Tensions in the Catholic blogosphere. Wherein Fr. Z opines.

Some discussion is arising in the Catholic blogosphere about, well, the Catholic blogosphere.   This week, for example, the UK’s still best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald, has an opinion column: Bishops and bloggers: there is a way out of this impasse.

There is some tension.  Okay, fine!  Is this a surprise?  When hasn’t there been tension?  Answer: before the snake slithered into the tree.

Some ways to alleviate the tension are available, though all them will require patience and humility on both sides.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, since I have been at this for a long time, just about longer than anyone else out there, as a matter of fact, and on a wider scale to boot.

I started at the top with a mention of The Catholic Herald.  It is slightly ironic that I had an op-ed piece about this same matter in the same Catholic Herald back in November 2009.

What did I write then?

Let’s review:

In his 2002 Message on Social Communication our late Holy Father John Paul II wrote about the internet:

For the Church the new world of cyberspace is a summons to the great adventure of using its potential to proclaim the Gospel message. This challenge is at the heart of what it means at the beginning of the millennium to follow the Lord’s command to “put out into the deep”: Duc in altum! (Lk 5:4).

In all ages of the Church’s mission to preach the Good News, Catholics consistently made use of the best available tools of social communication. The Apostles wrote letters which were in turn read aloud and recopied for wider distribution. The Emperor Constantine let bishops use the imperial postal system and they so over-taxed it that it nearly collapsed. Monks copied manuscripts.  When people learned to make thin soaring walls of stone, stained-glass illuminated the literate and unlettered alike with the mysteries of the faith.  We made use of the printing press. We had one of the first significant radio stations. There was a Catholic-friendly film industry.  For decades Servant of God Fulton Sheen’s broadcasts were vastly popular in the United States.  A simple woman religious named Angelica built a global satellite network.

We are nearly a decade into this millennium.  We have fumbled badly when it comes to the internet.

In late October Pope Benedict XVI, addressing the plenary meeting of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication, reoriented of the state of the question.  He morphed the perennial image of “the public square” into a technologically current “digital continent”.

It is cliché to speak of the internet’s potential for evangelization and catechesis.  But we must seriously examine what we have done and what we have failed to do in this regard.  We are in a fight for our lives as Catholics in the public square.  We must stop dithering.

Pope Benedict is trying to revitalize our Catholic identity so that we can have a positive influence in the world as Catholics.   We have something indispensable to contribute in the public square, the digital continent.  But we will have little to say, as Catholics, if we don’t know who we are and if we don’t communicate well.  The burning social questions of our day require a Catholic response.  Do we have something to contribute or not?  How will we do it?

When I reflect on the burning questions of our day, I often approach them from the angles ad extra (considered from without) and ad intra (considered from within).  The ad intra angle regards who we are as Catholics amongst ourselves, while the ad extra regards how we, as Catholics, shape the world around us and are influenced by it.  Holy Church has a teaching office, given to her by Christ.  Returning to our cliché, less cliché now perhaps, the internet indeed has potential for teaching ad intra (catechesis) and ad extra (evangelization).

A growing number of people today like the interactive aspects of learning on the internet. Young people learn more willingly from screens, on desks and in their hands, than they do from books. Bishops must seize their opportunity and make up for their omission regarding cable/satellite TV.  A poor nun with leg braces and crutches, without their power and resources, did what they couldn’t be bothered to do.

We must move with determination into cyberspace.

Every diocese ought to have a Vicar for Online Ministry and a plan.

Catholics intuitively look for leadership from priests, to be sure, but in a special way from diocesan bishops.  I have met only a handful of bishops who actually grasp that there is an internet. Few take it seriously.  On the live internet stream of the November meeting of the USCCB a bishop observed that, while he appreciated reducing paper consumption by giving him a CD-ROM disk, he didn’t know how to use it.   I met a prelate in Rome, working in social communications, who didn’t know how to turn on his computer.  An American Cardinal quizzed me about my footprint in cyberspace and mused, “More people read you in a day than read me in a week in our newspaper.”  As a new generation of bishops emerges, episcopal savvy about modern tools of communication will improve.  Nevertheless, bishops can’t themselves be the point men for a diocese’s online ministry.

Vicars for Online Ministry don’t have to exert control over the Catholic internet space – as if that were possible.  Rather, they should take advantage of a natural desire on the part of Catholics for official leadership in all areas of communication and education.

Dioceses have to fill in the vacuum that now exists in terms of information channeling and interpretation. They do this usually, and not always well, through “official spokesmen”.

An alternative media has its important role, but bloggers are at risk to become the sole free flowing channel of news and information both about what is going on in the Church as well as what current events mean.

If anyone doubts the universal effects of Original Sin, let him watch an intersection with a four-way stop sign for a while, or read the combox of an interactive website.  You Brits have those roundabouts … but I’ll bet the analogy holds.

Since the early 90’s I have been involved in online ministry.  I often feel like the Sheriff of Deadwood.  When I exert myself to exercise leadership, discussion can be focused and fruitful.  When I fail in leadership or charity, the results can be chaotic and disappointing.  Efforts for online ministry need guidance and support.

In same address I mentioned above, Pope Benedict cited John Paul II’s encyclical Redemptoris missio:

“… the very evangelization of modern culture depends to a great extent on the influence of the media.”  He went on: “It is not enough to use the media simply to spread the Christian message and the Church’s authentic teaching. It is also necessary to integrate that message into the ‘new culture’ created by modern communications.”

I have used this example for years now: Our Lord asked to be let out on the water in a little boat at the end of a line so that He could address a much larger crowd on the shore.  He thereby gave us the first example of “on-line ministry” (cf. Mark 4).  He used technology to address a wider audience.

We must contribute not merely more of the same to the digital pulse of this age.  We must find ways to adjust the very frequency of that digital pulse.  We need what Pope Benedict called a “‘diaconate of culture’ on today’s ‘digital continent’”.

I chuckled at that “pulse” image at the end.  Back when I wrote this I still had the domain “Catholic Pulse”.  Someone else has it now and good luck to them.

Since I wrote that plenty of water has flowed under the you know what.   I am now more scarred and a lot wearier than I was then.  I stick to what I proposed.

I will add this codicil for the bishops who read this: Don’t wait to reach out to bloggers, especially your clerical bloggers.  With the exception of the fringe, they are not your enemies.  Give them a little water and sunlight and see what happens.  Make a move.

And remember: The squishy middle is not your best course to tack, nor will its denizens be your allies.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. kpoterack says:

    ‘Since I wrote that plenty of water has flowed under the you know what. I am now more scarred and a lot wearier than I was then . . .”

    KP: God bless you, Father. Thank you for all of the hard work you do – the dreck that you have to read – in order to find the good, encouraging things you present us with! I will pray especially for you tonight.

  2. Luvadoxi says:

    Love the Deadwood reference, Father! After initial shock that show opened my eyes to the evils of human trafficking and prostitution.
    Thank you for all that you do for the Church Sheriff Bullock….uh, Zuhlsdorf.

  3. jacobi says:

    Do bloggers have any effect? Well at least one person thinks they do, Deacon Nick’s bishop!

    Technology moves inevitably on. I’m sure many bishops did not care too much for printing but they had to accept it! Blogging in its present and inevitably developing forms is here to stay, just as printing, radio TV and whatever.

    Another factor is that today we have a relatively well educated and knowledgeable laity, in many cases more so than the bishops. And many of them (the bishops that is) don’t like it.

    Yes new technology is dangerous. Like all such developments it can work both ways. Hence the need to have good Catholic bloggers well versed in Scripture, Revelation, Tradition and the Teaching of the Magisterium of the Church, not restricted, but actively involved!

  4. PA mom says:

    Our bishop is using the diocesan website to post brief talks on various issues. He has chosen a variety of topics, and seems fairly comfortable in front of the camera.
    Occasionally emails are sent out to advertise upcoming events.
    There are recommended websites starting to appear in the diocesan newspaper (not Fr Z’s at this time, sadly). And recently, the seminary has started a blog which has interesting possibility.

    During the monthly emails sent to my student’s parents, I have been directing them to various links to homilies of the Pope, to our Bishop’s talks, and to sites for fun things to share about the Faith with their children. I created search sheets for the students to look up curious Saint facts at home. During class, many of the students signed up to the Pontifex twitter account after we talked about it, so that, even though they are leaving our formal classes (8th grade), Pope Francis can continue to encourage them every day.

    Thank you Father, for all your efforts. Keep pointing the way and we will try (however feebly and however small) to follow.

  5. OrthodoxChick says:

    Bishops really need to get involved, just as you point out Father. Pope Francis keeps telling us not to stay holed up in our churches, yet what do most bishops do? Some have taken to twitter and send out reflections and messages to their flock. But there are others from whom their flock never hears a peep. I’ve been a Catholic for 45 years and lived in the same 2 Dioceses for all but one of those years. In all of these years, I can literally count the number of times I’ve met my bishop on 1 hand. I’ve never met a cardinal and have only laid eyes on one in person once. Bishops and Cardinals can’t be everywhere in their Diocese all of the time, of course. That’s exactly why they should all be using social media. It would be nice to be able to invite my Bishop into my home (or my doctor’s waiting room, or anywhere else) via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, his blog, or any other social media venue he might choose. It would be nice to be given the opportunity to get to know him someday.

  6. St. Corbinian's Bear says:

    As a blogger, I know I’m narrow-casting. I think people seek out blogs that validate their beliefs. I do not feel I am reaching anyone other than the Bubble Catholics who share the Bear’s fidelity to historical consensus in a temporal-spiritual bubble. Ever notice how similar blog rolls are? (Fr. Z is on every single one, and rightly so; you can probably list the others.) I have come to believe that blogs mainly — and for all I know can only — reinforce those who already agree with 90% of what the blogger thinks. Is that bad? Not necessarily. When we get discouraged, it’s good to visit right-thinking comrades.

    As I’m thinking about a diocesan blog, though, I can feel the air going out of the room; hypoxia setting in… what makes blogs interesting are the personalities of bloggers, and the ability to entertain and challenge readers. “Catholic Thoughts by Bishop Bumble,” and “Woman to Woman,” and “Today In Vatican II” and maybe even “Kung’s Korner” [shudder]. A blog by an institution whose chief purpose is to remain bland wouldn’t be worth the skin cells left on the keyboard by the blogger.

    I think the discussion should be among bloggers, and it’s good to see it happening, especially regarding charity and where faithful Catholics should draw lines.

  7. LeeF says:

    Various blogs have different levels of interaction with readers, varying from none to answering every post, and depending on the blogger’s goals and later experience of such interactions.

    So there are levels of potential involvement here:

    1) The bishop blogs himself and does not allow comments.
    2) The bishop blogs himself and allows comments but does not respond to specific ones though perhaps he does devote a subsequent blog post to issues raised in the combox.
    3) Whether or not he blogs himself, the bishop allows and encourages clerics to blog, but only provided that they not discuss perceived abuses by other clerics or himself, with an emphasis on a charitable “tone”.
    4) The bishop adopts a laissez faire approach and allows blogging with criticisms of fellow clerics, perhaps even including himself.

    My guess is that either #4 is never going to be allowed, or is never going to be truly needed. It is not going to be allowed by bishops who do not deal with theological, sacramental or liturgical abuses, either because they agree with same or are too weak to correct same. And if a bishop does correct abuses, then such criticism by bloggers will not be needed by loyal conservative bloggers, nor tolerated from dissident clergy.

    Loyal conservative clergy who wish to see abuses corrected are most often going to be the ones censured, while dissent in guise of “pastoral” interpretations will flourish. Fr. Z is an exception because of his uncommon situation. Which is why it mostly will fall to loyal conservative laymen and laywomen to point out abuses (and still suffer attempts at censure but which with a little care will fall short of being upheld by Rome should they be imposed).

  8. benedetta says:

    Internet, blogging, a greater presence of Catholic media, all of these, are new, and reflections of what younger generations who are more tech savvy are interested in as well. What is so jarring is the fact that many who “own” or felt empowered by the spirit of Vatican II seem so very threatened by what is new, now, such as Catholic bloggers, or, prolife. The younger generation is increasingly prolife, whether Christian or secular than the prior generation. It is startling how still embattled people some in the Church seem to be on this, decades after legalization, fighting for the ideology which in real terms generates now tens of millions of deaths which could have been prevented and human persons permitted to live out in the communion of others, with compassion. Although they won the battle, they are losing that war. It is puzzling that they seem not to be able to relinquish the halcyon days of their youth, or some nostalgia for it, or even entertain a thought that the effects of the sexual revolution were not necessarily all good, for them, or the generations which now are hurting from the aftermath in very sad and disturbing ways, left even to the most innocent and vulnerable, aside from the preborn, to children, to have to shoulder at younger and younger ages. Why say it’s still all good and righteous still? It begs credibility. Why the investment, at all costs, to be right on this? And if we are all able to agree that the spirit of Vatican II, in this country and in other parts of the world, was about embracing some youth culture, and what is new, and not fearing modernism, then, at the end of the day, these now oldsters in carrying the banner of the spirit of VII forward to have lasting effects of what they assert, really would quite sensibly embrace the culture of Catholic youth, which to a great extent, is joyfully prolife, active in works of mercy, appreciative of beauty and a connection to the transcendent, and, yes, is actively on the internet. By their own free will. Not because a culture forced them to, or because someone shamed them into it. Because of course all that has gone out the window.

  9. Hello Father. I am a bit mixed on everything here in this article.

    Let’s start with the re-posting of your 2009 article on getting into the blogosphere. On the one hand, yes, more clergy, especially the good ones, should be getting involved with regards to the blogosphere, as the majority of my generation (X or Y?), and our teens in the Millenials, are the “Wired generations”. Bishops should also be involved to an extend with online communication, but, I strongly emphasize this and disagree with your sentiments, they should also be monitoring the activity of bloggers in their (arch)dioceses, as it tends to be the fringers and their supporters who dominate the blogosphere vs. the moderates, and they ruin it for Traditional Catholicism. They should enact the approrpiate canonical and public bans when needed (e.g. Fisher More College) or at least make public statements on their website/send out faces to their diocese parishes so that they know who the culprits are and to not promote their works/websites. The liberals do it too, but not to the extend the Trads Behaving Badly do, with/without the Latin Mass (though they often go hand in hand, e.g. Fisher More College). The libs equally should be held to task, though the practical reality of that is not wide scale … yet.

    On the other hand, I am leery as to how much involvement the clergy should have online. One of the benefits of the blogosphere, and yes, even to a limited extend with sites like ChurchMilitantTV, has been that we have found a way to get to true Traditional Catholic teaching not marred by some Lie-beral’s goopy and cuddly Jesus or destructive liberal theology. Just look at the average sermon given to the less than 25% of weekly Mass attendees and you will see the value of Catholic blogs and websites. Should certain priests and bishops more and more get online, they will muddy the waters with their liberal-ness. Also, even with associated facebook groups for youth and parishes, a pastor could “direct” either by his own hand or those of his web bloggers/masters and/or youth ministers, to promote certain material, or even censor materials that a “rose-coloured” picture of the parish is presented. Conservatives/Trads out, Libs and lukewarm Yes people in. The real spiritual truth will be shadowed by these pastors/bishops/lay ministers in the image they present online of themselves and their parish, even if the parish looks culturally/socially/financially well.

    On a personal note, I share in your sentiments here: “Since I wrote that plenty of water has flowed under the you know what. I am now more scarred and a lot wearier than I was then. I stick to what I proposed.”. I too, have become weary and worn out, even on my own blog, trying to fight in a losing battle against the Trads Behaving Badly. It has worn me out so much on the ground and online, that I have decided to tune out of the Latin Mass in my archdiocese save a rare occasion, and I will bunker down until World War III is over, or reinforcements arrive in the form of positive EF worship spaces aligned to our Cardinal (and Archbishop of the archdiocese). The vitriol spewed online by these bloggers, despite the valiant efforts of other bloggers like yourself, Shea, Dr. Marshall, The Anchoress Scalia, Fr. Longenecker, et al., still lingers over the Church and the Catho-sphere like the Eye of Sauron.

    Overall Father, well done on this posting. I do hope that the Church, including the Vatican, wakes up more to this if they want to carry out the New Evangelization, and it not just become another dying “Campaign” like every time they say it’s the year of X or occasion Y.

  10. benedetta says:

    Julian Barkin, from what I have observed, there has been a sort of effect in which some traditionally leaning have really reacted to Pope Francis, and attacking EF attending Catholics who appreciate Pope Francis and who participate regularly in the universal Church and her various ministries of mercy in concert with the vast majority of good Catholics who attend, for whatever reason, the predominant novus ordo Mass. Anecdotally, my observation is that during this time, the groups which are not in communion with our Pope seem to be greatly emboldened both on blogs and in real life, perhaps seeing a moment of opportunity to benefit from the situation. This is sad because from my vantage only the totalitarian, atheist media which for the most part only seeks to destroy the Church, its flattery of Pope Francis aside wins. And whatever one may read on the blogs, I find that in person people who prefer the EF are good, caring, compassionate, merciful people, not at all like that portrayed by bloggers who despise traditionalists or the EF or the media for that matter. In fact, the ones I know already engage in various works of mercy in their daily life and need no reminder from anyone to redouble their efforts now. They do not attack the NO, and they are quite obedient towards and respectful towards Bishops, even ones who expressly have no appreciation for the ancient rite. It is tempting to just abandon it altogether when one is discouraged, however, I think that there is genuine community and the body of Christ in the congregation of the EF and while I am not curtailing works with other Catholics who do not attend the EF, I would never abandon the kind and extremely patient congregation at the EF Mass I attend. I think we need to keep in mind that real people are affected by all these blogosphere wars, and in great measure they are nothing like what is being portrayed.

  11. Ben Kenobi says:

    I’m deaf. For all the hullaballoo of a Vernacular mass, it really makes no difference to me whether it’s in English or Latin. There was a time that I could hear and understand the sermons, but that time is not now.

    The value of having a sermon online? For me? Incalculable. This is why I love Father Z. I can keep abreast on pretty much everything. It’s gone from being on the outside looking in to being part of a community. I remember what life was like when the only way to talk to people was through a telephone. That, really really sucked for me. Now, I can do almost (but not quite all), that I need to do through my laptop. Something not possible just 15 years ago.

    Father Z is going to reach many folks who are poorly served by the current model. And for that I am very thankful.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  12. benedetta says:

    Of course the demand that those characterized broadly as “traditionalist” must adhere to some artificial expectation of “perfection”, an impossible demand for even a saintly mortal regardless of the form of Mass to which he or she may be attached, does seem to be employed as a means of silencing on topics one is unable to deal with, for whatever reason. The heavy hand seems typically employed towards those who purportedly embrace the full magisterium, and, it appears, a pass given to those who lead and teach others, to act contrary to it, and, the ones who embrace it are singled out for discipline for what seem to be relatively smallish faults. So it tends to exaggerate and create a caricature in the minds of the onlookers of the blogosphere that all traditionalists may be equally stereotyped and so treated. Notoriously dissenting clergy will use shaming and guilt trip and scolding and ostracizing and public ridicule and humiliation towards those who identify with the magisterium, and create a mountain out of a molehill when they are caught in the minds of almost any sort of minor transgression, whereas people who criticize the Church, the Pope, agitate for choice and live in non sacramental unions get promoted to parish council under their watch. Perhaps in the recent occurrences under discussion in the blogosphere, this is not what is happening, and without the facts we should give all the benefit of the doubt. But we should keep in mind that even traditional Catholics are human, and have their own failings, and that there is something very uncharitable at work in us that constantly wants to demand that they fit into some sort of cartoon of perfection of our own imagining or design. Traditionalists are allowed to be human members of the body of Christ as anyone else. One may attach to one or other Mass and believes in the magisterium and still retain God-given humanity. Arguably, a congregation that has recourse to confession before Mass on Sunday is in a better position than one whose members lack that frequent opportunity for spiritual growth. There is a bizarre current in our times, I believe foisted on us by secularists, that dictates that one can’t win for trying, in terms of attempting a life of holiness, or, just attempting, to live in the Church, Christ’s body, that one should be discouraged from ever trying or participating lest one somehow be pushed to an otherworldly, gnostic, remote, utopian ideal. After many years of visiting many different congregations, I just don’t see that traditional Catholics are all the evil some crack them up to be, and, as a matter of fact, most that I have met are, more humble, more charitable, and more joyful in their faith than others who do not attend the EF. Is it not a problem of our times? Are not priests in the public imagination demanded a perfection and a lack of humanity that is imposed on no one else in our narcissistic times? It starts there and we all are guilty of it.

  13. Mariana2 says:

    Good Catholic blogs are beyond wonderful for us former Lutherans in solidly Lutheran countries.

    The first Catholic thing I found on the net, about 13 years ago, and while still a Lutheran, was the Litany of The Sacred Heart of Jesus. I was intrigued and wanted to find out more….

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  14. Gratias says:

    The best of the Catholic Blogosphere is right here at Fr. Z. He has done more than most bishops for the Catholic faith.

  15. iPadre says:

    We can learn a lot from the Mormons. They have the best websites out there. Most of our Catholic parishes have websites that have not been updated in years.

    Instead of running in fear, our Clergy need to embrace technology and run with it. We need to use is for the good, because we know the enemy is using it to his advantage. When I built our diocese’s website in 1995, they told me this was a passing fad. They were correct in one aspect, it is passing, passing us by as we sit idle and twiddle our thumbs.

    Those of us who do new media are still like the early settlers going west. Many won’t go in fear of wild beasts, the rugged terrain, and the fearful natives (whom we should be reaching). We need Catholics to train Catholics how to use it all to the advantage of Jesus Christ and His Church.

  16. Andkaras says:

    Benadetta,You are so spot on about all of this . And thanks to Fr Z and others like him who despite the often grueling work involved ,provide a venue for the downtrodden and marginalized who truly desire to be faithful and informed.

  17. Johnno says:

    I’ve been saying it for awhile now, but the Church won’t significantly be able to deal with all the issues it faces until we have a Pope who knows how to use the internet!

    If the Pope had time off to on his own whim go online and look through various concerns raised in the Catholic blogosphere, he’d be much mroe informed and wary and able to cross-examine his bishops and cardinals versus the popular sentiment. He would also know the opposition, what they want, what they are doing and aware of how theyr deceive.

    I don’t think Francis is that man, but I’m hoping the next Pope will be one fully comfortable in the information age.

  18. CatherineTherese says:

    Interesting points, Benedetta. Coincidentally, Rod Dreher comments on this same phenomenon today:
    When I was a Catholic, I was not a participant in the Tridentine Rite form of the liturgy, and did not love it as some of my friends did, but I never did understand the hatred so many in the institutional Catholic Church have for the Old Mass. I still don’t. Many Catholic bishops and priests will tolerate all kinds of un-Catholic, even anti-Catholic, expressions in institutions and communities under their control and leadership, but the one thing they won’t tolerate is the Old Mass. Bizarre.

  19. The Masked Chicken says:

    “I never did understand the hatred so many in the institutional Catholic Church have for the Old Mass. I still don’t. Many Catholic bishops and priests will tolerate all kinds of un-Catholic, even anti-Catholic, expressions in institutions and communities under their control and leadership, but the one thing they won’t tolerate is the Old Mass. Bizarre.”

    I do not understand why Rod does not understand. They do not see it as the Old Mass vs. the New Mass, but the Progressive Mass vs. the Regressive Mass. There is no contradiction when a progressive-leaning bishop tolerates all sorts of weird progressive expressions, but not the Old Mass.

    “It is puzzling that they seem not to be able to relinquish the halcyon days of their youth, or some nostalgia for it, or even entertain a thought that the effects of the sexual revolution were not necessarily all good, for them, or the generations which now are hurting from the aftermath in very sad and disturbing ways, left even to the most innocent and vulnerable, aside from the preborn, to children, to have to shoulder at younger and younger ages.”

    I have noticed a real tendency (and I suspect it will only get worse with time) among the Millennial Generation to blame things on a generation they scarcely know anything about. Modern high school history texts are very poor and biased places to get a real sense of what was going on during the 1960’s. One must study the newspapers, the television reports, the unclassified documents – in other words, do a real job of getting immersed in the history. Things are somewhat more complex than thinking that the 1960s was a period of hormones run amok. The 1960s was, essentially, the 1920s, redux. The same cultural forces were at work in the 1920s as the 1960s. For instance, the first X-rated movie was made in the decade prior to the 1920s and there was an explosion of art films of that type during this decade. Dress, especially of women, changed to much lighter material, less material, higher hemlines and the more bold and daring, the better. Contraception came to the fore. Biology had not progressed enough to offer a chemical solution, but it was on many people’s minds. Fundamentalism started. Electronic mass communication began, which would be able to shape the minds of many much faster than through print, which only a few could afford or even read. The Russians were vilified and there was a type of Cold War. There was wide-spread economic bubble-formation and a start at globalization (all of which would contribute to the Depression a few years, later). There was a rising youth movement with a relaxation of sexual mores. Equal rights began its long, slow, steady march to realization – most prominently in the arts, with the rise of Black composers such as Scott Joplin and William Grant Stills.

    The common factor is a release of passions borne of an underlying fear. In the 1920’s, it was the release of passions from a World War that had released the horrors of mustard gas and the foxhole. It was a realization that the man fighting next to one was not of your country and had very strange ways, but was fighting along side of you. A shared terror tends to make one overlook or want to overlook differences, so intent is one on finding a common ground to hold onto.

    This release of passions happened after World War II, as well, and one sees, almost exactly, the same rise of cultural changes as after World War I. Historians have known about this bifurcation of the 20th-century for a while.

    The response of television in the 1960s was a cultural clone of the rise of radio in the 1920s. Many, many other cultural responses can be shown to be virtually identical, factoring in the expansion of technology to produce more extreme versions – television is an extreme version of radio, etc.

    My point is that blogging in the late 1990s and early 2000s is the exact counterpart of the penny papers that existed in England in the 1910 – 1930 period, where the likes of G. K. Chesterton and G. B. Shaw crossed swords. Had more people been able to afford telegraph access, a form of transient blogging, very similar to Twitter, would have developed in the 1920s. Economics and technology did not allow it.

    It is unfair to blame the Aquarius generation for being, even today, gadabouts, intent on being perpetually young. That is to way over-simplify the phenomenon that is unfolding. What you are seeing is the soft under-belly of a loss of the belief in an objective Transcendence. It happened on the battlefields in France in 1915 and it happened on the battlefields in France in 1943. Subjectivity and the striving for the expressions of the passions is an immediate manifestation of this fear in the face of a loss of something Beyond.

    It is said that the younger generation will be more conservative. That may be so, but it is not a type of quiet conservatism borne of knowing that there is an objective Truth. It is a conservatism that simply cannot think of anything better than to return to the past. This is also a sign of what Eric Hoffer calls, “The Passionate State of Mind.” When a man becomes passionate or, rather, desperately passionate, it is almost always a substitute for the stability of an objective truth. I have read many Catholic bulletin boards where youth hang out and their pro-life zeal is very apparent, but so are the gaping holes in their knowledge and logic. They are very able to quote the latest apologetics textbook, but unable to reason to these conclusions by themselves. This was not so in the more stable periods of the Twntieth-century, such as the 1930s and early 1940s. These were eras of focused purpose and the exertion of energy to a common goal. Apologetics was clean, clear, and concise.

    This is, of course, not to say that the Baby Boomers have a clue about the Faith, in large measure, either. It is important, however, to really understand the underlying etiology at work.

    It is interesting to ask: why, if the exact same cultural forces were engaged in the 1920s as in the 1960s did the Church show no signs of cracking in the 1920s, but did in the 1960s? The exact difference was in the inability of Modernism to spread in the 1920s vs. the 1960s, since Modernism feeds off of the passionate state of mind. The Modernism of the 1920s was still being developed and everything was experimental. There was no stability in the movement and its effects in seminaries was slight. Thus, the Church still had control of its clergy formation in the old ways and a stable clergy means a stable Church. Modernism went underground during World War II (it is, after all, an indulgent theology, needing free speculative reins). It did not stay totally dormant and the late 1930s and 1940s saw the beginnings of Modernism 2.0, the second generation Modernism, which, this time, because of the total decimation of Europe, was able to slip under the radar and gain a foothold in seminaries. One, also, because of the weakening of European seminaries, begins to see the free-running, without the drag of history, of the American seminaries, which would, after the War, contribute so many liberalized clergy. If Modernism had spread throughout Europe fifty years earlier, the Spirit of Vatican II would have happened in the 1920s instead of the 1960s. If chemistry and biology had been fifty years more advance, contraception would have come in the 1920s instead of the 1960s. It really is not fair to blame the Baby Boom generation for being immersed in the onrush of historical forces. It was Margaret Sanger who pushed for contraception in the 1920s and the 1950s. Was she a baby boomer?

    The difference between blogs and the penny papers of the 1920s is that blogs do not leave the same historical record. One lost server and there goes the history of many blogs. Analog is almost always more historically secure than digital. This is a profound problem with the blogging phenomenon. Many of the blogs you now read will be resigned to the Dark Web in a few years. Copies of Chesterton’s Weekly is still accessible nearly 100 years after its publication. One must wonder if even the snapshot of current history that blogs provide will be available in 30 years.

    I submit that bishops have nothing to fear from blogs because history is on their side. Blogs are an expression of some of the hopes of Vatican II, but it is not a final realization, since it does not make history in exactly the way that Vatican II envisioned. Blogging is a substitute for the sort of passing on of history that should be occurring in extended families. There are fewer and fewer extended families and until those reappear, blogs will serve as a cultural memory. Blogs are necessary for the times, but they are, in the end, just like the passionate state of mind, a substitute for something else that should exist: a son to pass on the family stories, a daughter to teach the old ways. Vatican II pre-supposed that families would pass on the Faith through ever new methods to later generations. It never envisioned that the later generations would almost diminish to the point of starvation, largely because of fear. For most people, a planned parenthood is a parenthood that does not know faith – it is a parenthood borne of fear. Vatican II tried to come to grips with this fear, but misjudged how large an underground that fear had amassed by the last closing Benediction of its Councils.

    Bishops will be around much longer than blogs. The courage of bishops to display and teach the Faith, however, is a personal matter within their own hearts. Perhaps, if they need to read any blogs, it should be the messages being sent to them from the Holy Spirit, who blogs within.

    The Chicken

  20. OrthodoxChick says:

    Found this list of U.S. bishops who blog, tweet, or are on Facebook, It was compiled in May, 2012 by another blog, “Aggie Catholics”.


  21. benedetta says:

    Chicken I think you completely misunderstood me. I certainly don’t blame it all on the prior generation, nor do I believe that they are completely unable to age gracefully. That is why I said that it was “puzzling”. One cannot deny that the boomers, in the U.S. at least, pretty much perfected the art of madison avenue mass marketing with the idealization of eternal youth always in mind. I certainly do not claim that no previous generation idolized youth culture. However I’m not sure that it was such a staggering commercial success as in previous times. Also, all the things you mention were still regarded as “vices” in the prior time periods, albeit they were steadily and deliberately introduced and rationalized in the public imagination. But it wasn’t until later that there was the full scale celebration and open justification, promotion as “a good” for so many of these, and continuing obviously today. But, all that aside, I am not speaking of the boomer seculars. I am speaking of Christians, of Catholic Christians, who claim to be animated by the spirit of Vatican II which of course was during that era and not the prior ones you detail, which asserts that one no longer fear youth culture, nor modernism, from the perspective of the faith, and that whatever its fruits, it ought to be embraced. All well and good, apparently, when the youth culture is all about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but now that the youth culture is about, not bothering at all with sex, hiv, raves, tens of millions aborted, shocking aftermath of damaged women who submitted to the coercion of the culture of death, and, increasingly, in favor of limitations on legalized abortion, and in some places, the ancient rite of the Mass with the reverence and the actual belief found therein, why is it so very impossible for this same group to hear the voices and experience of the generations who followed. Statistically, it is such a huge demographic block, that, I suppose, they believe they set the terms and principles and all else must bow to their politics. But we shouldn’t pretend anymore that it is about the spirit of Vatican II which embraced youth and modernism. It’s about an agenda quite distinct, I think we should finally admit. The driving force behind promotion of choice and the Obama agenda (and the Cuomo agenda and the DiBlasio agenda) for more abortion, even more on top of the most liberally numbers of tortured and executed children in the name of women’s sexual freedom, is still these pro choicers in the Church in large part. But it isn’t coming from the youth of the Church, despite what the media might pretend. They are rethinking it, but the older generation previous to them refuses to, even in the name of liberalism, or compassion, or freedom, or whatever good. Abortion in legalized mass consumptive form simply did not exist in the era you detail here. I say, there will always be a certain level of demand for vice in any given society, whether or not one can pinpoint or document its emergence of a marketed or collectivized phenomenon. But I think we can all agree that no era in history was so in favor of the slaughter of innocents, a giving over of a whole generation, to death, amidst such prosperity at that, than ours. Where is the statesmanship, where are the great leaders of this Vatican II spirit? JPII was one such leader. How many in the Church have heeded his prophetic voice on behalf of women and children? That is all I’m saying, Chicken. Please don’t distort my points.

  22. Urs says:

    Fr. Z Have you seen this one about the letter being sent to all the parishes because of this bishop because of the Protect the Pope thing? He certainly does not seem to be the least bit interested in doing anything about clerical teaching and acting in opposition to Church teaching,,,but he is oh so concerned about anyone blogging about it!

  23. benedetta says:

    We should certainly use every form of human communication including technology to spread the joy of the Gospel. However, if we are not to have, blogs, schools, parish, university or college, hospital, or numerous other institutions that was the context for Catholic identity in particular time periods, so be it. It won’t stop the communication of the joy of the Gospel, though it may disrupt, disenfranchise, silence, obstruct, in some places and for temporary periods. Many of those institutions no longer serve to encourage and support a life in the faith despite their labels. If magisterial Catholics are silenced in one place or another, the creativity of the Holy Spirit will support their efforts to bring the joy of the Gospel everywhere nonetheless. Scripture, tradition, history, and the lives of the saints (oooo who attended the EF…were they “traditionalists”?) all document that God finds a way. So, we must work harder and be creative. There are indeed some in the Church who still continue to machinate to silence the faith of good people, but the sun is setting on that campaign in many places. We have not suffered nearly as much as, Catholics after the schism in England, or, say, Christians in Syria, or China. Look at the glory of God in Uganda after the martyrdom of St. Charles Lwanga. Perhaps liberals of good will at the Tablet could stretch out a hand of reconciliation and invite the silenced Deacon to be a regular columnist for them on prolife youth in England? Just a thought. It does not serve for Church institutions to keep up the campaign of hatred towards Catholics who out of free will, formed conscience have for whatever reason come to the faith in the magisterium, the teachings of JPII and so many others. Despite political alliances deemed expedient to the goals of the Church, the day may be coming when anyone who identifies as Catholic, even if they protest that they are “liberal” or whatever it may be, will be disenfranchised from participation in public life and society. Will the next generation be permitted to, say, hold public office, attend medical school, hold a professional license, operate a small business, serve in the military, teach in the public school, participate in research in academia, have a place at table with creative and cultural arts? Will they have to operate as Catholics in secret? Do the prochoice “Catholics” recognize that their participation in certain totalitarian leaning political ends will also bring about the silencing of even Catholics who identify as themselves, indiscriminately, when this beast is finally aroused and assumes its full form? When all this comes to pass, I say it will not be the currently disenfranchised magisterial Catholics who will be unable to cope or survive with faith somewhat intact as they are out of necessity learning those lessons already.

  24. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Benedetta,

    I did not mean to distort your points. I apologize. I was just trying to say that the reason that there is more killing of innocent children in this age than all prior ones, except, perhaps the ancient Roman era (at least, proportionately), is because of a confluence of factors that just happen to come together in the early 1960s, but the roots are scattered throughout the Twentieth-century. The Baby Boomers just happened to be in the era when everything crystallized.

    The pro-choice people in the Church are very badly catechized. I would like to see good demographic studies (I am sure that they exist) showing that the percentage of pro-choice youth is higher than that of the 30 – 50 age group or the 50 – 70 age group. There are quite a number of self-professed Catholic youth who live together and behave immodestly. I see it on college campuses all the time. It is one thing to say that one is pro-life and then dress provocatively or live with a boyfriend or girlfriend. What I would like to see is consistency with regards to the life issues.

    “They are rethinking it, but the older generation previous to them refuses to, even in the name of liberalism, or compassion, or freedom, or whatever good. Abortion in legalized mass consumptive form simply did not exist in the era you detail here.”

    Youth are, inherently, more teachable. This is the teaching of their era. It is no surprise that they hold a different view than their deluded elders. The teachng of the 1960s was that liberalism was good. Now, liberalism is seen as bankrupting the future if the youth and they are rebelling.

    I, clearly, explained why there was not mass abortion in the 1920s in my long comment. It would have happened, if science had been more advanced. Again, everything crystallized in the 1960s, but that doesn’t mean that things would not gave happened earlier, if they could have.

    Understand, I don’t disagree with you that things are a mess and there is hope on the horizon. I was trying to set the current situation into some sort of historical context. Many people (not you) who discuss Vatican II fail to properly situation in the stream of cultural movements that arose within the century.

    The Chicken

  25. The Masked Chicken says:

    Should read:

    “Many people (not you) who discuss Vatican II fail to properly situate it in the stream of cultural movements that arose within the century.”

    The Chicken

  26. benedetta says:

    Chicken, Thank you for your clarification, I do agree with your sense of it and greatly appreciate your contributions here on this post and generally. Based on your expertise here I am rethinking my view to not discount the forces that only happened to become organized in a certain era. What you say about Sanger is certainly true, and quite a great number of women who fell for the current delusion that their dignity hinges on the legalized “right” to sacrifice the child in their womb can trace the roots of the harmful ideology directly to Sanger. Unfortunately many Protestants in this country were taken in by her approach, and still are, and this gave a ring of acceptability perhaps such that people could stomach the harsh reality of what she incited people towards.

  27. benedetta says:

    What is striking to me in what the Chicken has said here is the fact that the historical roots of what many have now taken up the banner to rally for, within the Church, originate in activity that not only is far from even a spirit of VII Catholic understanding which emphasizes, in a best possible light, compassion towards the poor requiring communal sacrifice, but also has origins in currents which from a secular standpoint, then, or now, are not healthy for human beings, from a humanist standpoint.

  28. benedetta says:

    And N.B., here’s the thing. When Obama decides that he is going to, fine, some Catholics, exorbitantly, and not others, precisely because of their open and verifiable Catholic religious beliefs, and he himself is an ivy educated lawyer who has many other elite lawyers on his staff of advisors, and, any first year law student with a smattering of constitutional law course under their belt may glance at the Obama HHS regulations and easily and quickly conclude that, yes, on its face, it violates the First Amendment and is unconstitutional according to post-Warren court constitutional law, one may rightly wonder, if it is inevitably to be struck down, then what would be the point in a political leader exerting so much capital and energy and money to attempt it in the first place. Perhaps it is a test. If a law is inevitably to be struck down one may only conclude that said political leader finds the investment of perception to be far more valuable than the losing legal fight. What is that perception? To drive a wedge between Catholics. Why? Could it be with an eye towards the creation of an official state-backed Church?

    Coincidentally the Obama family is touring China this week. China, has one of the worst human rights records according to secular authorities. Why don’t Buddhist-identifying people in this country listen to the prophetic voice of their Dalai Lama who has been speaking out for years? The environment doesn’t seem to be a value in that Marxist iteration.

    So, when the “Catholics” who are for “choice” and big abortion, say, smugly satisfied, that they delivered for this president’s agenda, they truly may be convinced of the righteousness of their contributions, bask in his flattery of them, and sit back and wait for the future of hope and change. All well and good, for them, I guess. They want the abortion, they get it. They hate traditionalists or magisterial Catholics, they feel they (the Little Sisters?) will get what is coming to them. They are not sorry for any of that and won’t speak out for the world.

    Yet, what do they suppose will occur, this first wave accomplished, say five to ten years out. Because while they sit with their Marxist cap and listen to their Seeger and reminisce about the March on Washington that they never attended but they did trip on lsd at Woodstock and they are happy and profit by the new libertinism, do they not realize that what they have ushered in is far from the stylized Marxist utopia of the peace and love goodness that they now call their spirituality? What they usher in is exactly what Marxist as practiced all over the world inevitably becomes, according to history. It becomes punishingly atheist. Again, maybe they are ok with that. It becomes totalitarian. Again, do they not care? Just because this administration embraces all their favorite things does not mean that the next one, so enabled and emboldened, will not tack a different course, justifying all in the name of ‘the people’ with their newfound powers. So, look at Putin. He is charting his own way. Or, it could be, mandatory death penalty for certain felonies. How about in the name of economy, changing environmental laws, in order to make things productive. Or just enabling the good of population control for everyone by sterilizing the mentally ill and aborting the girl babies? Fining the Buddhists. Or, a curriculum of atheism mandated in the public schools. I could go on and on but you get the idea. All of these are proposed by their Marxist friends the world over. So, that is why our Catholic for choice friends really ought to care about what they are doing. They are free to create their communes according to their own special beliefs, in this country, for now. In another five years? I wonder.

  29. benedetta says:

    Because when in six or seven years out, the administration decides to cut feeding for poor elderly in nursing homes because they ought to be euthanized anyway and the government cannot continue to pay, and no one knows what is going on because the administration’s paid censors stationed in news rooms refuse to permit broadcast of the story as not in the “people’s interest”? Oh, it can never happen here you say? I guess we are relatively safe for a few years, as the bill to station Obama censors in every newsroom did get defeated upon its introduction to Congress…only because the engineering was flawed in its proposal and people, oops, found out about it….

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