Christine Hogan has a self-congratulatory post on the Cath News blog today to the effect that sweetness and light have broken out on the Cath News comment pages, and what a wonderful thing that is.
Well no, Christine, I don't think it is.
First a disclaimer. I have never been a regular or active commenter over at Cath News - I often read the debates that used to rage over there with interest and very occasionally tossed in my two cents worth, but that was a rare thing (I have my own space in which to voice my opinions after all!). And I stopped when a post I tried to make was rejected by Ms Hogan allegedly on the grounds of length, but on the same day and item on which much longer posts were accepted - and I took the view that my real crime was to use the dreaded word 'heresy' (because, hey, heresy doesn't exist any more does it?).
The results of (self) censorship
Ms Hogan reports that (in yet another twist in the increasingly complex and inconsistent approach she has adopted to monitoring the boards) she had decided to allow all comments through last week. She braced herself. And, oh, surprise! The nasty posts didn't come (well except one. And I'm still not entirely clear what the crime of that poster was, but never mind).
Instead, 'all is calm, all is bright in the world of CathNews’ discussion boards..'!
Take the post I commented on on this blog last week that praised ageing congregations and claimed that it was only the cult of youth that made us see this as a bad thing. I made a few observations about the obvious problems with this line here.
The comments on it on Cath News are all uniformly positive. Here's the opening lines of the first few comments:
"What a thoughtful and beautiful perspective. You've really invited me to reflect on the dignity of each person in worship, rather than simply buy into our need to 'attract more numbers'..."
"What a refreshing article. The next step is to value those who still come and let them know how welcome they are..."
"I enjoyed this article...."
And they all go on in the same vein.
Cath News, purveyor of liberalism
Now Cath News is of course entitled to restict comments on articles and posts, whether by direct censorship or encouraging self-censorship, to those who support its basic line.
Though personally, I'd be a lot more comfortable with this if resources I and other practicing Catholics have contributed to the Church weren't supporting this effort. Because really, the official Church shouldn't, even indirectly, be supporting the propagation of error.
And just as a refresher, in case you weren't completely sure of what Cath News' basic positioning is, Michael Kelly, its founder gave us a little catechism last week about the Voice of the Church being all about the 'feelings' and opinions of those ageing parishioners (justifying this with an entirely erroneous definition of the 'sensus fidelium'), and telling us that the teaching of Popes and bishops are remote things, not to be taken too seriously.
So let me state my own position.
True leadership, in my view, is about getting us to face up to reality, including the reality of our own, institutional, and societal mistakes and failings. Services like Cath News should help us do that.
One of the most basic teachings of our faith is about the need for constant self-examination in the light of the Gospel, in the light of the teachings of the Church, so that we can see our faults and amend. At the personal level, that means the ongoing struggle to acquire the virtues and conquer the vices. At the institutional level that means working to ensure structures and processes support the growth of individual holiness and spread of the Gospel message. At the societal level it means constantly working to shape society more closely to the social teaching of Our Lord.
Facing reality, and worse, making fundamental changes in the light of the truths we discover in this process, is uncomfortable and hard. It doesn't, in this life, often involve long periods of calm and light.
It certainly doesn't involve promoting self-serving rationalisations of what is (ageing and declining parishes) as somehow a good thing.
So please Christine, spare us the self-satisfied glow at silencing the voices of those who are critical of this little acatholic community of like minds on your boards. This is not catholicism you are promoting.