Happy Jollity!

So I went to this USCCB thingie in Baltimore on Bishops and Bloggers (basically a confab on how the Church can better engage New Media).  There was a panel discussion with Mark Gray from CARA (a research organization), with additional discussion from Bp. Christopher Coyne, Rocco Palmo, Mary DeTurris Poust, and Terry Mattingly (Gray is out of frame on the right).

There was a lot of information presented and it still barely scratched the surface, of course. But the presenters did a fine job. What stuck out for me personally was twofold: First, the internet is the wild west and mighty difficult to run on anything but the honors system. This makes for a lot of intellectual ferment. One bishop (I’m sorry but I didn’t get his name, but I very much liked him) remarked that the internet is like the ancient system of Roman roads that made it possible for ideas, philosophies, spiritual fads, the genuine hungers of the human heart to move swiftly around the Empire. Lots of evangelism was done by anonymous laity simply going out into the marketplace and talking about Jesus there. Much the same is happening now and via a technology that can greatly amplify the human voice.

Another thing that stuck out, courtesy of Rocco’s remarks, was the need for Catholics to address the huge and growing Spanish-speaking demographic. This is the third time I’ve been knocked on the head with this by the Spirit. It was a very eye-opening experience this past week as various minority readers–Latino, Korean, African-American–all attempted to make the same point: we feel profoundly unwelcome in conservative–including conservative Catholic–circles. These were people who are basically orthodox serious Catholics, empathetic to conservative concerns about such issues as abortion, the family, marriage etc. Natural allies and co-belligerents for the Catholic faith. But when they tried to express the deep sense of unwelcome they all experienced (a sense shared by an awful lot of their friends, family, etc) a significant group of readers just. couldn’t. hear it. Nobody was accusing anybody here of racism, etc. But almost instantly the conversation turned to “Liberals do it too” and “Conservative give a lot to charity” and a whole fusillade of replies that made it clear that it was extremely difficult to just listen, hear the experience, heed. It was taken very personally by some. (Yes, a couple of people were out of line.) But what struck me was that, at the end of the day, people describing their sense of being outsiders were being told, pretty consistently that the didn’t or shouldn’t or couldn’t have that very broadly shared perception. One of the wrote me as the non-conversation died down:

I really was dismayed by what I read. I honestly didn’t expect that kind of response. I thought that this might be a real time of reflection for “conservatives,” but clearly it isn’t. Republicans are going to go the way of the dinosaur! Their rhetoric is alienating and offensive–not just for people of color, but for thoughtful whites as well (the largest group to vote for the president). My white friends would die before they’d be associated with the racial politics of the right–which reduces the cultural capital of Catholics when they attempt to reach them on issues like abortion and gay marriage. Ultimately, I’m not worried about getting my feelings hurt. What scares me is all the people who turn away from Jesus because this is the kind of mentality they think they would have to align with if they were to take the Gospel seriously. What most people see is a lack of compassion on the part of people who say they are following Jesus. But then I have to remember that the Lord is still in his temple and nothing can ultimately rob the gospel of its power. As for me, I’m going to stay close to the sacraments and try to be the best example I can be. At dismissal, I’ll do what we’re told to do. I’ll go out into the world and try to bring Jesus with me!

I have no interest in the fate of the Republican or Dem parties. What I care about is that highlighted sentence and, frankly, that’s what my reader cares about most, as did the rest of the minorities contributors on that thread. There is not one good reason on planet earth that these people should feel so alienated from their brothers and sisters in Christ. But they do. And the reason, I think, does not lie with them.

I was also struck by a conversation with Kevin Knight, who remarked on the question of amnesty for illegal aliens that they’re the ones who fill the schedule for Adoration at his parish. Every Christmas, they have to discontinue adoration at his parish because the Latinos go back to see their families in Mexico for the holiday and the Anglos don’t pick up the slack.

Prudence says that when you have a large, devout, Christ-loving, hard-working, family-loving community of Catholics who love the Lord and love their faith who have been integrated into the economy and whose children are culturally American, you should welcome them not make political hay about deporting them. Prudence also says that any online presence of the Church needs to address their needs and pay attention to what they are saying.

Anyway, that’s what stuck out for me. Lots of other bloggers will doubtless have other impressions. Check out the blogs of Deacon Greg Kandra, Fr. Kyle Schnippel, Kathy Schiffer, Leah Libresco, Brandon Vogt, Tom McDonald, Lisa Hendey among others, who will also probably be commenting on what they saw and heard in Baltimore.

Speaking of which, one of the real treats of this weekend was getting to meet all these people I’ve never met before as well as some I know a bit, such as Kevin Knight and Brandon (seen here shortly before Kevin and I went aboard the USS Constellation, a gorgeous tall ship that did service in the Civil War.

I also got to meet Tom McDonald, America Tallest Catholic Technology Blogger and Game Reviewer from New Jersey with a Beard (that is, he has a beard, not New Jersey)

In addition, when the meeting was over a bunch of Patheos bloggers, as well as sundry other folk joined us at the James Joyce pub, where I could only barely be restrained from ordering three quarks for Muster Mark. Here’s the whole crowd:

And here’s a Patheosi gaggle:

That’s Lisa, Deacon Greg, Leah, some fat guy, Kathy Schiffer, and Tom McDonald. Alack and alas, Elizabeth Scalia, who was the foundress of the feast, got stuck on a tarmac in Long Island and never made it. We hoist a brew in her honor.

Anyway, tomorrow I hit the road again, this time for Cincinatti, where I will record the audiobook version of Salt and Light: The Commandments, the Beatitudes, and a Joyful Life.  It will be out in late January.  I will stick an order form on my web site when I get a breather, for those who want to pre-order.  Alas, it will not be out for Christmas but it will be here for Lent.

I loaded stuff in the hopper for launch while I am on the road and will try to pop in as I can.  Meanwhile, you kids don’t put not beans up your noses.  Home on Thursday!

  • J. H. M. Ortiz

    Just yesterday, I read an e-mail from my sister (a non-Catholic conservative who likes Mitt Romney) who wondered to me why (as blogger Rebecca Hamilton had mentioned) many Catholic Hispanics were uncomfortable voting Republican. Sad.
    But ’twas fun for me to see all together various bloggers I read frequently, notably Tom McDonald together with “Mark Shea: Worst. Person. Ever.”

  • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

    Is there a conservative Catholic media presence that doesn’t speak mainly to those who agree with it? I haven’t noticed.

    • B.E. Ward

      Mainly just one Mark Shea….!

  • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

    The people I work with at Catholic Radio International, where I read poems, may have thought of me for years, it seems, as someone engaged in evangelizing, or perhaps an apologist who versifies. I explained to them recently that I’m no such thing. I’m a writer, and that’s all I am.

    The number of visits is rather large, and so far as I am aware the Church as an institution doesn’t know I exist.

    I stay out of politics and most social commentary. If a message should happen to come through the work, that’s fine. It it doesn’t, that’s life.

    Evangelize with your life and how you live it. The number of people who want to listen to you preach might not be all that big. After all, who are you anyway?

  • Margaret

    You’re looking remarkably less jolly in these pictures, Mark– how much have you lost now?

    • Mark Shea

      About 80 lbs.

  • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

    I look at these jolly pictures taken in Baltimore and I think about how same sex marriage passed in Maryland despite the Catholic campaign against it, and I wonder what there is to be jolly about.

    • Mark Shea

      Friendship? Good company? A chance to meet people you’ve admired for a long while?

      • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

        A friend of mine, a long-time and well-known Catholic journalist, told me just before the election that we might be facing the institutional destruction of the Catholic Church.

        He meant, of course, Catholic institutions that serve the public.

        • Mark Shea

          He could be right. And Paul, writing from prison, said “Rejoice in the Lord always.”

          • http://fernandapowers.com Fernanda

            I wish you had a like button on the comments, because I really like this one about Rejoice in the Lord always :-)

  • Terence M. Stanton

    A.M.D.G.

    I respectfully disagree with amnesty for illegal immigrants. I think it is unfair to people who try to come to America in a legal manner. I do not believe people ought to be rewarded for breaking the law. I realize that many folks are trying to escape a terrifying situation in Mexico or another country. That does not change the fact that they are here illegally. Additionally, some people coming here illegally are rather brutal individuals. These statistics were cited on Catholic Answers Live during a program called “The Spiritual Implications of Illegal Immigration” (4-16-12) with Patrick Coffin and Jesse Romero: 95% of outstanding warrants for homicide in Los Angeles are for illegal immigrants, two-thirds of fugitive felony warrants are for illegal immigrants and ten percent of illegal immigrants in L.A. are wanted for crimes back in their home nation. I am certainly sympathetic to the plight of people who come from wretched circumstances, but I also think the rule of law ought to be upheld. Mr. Romero also quoted Cardinal Mahony and Cardinal Gomez on the issue of illegal immigration: “The Catholic Church does not support illegal immigration. We support legal immigration.” – His Eminence Roger Michael Mahony (Cardinal-Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles) from an interview with the Los Angeles Times… “The fact is that millions of immigrants are here in blatant violation of U.S. law. This makes law-abiding Americans angry and it should. Why should they obey the laws if others aren’t punished for breaking them? As advocates, we can’t ignore this fact or somehow argue that our immigration laws don’t matter. We have to make sure that our laws are fair and understandable and at the same time we have to insist that our laws be respected and enforced. Those who violate our laws have to be punished.” – The Most Reverend José Horacio Gómez (Archbishop of Los Angeles) from an interview with Catholic World Report…

    • J. H. M. Ortiz

      A comment is *Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam* insofar as it is true. On the other hand, there are such things as dead-letter laws; and not even the anti-amnesty politicians seriously really want to deport en masse the undocumented immigrants who labor in harvesting our crops, in maintaining our roads, and in other menial but important tasks that we benefit from.
      And no one SUPPORTS illegal immigration; but if all undocumented immigrants were forced to stay out of the U.S., at least some of them would lack the necessities of life, because they cannot have these in Mexico — necessities which they have a God-given right to earn by working. Here let’s not forget a tradition maintained by Augustin and Aquinas — and invoked today by our bishops regarding the HHS Mandate — a tradition that holds that an unjust human law does not bind in conscience.
      Isofar as a comment is NOT true, it is rather *Ad MINOREM Dei Gloriam*.

      • Terence M. Stanton

        A.M.D.G.
        I fully agree with paragraph #2241 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Do you consider that an “unjust human law”? All immigrants are welcome in America provided they come here legally and respect our laws.

        • J. H. M. Ortiz

          A fair question, Sir: Yes, I agree fully with CCC 2241; by no means is that paragraph advocating anything unjust. As I indicated, no one here supports illegal immigration. But it does not follow that whatever juridical restrictions any secular government at any time subjects immigrants to is necessarily itself a just law and can’t possibly be unjust.

    • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

      I think that dealing with illegal immigration misses an important preceding point. In the overwhelming number of cases these people are leaving their places of citizenship because of unjust economies that keep them bone crushingly poor and endanger their lives and the lives of their families. That is the first injustice and conservative Catholics can have a great deal to say about it.

      Trace the route of an illegal immigrant from Guatemala and all the hazards they go through to get here and getting caught by ICE and sent home seems to be, at worst, the fetid cherry on top of a raw deal pie that started cooking before they ever left home.

      So what would it take for them to find life at home better than breaking the laws of multiple countries and living in the shadows for many years in the US? Conservatives have a very good answer for that. It’s called rule of law and economic freedom.

      So what would it take for the US to be able to absorb more immigrants without hurting our own? Tight labor markets and easy business formation. Conservatives have a very good answer for that. It’s called an end to corporate welfare and even-handed rules of the road that open opportunity for everybody.

      On both issues, the left is in the wrong. Somehow that doesn’t get out much in the news media.

  • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov
  • Cornelius

    In the top picture, is that Dr Zaius from Planet of the Apes on the right?

  • http://catholic-video.blogspot.com/ Paul H

    What can we as Catholic bloggers, or simply as Catholic laymen, do to reach out more effectively to minority Catholics, particularly Hispanic Catholics? Any ideas?

  • Drew

    Very interesting post. Thank you.

    It sounds like a good time, with lots of questions and challenges for all involved.

    I notice that all the bloggers are white. I am not sure what that means, but it is something I noticed.
    Does the CARA survey examine use of the Internet by racial make up? Perhaps feelers should be put out to find bloggers who are people of color? How might Catholics who are Latino, African-American bloggers see the “signs of the times” different? (They don’t even need to be Catholic, but best practices gleaned from other faith traditions.) And the role of technology in those communities may be different from the white, middle class community.

    Thanks again.
    Drew

  • http://fernandapowers.com Fernanda

    I found your comments about how the Hispanics feel unwelcome to be very interesting, and somewhat related to what I encounter in my own parish as a brand new Director of Religious Education. What I see is that many of the Hispanics in our community do not speak English, so there is a barrier right there. How to integrate them into parish life? I’m somewhat bilingual, so simply speaking Spanish has helped a lot. But then what? I can understand the various political views about whether or not illegal immigrants should be allowed to remain or be deported, and the politics surrounding having a Spanish translation for everything including ballots and the Pledge of Allegiance (English *is* our official language, after all). I also see those as issues that you shouldn’t drag with you into church. Church is here to nourish people spiritually, and in that context you do what it takes to get the job done, whether that means you translate your materials into Spanish, hold a Spanish language Mass, work to teach them English or whatever it is. If people are illegally here, we are still called to serve them and meet their spiritual needs, which means even if you would *vote* to have them deported, you still behave in a welcoming way towards them in the context of your parish life, which includes how you behave outside of parish activities as well. I think ultimately, reaching out and making an effort to get to know people who aren’t in your normal social circles can go a long way towards making divisions irrelevant. So, maybe it comes down to the simple process of making a new friend which involves practicing hospitality.


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