Sunday, February 4, 2007

Another Knee Jerk

A friend of the blog (or a friend of the blogger at any rate) sent me an email after reading my first reply to Andy:

There was a post by Rod within the last two months. The argument was something like this: 

  • Politicians are doing bad things
  • Wal-mart sells tampons.
  • Dogs bite other dogs.
  • This is very similar to the way the Catholic Bishops betrayed everyone by moving the perverts from parish to parish.

If you can remember it, that post is a good example of him straining at gnats. I really can't remember. All I remember is the subject was X and then, out of the blue, here come the Catholic Bishops!

It only took us ten minutes or so to find out what he was talking about. Turns out there weren't any dogs or Wal-mart products involved, rather it was his review of Mel Gibson's movie Apocalypto. Excerpt:

[O]ne of the most poignant moments of the film comes when the evil Maya who has led the slave-gathering expedition tells his adult son, who has been with him on the trip, that today, he has proven himself a man -- and then he (the father) passes the mantle of manhood on to his son in the form of a hunting knife. It really is a tender moment between father and son, because in risking their lives to gather slaves, they have enacted a ritual that their civilization teaches them is a good and necessary thing to become fully a part of society. And yet, they have done great evil....

And me being me, I couldn't help thinking of how many Catholic bishops in all sincerity thought tolerating and covering up for the cruelty of clerical child abuse was actually a noble and necessary thing, to keep the "civilization" of the Church running -- and how that corruption has in fact led to a weakening of that civilization. Given Gibson's deep faith as well as his disdain for institutional Catholicism, I find it hard to believe that this thought didn't cross his mind.

Mel was probably thinking about Catholic bishops when he directed the scenes showing the corruption of some members of the Jewish Sanhedrin in the Passion, too. And ever notice how the villains in those Lethal Weapon movies are all men -- just like Catholic bishops! Gary Busey did play a clergyman in a Hitchhiker episode 2 years prior to his evil "Mr. Joshua" role in LW1. The plot thickens.

The word Catholic is used eight times in the movie review, in case you just ate dinner and don't feel like reading the entire thing to get an exact count. If you do read this and don't detect an incredible jerking knee, please leave a comment here providing a proper example of the euphemism knee-jerk.

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  1. Pauli(e), I appreciate your eagerness to address my question regarding Dreher and what you find objectionable about the way he writes, specifically about Catholicism.

    What I'd like to know is, if Dreher were a tradtionalist Catholic (say, an SSPX member), and wrote the same way he did about the state of the contemporary Church, would you still take it to be Catholic-bashing? Or say he wasn't quite so radical as the SSPX, but simply an adherent to the SSP and a Latin Mass enthusiast. Trad and trad-minded Catholics have much the same critiques of the post V2 Church that Dreher seems to have. (Bad liturgy, tolerance of perversity, loss of a truly vital and heartily Catholic culture, capitulation to modernism, among other things.)

    How would you feel if Dreher were still a faithful Catholic, but still wrote often about these negative aspects of the state of the contemporary Church? Would he still seem fixated on the negative, prone to blowing bad things out of proportion and equally prone to ignoring good things? I'm just curious.

  2. Andy, that is a terrific question. Are you one of them smart guys or something?

    First, "Trads" and "Trids": I know (knew) some of those people and I kind of used to be one of those people. Never SSPX, always Indult Latin Mass. I was a member of an indult community in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, sang in the choir, went on a pilgrimage to Rome for the 10th Anniversary of EDA and have done a great deal of thinking and talking about the issue of what to do about the inevitable (Lk 17:1) scandals in the church.

    I'll do a full post on this subject later in the week. I'll provide my entire case for why I believe Bishop-bashing both from Catholics and ex-Catholics is nothing more than a useless annoyance and hopefully include a couple angles which may be new to the readers.

    But briefly: the simple answer is "yes" -- an SSPX member talking like Dreher would be Catholic-bashing. The SSPX-ers, while technically schismatics, are basically Protestants. Yes, I know it makes them angry to be called that, but they are angry most of the time anyway, so I do not hesitate. Regardless of the exact designation, they are outside the church.

    And regardless of their vantage point, my experience has been that many if not most people who are focused on the problems on the modern-day church hierarchy are generally ignorant of church history. One very knowledgeable and fairly connected friend whom I consider to be an advisor on spiritual and Church matters always points out that the worst diocese in the world is Rome. Priests hang out publicly with mistresses and it's been that way since long before Vatican II was a gleam in J23's eye.

    Bad liturgy and tolerance of perversity both get a no vote from me, and I wish the Bishops could/would do more about it. But when they do something about it it's generally under-reported or dismissed -- like McCarrick's explanation about the whole excommunication thing -- by those demanding clergy be like policemen.

    One more note for now: recall the trads have their own scandal in Scranton, PA and it's a doozy. There are at least two priests involved; I personally remember how everyone was so excited back 10 years ago when they came over to the FSP from, yep -- you guessed it -- the SSPX. A couple or three traditional priests planned to build a "liturgical city" and they raised tens of millions. But it turned out these guys had massive "little boy" troubles. 'Nuff said for now -- bash me if I'm bashing.

  3. Pauli, that's a fantastic response, and I agree 100%.

    BTW, I cracked up over "Wal-Mart sells tampons.'

    I wish I could find Pikkamutti's ConCrunchy takeoff on Rod-qua-sportswriter. It was priceless.

  4. BTW--re bishop-bashing: I dunno about Gibson, but the fiercely anti-clerical Guiseppe Verdi did like to take swipes at prelates indirectly through his operas. E.g., the Mean Egyptian Priests in Aida, the Mean Inquisitors in Don Carlos...all are thinly disguised representatives of the Mean Catholic Hierarchy. Of course, for Italians, anti-clericalism is just part of the culture, a way of life, like having 55 different political parties, so...they're entitled. Rod isn't.

  5. Well, trads are all over the map; we shouldn't generalize too much. But in my experience the most vocal against the hierarchy are also the most likely to be against democracy to a degree, the most radical even favoring a return to a system like the monarchies of Europe. Is that kind of ironic? These radical types could honestly say, "We're progressives posing as traditionalists who desire more of a representative government in the church, representing US, that is, but we CERTAINLY won't admit that, plus we don't want to have that much of a say in secular society which Vatican 2 says is the proper domain of the laity. Because we don't like V2, and don't tell us to read it either." What a great way to be a clericalist and anti-clerical at the same time. Yeah, I'm so into going back to being an irrelevant peasant.

  6. Pauli(e), to put my cards on the table, I would call myself a trad-sympathizer. I'm not a full-fledged trad in part because where I live our bishop is rather stingy with the exercise of the indult (we get Latin mass once every two months, usually in some obscure location).

    I don't read Dreher heavily, and I think in a lot of ways it seems like you are onto something in believing that the guy is obsessed with the pederast crisis in the Church. I'm also skeptical of the "crunchy" thing in general. Still, I'd say that most of Dreher's critique of the contemporary Church resonate with me. V2 strikes me as a largely unmitigated disaster. Aesthtically speaking, the novus ordo plain sucks just about everywhere one goes; it's just a question of varying degrees of suckiness (the sole exception to this rule are the EWTN masses on TV) . And contemporary bishops just seem like a spineless lot much of the time.

    My point: I don't think it's fair to construe complaints about the current state of the Chruch as Catholic-bashing. These complaints are often made by people who are faithful Catholics themselves, or who are at least Catholic-minded, as I think Dreher continues to be. Again, I'm not defending his more irresponsible rhetoric, like using Gibson's movie as an excuse to denounce pederasty in the Church. I just think it should be kosher to not be on board with much that is happening in the Church right now-- that taking such a point of view shouldn't cause one to be viewed as a Catholic-basher.

  7. On a different note, Pauli(e), how do you view your namesake Pauli Shore? Just curious.

  8. Oh, man, Biodome was choice. I laughed the whole way through it. Jury Duty was OK -- I didn't see anything else with Pauly(ie) in it.

  9. My point: I don't think it's fair to construe complaints about the current state of the Chruch as Catholic-bashing.

    If it were anyone else doing it--short of Jack Chick--I'd agree. But Rod is so selective, so fixated, so relentless, so unfair, that I simply cannot agree.

    He picks and chooses only the negative stuff from the Catholic blogs. (E.g., Amy had a wonderful recent thread wherein Catholic comboxers related their positive experiences of Catholic schooling. Did Rod so much as mention it? Nope. But he regaled us with another Amy thread relating horror stories about Catholic schools. Fair and balanced? Not exactly.)

    Plus, he gives his own communion a great big pass on some of the same stuff that so exercises him WRT the RCC. E.g.: Apparently (and I have this on good authority) there is a hierarchy-pederasty scandal in the OCA. Have we ever heard anything about this from Rod? Word One?

    His excuse that Orthodoxy is teeny compared with Catholicism is lame beyond belief. Even the secular media carried the story about the Mount Athos monks clobbering each other with sledgehammers. If it had been a Catholic incident, Rod would have been all over it like a dust-cover. Instead, he did not even mention it on his blog. Not one word. If monks running amok isn't newsworthy, then what on earth is? IMHO it's a heck of a lot more newsworthy than Terry McAuliffe applying to the Knights of Malta.

    Rod also carried FIVE (count 'em FIVE) stories on the Polish-Commie-Bishop thing. He was still beating that dead horse long after the archbishop had resigned. I mean, the incident ended well, but he still couldn't let it go. Has he ever had even one post (let alone five) about the Moscow Patriarch's KGB-agent activities? Again, other news outlets consider this the "Orthodoxy is teeny" excuse doesn't fly.

    The excessive fixation, the selectiveness of his indignation, the double standard---all point to something beyond the all-in-the-family grousing you see, say, at Amy's. It's tacky to say the least and deeply uncharitable to say the most--esp. coming from an ex-Catholic.

    As Jonathan Carpenter once said, the only people who will admit they're anti-Catholics are wearing white sheets. I just don't buy Rod's protestations. Sorry! :)

  10. I'll post more fully on this later, but I maintain that aside from #1, the other ones we've listed so far definitely constitute bashing. Decrying the idiocy and heterodoxy in many parochial schools could be considered valid, although if the evidence provided from Amy's combox it would seem a little anecdotal to me, not to Rod, obviously.

    The other three I've listed (2,3,4), like the Apocalypto review, all seek to knock Catholics for barely any reason. To a great degree, he disregards the real villains in the posts -- the deceptive reporter, the lying Terry McAuliffe, the misguided parishioners -- to make his "larger point" about the state of "the institutional Church." All so people can feel justified in leaving or satisfied about complaining.

  11. I meant to write

    "...although if ALL the evidence provided IS from Amy's combox it would seem a little anecdotal to me -- not to Rod, obviously."

    Also, Diane, your point is well-taken that Rod spares the Orthodox, but personally I'm completely indifferent to that. It's simply his way of being tribal.

  12. Pauli, I agree completely. I don't want Rod to bash his own communion. I just want him to stop bashing mine.

    But, if he won't stop bashing mine, maybe he could occasionally give equal time to his own--just for fairness' sake.

    Not that he will, of course. Which brings me back to my original point. I just want him to stop bashing mine.

    BTW, did you see Joe d'Hippolito's latest responses at the RodBlog? Apparently, if you don't want your church bashed at every opportunity, that means you think the Catholic Church Can Do No Wrong.

    How illogical is that? I do not get it. Joe seems like a brilliant guy. Surely he can appreciate the distinction between "I don't want my Church bashed at every opportunity" and "I think my Church can do no wrong"??? This ain't rocket science. Especially seeing as the Catholic comboxers keep insisting, over and over, that they DO see and lament the problems.

    The disconnect from reality here is simply staggering. One wonders whether Rod's and Joe's synapses are always firing properly. I dunno. Sorry to get personal; didn't mean to; but I can not understand the illogic.


  13. I like Joe D'H, but he's like Rod in that he lets himself get carried away by his emotions, leading to some really self-contradictory comments.

  14. Joe's a good guy, although he often succumbs to hyperbole, as I suspect he'd be the first to admit.

    On Mr. Shore: is his entire schtick to be as lame as possible, in essence to be so unfunny that he's funny?-- kind of intriguing, at least in theory...

    I recall seeing him interviewed on Letterman at around the time of BIODOME. Letterman asked him incredulously if he was making people pay the same amount of money to see his movie as they had to pay to see every other movie. Shore sheepishly replied that yes, they had to pay the same amount. It was quite a funny moment.

  15. My antipathy toward Mr. Dreher began with the WSJ op-ed he wrote comparing JPII's quick response to the planned invasion of Iraq to his response to the situation. At that point, he had not hinted that he was investigating Orthodoxy.

    I think the fact that Mr. Dreher was wrong about the Iraq war and the bishops were right played a bigger role in his conversion than he lets on. It must be hard to face people you've been spending the last five years calling worthless spineless rape enablers when, on a very important issue of the day, they turned out to be correct.

  16. On policy matters like immigration policy, minimum wage, wars and farm subsidies, Catholics are free to respectfully disagree with bishops or even the pope, although we should most likely first respectfully acknoweldge that the Pope/Bishops might be wiser than we are or at least have a point.

    If you want to be able to agree immediately every time with Church leaders, I think you're in danger of the kind of knee jerking which we're discussing here. It's hard for me to believe that Rod didn't at least consider that some US bishops were going to see things in a more liberal way than he did when he first converted. Or maybe he thought they were all closet crunchy cons?


  17. Catholics are free to respectfully disagree with bishops or even the pope, although we should most likely first respectfully acknoweldge that the Pope/Bishops might be wiser than we are or at least have a point.

    Right, and to my mind, "repectfully disagreeing" doesn't look like writing a WSJ op-ed bringing up the most embarassing facts about the Church in order to undermine her position.

    I think that when Mr. Dreher converted to Catholicism, he converted more to a static set of beliefs than to a communion of saints.