I’ve been an angry jerk of late

I’ve been an angry jerk of late September 6, 2013

Erin Manning writes:

Mark, I read your piece on the liturgy today, and you know I agree with you on the substance.  For me the lay women thing was cleared up when I learned that in the West the Church divided roles into clergy and lay, so that when formerly clerical roles were opened to lay men and boys there wasn’t a really good reason not to let lay women do them too (except for education and certain customs of not letting men and women mix in public settings, which died out a long time ago).

But the thing that has me worried is the combox tone.  Whenever I’ve gotten really angry at commenters and wanted to swear at them (I’m bad at it, so I usually don’t anyway) it’s because I’ve lost sight of their humanity a little–easy to do when they’re telling me why abortion is grand or why anti-gay bigots deserve what’s coming, maybe, but that doesn’t excuse it.  I get why the Trads can produce that level of anger–if they would use their faith and knowledge and so on for the good of the Church instead of constantly devolving into Us vs Everybody Else stuff–!  One can only imagine.  But at the same time, I’m a bit concerned about the spiritual effect this is having on you.

I know, I’ve got no right, etc., but I’ve been saying a daily Hail Mary for you for years now, so when I saw all that darkness today I got worried.  Your heart is so much better than that, and the Trads really aren’t thinking with the mind of the Church on a lot of this stuff–which is exactly why the Church in her wisdom is tolerating them at present, something they never really seem to realize (which is maddening, sometimes, especially when you read their triumphant predictions about how the O.F. will be suppressed and women ordered to cover their heads again any day now–but I try to remember that actually they’re a bit insane about this stuff, and that the best thing a sane person can do when dealing with the insane is to humor the insanity without giving credence to it).

Erin, you’re a good egg and I appreciate your loving rebuke. Yeah.  I’ve been on a pretty short fuse this week and I’ve been out of line–very out of line. Two hours of sleep in the last 48 haven’t helped.  Nor did coming back from vacation to find my mailbox full of pitchfork-waving reactionaries denouncing people I like and respect as gutless cowards and money-grubbing whores, all on the word of a reckless and profoundly self-serving demagogue and hypocrite.  Also unhelpful was the parade of reactionary lunacy from Pharisees announcing the End of Days because Pope Francis bowed courteously to a woman. This, piled on top of years and years of

and all coupled, as ever, with Reactionaries blubbering and wailing their victimized wail of self-pity when the whole world fails to accept their arrogant condemnations or recognize their arrogant superiority.

I won’t mince words: I can’t stand those kind of people and it is precisely those kind of people who are the common face of online Traditionalism–often to the horror and embarrassment of sane Traditionalists. Multiplied hundreds and hundreds of times over the years, the nauseating effect of their sin (and that’s what it is) piles up. And coupled with their endless pontifications on who needs to be kicked out of the Church (basically everybody who is not them) it added up to this in the past week:

In short, I chose not only to hate Reactionaries but to regard them with cold and resolute indifference (which is more serious since, as JPII observed, the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference). The thing about coming to hate somebody is that you usually have plenty of really good reasons to do so. Lots of hatred is not irrational at all. It is highly rational: you can’t stand that guy or those people because they are a constant source of malice, pain, frustration, pig-headed sin and strained excuses for it all.  So when people say things like, “Don’t give in to senseless hate!” you immediately think, “There’s nothing senseless about it.  I can give you 20 excellent reasons right now why it makes perfect sense to hate those jerks.”

So you’re thinking, “Some apology, Mark. All you’ve done is say why you can’t stand Reactionaries.” Yes.  That’s a feature, not a bug. I don’t know how to work through anger at repellent and unjust behavior without naming it for what it is. I don’t know how to forgive sin by pretending it doesn’t exist. Whereto serves mercy but to confront the visage of offense? And online Reactionary Traddery has piled up a mountain of offenses, not the least being its titanically prideful assumption that every time some Reactionary stabs some innocent in the ribs with a pious shiv he is “speaking truth to power” and the outrage he generates is entirely due to the guilty conscience of wretched sinners recoiling from the light of TRVTH.

No. It’s not. Very often–in fact, usually–it is normal people reacting to the disgusting pride of Pharisees tying up heavy burdens and not lifting a finger to help, or straining at gnats and swallowing camels, or compassing land and sea to make a single convert and making him twice the son of hell that they are. Online Reactionary Catholics are the single most toxic subculture I have ever encountered in the Church. Reactionary Catholicism spends its wasted time on legalistic trivia.  It gets off on evil power trips  by cruelly inflicting guilt on scrupulous people who are already staggering under heavy psychological burdens. Reactionaries pose as courageous defenders of the Faith while huddling in bunkers and attacking people who have made genuine sacrifices and suffered huge losses for Christ.  One can only stand to listen to the threadbare “You have to understand how much they’ve suffered” excuse for so long and the sellby date on that one expired years ago.  So, no: I don’t much feel like I owe those people an apology for saying that their wretched and evil behavior offends and angers me. Injustice is pretty much what anger is designed for, according to Thomas. I owe God the duty of forgiveness to those people and I do apologize to him for letting my anger and cold contempt for them get the better of me. But I don’t owe nasty Reactionaries an apology for being angry at the way they act. They owe their victims apologies, most recently the decent people they smeared as gutless money-grubbing whores. And I have not heard one syllable of an apology from them for that or much of anything else, though I have heard plenty of self pity from them because normal people take offense at their behavior–which just adds to my anger at them.

So what do I do? Well, the command is that if you have anything against anyone (penitent or not) you must forgive (Mark 11:25), which I did not do.  Instead, I added to the toxicity, both in my heart and in cyberspace by choosing to lash out and freeze up with contempt.  So I begin with the fact that Erin’s still right: my anger is toxic too and dangerous to the soul and harmful to innocents.  Therefore, I also start with where I have sinned: namely, letting my fury and contempt float off and start affecting my relationships with innocent bystanders. So, for instance, I owe reader Stu an apology for lashing out at him.  There are a number of other comboxers in that cross fire whose names I can’t recall.  I apologize also to them.  I likewise ask forgiveness of the various good and decent Traditionalist friends I hurt with my anger.

Perhaps the worst injustice I committed by giving in to anger, hatred and contempt was summed up by a sweet kid of a sweet family I know who wrote, “I’m sorry this is what  you think of me.”  Ouch.  His family was the one persecuted and threatened by a local SSPX chapel when they left and re-established communion with the Church.  They paid dearly for that decision at the hands of vicious Reactionaries and I’ve always admired them, as well as just flat liking them as the good and joyful people they are.  And ironically, by giving in to anger and contempt, I gave in to hurting those guys, which is pretty low in my book.  So my profoundest apologies to them too and to all my many other decent friends in Traditionalism who caught shrapnel when I blew up at Reactionaries.  I was wrong to choose anger and hatred.  Mea culpa.

As to the Reactionary offenders remembered and forgotten in the (partial) list of repellent Reactionary sins above, I was also wrong to refuse forgiveness to them.  Given the gravity of Jesus’ warnings about that, I therefore extend forgiveness for the Reactionary sins chronicled above (and those I fail to mention or remember).  I do it unconditionally.  I don’t do it because I think it will be received by the people I forgive. Based on past experience, I find that offers of forgiveness extended to Reactionaries are almost certain to be seen as lah dee dah acts of condescension from somebody who should be ashamed to so much as call himself a Catholic.  But I can’t help that. My job is not to make sure people who have sinned against me and people I like and love accept my forgiveness.  It is to forgive whether they do so or not–indeed especially if they don’t repent.

Why? I extend forgiveness for a simple reason, because Jesus commands it and I don’t want to go to hell.  That’s not really a very spiritually superior reason, since I should do it because I love my neighbor.  But the truth is, I don’t love these people.  I can’t stand them.  So I start with the truth of where I am: with the fear of the Lord that is the beginning, though not the end, of wisdom. It’s the best I can do.  I also ask for the grace to grow in love for Reactionaries so that I can  someday forgive for a nobler reason that the fear of hell.  But that’s going to take some work for a jerk like me.

I also ask for forgiveness for any other readers hurt and offended by the ugliness of my actions.  I know at least one reader wrote to say it was too toxic for him.  I assume there are others.  I’m sorry.  Forgive me.

Finally, a word of thanks to the various folk (many of them very sweet and nice Traditionalists) who have written encouraging things reminding me that while virtually all Reactionaries are self-proclaimed Traditionalists, noi all Traditionalists are Reactionaries.  Your patience with me when I fulminate is deeply appreciated.  Not to go all bumper stickery on you: Please be patient.  God is not finished with me yet.  I shall try to remember the same with Reactionaries.

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