It’s really OK to admit that the Church has gotten better…UPDATES

So, in response to many “professional Catholics” taking exception to one of his recent videos (I wrote about it, here), Michael Voris has released a new video that clarifies his meaning, which is an acknowledgement, I guess, that his first video had gotten so caught up with salary and retirement details that it obscured his point, which was apparently — at bottom line — that Catholic mediafolk who are earning livable wages might (because they need to support their families) be too afraid to hammer the bishops into fixing every problem today and making the church perfect. They are “protecting a status quo” that is insufficient to the charge given to it by Christ. Except for Voris, the status quo is not just insufficient; it’s all calumny and apostasy, everywhere in the church, except where the Church Militant is guarding it.

Well, the church is imperfect and has always operated in a fashion insufficient to the charge given it, and there has always been a measure of calumny and apostasy carousing within it; that’s just proof that it exists through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Were he not, we humans would have destroyed the Church long ago.

I’m not sure what it is, exactly, that Voris wants. Does he want mediafolk to stop working for entities they don’t themselves own, so there can be no question of subservience to bishops and a “status quo”? Well, I do work for myself, as do all of the independent contractors here at Patheos (none of whom, by the way, are getting rich) and while I can’t speak for anyone else, being my own boss does not in any way make me feel inspired to run toward militancy. In fact, the longer I work in Catholic media, the more I find myself running to mercy, and leaving judgement to Christ. This is not me trying to say I’m “better” than Voris, only different. I couldn’t be Voris if I tried to be, and he couldn’t be me.

In a way, this Church Militant movement reminds me a little of the constant state of grievance in which Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson reside. They focus almost solely on the fact that the racial situation in America is still imperfect, and seem unable to acknowledge that, yes, things have gotten better since 1963. It is wholly legitimate — and important — to continue to address racial problems in the country, but not to pretend that, for example, requiring a photo id for voters would mean a return to Jim Crowe and poll taxes.

Similarly, Voris focuses almost solely on the fact that the church still has its share of internal problems, which stem from a poor implementation of the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council, and too many decades of timidity in addressing a period of cultural and moral upheaval. Like Jackson and Sharpton, he seems unable to acknowledge, though, that things have gotten better since 1979, and 1990, and 2002. It is wholly legitimate — and important — to continue to point out where things are lacking in our church (or to ask our bishops to clarify their pastoral judgements when controversies arise) but not to pretend that great things — for example, the growing number of layfolk (particularly our younger members) engaged in learning and sharing the faith, the unexpected conversions, and the convents and seminaries that are filling, once again — are not happening.

Such a willingness to ignore all that good news — and a seeming call to purge rather than re-think our propagation — seems unpastoral, to me. It doesn’t give much hope.

But then, as I said, We just see things differently. Mr. Voris sees a need for militancy because all around him he perceives conflagration: a fire of crisis and calumny, and he wants to stamp it out. I, on the other hand, did see the fire, too — and it was terrifying — but I perceive it as being brought under control; with slow, steady applications of gospel, catechism, truth and mercy, the blaze is diminishing, things are improving, and I want to encourage that. Put us together in the same pew, and he’s going to see the fire and I’m going to see the water, but we’ll both still be Catholics in love with the church and striving to serve it. I’m not sure it would be either of our jobs to browbeat the other by saying, “no, but do it my way, because your way is all wrong, and you’re hurting the church.” I think that would be a hell of a charge, and a combustible one, to make. The Holy Spirit moves where he will, uses what he will, how he will, to God’s purposes. I’ll trust the Holy Spirit to guide people in media, rather than tell them how they ought to do it, myself.

The Church Militant needs to be balanced with Mercy because balance is what keeps the Cross of Christ alive in the world. And the Cross is formed in the precise intersection between Justice and Mercy where they are embodied and balanced by Christ.

And we who reside in all of these pews and portions of the church — sharing membership if not always minds, or sharing minds but not always methods — need to remember that the Catechism, like the Holy Rule of St. Benedict, is there to instruct, guide and persuade. It is meant to help heal the bruised reeds, not to break them — to scrape rust off of neglected vessels, not to crush them.

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

UPDATE:
Third Order Dominican Will Duquette
has some excellent thoughts on the balance of acknowledging both error and beauty:

As on-line Catholics, we can spend our time writing about what is true, good, and beautiful, or writing about what is false, bad, and ugly. We can look for uplifting links to share or for horrible things to castigate.

I’d like to suggest that we only do the former—but I won’t. We need to stand against error where we find it, and that will sometimes involve being critical. Standing against error isn’t spiritually corrosive.

But I would suggest that a constant and single-minded pursuit of error in order to stand against it can be. It can lead you to see error where there is none, or at the least to magnify molehills into mountains if it’s a slow news day. And if you’re spending all of time looking for errors, you can begin to forget what the truth looks like.

Don’t just stand against the false, the bad, and the ugly. Stand for the true, the good, and beautiful, not simply in principle but also in practice. It’s better for you, and you’ll have less to repent of.

UPDATE II:
I’m done with this discussion, but it’s worth reading what Diane writes here. None of us are less than sinners.

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