Why Serious Catholics Should Hate Catholic Stuff

I love Mexican food.

Bordertown street cuisine, Tex-Mex comfort food, and Southwestern red and green chiles and sopapillas…

Tacos al pastor, tortas, elote (en vaso), carne guisada, frijoles a la charra, CABRITO AL PASTOR. 

I love the drinks, the tamarindo, the key lime, cilantro, the salt. Heat that actually isn’t too hot.

Mariscos, fresh.

Una coca bien fria — a Coca-Cola in an ice-cold glass bottle.

The soups: from a clear, crisp fish soup to a beefy sopa de res. Or the spicy balance of menudo and pozole.

I live in North Dakota. NORTH Dakota. I live one hour North of Fargo. A long, longing way from Mexico lindo y querido, Texas, and the beautiful Southwest, where my grandfather, uncle, and first-cousin have owned Southwestern Mexican restaurants for three generations.

I’ve lived in the Midwest for over a decade now, but my taste for Mexican food has not waned.

I’ve tried all kinds of restaurants: lunch counters, tucked away in Mexican food stores; high-dollar downtown Mexican gourmet; popular “big menu” spots; better and worse and worse and worse, mostly.

I’ve grown to hate Mexican food. Because I love it.

I won’t settle.

Even when I fly South, I am usually disappointed. (Same goes for my love of Texas-style brisket.)

My love keeps me trying to find the food I know I love, and that same love leaves me, mostly, disappointed.

There is no such thing as a chicken fajita. Literally, there is no cut of meat on the body of a butchered bird called a fajita. I can smell preservatives in a flour tortilla though the plastic wrapper.

My heart is restless for tacos. Real ones.

+++

A year or so ago, The Atlantic ran an interesting essay about Jonathon Blow, a video game designer and delightfully unlikable fellow, who is passionate about gaming. So passionate, in fact, that he hates most (if not all) video games.

Blow makes a habit of lobbing rhetorical hand grenades at the industry. He has famously branded so-called social games like FarmVille “evil” because their whole raison d’être is to maximize corporate profits by getting players to check in obsessively and buy useless in-game items. (In one talk, Blow managed to compare FarmVille’s developers to muggers, alcoholic-enablers, Bernie Madoff, and brain-colonizing ant parasites.) Once, during an online discussion about the virtues of short game-playing experiences, Blow wrote, “Gamers seem to praise games for being addicting, but doesn’t that feel a bit like Stockholm syndrome?” His entire public demeanor forms a challenge to the genre’s intellectual laziness. Blow is the only developer on the planet who gives lectures with titles like “Video Games and the Human Condition,” the only one who speaks of Italo Calvino’s influence on his work, and the only one to so rile up the gamer community with his perceived pretentiousness that the popular gamer blog Kotaku used him as the centerpiece of a post titled “When You Love the Game But Not Its Creator.”

On a related note, in a super interesting YouTube lectureJaron Lanier, one of the first innovators in virtual technology, gives a fascinating look at the future of learning aided by the human use and creation of digital technology. Far from naive about technology, Lanier, the author of You Are Not Gadget (2010), says that we risk forgetting that “everything about computers is denatured.” He generalizes to say, in reference to his disdain for Facebook, Web 2.0, mass media consumption, and even popular music, that “you have to go through hating it [any form of technology] first… be forceful in your skepticism.”

In other words, he is telling us to be good, passionate lovers of technology.

Both Blow and Lanier seem to echo Nietzsche’s aphorism, “The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends.”

+++

One of the more prevalent and self-defeating failures in understanding and practicing the New Evangelization is the coinage and promiscuous use of the phrase “The New Evangelization.” Looking right at you, Fr. Barron — aka Fr. Unobjectionable.

More disturbingly, many lay Catholics today seem to think that being Catholic is an all or nothing sort of fanaticism.

If something, anything, is the right sort of “Catholic,” if it comes from the right side of the Church or bears an imprimatur, then, it demands that we like it. It makes demands on our desires. Not only do we have to like it, we have to want to want to like it.

Any (or at least most) movies or art or plays or books or websites or music or radio channels or ministries or bookstores or whatever, credibly labeled “Catholic,” are an instant hit.

“Of course I like it; it’s Catholic” — this logic misunderstands what it is to love something or someone.

The fact that I love Mexican food, for deeply personal and ancestral and autobiographical and sheer physical/aesthetic reasons, is precisely the same reason why I hate most of the Mexican food that I eat.

Because I love Mexican food, I am such a snobby consumer of it. My love forces me to be choosy.

+++

I attended Franciscan University of Steubenville for my undergraduate studies and know, firsthand, that FUS is the capitol of campy, ghettoized, kitsch Catholicism in America. But I learned to love the Church in a unique and powerful way at FUS: I learned how to be selective about things. I met fierce critics of the Church, of the University, and of each other in my classmates and professors — one of them an OFM Franciscan.

I ran with a group of people who lived on the margin of the FUS community — I was (and proudly still am) a “Delt.” At bars and parties, I met people who, unlike me, were forced to go to FUS, who resented being bribed or controlled, but who also, for the most part, loved the Church in their own, very real and rich, ways.

+++

Sometimes I say things that seem obvious to me, but sound scandalous to others.

I’m an idiot, sometimes.

One such time, I was graciously invited to talk about Catholic Social Teaching at a parish and the three priests of the rectory hosted me for dinner beforehand. It was a lovely time, as these dinners usually tend to be. Conversation was intense, quick-paced, and fun. There was no shortage of ideas and book talk and wine. At one point, when mulling over the huge question of how to create Catholic culture in America, I added, as an obvious aside, “EWTN is just awful. It’s terrible, totally embarrassing.” Conversation paused and skipped a beat. One of the priests was clearly shocked. Thoughtfully and charitably, he asked me to clarify. The pastor cut in with something conciliatory, that kept our discussion on track. I felt bad about making such a polemic remark, that was obviously not entirely true, and possibly offending my hosts. The night went on and I soon forgot about it. As I prepared to leave, the pastor excused himself for a few minutes and returned with an envelope in hand. He handed it to me and blessed me. Money was tight and I knew what was in the envelope. I opened it to see how much. Inside, I found a generous check, folded in a plain card, with a note. Below the cursive signature was a postscript: “And you are right, Sam: EWTN TOTALLY SUCKS!”

+++

There is a not so fine line between the sort of “hate” I am advocating and the sort of hate you find coming from those who hate out of hate and not out of love. Any objection to the contrary would be making a serious category mistake. This is why I find Katrina Fernadez’s ongoing disdain for Pope Francis to be spot on. Delightful, even. On first glance, you might think that we would find little agree about, and you’d be right. But that’s exactly the point! We disagree while simultaneously loving/hating the exact same thing! This is why The Crescat, to me, is a serious breath of fresh air, even when it pisses me off.

Catholics are NOT obligated to lose their sense of sight, taste, and smell, and the ability to love something with all the madness of true love, simply because it is not nice.

There is an infectious, “nice person” altruism that has seeped into our veins, candied our palates, and rotted our minds. I disagree with Pope Francis in letter when he says that grumpy people cannot be Christian witnesses. He should read the Book of Job or the Passion or St. Paul — or talk to the money changers who got their tables flipped over by a furious Galilean. Or, perhaps, in spirit, he is saying something far more profound than being nice and fun and not hurting anyone’s feelings. Who knows?

Truth be told, I sometimes hate writing at a “Catholic” blog. I’m not trying to quit or be ungrateful, but it sucks sometimes. I don’t want to write in or to a Catholic ghetto, as comfortable as it is for me to do that.

Katrina is, perhaps, being more faithful to Francis’ call to live the Gospel out in the world than her sanctimonious critics realize. Her rejection of Francis is precisely what he seems to be asking for. They should examine their facile affection for him first, before being so hasty — and annoying. On the other hand, she should be careful to not love him by hating him. If she becomes obsessed with him in her hate, if she ever loves to hate him, then she is hating him poorly.

We could all learn something from her, I think, and stop liking so much Catholic stuff so willy-nilly, especially here, in the not-exactly-super-Catholic United States of America.

+++

For Greater Glory may have been well intended, but it was a terrible movie. So was The Hobbit and all of the Narnia films thus far. Watch Once Upon a Time in the West or The Good, the Bad and the Ugly or 3 Godfathers, if you want to see a good western. Anderson, Malick, and Tarantino have done more for Catholics than whoever keeps producing these atrocious films about saints for Ignatius Press.

I didn’t see the movie on Augustine’s Confessions because I love and adore the Confessiones too much. I couldn’t bear it.

If Matt Maher is the best pop music you’ve heard in a few years, you should really check out “Atoms for Peace” or “Brian Blade and the Fellowship” or most of the music of the 60′s and 70′s. Secular, of course. Live, preferably.

At this point I’ve lost myself in my own pretentious blog post, a post that is itself problematic for the very reasons it tries to describe and enumerate. Surely I should become a better writer and thinker, worthy of the palate I am begging for.

But I’m not.

And taste is not static nor is it stable. I’m working on it. That’s why I write here. Maybe someday I won’t have to, or I will choose to for the reasons I cannot presently.

The point remains: the flux of sensory and conceptual life within our flesh and bones and mind is not something we should take lightly or give away or oversimplify. Not even to God. That violates the very heart of the imagus Dei.

+++

Beauty, truth, amazing, the heavens, food that makes you sit back in your chair and sigh, music that drains you of every feeling you thought you had and more, liturgy that does nothing to move you, but changes you quietly, in the dark, slowly, in silence and stillness, the space and time that produces that tiny primordial shudder from nowhere — call it whatever you want — THIS is what is out there, in here, together, apart, whole, universal and plural, all the same and totally different. Longing, yearning, dying for theois. A God beyond all Gods.

If that is what we seek, if that is what we believe (even when we cannot believe our own belief in it), then we cannot be so saccharine, so cheap, so easy.

Maybe we need to unlearn and relearn how to desire, how to think and feel and be.

To be a serious Catholic, I think we must especially learn to hate, lovingly. Even Catholic things. Even the Pope. Even ourselves.

Read the follow-up. 

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    What a delightful blog! I completely understand. I get qualms about our Pope too, but on balance he’s connecting with the general population, and even the non-Catholics. It’s sometimes not my cup of tea but it seems necessary. As to EWTN well, that’s television and it’s still better than most other channels out there. And hey, don’t feel so bad. We’re all idiots sometimes. ;)

  • Heloise1

    Barbacoa teotihuacana
    1 carnero
    1 1/2 taza de arroz
    1 1/2 taza de garbanzos
    6 papas
    4 zanahorias
    6 cebollas
    1 cabeza de ajo
    3 ramas de epazote
    2 chiles chipotles
    2 curcharadas de oregano
    5 cucharadas de pimenton
    1 achiote
    15 chiles de casabel
    30 pencas de maguey
    Se necesita cuntar con un lebrillo; un cumulo de piedras tezontles las cuales por su porosidad resistn el calor y lo conservan, mientras que las piedras duras se ponen en ascuas y se revientan; agua e hilo grueso; suficiente lena y un petate. Dos cubetas de barro o arcilla similar ; una parrilla.

    • SamRocha

      Gracias, suena delicioso.

  • CSmith

    Oh, Mr. Rocha. You had me until your recommendation of 70′s music. Lived through it first hand, and any decade that can produce a “hit” like Muskrat Love should not be recommended to anyone you care about.

    But I get your main point about Christian clannishness and can agree with you on that.

    • SamRocha

      Fair enough!

  • AMoniqueOcampo

    Does this also apply to properly hating people overcomplicating things such as gender/sexual/racial identity?

  • Faithr

    I used to dislike EWTN too. So clumsy and amateurish! Such poor production values! But I used to like to turn it on just for the Divine Mercy sung prayer (which always makes me cry) and for their wonderful coverage of the March for Life (which no one else does). But I came to appreciate it more. It’s the medium. We are conditioned to think TV should be about entertaining and really EWTN is about informing and educating. The best shows on it are the interview types (like Colleen Caroll Campbell’s or The Journey Home) or just lecture series (like the ones by Father Thomas Dubay). I sit down and watch them because I feel like learning something Catholic! Also, they have good coverage of stuff going on in the Vatican. The older I get the less snobby I am. Humanity is bent and broken. Any grasping at the light is beautiful.

    • Ken H.

      I love this post, Faithr – but I have to say that I didn’t know about EWTN for the longest time, somehow I started watching it. I loved it, I think that it started with watching Mother Angelica, and she was the perfect combination of serious and seriously funny! I still love to watch her shows, I only wish that she was still able to be making new programs. I learned a lot of things that I didn’t know, because even though I had a good foundation in the Church and a good upbringing, there were many things that were not talked about. And I didn’t learn about them either because the teaching regarding Catholic perspectives on things that I was exposed to was too weak, or I was too weak to understand the real teachings. For example, I didn’t really have an understanding about what abortion was (believe it or not) I never really understood it until watching Father Frank Pavone on EWTN and having him “drone on” about it (saying that lovingly) until I finally understood. I find that I’m always hungry for more! I find that there is a lot of “lighthearted” “teaching” going on from most of the priests I hear at Sunday Mass – attempts to joke around, just skimming the surface of the scripture readings, etc. I truly appreciate more depth, I find that on EWTN. Maybe it’s just that I’m an empty vessel that wants to be filled with something filling? There are plenty of opportunities for different kinds of entertainment, I thank God for EWTN and the fact that they are there as a deep well that can be returned to time and time again..

  • Fanofsttomoore

    This is my first time reading this blog.i am writing to share a point i contemplated in Mass this morning.Our priest is very well loved by everyone for his jovial nature.He is not much of a holy man and i am not sure about his sincerity, but he is part of a good many people being exposed to Christ and for their enthusiasm. The bottom line is that just because it doesn’t suit me doesn’t mean it is not exactly what God has in mind for others.I believe it is a mark of humility that when it comes to matters of taste, let me make this clear not as it pertains to good and evil, charity is what is asked of Christians.Hate seems to me a mark of arrogance, but perhaps there is a purpose to your expression even if is to remind us of an attitude we don’t want to feed.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

    FYI… I have been writing EWTN’s for year… YEARS… begging them to do something with their programming. I think they should do a reality series starring me, of course.

    • J Linn

      They need you to come up with all their programming.

    • Julie

      EWTN has brought many people back to their faith and strengthened the faith of many others. It’s a wonderful Catholic resource.

  • Luke

    “At this point I’ve lost myself in my own pretentious blog post…”

    Yep.

    • SamRocha

      Glad you saw that, it’s an important proviso. Hopefully you read the rest, too. Well played with the anonymous e-mail address. Inspiring, really.

      • Luke

        Hey Sam, I did read your article. I agree with a lot of what you have to say here, but the second you start with the “A is cool, B is lame” game, it’s exactly what you said: pretentious. You easily could have stopped your article with the “it’s okay to criticize and have high standards” message (which is absolutely true) without making yourself the authority on what’s “good” and what isn’t.

        As for the name, I went anonymous because I don’t have a Disqus account. Being sarcastic about it might make you feel better, but if you believe in what you wrote, then stand by it and don’t worry about what I think.

        • SamRocha

          Three things:

          1. I have low to no standards when it comes to moderating comments, but the backside of that is that I don’t see any reason to not reply to a comment in the spirit it was offered. I may be mistaken, but, as I see it, quoting a selected fragment as a “gotcha” is itself sarcastic. So I replied in kind, as you noticed.

          2. It is amazing, though, that you’ve managed to post two comments now on a Discus thread without having an account. The fact of the matter is that you did set up an account with a fake e-mail address (which I have record of) — something most blogs disallow, but, again, I have no standards.

          3. About the A to B move, I made that move in the opening section, where I say that (A) sopa de res is awesome and that (B) chicken fajitas and tortillas with preservatives suck. You seem to say that making comparisons is pretentious (read: BAD) but, at the same, conflicting time, that it’s not pretentious (read: GOOD) to “criticize and have high standards.” If criticizing is NOT saying that A is better than B, then I’m not sure what you mean by the word ‘criticize.’

          • Luke

            Three more:

            1. Sarcasm would be saying something to the effect of “You? Pretentious? Nahhhhhhh” — which isn’t what I wrote. Instead I quoted your own words to let you know that I did, in fact, agree that you sounded pretentious. Whether you were actually admitting to that or not I can’t say, but taking a dig at my anonymous posting methods is a silly response to my comment.

            2. On the topic of posting, the easiest way to comment without a Disqus account is to quickly fill in the name and e-mail fields and post as a guest. I promise you I’m not trying to slink around the internet spreading negativity, but maybe since you’re a Moderator you can help to review Patheos’ policies about who can and can’t comment here if you really think it’s a problem. Honestly, I see no reason to pass out more personal information online when it’s quicker and just as effective to post the way I have been.

            3. This one is genuinely confusing to me. I wasn’t referencing anything from the beginning of the article, but rather the second-to-last section, where you explicitly claim that Matt Maher, The Hobbit, and all of the Narnia films pale in comparison to the bands you like and films from the directors you enjoy. It’s okay for you to feel that way, but what’s the point of putting it in this article besides showing that you have superior taste? If that wasn’t your intention, it’s certainly how it sounded to me (and I’m guessing a sizable percentage of readers) — which is why I posted my original comment in the first place.

            Okay, I think that’s enough for now. I don’t care much for debating on the internet (no Disqus account, remember?), but I felt like I had to respond to your comment. My final advice to you is that if you want to continue to write and publish, you need to be able to accept criticisms from your audience — or at least the parts that you find to be fair and true — and then shrug off the rest. My feelings about your piece aren’t what make it good or bad or right or wrong, and there will always be someone who disagrees with you. Rather than going after the poster for an unrelated issue (“Inspiring, really.”), take what you can from the comment and move on.

          • SamRocha

            You may want to refer to the follow-up (where you are cited) for a more fleshed-out version of my point three. Your reply is, mostly, incoherent in relation to my replies so I’ll leave it at that. My e-mail is listed, feel free to drop a line.

          • Luke

            Call me incoherent if you wish (again, a personal attack rather than one directed at my arguments), but your arrogance is what holds you back. Peace.

          • SamRocha

            I was very clear that your reply was incoherent in relation to the content of my reply. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s, strictly speaking, not personal at all.

  • Tommy

    Spot on. And thanks for pointing the finger at Holy Father’s “Christians cannot be sad” address. I wrinkled my eyebrows at that headline too.

  • ME

    I get the point of the blog. I agree, but I guess I can say I wouldn’t agree with his tastes on everything, and that is exactly his point. We all need to find what motivates ourselves, and not like something, just because so many other people do. We have to be discriminatory in how we spend our time, money and energies. We’re not all going to like the same things, but also to encourage the great and beautiful things to be brought forth, there needs to be some criticism of those that are less than ideal.

  • Julie

    You complain and yet you offer nothing to strengthen the church or the faith. EWTN isn’t perfect but it is a blessing to many. I suggest if you hate it so much then you don’t watch. This blog post might make perfect sense to you but you are spreading disdain for the Church and doing more harm than good.

    • SamRocha

      I am, indeed, as you say, “spreading distain (sic) for the Church,” Julie, but a very particular, loving, and committed form of disdain. The difference between those types of disdain (one agonistic, the other antagonistic) is the key.

      • Uomo Senzanome

        I’m not sure what spellchecker you are using, but I am pretty certain the word you are looking for is spelled “disDain” not “disTain”. Sorry to be picky but I used to be a proofreader before such things became (not really) obsolete.

        • SamRocha

          You’re right, of course, Uomo. Thanks for the catch.

      • Agni Ashwin

        I thought you were “de-staining” the Church.

        Carry on.

        • SamRocha

          Well played. Nice.

  • peg

    I agree we need to discriminate (to know the difference between good and great) and that the New Evangelization must include resources for the faithful who need demanding fare. A commenter on another site asked where he could find a Catholic version of NPR, by which I think he meant well-produced middle- and high-brow material.

    This puts to mind an anecdote about Graham Greene, whose novels scandalized so many “nice” Catholics that they came to the attention of the Vatican. Pope John asked the intellectual cardinal Montini (future Pope Paul VI) to investigate. Montini read the novels and talked extensively with Greene. His conclusion was that the novels did contain material that could shock many people, but that they were written for more sophisticated readers (and believers) who could certainly recognize and deal with the risky bits and get to the marrow. Those readers deserved literature, too. The pope encouraged Greene to continue, for his readers’ sakes.

  • ChicNotGeek

    I scratch my head, puzzled, when I see Catholics being the “sheeple in the steeple” … like when i see a friend or relative choose a non-practing Catholic to be Godparent or Sponsor. Or when I see people “Blindly” going to church, but not taking home and discerning and living the message. One of the biggest gifts of Catholicism is teaching us to think, to discern, to make descisions. And I feel sad for the “sheeple in the steeple” because their faith and relationship with God, and others, could be so much more meaningful, so much deeper. Like you wrote in the article, it’s OK to not like something … it doesn’t “de-Catholic” you.

  • Jennifer Fitz

    That road runs both ways — there’s a wonderful calling for those of us who like genre fiction, campy videos, and plastic rosaries to cheerfully dismiss our betters when they get to telling us we aren’t erudite enough. The food analogy is a good one: To be Catholic is to agree on what is edible, what is poisonous, and how to store food safely. It’s to come to a near-consensus on turkey at Thanksgiving, and agree to disagree on the sides. And it’s to shrug and move on when someone tells you the taco stand just isn’t good enough — or when someone tells you you *must* love the taco stand or you aren’t a real eater.

    • SamRocha

      I agree to a point. I am not a relativist about aesthetics, although I see lots and lots of room for taste. There are some things, however, (not food, I don’t think) that are absolutely beautiful, too.

      • Jennifer Fitz

        I agree. There are definitely things that are absolutely beautiful. Some of them irritate me (organ music: I know I’m supposed to love it, and I can tell it’s beautiful, properly played, but it’s so . . . noisy). But then there’s the things that are just more of *something else*. Flannery O’Conner vs. Ellis Peters. When you want the one, the other just won’t do . . . regardless of who’s the better writer. And there’s Agatha Christie, who really is a mediocre writer, but an excellent story teller, so you suck it up because you want to waste a day, and that’s the ideal manner — favorite corner taco stand of literature. Knox Bible = more beautiful. NAB = readable. Papillon = great film, even the heretical bits. EWTN = safe Catholic place to do faith-y stuff. You can hate it all you want, just don’t knock it for the people who need it and like it. Put another way: I love EWTN because I almost never watch it.

        • SamRocha

          I think my follow-up covers a lot of your concerns here. Especially the fact that my preferences are not what is being advocated here — instead I am simply trying to make room for this exact conversation to happen and not be limited in either direction by purely superficial affiliations. But your points here are well taken.

    • A Duet

      You just hit the nail on the head. I couldn’t tie it all together, what with the writing jumping around, but you captured it perfectly! Thank you.

  • Lori Fowlkes

    OK I’m confused. Do you hate Matt Maher? (Will look up atoms etc)

    • SamRocha

      Sort of, but I do hate him lovingly. I think he’s a fine songwriter, most of the time; and I really respect his move away from the niche labels. I think his music suffers, though, from his limits as a musician and the devotional/P&W medium he uses to convey his art. I guess he’s a complicated case for me, but overall I think as a live performance artist, it’s fair to say that he’s not anywhere near tops — and even he seems to understand this, which is cool.

  • Theresa Stutz

    Thank you! You summed up my love/hate relationship with my Catholic formation! A love that burns more like sputtering flame, that searches and reaches for the power that I know love requires! I can’t tell you how much I love/hate parish Bible Studies. More often than not I am surrounded by my Catholic siblings in Christ, who spend more time “polishing apples” than wanting to own their own apple tree. Every time I have heard the story of Peter walking on water I “hate” the Sunday School model that is studied. Personally I can’t walk out onto a pier in Lake Michigan without standing in prayer and putting myself in the shoes of Peter. As much as I yearn for deeper faith I am met by the realization that if I saw Jesus 12 feet away, I could not force myself to step out onto that humanly “understood” reality! My human experience and knowledge of such things reminds me pathetically that I will not last a moment….But I want it! My soul bears witness that it IS possible..Peter unlike the others heard in his soul a call that carried him along. I want to explore Peter, and his relationship with Jesus etc…Here I am, 51 years old, and I crave so much more than a caricature,.. Thank you for being the vessel that the Holy Spirit used today…You reminded me, how real my taste for the Lord is! God Bless!

  • dustinfaber

    After sitting through the overblown made-up controversy that was “Obama hates catholic schools” from the ilk of Thomas Peters and friends, this was the exact article I needed to read. Thank you.

  • Nadster

    Thank you for clarifying what Real catholics are. I, evidently, am not one of them, because I like Matt Maher music and think FUS is a good school. Shame on me.

    • SamRocha

      The only possible shame, besides being named “Nadster,” would be your shoddy reading comprehension skills and dull wit. But there is room for that in the Church, too; just as there is room, I hope, for sourpuss idiots like me and my typo-infested ramblings.

  • Studs Terkel

    Sam, aren’t you really just trying to be provocative? It has also become in vogue to be a super-discriminating Catholic who surges above the mindless, rank and file who are unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) only able to consume very basic catechesis. What I see is Fr. Barron being really engaging and you complaining.

    I personally (not that my opinion matters) don’t care for most of the shows on EWTN because they are bland. The Mass that is shown does not propertly represent what can be seen elsewhere. But the problem is, there IS no other EWTN. So thank God we HAVE EWTN and all the other little things out there that may not measure up to a more elitist Catholic pallet.

    I’ve told many people that our nation’s national pasttime is no longer “baseball.” It’s complaining. And Catholics are VERY good at pointing out what they “DON’T” like about the Pope…..the Church…..their Pastor…..the music….the “message”….that “they aren’t being ‘fed’” by something other than the Body of Christ.”
    Sam, when you evangelize, what do you tell people you like about the Church?

    • SamRocha

      You could start with this, I suppose:

      “Beauty, truth, amazing, the heavens, food that makes you sit back in your chair and sigh, music that drains you of every feeling you thought you had and more, liturgy that does nothing to move you, but changes you quietly, in the dark, slowly, in silence and stillness, the space and time that produces that tiny primordial shudder from nowhere — call it whatever you want — THIS is what is out there, in here, together, apart, whole, universal and plural, all the same and totally different. Longing, yearning, dying for theois. A God beyond all Gods.”

    • SamRocha
    • Chaucer

      Yes, it seems the “in thing” now for orthodox Catholics to dump on, ridicule and complain about NFP, homeschooling, lots of kids, and modesty, among other Catholic things. It’s getting quite tedious – especially the NFP thing (it’s sooooo haaaarrrrrd not to have sex). I really feel like shaking these whiners and shouting, “Bingo! Life is difficult. It’s full of suffering. Welcome to reality! Welcome to adulthood!” Or do they think the “vale of tears” or “for better or worse” stuff is only a rhetorical device?

      • SamRocha

        Dear Chaucer, I’m honored. A huge fan of your salacious stories. It would be an honor to be shaken by the same hands that penned such a classic. After you shake me, you can bake me, too, if you like. That’ll teach me to suffer. Yours truly, SR

        PS: I don’t recall writing about NFP.

  • Ron Turner

    Was this about something?

    • SamRocha

      Was this comment about something?

  • SamRocha

    Dear readers,

    First of all, I appreciate you reading this. And your comments — I always love to read comments. There seems to be a general remark I’ve seen a few times now, here and elsewhere, that I want to reply to very directly, perhaps more in a separate post.

    To those asking what I bring to the table besides the critique and the opinions: feel more than free to purchase my books and music or request some of my academic work (which I am glad to share freely) or watch my YouTube videos. Also, this blog, while very limited in scope, also tries to do a lot of things, not all of them criticism. So wander around and see what you find here, too.

    I am presently writing the music for a new, full length soul album (which I’ll begin fundraising for this Fall), so keep you eye out for that; you can buy my EP here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/freedom-for-love-ep/id431655447 and here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/samrocha

    My newest book is a short, accessible, and illustrated Primer on philosophy and education. You can get it here: http://www.amazon.com/Primer-Philosophy-Education-Samuel-Rocha/dp/1470070685/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1367700338&sr=8-2&keywords=samuel+d+rocha And more info here: http://samueldrocha.wix.com/primer

    While it may not all be up to your own tastes and standards, I hope anyone who wants to see the more constructive side of the equation, and the possible alternatives I’ve tried to create, will invest the effort to do that.

    And I thank you all, again.

    SR

  • Carneades

    Montaigne says, with regard to wine, “If you found your pleasure on drinking the best, you condemn yourself to the penance of drinking the worst. Your taste must be more indifferent and free.” This bit of wisdom can be applied to Catholic culture (or mexican food for that matter). Of course our tastes are not infinitely plastic. There are going to be things we can never in any way appreciate. I cannot abide the chemically taste of Kraft cheese slices and so I must sometimes suffer it. But at least I can try to suffer it silently, without turning to my (possibly Kraft cheese loving) neighbor and telling them that it is an abomination and I would rather be eating Brie de Melun. The person who constantly hates-because-he-loves can easily thwart his own happiness and contentment while simultaneously being a nuisance to others. Thats why I found Katrina Fernandez’s posts kind of childish. It makes her sound like a spoiled child. Especially using hyperbolic language about her being spiritually starved. Good grief.

    • SamRocha

      This is excellent, but, perhaps, a very advanced and well-adjusted, mature, form of loving hatred. Thanks for adding that to the mix; it is needed, too.

  • stefanie

    Gee, Sam, this post was all over the place — but anyone who names Once Upon A Time in the West and the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly as superior westerns is my kind of Catholic.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Hate is not the opposite of love. Hate and love are two sides of the same coin.

    Indifference is the opposite of them both.

  • MargarettP

    I am a non-American who went to FUS and I wasted a lot of energy my first semester there rolling my eyes at the ubiquitous tackiness. So, yes. I agree that FUS, EWTN, and a significant and very visible aspect of Catholic America is tacky, tacky, tacky. But your play on words (“hate”= discriminating aesthetic taste) is so clever, the message is lost. And that last sentence simply doesn’t make sense. I understand how one can “lovingly hate” EWTN (we believe so much in its message, we really want them to do a better job), or the architecture of Christ the King chapel (we all love Jesus so much, I wish we didn’t have to worship him inside a fortune cookie)….But um, tell me again exactly who you mean when you say I should “lovingly hate the Pope”? Or myself? Huh? I’m not getting it. And oh, your defense of Katrina is stretch. Her article was nothing more than a self-indulgent whine about how she likes Benedict more than she likes Francis, who isn’t very humble, blah blah. Really? Aren’t there more important things to write about?

    • MargarettP

      *what you mean

    • SamRocha

      I think Jesus uses the term (translated, of course) ‘despise’ in the Gospels, and Nietzsche’s aphorism (alongside Blow and Lanier) tries to dig out that notion, too. I agree that the term is perhaps too couched in private meaning to do the job, however, I think I want to spend more time here building a notion of hatred that is not simply the reversal of love. I think there is a great deal within the phenomenology of hatred to show us important aspect of true love. But your points are well taken. Kat’s post may be indulgent and even silly, but she’s got verve and style and a voice that is exactly what I think we need. Hope this helps, and great point about Christ the King Chapel!

  • Janice P

    wow, someone besides me who watches westerns! Check out Purgatory, I thought it had a pretty good grasp of the Catholic view of purgatory.

    • SamRocha

      Thanks! I love westerns, always have. My dad used to let me watch them with him sometimes and I’ve been hooked ever since.

      • Janice P

        I have always tried to stay away from discussions of Franciscan University of Steubenville, this is the first time I have seen it abbreviated FUS. May our Lord (and all you alumni) forgive me, but I always thought it was Franciscan University for Catholic Kids. But I guess those initials wouldn’t stick. I am just joking, of course. I have no opinion of FUS.

  • AnneG

    Dear Sam, if you really miss good Mexican food, learn to cook! I even did it and madè my own tortillas in Vienna, Austria from Maseca. Granted, not as good as fresh masa, but I did manage to find most ingredients. Ten, you’d have one less thing to hate.
    PS I like chicken marinated in limón y ajo, cooked on the grill, even if it isn’t authentic.
    PPS my homemade flour tortillas are terrible!

    • SamRocha

      I make serious breakfast tacos and have found a great source for rolled-out dough for flour torillas. As for the rest, I’m way behind on my guisos and whatnot. I love pollo asado!

  • UC Society of St. Paul
    • SamRocha

      Thanks for taking the time to write that. I wish that you’d raised more concrete points to dispute, so we might have a more engaged sort of exchange, but I think the follow-up post might be useful, along with the “homework” that goes along with it — including, on my part, the interview I just posted. But thanks for reading and replying. Peace.

      • Marty

        Sam, I guess I could’ve been clearer. I thought I was plainly clear. You’re wrong. You can’t love something so much you grow to hate it. These are the points in my post that show where that philosophy leads to:
        1. Overgeneralization

        2. Elitism (pride)

        3. Gnosticism (“you’re only serious if you know this”, heresy)

        4. Self-righteousness (pride)

        5. Selfish seriousness (pride and vanity)

        6. Boredom (sloth)

        7. It’s unhelpful to the Church (discouragement/sorrow)

        8. It’s inconsistent with being in an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ in the context of the Catholic Church.

        Hope that helps for the dialogue!

        • SamRocha

          Marty, I suppose I should also be more clear about what I mean by “concrete points to dispute.” Your list is not “clear.” in the way I intended it, because it is not altogether clear how your points correspond to the ones I made. It is just a list, really. That’s all. You should, perhaps, glue it to the post itself now. That would make it more coherent, by showing how your string of rebuttal cohere to my words. You might want to try and tell me how, exactly, the actual (verbatim passages alway helps) claims brought you to your litany of offenses. I I think you vastly oversimplify the line between love and hatred, among other things, but to enter into *that* dispute would presume that I know what you critique really is. I don’t. Not yet. Having said all that, I suspect that many of my points in the follow-up address your own in your post and this reply. If it does, then, perhaps you can strike or revise your shopping list. Oh, and, as I mentioned, you might also see the latest effort I making to try and do more than critique in the fine interview given my Max Lindenman. Peace.

          • Marty

            Sam I’m afraid this is where we part ways because we have a lock-jam. I’ve essentially accused you of heresy, several of the 7 deadly sins, and self-excommunication from the Catholic Church in my critique of your post; and you have given no defense or apology to that. Instead you have whisked all of that away by saying it is not concrete and merely a shopping list. Would it be more concrete to talk about every example you give in your post all the way down to Mexican food? I find that a useless waste of time. I’m critiquing your premise “I love it so much that I hate it.” If that’s not what your post is based on, then what is it?
            You have good rhetoric and no content. Unlike Father Barron, you’re not a good evangelist. Yet. I see a future saint in you, very Augustinian, but only if you lose your pride at the foot of the cross. I am praying for you Sam. Verso l’alto!

          • SamRocha

            Dearest Marty,

            Thanks for the prayers — I need them. Send more, if you please.

            I suppose this is where we part ways, but not because I am reluctant to give a mea culpa. It is only that you refuse to attach your anathemas to actual things I said. Nonetheless, in a fraternal spirit, let me try to address the one point that you do mention:

            I ate at a terribly mediocre restaurant last week and, as I walked out in disgust, I thought to myself, “Gee, Sam, for someone who loves Mexican food, you sure do hate it.” This thought sent me into other ones, many of them covered in this post. In another example, I suffer from intense dissatisfaction with most of my creative work — I rarely think it is any good. I love the craft of music and writing so much, it causes me to hate my work and, sometimes, myself.

            There is a fine line, I think, between suicidal self-loathing and the Gospel command that we die to ourselves.

            Your accusations are a good example of this, actually. You care to offer such trenchant (and serious — my, my: SELF-EXCOMUNICATION?) accusations because, in a very real way, you love me. You may in fact despise me, but it would still have all the signs of love: obsession of a certain kind, motivation, passion, and more. I took your post as an act of love. You are not disinterested, you are in love. It may be a rather abrasive sort of love, but, as I already said, it has all the symptoms of love irregardless.

            Don’t you see the rather delightful irony in the fact that you are critical of my criticism? (See more on that in the follow-up. Have you read that yet?)

            My final point: I read and sometimes write book reviews. Oftentimes it is the case that a reviewer rarely or never cites the original text directly and instead makes bland criticisms or compliments. These reviews can still be fun to read, but the author’s response is, usually, predictable: the reviewer didn’t read the book, or at least didn’t leave any indications of reading it.

            I can offer no defense when I am unsure as to what the precise nature of the offense is. If you’re going to skewer me, do me the honor of giving me a properly rigorous skewering. Otherwise, you’re just being a flirt, you rascal.

            Blushing, but not impressed,

            SR

          • Kemp

            +1: “You have good rhetoric and no content.”

          • SamRocha

            You have “+1:” (at least Marty used his own complete sentences).

          • Kemp

            +1 = “agreement”. Sorry sentinces not compleet, I are uneducrated and like Taco Bell. These recent posts are Classic Rocha. All marshmallow… while bemoaning marshmallows.

          • Sam Rocha

            +1: “All marshmallow while bemoaning marshmallows.”

            How marshmallowy of you!

          • SamRocha

            “All marshmallow… while bemoaning marshmallows.”

            How marshmallowy (?) of you…

  • Asbury Fox

    Really enjoyed this article. Found it through the CalCatholic website. I agree that EWTN is a disaster. I think some of it has to do with the fact that many who run the network are Catholic converts from Protestantism.
    Like what you said about movies. I thought No Country for Old Men was ten times more Catholic than something like Bella and other similar films.

    Having read two St. Augustine biographies and the Confessions four times, all I have to say about the St. Augustine movie, is that I spent some time yelling at the tv screen while watching it.

    • Kevin

      “I think some of it has to do with the fact that many who run the network are Catholic converts from Protestantism.”

      Fault it for whatever you want, I probably won’t disagree with you, but that was a pretty ignorant remark I take issue with.

  • Greg

    Sam,

    What you are really saying is what happens when Catholics try to imitate Evangelicals.

    Here are some suggestions:

    1) EWTN — make a series about something that has nothing to do directly with the Church. And please ban those dreadful Saturday night movies.
    2) Fr Barron — please condemn something outright. Anything.

    • SamRocha

      I think I agree with you, mostly. Thanks for the suggestions. I left out a few other targets (like Life Teen and youth ministry in general), but you’re right that I should be more specific with Barron. Although, for me, noting his unobjectionability is itself an outright critique, I think.

  • Greg

    Sam,

    Would like your take on George Weigel.

    • SamRocha

      Oh boy. I wrote a pretty funny satire of him after the “Red and Gold” controversy at Vox Nova, where I painted him as a post-structuralist. I also asked him a “gotcha” question on C-SPAN years ago when he was hawking his JPII book at FUS. But, suffice it to say, that I’ve written something like a super short antithesis to his “Evangelical Catholicism.” The title is a real barn burner: “Liturgy as Mystagogy.” It doesn’t mention it or him, but after reading it I realized that he’d hate my book’s central thesis — whereas he rages against cultural Catholicism, I try and show how culture is the most authentic, lasting expression/testimony of our faith. It just got rejected by Paulist Press, I’m sad to say, so I’m sort of stuck about what to do next, but I’ll surely let everyone know when it comes out in one form or another. I may, perhaps, write a review of his book. But I am, believe it or not, over the stage of getting off on writing negative book reviews. I did write one good, though, but even that produced some rather odd (but funny, for another time) and unsalutory effects.

  • ella

    Hey Sam, I totally understand this article! I “get you” :) I have a question though. I’ve grown up in a Catholic family and I call myself Catholic when I’m asked but…I want to be more Catholic! What I mean is, I want to have conviction and I don’t have that right now…I think it has something to do with the fact that I live in Los Angeles, I feel something is off with the Catholics here, the youth ministry is really bad and people just aren’t very educated in regards to Catholic teaching and what not (like me) …I was hoping to transfer to FUS for my education but I’m really looking forward to the atmosphere and the community (I’ve gone to schools where the students and teachers are extremely liberal my whole life and anti-religion at times, at school I have never met anyone or had a friend I could talk to about Catholicism or growing in our faith or anything like that at all). I feel deprived of whatever it means to be Catholic even kitschy Catholic lol. I was wondering if you could advise me on whether I should attend FUS or not based on this bit of background? Or what to look out for? Sam or really anyone?

    • SamRocha

      Dear Ella,

      I’m both flattered and a bit flummoxed by your request for advice. I don’t generally give out real advice because I’m pretty sure that I’m full of shit. But, having gone to FUS, let me say that, from what I hear you saying, if you can afford it, Franciscan might be for you. If one is worldly enough, FUS offers a nice respite from that. And it is nice to go to Mass and just “be” Catholic, kitsch and all. At the same time, I think that tuition and other costs, and your academic interests, should also play a role in your decision. Frankly, FUS is not the cheapest nor the top place for serious studies. There is a strong list of alternatives, many of them with thriving Catholic Studies programs, if that is something you’d be interested in. I find St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN) and St. Mary’s (Bismark, ND) as solid spots around here. California surely has some, too. University of Dallas has a cool thing going on. And there are even some private, non-Catholic and publics that have strong Catholic communities. FUS is not a magic solution nor a fix-it, but it does have a unique and refreshing climate for someone who simply wants to be allowed to be Catholic on a daily basis. I also think FUS has a rather strong philosophy department and a very well-done honors program. Plus, are you sure you want to go to college? Lots of great things to think about and hope for. I hope this helps and doesn’t hinder.

      SR

      • ella

        Oh Sam thank you so much! I wasn’t even aware of all those colleges and I’ll definitely look into them! No this is actually really helpful and you have given me a lot to think about :)

        • Rebecca Bratten Weiss

          University of Dallas, when I was there, had an excellent dialectic of dynamic Catholicism with genuine intellectual freedom. Proof of this: kids go there to study for the academic excellence, so you get a lot of non-Catholics, even non-religious. And in that milieu, the faith seems attractive and alive, so a lot of people end up joining the church.

  • Jordan

    Overall, I think I appreciate the personality/viewpoint you describe, a good example of which is also provided by Kat Fernadez. I find myself in that sort of a mood much of the time too, when I just feel like I can’t ignore how stupid something looks, and how unnattractive it is to some people examining Catholocism from inside or outside(those maybe like you and Kat who seem to lean that way most or all of the time?). However, I also find myself (whether related to Catholic things or not) wanting to give myself a slap, even when I seem surrounded by ridiculously kitschy/cheesy/babyishly cheerful things, if all I am doing is constantly complaining that things just aren’t perfect. It’s exhausting complainging about things non-stop, and I realize that sometimes I’m just not of a mind to be satisfied with anything (I think you seem to realize that too, at least with regards to Mexican food, haha, and you probably wouldn’t be yourself if you didn’t act that way!). When that happens I either try harder to find the positives in something or at the very least, just shut up for a while. I can understand why Francis isn’t Kat’s favorite pope; he doesn’t have to be and that’s totally fine. She (and anyone else in agreement with her) is not being disobedient by not being a huge fan, but after the umpteenth post about why she doesn’t like his style, I got a little sick of it. “Grumps” (for lack of a better term) do not ruin things by their difficulty to be pleased (my husband is much like this; sometimes it’s frustrating, but I would not really be pleased if he faked liking things that he genuinely does not like), but also, those with more sanguine personalities like the Pope, who might enjoy Matt Maher/EWTN/inauthentic-Mexican food :) /whatever without complaining are not just dopey, undiscerning idiots. It’s ok to be grumpy, it’s ok to be cheery; the danger is when you make no effort to temper your reactions to things or spend time with people of the opposite bent in order to stretch yourself and to make sure you are not just complaining or blindly cheering about something because “that’s just the way it makes the most sense to be!”.

  • Rozann

    Ha! Just read this post after having sent you a copy of “The New Evangelization” from Word on Fire to thank you for your work. Oooooops. Seems like revolting against or “escaping” semantics is a luxury that practical evangelization cannot entertain… but I don’t know. And a day of answering emails at Word on Fire would re-name your “Fr. Unobjectionable”!

    Thank you for this beautiful piece. Keep up the great work!

    Rozann

    Word on Fire

    • SamRocha

      Thank you for your kind gift, Rozann. And for your most generous reply here. I see this work here, at least compared to my other academic work, as quite practical. But I am sure Fr. Barron has his critics. I just don’t know any of them. I look forward to the book and will try to review it here, as soon as I can. Cheers!

  • Rebecca Bratten Weiss

    I just heard a talk on the New Evangelization, on EWTN, that made me want to curl up in a hole and stuff my ears with pages torn from Also Sprach Zarathustra. Our painful self-referentialism, our earnest sense that we are called to market Catholicism – ugh. And as a teacher of students who have often been steeped in this, I find that I always have to tack on a label of “this is Catholic!” before I can get many to swallow an idea. Or else mention in passing that one of the few Christian thinkers they might ever have heard of also supports such an idea.


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