I’d like to juxtapose some statements of Fr. Thomas Rosica to some from Pope Francis found in these two articles.
It seems rather funny that these two articles hit the internet a day apart. They could not be more different from each other. Let’s imagine a conversation between Pope Francis and Fr. Rosica, using their own quotes and points directly from these two articles. (Parenthetical interjections mine, mine, mine.)
Fr. Rosica: Many of my non-Christian and non-believing friends have remarked to me that we ‘Catholics’ have turned the Internet into a cesspool of hatred, venom and vitriol, all in the name of defending the faith!” (Note it is the non-believing non-Christian friends he’s citing.)
Pope Francis: It is better to be annoying and a nuisance than lukewarm in proclaiming Jesus Christ. If we annoy people, blessed be the Lord. We can ask the Holy Spirit to give us all this apostolic fervor and to give us the grace to be annoying when things are too quiet in the Church.
Fr. Rosica: The character assassination on the Internet by those claiming to be Catholic and Christian has turned it into a graveyard of corpses strewn all around. Often times the obsessed, scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering virtual guardians of faith or of liturgical practices are very disturbed, broken and angry individuals, who never found a platform or pulpit in real life and so resort to the Internet and become trolling pontiffs and holy executioners! In reality they are deeply troubled, sad and angry people. (Planks and splinters are coming to mind here. Anyone else? I just want to hold up a big mirror here.)
Pope Francis: There are those who are well mannered, who do everything well, but are unable to bring people to the Church through proclamation and apostolic zeal. Apostolic zeal implies an element of madness, which is healthy and spiritual. It can only be understood in an atmosphere of love and is not an enthusiasm for power and possession. (And that’s really, really the difference for those of us who “never found a platform or pulpit.” We really didn’t want this job. It found us when we looked at what our children had to face, what was happening to the faithful around us, those being offered on the altar of political correctness, etc.)
Paul, in preaching of the Lord, was a nuisance, but he had deep within him that most Christian of attitudes, apostolic zeal. He was not a man of compromise, no! The truth, forward! The proclamation of Jesus Christ, forward! St. Paul’s fate was one with many crosses, but he keeps going, he looks to the Lord and keeps going. He is a man who, with his preaching, his work, his attitude irritates others, because testifying to Jesus Christ and the proclamation of Jesus Christ makes us uncomfortable. It threatens our comfort zones, even Christian comfort zones, right? It irritates us. The Lord always wants us to move forward, forward, forward, not to take refuge in a quiet life or in cozy structures. (Right, we could just duck and cover and hide in our little Catholic bunkers but we would be abandoning the cross.)
Fr. Rosica: The Internet, can be an international weapon of mass destruction, crossing time zones, borders and space. It is an immense battleground that needs many field hospitals set up to bind wounds and reconcile warring parties. Christians ought to be a constant encouragement to communion and, even in those cases where they must firmly condemn evil, they should never try to rupture relationships and communication. (Who says the goal is to try to rupture relationships?)
If we judged our identity based on certain ‘Catholic’ websites and blogs, we would be known as the people who are against everyone and everything! If anything, we should be known as the people who are for something, something positive that can transform lives and engage and impact the culture. (Now, see, that would be the problem we have with Fr. Rosica and friends’ tactics. We don’t see them as transformative, engaging and impactful in a positive way. We see them as permissive, enabling, and harmful. We’re the ones out there trying to tell people they don’t have to embrace sin. We’re on the forefront trying to stop the destruction of youth, morally and physically, and we are using modern technology to do it. This is what scares the old guard. We are making progress!)
Pope Francis: St. Paul was a fiery individual who was always in trouble, not in trouble for troubles’ sake, but for Jesus because proclaiming Jesus is the consequence. The Church has so much need of this, not only in distant lands, in the young churches, among people who do not know Jesus Christ, but here in the cities, in our cities, they need this proclamation of Jesus Christ.
So let us ask the Holy Spirit for this grace of apostolic zeal, let’s be Christians with apostolic zeal, onwards, as the Lord says to Paul, take courage! (Amen, Holy Father! Amen!)
Imaginary conversation done. Isn’t it weird how those just fit together?
I think Fr. Rosica and friends had high hopes for the internet, but then realized that they were going to get some pushback when people didn’t like them twisting the Faith. (FYI, Fr. Martin. SJ almost immediately posted this Fr. Rosica talk to his social media accounts to share with everyone what a “cesspool of hatred” the Catholic blogosphere is. You to admit that Fr. Rosica is a little more lyrical than Fr. Martin when it comes to the ad hominems. “Cesspool of hatred” is so much more poetic than the “haters” Fr. Martin used.) The internet is the one place where the faithful can call the liberals on their spin. We can bypass and run around them. In the history of the Church, the laity has never had so much input. He’s quite right that it can cross time zones and borders (not sure about space – maybe a little too poetic).
Fr. Rosica does lob some pretty lofty grenades at Catholic bloggers, yet he never seems to stop and ask himself what his role in all of this might be. Bloggers are the ones waging a war. Bloggers are the ones against everyone and everything. Bloggers have archaic notions. Bloggers are hateful, venomous and vitriolic, sad people, etc., etc., etc. As usual, he does a bang up job of being rather contrary, does he not? He’s really just saying, “I can fire off some artillery and be completely justified. The laity that disagrees with me, they must just sit on their hands sporting duct tape over their lips, or else they are mean and pathetic!” I don’t think the bloggers are the ones saying, “You can’t take people to task!” and then turning around to take people to task themselves. I don’t think we mind or feel martyred when people tell us we’re great big meanies. Frankly, we couldn’t care less. I think “Bring it!” would characterize us. What drives us nuts, however, is the lack of honest debate. There is no debate unless you consider “You’re vitriolic!” as debate, in which case you probably flunked Debate 101.
I can’t speak for all Catholic bloggers, but I can safely assume most have the goal to support the faithful and the Faith under attack. It is most definitely a war. I have no problem with that depiction nor one of a field hospital. The question is, who are the enemy combatants (aka – the ones fighting for their own agenda which is contrary to the Church)? Who are the doctors and nurses? Who are the ones fighting the unjust aggressor? And just what is the best medicine? Disinfecting wounds is rarely a pleasant thing. Usually, a tremendous amount of pain comes before the healing.
So, the clergy really needs to ask themselves how to handle the laity challenging them? Is it good to constantly whine about it, or should you jump into the conversation? Is it good to say “Hey, I’m just going to sue you because what you said was wrong?” (ahem, Fr. Rosica!) or would it be a little more beneficial to rebut the accusations point by point? I thought dialogue was the word of the day? I thought you were supposed to meet people where they were? Well, here they are! That is the problem with Fr. Rosica. He’ll bend over backwards for one part of society, and then feels free to backhand another. It just so happens that the ones he backhands are the ones who advocate for following the Faith. He doesn’t want to have a discussion of the issues. He simply tells everyone how full of venom they are and blocks them on social media. They’re talking some serious issues, yet all he can do is peddle ad hominems. He can continue to try and silence the portion of the Catholic blogosphere that disagrees with him, but I’m reasonably sure they aren’t going anywhere. #meetthelaity