In the Words of the Tick: “Let’s Get Meta!”

So the other day, some reporter named Rachel Zoll decided that something has to be done about conservative Catholics running around on the web, talking about being, you know, faithful to Church teachings that Rachel Zoll thinks are oppressive and backward (i.e., the usual pelvic issues). So she wrote a handwringing expose which featured a grab bag of various conservative Catholics making conservative Catholic noises and larded it with lots of editorial commentary making clear that these people are the wrong sort of Catholic and your average America or Commonweal reader is the right sort of Catholic. Message: Progressive dissent is enlightened and only a churl could question that.

Not surprisingly, dotCommonweal picked that up and discussion ensued. Those writing from deep withing the dotCommonweal bubble (notably Cathleen Kaveny) commented extensively on how they thanked God that they were not like other men, especially like those awful awful Catholic conservatives over there, who are so judgmental. Everybody within the bubble was unanimous on their vast superiority to all those terrible conservative Catholics. Fr. O’Leary busied himself with his pastoral duties of denouncing Neo-Caths (I number in this august regiment, even though, as I have pointed out in the past, defining what a Neo-Catholic is can be pretty baffling and, in any case, Fr. O’Leary’s usage of the term appears to be anomalous). There is much tolerant and charitable language about “barely pre-pubescent brats” like Thomas Peters, much commentary about such sinister “Neo-Cath” figures as Patrick Madrid, The bloggers at the American Catholic, The blogger at the Catholic Key (who works for the diocese of Kansas City), Robert George, Raymond Arroyo, John Zmirak, American Papist (of course), Inside Catholic, The blogger the Curt Jester, Elizabeth Scalia, yours truly, Philip and Christopher Blosser, Fr Zuhlsdorf and (most mysteriously to me), Amy Welborn.

A word about Welborn. Probably the most astounding charges lodged against her come from Kaveny, who seriously writes of the phenomenon of self-appointed inquisitors like Michael Voris: “It’s been going on a long time. I myself think it started with Amy Welborn, who memorably claimed in Commonweal that liberal Catholics didn’t like her and her late husband because they “make fun” of them.”

Yes. You read that right. One line in one article in one liberal magazine article that no one reads (because, of course, the original article was published in Commonweal) and she’s given birth, nine years later, to MICHAEL VORIS. Plus, she used to ask people “What did you see and hear?” in an effort to get a sense of the diversity and unity of Catholic experience of worship from Sunday to Sunday. Her blogs requesting this were manifestly *not* attempts at gathering wood for an auto de fe, but were good-hearted attempts to bring people together as Catholics. But the inquisitors concerned and noble lefties in the combox at Commonweal will have none of that, so they don’t even bother to address her bleats of protest at these charges. As lefties so commonly do, they know better and don’t have to respond when they bear false witness against somebody perceived to be an ideological foe. So Welborn is lumped in with the unrighteous and dismissed by the tolerant who dislike those who are dismissive and divisive. Because as one commenter (who was shouted down by the Enforcers of Commonweal Orthodoxy) said:

No one on the left online ever mocks anyone.

No one on this blog has ever mocked or said catty things about Pope Benedict, about their less-favored bishops. Like to-be Cardinal Burke. This blog has always spoken of these fellows with the utmost respect, even though they disagree either with their ideologies or their wardrobes.

No one.

Or Sarah Palin, but that’s irrelevant.

No one on the left in the Church has ever tried to keep conservatives out of “power” in a parish. No liturgy director or pastor has tried to shut down a schola or push out more traditionally-minded liturgy participants.

The liberal Michael Sean Winters at America, and now NCR, has never had a blog feature called “Yahoo Watch”

Never, ever happened.

But wait! There are even deeper layers of meta-narrative. For over at Gregorian Rite Catholic, Janice Kraus, the self-appointed expert on the Problem of Protestant Converts who “loves the Church” but seems chronically unable to tolerate almost any actual Catholics ask “Who Counts as a “Faithful” Catholic?” and writes:

Now there’s a fight going on between “dissident” and “orthodox” Catholic bloggers here over a New York Times article entitled “Catholic Bloggers Aim to Purge Dissenters.” The article is populated by the usual suspects and there’s nothing that’s really new. But the discussion at dotCommonweal is interesting, if only because of the whining on both sides.

Between the dissidents, who have done incalculable damage to the Church, both here and in Europe, and the prissy sanctimony of the so-called “faithful orthodox” (how’s that for chutzpah?), who have fostered equal division and a measure of doctrinal heterodoxy of their own, it’s tempting to wish a plague on both their houses.

Message: Janice Kraus (and Benedict XVI, and the few truly true Traditional Catholics of whom she approves) are worthy of the name of “Faithful Catholic”.

One can, of course, take a different approach to this festering and fissiparous Donatism.

One can say, “What’s wrong with the Church? I am. Who’s the Faithful Catholic? It sure as hell ain’t me.”

The problem is, in the world of meta-narrative, saying that is merely one more way to assert one’s moral superiority. “Get me! I’m being noble and modest! Way different from those people over there!”

So, in the end, I’m not sure this is so much a matter for discussion as it is food for meditation, followed by action like “Going to confession” or just shutting up and doing one of the works of mercy without making sure everybody knows you are doing it.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the mind and try the heart, to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10)


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