And with that title, I have fulfilled a long-held dream of naming a blog post after a Hanson song. Go me.
But actually, I’m looking around and not seeing much of it lately, and it’s making me sad. Not sad in a “let me cast my droopy Disney eyes upon you and guilt you into being a better human being because you are negatively impacting my emotional state” way, but sad in a, “I doubt everything I know to be true because of what I’m seeing” kind of way. I’m talking about the Mark Shea debacle, of course.
I hesitated to even write this post because I know there are accusations that float around about the writers at Patheos being clique-ey. We’ve even been called a ghetto, and LarryD has a clever comic at Acts of the Apostasy about us being “assimilated into the Borg.” I get that. Since coming to Patheos, I’ve become friends with other bloggers with whom I wasn’t familiar with before, because, well, we write for the same website. I like them. I like their blogs. But I really don’t want to give more ammunition to the “Patheos is a blogging ghetto” argument because I don’t see it that way. I think the blogs at Patheos all have something unique to offer, and that the Anchoress chose them for that very reason. The one thing I’ve found all the bloggers here to have in common is one of the things that attracted me to Patheos in the first place. I’m not sure what the right word is for it, but let’s call it charity. I believe that the writers and bloggers at the Patheos Catholic Channel work very hard to be charitable, to not lambast others for their sins, and to give the benefit of the doubt. This often gets translated to be “wimpiness” or a “refusal to stand up for the Truth”, because it’s not often that you’ll see a Patheos blogger write a 2000 word post on why exactly the latest priest/blogger/Catholic celebrity embroiled in a scandal should be flayed alive and deep fried and fed to the faithful in reparation for their mortal sins.
Do you want to know a secret? We don’t write posts like that because when things like that happen, we usually say to each other, “there but for the grace of God, go I.” Usually we say it with more profanity and gnashing of teeth, because we’re sinners, dammit. Just like everyone.
Which brings me to Mark Shea. I don’t really read Mark’s blog a lot, because I disagree with some of his ideas and it’s kind of a pet peeve of mine when people publicly post prayer requests on behalf of other people. (It’s an issue I’m working on, and if you were raised in the Biblest of Belts you’d probably get skeeved out by it too.) I didn’t agree with his assessment of the Lila Rose thing, and I got kind of mad about it, and I wrote a blog post about it. Then he wrote that beautiful post about Perry Lorenzo, and I realized that I actually kind of liked Mark Shea. And then last week, a priest who I have never heard of went on a public crusade to destroy his reputation.
It wasn’t all that long ago that the good people over at Freejinger went on a crusade against me. They talked about how they’d like to physically hurt me, used profanity in a way that would have shocked a sailor (or the Crescat, for that matter), and picked through my blog posts in an effort to point out how I was a liar, or a fraud, or just downright despicable. It was not a fun week for me. It was made less fun because they actually had a point, and I felt guilty as well as threatened. I spent most of that week with a sick feeling in my stomach, and even though I kept telling myself not to, I would return to that forum again and again, reading the latest hateful comments and trying to brush it off while wondering, “are they right? Am I despicable?”
The one thing I kept holding onto was the knowledge that those people literally could not understand why I wouldn’t use birth control. I know they couldn’t, because it wasn’t that many years ago when I was “those people”, and I thought Catholics were the worst kind of misogynistic for their archaic stance on birth control. It took me years to even understand the arguments in Humane Vitae, much less agree with them. That gave me comfort, because I knew that these people were angry at who they thought I was and what they thought I stood for, not me, actually. And then Caroline wrote a post defending me, and I cried, because I was so relieved to have someone in my corner.
Mark Shea doesn’t have that first kind of comfort right now, so the least I can do is give him the second. The priest inciting his facebook followers to tar and feather Mark is a Catholic priest. The people in the threads calling Mark “an old hairy fatty” and comparing him to Judas are members of the Catholic faithful. And unlike me, Mark’s primary source of income is his writing. Mark’s family depends on his writing, and in Catholic circles, as we know all too well, if your reputation is ruined, you’re done. There are thousands of subscribers to this priest’s facebook page who probably haven’t ever read a word Mark has written, but who will, based on this facebook crusade, pass by one of Mark’s books in the bookstore that they might otherwise have bought.
And for what? Nothing Mark has said was contrary to Church teaching. Nothing. So what if he’s a bit more liberal than I’d like? So what if he doesn’t support Romney? So what if he dared to find a gay man worthy of admiration? None of that gives anyone the right to try and destroy his livelihood by way of defamation. And even if he had said something heretical, even if he was a downright friggin’ heretic, should our response as Christians be to try and slander his character as much as possible? Um, no. I’m pretty sure that’s not what we’re supposed to do. Actually, I’m pretty sure our Papa just bent over backward to bring some schismatics back into the fold, remember? He didn’t go on a facebook crusade to sniff out any hint of schism or heresy and then incite the faithful into a frenzy over it. In fact, he braved the frenzy of the faithful for the love of the members of the SSPX.
The whole thing is just wrong. We owe each other better than this. There are real enemies out there, real threats to the Church, real threats to our faith and real threats to the world, and half the Catholics on the internet are in the corner having witch-hunts for anyone who might not be quite holy enough. Normally I wouldn’t say something like this, because I’m only 28, and a convert besides, and I’m not always sure that my opinion is the right one. But in this instance, I feel secure in telling everyone involved in this ridiculous, shameful display of self-righteousness to grow up, get over yourself, and apologize to Mark.
And also, this, because part of me is still insufferably thirteen and I need a palate-cleanser: