Friday, 12 April 2013

On being 'extremist', 'divisive' and denouncing others: oh dear!

I've avoided commenting further on the nasty stoush going on in blogdom, centred around the Rorate Caeli blog, because I've found it just too depressing.

But honestly, the whole thing is getting ridiculous, with the latest being a demand from conservative blogger Simcha Fischer that all traddie blogs denounce anti-Semitism.

Dawn Eden's original post in the latest round of this debate had a valid point in my view, in that by pointing to the Holocaust denial views of the poster, it undermined the credibility of the poster on Rorate Caeli who claimed that Pope Francis had deliberately sabotaged the implementation of Summorum Pontificum in his diocese.

But I'm pretty puzzled as to why that means every other traddie blogger is now required to denounce antisemitism!

When is an extremist really extremist?

Ms Fischer's explanation for this demand is that she apparently sees a parallel between the reluctance of 'moderate' Muslims to condemn those who go around blowing things up, with traditionalists who refuse to denounce the weird things assorted other traditionalists occasionally say:

Back in 2010, I grumbled to a traditionalist Catholic friend:

"Every time some violent Muslim blows something up, all the peaceful Muslims complain about how unfair it is that everyone thinks all Muslims are like that, and they protest about it.  And I'm thinking, Why aren't you guys protesting against the violent Muslims?  Two birds with one stone.  You make the world less violent, and you get a better reputation as a group.

The reason I was grumbling to him was because the complaints of the peaceful Muslims reminded me an awful lot of the complaints of the perfectly nice traditionalists.  Every time some radical traditionalist does or says something hideous, I hear a lot about how unfair it is that every thinks all traditionalists are jerks like that; but I hear almost nothing like, "Hey, my fellow traditionalists, stop acting like jerks."

Come off it, Ms Fischer.

It is not a valid comparison, but rather one that plays into the hands of those like the US Army Reserve, who want to include all Catholics in their list of 'extremists', alongside Al-Qaeda, Hamas and the Ku Klux Khan!

Extremism is a relative concept, but there is a big difference between those who hold views one might disapprove of or even regard as unchristian, and those who go around acting on their views and blowing things up.

And when it comes to things to denounce, I don't really expect American conservative bloggers to denounce those amongst their number who support the US' use of drone attacks on civilian targets, for example.  Even though I think Mark Shea actually has a point on this issue at least, when he argues is utterly contrary to Catholic Just War principles.

**Update: Big Pulpit's Friday April 12 Afternoon edition highlights yet another trad basher hopping onto the bandwagon.  Let me be clear - I'm not denying that there is a looney fringe amongst trads, the evidence is there for all to see in places like Bishop Williamson's blog.  And I'm certainly not in any way supporting antisemitism.  But the views of one nutter, who probably isn't actually in full communion with the Church anyway (since the SPXX don't accept the jurisdiction of their bishop and the Pope) should not be used as an excuse to smear all who support the TLM and a traditional take on orthodoxy and orthopraxis.

Rorate Caeli's response to criticism

I actually do sort of like Rorate Caeli - it often provides useful posts and news of great interest to traditionalists.

Nonetheless, as Joshua of Psallite Sapienter now puts it, it is not quite my cup of tea!  In particular, I find the pro-SSPX line over there hard to swallow.

More fundamentally though, the trouble is often that even where the main post itself is relatively mild in tone, it has a tendency to be written in such a way as to guarantee an incendiary combox (the Maundy Thursday post urging that the messenger not be shot comes to mind - because it suggested that someone should be!).

And comments others like myself would be inclined to moderate out (like the claim of the Jewish-Masonic-Secularist media plot  on one of the two Maundy Thursday posts over there) somehow survive unscathed.

Rorate's coverage of the early days of Pope Francis' pontificate was particularly off in my view, and I both called them out for the bile spewing over there, and removed their blog from my links list in response.

In fact more than a few blogs took issue with Rorate's early reactions to the new Pontificate.

Rorate has not taken it quietly.

I was contacted, for example, by 'New Catholic' a week or two back for using the word 'bile' in relation to the reaction over there to Pope Francis' Maundy Thursday feetwashing episode.  In response I did actually edit my post to make it clear that I was talking primarily about the combox, but...

And Joshua of Psallite Sapienter was asked to, and did, modify his descriptor on the link to Rorate on his blog to remove the warning to the effect that it 'can be extremist' in response to a request from New Catholic.  Apparently they've since taken exception to his suggestion that they don't like Pope Francis as well!

I can't say I'm very comfortable with Rorate's approach.  If they are getting in trouble for their reputation, perhaps they, and their fellow travellers should take a hard look at what is being said and how it is being said on the blog itself.

The Pope and the TLM

The response to Ms Eden's post was a case in point.

Rorate's claim was that the Pope had effectively suppressed the traditional Mass in his diocese.

It turned out that Rorate Caeli's claim that there was now no (approved) TLM in the Pope's old diocese was true.

What remains less clear is exactly what happened to arrive at this situation.

Rorate's source, backed up assorted others, implied or outright claimed that the then Archbishop of Buenos Aires had deliberately sabotaged Summorum Pontificum by insisting on a 'hybrid' Mass.

Others take a rather less Machiavellian view, urging that the Pope be given the benefit of the doubt.

In particular many might think that a bishop who actually responded to Summorum Pontificum by establishing a TLM in his diocese the very next day after it was announced was surely acting with good will, even if things didn't subsequently work out.  As with so many other dioceses, ignorance (either on the then bishop's part - surely all too plausible given the famous Jesuit 'nec rubricat, nec cantat' spirituality we've seen on display over the last few weeks - or that of his officials and the priest involved) seems at least as plausible an explanation as malice!

And Ms Eden's post on the credibility of Rorate's information source goes to this question.

Yet her post provoked an outraged reaction both on her blog and over at Rorate, complete with attacks on converts for the crime of wanting to share their faith and convert others; impugning her motives; and some, to say the least, very curious claims about what does and doesn't constitute antisemitism and holocaust denial.


I think debate and constructive criticism within the Church is essential, a healthy thing, provided it is done with civility.  Indeed, the very lack of this debate is, in my view, one of the reasons the Church is failing to come to grips with the collapse in practice in the West.

I don't think, though, that it is helpful for people to go around demanding that we defend or denounce others on the blogdom.  Of course bloggers will comment on, defend and criticise each other publicly; nothing wrong with that, quite the contrary.

But all up, there are bigger issues for Catholics to worry about at the moment than the lurking anti-semitism of a few Bishop Williamson fellow travellers.

And personally, I've been encouraged, over the last few days by a number of positive posts over at Rorate that seem intended to redress the balance a little.

I do wish they'd take a hard look at their policy on comments though.

Unfortunately in the blogdom at the moment, with a few notable exceptions, it would seem that you can either have lots of uncivil comments; or you can have very few but maintain a genuinely Catholic ethos.  I can certainly understand the desire to hear what people are saying (we all love getting comments, even the ones we reject!).

Nor am I advocating that we cease being critical of even the Pope - as I've suggested before, we are not required to be ultramontanists.

But surely there is a happy medium.

Promoting civility online is something we can all do something about.


Matthew Roth said...

Neither Ms Eden nor Rorate Caeli contributors are immune from criticism. However, Eden takes it gracefully, and always strives to be fair in her work. Rorate Caeli's editors need to take a long, hard look at what they are doing. They throw Fr Z under the bus. He's charitable, and doesn't throw them under it in response, but making an enemy out of Fr Z isn't smart, as he has remarkable patience with the more unruly trads.

Joshua said...

How bizarre and odd all this is!

I was happy enough to accommodate Rorate cæli's polite request that I cease to label their blog "Warning: Can be extreme; and they don't like Pope Francis" - but I was and remain frankly puzzled, especially when to my immense surprise I was assured that they DO like him, which was not my initial assumption given that blog's coverage of his election and first acts...

As to a plea that all traddies reject anti-Semitism, I am perfectly glad to do declare I always have, in opposition to every vile repellent madness: as Pius XII said, we are all spiritual Semites; and of course Our Lord, Our Lady and the Apostles were all Jews. God chose the Chosen People; it seems stupid not to humbly agree with Him.

Frankly, I fear that Rorate cæli's harbouring of many vile insults against Pope Francis in the comments attached to their posts about him will only make all Traddies appear mad, bad and dangerous to know. If I were a bishop (let alone the Bishop of Rome) the last thing I would do would be to favour the extension of the Latin Mass to such weirdos. Surely, surely these online ranters must realize that they are only painting a great big target on themselves?

marcel said...

Rorate is my favorite blog. This one is good too.

Rorate does post positive stories often and it may be unfair to say they have just tried to offset a negative tone of late. I think they just call it as they see it. Maundy Thursday was a problem. There are no TLMs in BA, other than SSPX. Francis' liturgical sensibilities are, well, jarring. So has Rorate really borne false witness? Traditionalists need not agree on every prudential publishing judgment but I haven't seen any flagrantly problematic posts at their particular blog.

Kate Edwards said...

Matthew - I agree with you on Fr Z. Perhaps the problem is that the differences in views between those closest to us in sensibility often appear the widest! I don't consider Fr Z to be a traditionalist as such, even though he supports the TLM; rather he is more an American conservative with a love of the liturgy. Fr Ripperger's article of some years back on conservatives and trads does a good job of explaining why we often fail to understand each other.

Yet if we really want to effect change in the Church, I think we find ways to make common cause with the conservatives - Fr Z mostly does a good job, I think, of trying to bridge the gap from the conservative side; we need to do likewise from the other side (even though we might lament what we see as the conservatives blindspots!).

Marcel - I certainly agree that Pope Francis' liturgical sensibilities are jarring for us and that his Maundy Thursday action was problematic. But it is all about how that issue was handled.

There were a number of blogs that were critical of the Pope on this and other liturgical issues yet remained respectful and didn't try to incite a riot - Fr Ray's blog post, which attempted to understand why he did it, yet but then set out why it was so problematic from a faithful parish priest's point of view, in my view was quite the best.

Similarly, that there is now no TLM in BA has been established. The problem came with the tone and content of the post (and comments on it) that described how that came to be, and the motives ascribed.

I'm not arguing we should be naive, but neither do we automatically have to automatically think the worst of people.

I realise many trads are scarred by recent history, and in a country like Argentina with its unfortunate recent political history such issues and large immigrant intake from post-War Germany are likely to be worse than elsewhere.

But charity is the preeminent Christian value.