Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Pessimism of the Catholic Blogosphere

This is a long post, so please bear with me.

Non-journalists often complain that print and broadcast media only focus on negative news and don’t report enough positive happenings. I would say that the latter is true, though not necessarily the former. That the media should write more stories on positive news does not mean that they should write less on so-called negative news. Let’s face it: Murder, rape, abuse, terrorism, poverty, disease, ethical violations and so on are news.

That criticism of the media has been around as long as the media themselves. The advent of blogs in the past three or four years as part of the explosion of online media has led to sharper and more precise criticisms of the media’s failings. As a journalist and as a citizen, I think that’s a good thing.

But the more I read of Catholic blogs, which often bemoan the MSM’s treatment of religion-related stories in general and Catholic-related stories specifically, the more I see this as an example of the pot calling the kettle black.

With the exception of a few level-headed sites, most Catholic blogs I read are thoroughly pessimistic. The bloggers whine, complain, point fingers, call people names and seemingly refuse to give a good measure of charity and mercy to anyone but themselves.

Supreme Catholic Blogger Man (or, less frequently, Woman) Is THE Authoritative Source On Everything Related To The Catholic Church And Is More Catholic Than The Bishops And Sometimes Even The Pope. Supreme Catholic Blogger Man Knew While Still In Utero That Haugen and Haas Songs Would Lead To The Downfall of the Catholic Church in America. AND, Despite Not Having a Canon Law Degree, Knows Canon Law And Its Application Better Than Actual Canon Lawyers or the Bishops. AND He Refuses To Believe That Just Because A Bishop Has Received the Extra Graces of the Holy Spirit At His Episcopal Ordination That Bishop Knows Better Than Supreme Catholic Blogger (Lay)Man How To Run Seminaries Or Deal With His Priests Because, After All, Supreme Catholic Blogger Man Once Read The Summa in Latin, A Language Which He Taught to Himself.

I think the problem with most of these Catholic bloggers is a lack of hope and joy and, flowing from that, humor. Catholic bloggers think that it’s somehow their job to fix the Catholic Church in America (and one day the rest of the world!) because they successfully managed the very difficult task of signing up for a Blogger account (and let’s not forget that they – gasp! – also survived CCD in the 1970s – or, God forbid – actual Catholic schools).

Catholic bloggers (and their commentators, who are usually even more off the deep end) seem to forget that there’s never really been a time in the Church when it hadn’t been attacked in one form or another – the persecution of the early Church, heresies like Arianism, the Great Schism, the Avignon papacy and anti-popes, the Protestant Reformation or today’s rejection of the Church’s authority as a (the) moral leader. Because they fail to put the attacks on today’s Church in perspective, they somehow feel that if they complain enough and other people listen to their screeching enough and recognize it for the Supremely Important Private Revelation That It Is, the Divine Fingers will snap and everything will be made whole again. They flatter themselves too much and, seeing as they have the weight and fate of the world on their shoulders, they must be deadly serious and point out every fault and failing by every person other than themselves.

But here’s a newsflash for Catholic bloggers: It is not your job to be an authoritative source on the Catholic Church or a pro bono consultant to the bishops and the Holy Father. It is your job to be a witness of Christ’s love in the world, in whatever vocation you are, in whatever profession you are, in whatever place you are. As a holy priest who I know once said, God already has one St. Francis of Assisi, and He doesn’t need another one. What He needs is a thoroughly authentic you, and that means seeking through prayer God’s will for your life and through prayer trying to follow it.

Doing those two things demands humility and patience with one’s self. On the path to Heaven, one will surely fall again, and again, and again, and again, and again. And again. But that means that to reach Heaven, we must have the hope and joy which provides the confidence and strength we need to get back up and continue on. We can’t take ourselves too seriously or we’ll surely fall into despair. We need humor and we need to laugh at ourselves. We need to have an attitude of gratitude because that’s a requirement of the Eucharistic life, which is the entrance ticket into the Heavenly Banquet.

Some people seem to think religion should and does make one serious, but the embrace of the True Faith should do just the opposite – it should make one joyful and full of hope and humor. That’s why I appreciate when Amy Welborn writes about how long her baby slept last night or posts excerpts about her dad’s trip to Rome. It’s why I like when Mark Shea (please start blogging again!) puts the proverbial smack down on commentators (or other bloggers) who seem too full of and serious with themselves. It’s why I like that Thomas of Catholicae Testudines writes posts (weekly during the school year) on why he loves and appreciates being Catholic.

We Catholic bloggers play one very small part in one still very young medium in a very media-saturated society and in a Church with more than a billion members that is 2,000 years old. Let’s start appreciating that fact, both for what it is and for what it is not. And let’s have fun while we’re doing it.