Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Catholic Bloggers, St. John the Baptist and Christ's condemnation of some of the Pharisees; do we have a right to express righteous anger?

I saw a discussion on another Catholic blog about the right (and calling?) to be blunt in defense of the Faith. I say "blunt" but that word doesn't really describe the way some Catholics use and comment on blogs. One commentator argued that since St. John the Baptist was described by Jesus as the greatest who was ever born, and he called some of the pharisees and scribes a "brood of vipers", we should be able to do the same when defending the Faith. Others, of course, mentioned Our Lord's own condemnation of a similar group ("whitewashed tombs" etc) and His cleansing of the Temple. Because Our Lord Jesus Christ sometimes spoke hard and angry words (to Peter for example) and John the Baptist did not mince his words, we Catholic bloggers (and it seems to be those of us of a "traditionalist" mindset) should follow their example. WRONG!!!

There are other things Our Lord said and did. For example, He told us not to judge lest we ourselves should be judged (according to the same criteria?). He commanded us NOT to be angry; indeed we are not to call each other "fool". He commanded us to pray for those who hurt us and to forgive our enemies; indeed we are to LOVE our enemies. Of course, I can hear someone thinking, "yes, but this means 'tough love' doesn't it?" Sometimes it does mean that, but these occasions are RARE. Let's remember Christ's meeting with the woman caught in adultery - "Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone!". We forget, I think, that Jesus was in a good position to show occasional anger - He is GOD!!! John the Baptist was His prophet and was called to be a "voice in the wilderness". That calling included giving a resounding WAKE UP call to everyone, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord. Who do some Catholic bloggers and blog commentators think they are? We are told that we must answer for "every word". If we are going to claim the right to berate people, to insult them, to denigrate them - all in the name of the Faith, it seems to me that we should have some good answers ready.


  1. Some of these blogs are fearful places void of all charity, and they show no mercy to fellow Catholics who do not entirely agree with their point of view. Excellent Post Father.
    Wishing you a very happy and holy Easter.

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  3. It's a learning curve, this blogging lark, I reckon!

  4. I have been accused of all the negative things you have stated Father John. I find it difficult to do 'battle' with Catholics that make such inaccurate remarks about the faith, the church or pope etc... I know they are either embarrassed about the church or have been totally betrayed by someone in the church or are listening to the anti catholic media. Sometimes I think +Fulton Sheen had it right then I think of Pope JP11. So many different styles and personalities. I know one priest who is one of the toughest in the blogasphere . He gets ridiculed but his 'enemies', I really feel , know he is sincere and wants to inform. Fraternal correction needs to be done- gently or by using 'tough love'. Just as different styles are used by parents for their children.
    We are all human.

  5. Anon. with traditionalist label19 April 2011 at 23:53

    Some four plus years ago the following was published online by a blog which survives as a listing service but seems to be without further postings or commentary.
    It states:

    "When visiting other people's blogs, you may find content that you disagree with. It is the policy of British Catholic Bloggers to be as liberal as possible when deciding which BC blogs are named on the list.
    Generally speaking, the sina qua non for inclusion is that organisations' blogs uphold Church teaching while for individuals it is that they simply love the Church. Catholic organisations are causes and ought to be able to live up to their name; Catholic individuals often don't - that is why the Church and her sacraments are here."

    Since that early comment there seems to have been deterioration rather than progress in this form of communication.
    As another commenter wisely observes, perhaps it is because we are "amateur" journalists, competing for the attention of readers, over zealous in our love of Christ.

    I think some priest bloggers would have made great Calvinists imposing a rigidity on the Church which people of every nation in pews around the world find impossible to maintain.
    As for the RC Blogosphere, it is perhaps most peoples good fortune NOT to participate being lucky to have pen and paper even reliable electricity, let alone a computer!

  6. This official report on the selection of bloggers for the May conference might be of interest.

    "I hope those not on the list will not feel excluded. The bloggers present in the Room will surely keep you informed and engaged. They may even organise a livestream. It is also to be hoped that this is just the beginning of a dialogue.
    Selection to attend does not imply Vatican approval of the contents of any of the blogs. Neither does non-selection imply disapproval.

    Thanking you for your patience and understanding – this has already been a good learning experience for us.
    Richard Rouse

  7. "Anonymous" - why on earth must we have "tough" priests on the blogasphere? What is the point of that? History and experience shows that getting tough with people in faith matters only pays off in certain cicumstances (which have to be carefully discerned). Usually people just get "turned off" religion or use it then as an excuse not to go to church. How many times have we all heard this kind of thing thrown back at the Church, and (more seriously) how much has the "tough" behaviour of priests (like martinets perhaps)contributed to the mess in Ireland? How often is a priest's "toughness" associated with clericalism?

    The other day I saw comments from Catholics about a certain priest who was obviously very "straight" as we say with his people - blunt you might say - and told them the rules of the Church in no uncertain terms etc. Because of this he seems to have upset many people. There are ways of talking to people. Sometimes the upset cannot be avoided, sometimes it is necessary, but it shouldn't happen because the priest has been abusive, insulting, acerbic or whatever.

  8. "Rowan" Catholic20 April 2011 at 06:57

    Shalom Father John

    Thank you for that reality check. Yes, people are certainly "turned off".
    I wonder if the rush to publish leads to serious errors that can back-fire rather badly.

    I am not knowledgeable about the mystical tradition but will always grant those who are, and those who are associated with this form of spirituality, an interested hearing.
    What I find difficult to understand are those who quote the writings of a mystic said to be long since discredited- Mary Of Agreda, without researching the matter.
    I did not know anything about this Spanish lady from the Middle Ages but recognised a gnostic element in the very extensive quotation. It proved to be so- a very un-Christian rejection of materiality was one of the criticisms.
    As Archbishop William Temple said;
    "God loves matter. He create it".
    I hope this is not offensive and you are not a follower of the writings.
    In the end we fall back on "by their fruits ye shall know them". To date they have not had a great impact so looks like the Holy Spirit has spoken!

  9. I understand Pope Pius XII thought highly of Mary of Agreda. I have read a few things of hers, but was not particularly taken with it, so I don't know enough to comment any more than this.

  10. Father John
    I am in a quandary as a blog reader of faith and reason, a former academic with some knowledge.
    I have enjoyed your blog which is exceptionally charitable, broad in scope and very female-friendly.
    No doubt "Rowan" Catholic agrees although probably might take issue over the ordination of women.
    I feel I should "enlighten" the blog in question on the status of Mary of Agreda despite the information that Pope Pius XII had a regard for her.
    I'm inclined to think it is possible to cherry-pick from the writings of mystics as, indeed, we can from the scriptures to suit our purpose or personal need. Nothing wrong with that.

    When others have been less than generous towards your own regard for a modern mystic I feel aggrieved that what may be of questionable significance is given blog space without any attempt to investigate the background while another is ignored, even abused.
    In my heart I think that I am expecting a scholarly approach when that is not necessarily the function of a blog or beyond the person concerned.
    Perhaps I will leave it though it will rankle, not because I am a student of the writings in question, but because I feel I should speak in the cause of tolerance and justice.

  11. Linda, thank you but I must confess that I am puzzled by your comment. Are you in favour of Mary of Agreda or not? I know very little about her and that was all I said. As for providing background information, I wish I could, but I am a parish priest with another job and only have so much time and am struggling to read the books I already have. With regard to mystics, we are each free to investigate how we will, hopefully guided by the Holy Spirit and the Magisterium of the Church - there is freedom in this, but we cannot reasonably expect to know everything about all mystics. I was hoping someone would write with more knowledge of Mary of Agreda. If you have this, then please share it.

  12. Thank you Father.
    In my attempt to be open-minded I came over as vague.
    I had done a little research on Mary of Agreda but was thrown rather when you said Pope Pius X11 had a regard for her which held me back from commenting directly to the other blog out of respect. (I watched his funeral in Venice as a very small child- a glass-sided gondola).

    However, to be a little more clear, I do think there are aspects of the experiences of Mary of Agreda that are difficult. They do not appeal.
    My point is, if the blogger can quote a seventeenth century mystic then why not a twenty-first century one.

    By the time I have made up my mind several more subjects will have been posted but, if the mystical tradition is raised again, I will not hesitate to gently point out inconsistencies in attitude.
    Whether any comments will see the light of day is another matter. It is enough that he will have seen them.

  13. Dear Father John and "Rowan" Catholic

    The trouble with the Comment Box is that it has no memory and I can barely recollect what I typed yesterday.
    Suffice it to say, this morning I have just listened to the Archbishop of Canterbury's "Thought for the Day" and feel moved to withdraw my intention to "enlighten" on the subject of the dubious authenticity of Mary of Agreda. If the writings cause no offence,offer comfort and support then so be it.

    I will view them as imaginative writing, poetry perhaps. A click on the mouse to research the subject or a word from the blogger's parish priest is more acceptable than a critical comment from a stranger.
    What matters is that, misguided intellectual pride on my part, disguised perhaps as a zeal to honour Our Lady does not cause discomfort especially at this time.
    Thank you.