priest and a parishoner like you might have on twitter. But maybe it'd be nice if people could be sincere in person. It won't happen. A lot of clergy don't really believe what they're supposed to uphold.

And this is one reason I like Pope Francis so much. There's very little officialism about him. I get the distinct impression that if I asked him an honest question, he'd give me a straight answer, and it'd be from the heart.  And it'd be orthodox. And he'd be happy that I asked him.