Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Cringeworthy Mantra

I've wanted to post this for awhile, and being that I have been very busy I have not set aside the time. But since my post last night sort of gave me the bug for blogging again, I figured I might as well use the momentum to fire this sucker back up.


Let me explain what the cringeworthy mantra is. I call it a mantra because I've heard it over and over. You can all decide whether it's cringeworthy or not once I explain what I am talking about.

First of all, some background on a quintessential example of this phenomenon. I had a very long hiatus from writing anything about Rod Dreher or his so-called Benedict Option between my "Main Dilemma" post of October 24, 2016 and my short, almost-joking post on September 11 of this year. So almost two years went by without me saying anything, except in this "meme-style" post wherein I stated that I didn't have much to say about the Benedict Option. It is worthy to note that during those two years Keith threw up several posts about the Benedict Option and I did 30 or 40 posts which do not mention Rod Dreher or the Benedict Option at all.

So this was a comment made after my aforementioned post on Sep. 11, 2018:

Whatever Dreher's many faults, "uncalled-for Catholic bashing" is not one of them. Rather than criticize Dreher for reporting on sexual abuse, McKerrick, Francis' inadequate understanding and response, etc., how about you and others here in this little anti-Dreher echo-chamber face the issues head on?

It was not a new sentiment, but it hit home in a new way because of my light blogging in general over two years and in particular light blogging on Rod Dreher. This blog is not syndicated, advertised or even updated enough to merit it being any kind of destination in the top ten million English websites; you have to try pretty hard to read this blog, or hit it from a web-search or back-link. You might not realize this, but when you only post an average of once or twice a week for two years, your hits go down to almost nothing. You stop even getting advertiser spam in the comments.

So when Mr. Pseudonym shows up, he has found something to pique his interest. From EmitFlestiKY (which is Time Itself spelled backward followed by the abbreviation for this, or maybe this) we get a lecture about what we should and should not be doing alongside a sermonette on why we should be doing this and not doing that. The assertions in this sermonette are (1) Rod Dreher is not a Catholic basher, and (2) You are not facing issues head on.

I caught this on Facebook several weeks ago — Diane will remember. A person quipped that "[a] better use of Catholic time would be strengthening the witness and reasons to stay rather than snarling at those who have left when faced with the same repulsive rot." When I surmised that he was spending more time on the topic than I, he replied that he was sorry that I felt ruffled.

The exchange basically followed the same pattern:

  • Rod Dreher criticizes the Catholic church.
  • A Catholic or two take umbrage about it and make a remark.
  • A third party suggests that they should be doing something else, as if they have done something wrong.

The biggest problem I have with this mantra is that the ratio of our responses to something Dreher writes to his incessantly negative Catholic reporting is well below five percent. I challenge anyone to disprove this. The disparity is compounded when you include the fact that Dreher's megaphone at "The" "American" "Conservative" and his other media appearances dwarf anything that we do here or on our private social media platforms.

So now you know why I cringe. Please let me know if you find my reason valid. And stay tuned for a post entitled "How I Am Facing Issues Head On".

Friday, December 7, 2018

Catholic Priest to Rod Dreher: "Enough!"

It's a great word. "Enough!" A word of command, in my opinion. When I use it with my kids in a one word sentence I generally mean "too much, you guys are going overboard with [whatever], and I have been indulging you for [duration], but now you're done." Some examples might be "Enough of the Fortnight Dance demonstration", or "Enough of the collection of 'perfect snowballs' you stored in the kitchen freezer when it is 25 degrees outside."

So it is, I think, for Father Richard Munkelt in this open letter to Rod Dreher, regarding the latter's continuous, spiteful criticism of the Roman Catholic church twelve years after he left. I think from the tone and content of the article we may infer that Father Munkelt, like many of us at this humble blog, believe that when it comes to Mr. Dreher's coverage of everything bad going on in the Catholic Church, we have long since passed from abundance, to superabundance, and then on to super-duper-abundance....

...but ENOUGH! already of my commentary, and straight to the article. He begins:

Your recent articles in The American Conservative on "Catholic Triumphalism," constituting your latest broadside against the Catholic Church, were brought to my attention. After reading the articles, and in close connection with your remarks, I have some sobering thoughts concerning your departure from the Church and ongoing vilification not just of her abusive personnel (who are fair game) but of her very person. As such, I am not writing to you alone but also to those among your Catholic readers who may not be fully cognizant of your not-so-hidden campaign to turn souls away from and against the Bride of Christ. To them I say, there is nothing more unprofitable than to try to pick figs from thistles. It is my duty, therefore, to assist my fellow Catholics in not becoming unwitting purveyors of your Anti-Catholicism.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that some of what Father says makes my criticism of Dreher seem tame, at least to me. Perhaps not to purveyors of what I'm calling the cringeworthy mantra, but more on that later.

If you care to read on, brace yourself, for charity sometimes carries a stick, as St. Augustine noted. And I shall not spare it, especially since you boast of being irreformable. I promise you, therefore, something in the spirit of St. Jerome.

Right; I think the "you asked for it" is warranted, especially considering how many times Dreher has assured us that he will never come back to the Catholic Church.

[He does it again — hilariously — at the end of his response to this article with the remark that if he ever came back it would be in spite of horrible "rad-trads" like Fr. Munkelt.]

1) Catholic Moral Teaching? In the two articles in question, possibly the most astonishing statement you make is this: "More importantly, though, where are the other churches who allow in their teaching for the sexual molestation of minors?" [My emphasis.] In all my years of study in theology and in the history of the Church, this putative Catholic teaching permitting the molestation of minors has completely escaped me. To be frank, without a citation from an authoritative doctrinal source, and of course none can be found, your statement is not only evidence of your brazen malice, it is sinister.

Dreher has insinuated that the teaching magisterium of the Catholic Church is "OK" with horrible sexual predation of children on the part of clergy many times, and he finally comes out and writes it. In his response, he claims this was taken out of context. No, dude... you're busted.

2) Emotion vs. Reason. From your own words, all indications are that you left the Catholic Church not because you had any theological argument against it but because you had an emotionally charged reaction to the clerical scandals and only afterwards adopted a new theology. As you put it: "I had never really considered Orthodoxy until my Roman Catholic faith had turned to dust." This suggests that an irrational response then went in search of cognitive validation, rather than rational reexamination. While your initial revulsion and anger at the revelations of clerical misconduct are quite understandable (who couldn't feel the same?), you lost all mental proportion and threw the Christ child out with the bath water. Failing at self-control, you failed to distinguish between (moral) teaching and (immoral) practice, and thus incredibly and pervertedly equated the two, as we just saw in paragraph #1. Therefore, when rightly attacking the faults of various members of the Catholic hierarchy you regrettably resort to hyperbole and the fallacy of tu quoque, a fallacy Our Lord was careful to avoid when criticizing the doctors of the Law. Then, with your mind shot, there was nothing left but to create a fantasy of a religious paradise in the green pastures of Orthodoxy. Except you found, or rather others like me would find for you, that you had one foot in a cow pie and the other about to step in a second. With that, let's discuss reality rather than fantasy.

Brutal, but just wait. All these punches land, and they are well documented in this blog. I'm too lazy to link them, but not to humble to list them: emotion over reason, lack of proportion, search for cognitive validation, throwing the baby out with the bath water, creation of a non-existing Edenic Russian orthodox church in your mind (and your backyard), etc. We've hit on all of these.

Of course, in knowingly and purposely separating yourself from the Catholic fold, you are undeniably a formal schismatic. A situation aggravated, I should add, by your having made a career of assailing the Church, all the while absurdly preaching to Catholics how to live better lives as Catholics. Pertinent to this last point, you wrote a book called The Benedict Option and artfully curry favor with--and sales from--Catholics as well as Catholic communities and organizations, who in some cases have been foolish enough to throw you a party. Why didn't you call it The Orthodox Option?

The closest Catholic gift shop to me has a great stock of Catholic books. But they also carry The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher. I am guessing the nice ladies who run the store have no idea that Dreher is an anti-Catholic, God bless 'em. But it was pushed out to Catholic stores by a publishing company who would never get the cha-ching they want from a book with the word Orthodox in it.

In addition, you make a declaration of your personal failings and seem to admit the superficial nature of your faith and spirituality while you were a Catholic, and then effectively blame the Church for your shortcomings! Strikingly, it is as if you stepped right out of the pages of the Gospel: your faith failed to take root, troubles came along, and you fell away. And now you proudly announce yourself practically immunized against any possible scandals in Orthodoxy by the device of downplaying the institution qua institution. Then why don't you try that back in the Catholic Church? Or how 'bout the Eastern Catholic Church? There you've got nice liturgy and no schism. That is not an "impassioned plea" for your return to the Household of Faith, for which I make no pretense. I am merely writing to direct attention to your penchant for subterfuge.

Told you it got more brutal. Penchant for subterfuge — bingo. Recently I've had to characterize this for a number of people unfamiliar with Rod Dreher's history of alternatively getting scandalized by Catholic scandals and not getting scandalized by Orthodox scandals. It works something like this: "I, Rod Dreher, looked at scandals in my own Catholic faith, and my faith was ruined! So I had to get a new one. So lucky that the Orthodox faith was there. And I learned my lesson: never report on scandals in my own faith community again. Only in others... and one other in particular: the Catholic Church. So convenient...." I know that is not exactly what Father is claiming that he does, but there is no logic in either characterization. Plus there is the added fact that there are very few people who leave the Catholic Church, attack it constantly, and still can be said to have any respect for it. That there are Catholics that don't realize this is the main reason for my bafflement about Dreher and why his condemnation is an ongoing necessity.

7) The Theological Question. It is in this area where you are most vulnerable, and so you tend to avoid it, preferring to whine that you just couldn't take the scandals anymore but still "honor" those who stuck with the Church. As you know and recall, I for one did, and could, as a newly ordained priest, reasonably claim to have undergone a greater conflict and ordeal than you went through. And so I thank you for your honoring and self-depreciation. I must admit, therefore, that in the context of spiritual warfare you remind me of the soldier that General Patton slapped in World War II.

"Don't know much about theology" has been one of Dreher's silliest cop-out lines. The guy has made his living in the world of religion writing.

In the wake of this theological adventure of yours (Protestant saints etc.), and in relation to your preposterous claim that you were "raised within historical Christian orthodoxy," I finally realized that your religion is not Orthodoxy at all. It is instead Pluralism, with devotion to all her pallid issue and slogans flitting about the walls of your cave...diversity, relativism, indifferentism, inclusiveness and the like. Either that or you are just invincibly ignorant of the massive break with historical Christianity that the Reformation represented, including Anglicanism, Arminianism, and Methodism. You should know that the Lutherans, in the sixteenth century, made an overture to the Patriarch of Constantinople and he rebuffed them on the central questions of justification by faith alone and the sacraments. But if you were raised as you say, why the need to become Catholic or Orthodox? Or is there some arcane difference between orthodoxy and Orthodoxy?

Certainly there is plenty of evidence to support Father's point in the 2013 book Little Way of Ruthie Leming, for which I wrote an early review. The faith of his sister which he praises so much can be easily seen to be really the "Moral Therapeutic Deism" which is so often derided by Dreher as the fake, Americanized version of the Christian Faith. And of course the Benedict Option is open to ALL Christians, and Jews, and Muslims....

"A figure like Pope Francis is unthinkable within Orthodoxy." Well, unthinkable until one thinks of Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, who is open to the ordination of women and same-sex marriage on the basis of "consensus," not excluding heretical communions. Ironically, Orthodoxy's continuous flirtations with Anglicanism and the heretical potpourri known as the World Council of Churches surely has, and will make, inroads into Orthodox teaching, especially in the moral arena.

That was just too easy.

All right, I'm just going to laze out the whole way and pull the ol' blogger standby: read the whole thing. There; I included a link for your convenience, O dear reader. I have to admit to be wondering whether or not Father Munkelt will be hit with the cringeworthy mantra. "What is the cringeworthy mantra you keep mentioning, Pauli?" In time, my friends, in time. As Robert Plant sang in Kashmir, "All will be revealed."

I will say one more thing for now. I've waited for something to come along like this, a long-form criticism of Dreherism coming from a member of the Catholic clergy and pointing out the tendencies which I and others have noted for some time. I have been impatient, I confess. It has taken a while for this to take place because this is the wise Catholic way. Many people are impatient for the church to act in small matters and great. "How long, O Lord" right?

I think that a quote from Pope Gregory VII pertains here: "It is the custom of the Roman Church which I unworthily serve with the help of God, to tolerate some things, to turn a blind eye to some, following the spirit of discretion rather than the rigid letter of the law." In following the spirit of discretion, silent reflection is often the correct choice.

But St. Jerome tells is that, at some point, silence fails the virtue of justice. He sums up his reason for overcoming his reluctance and finally writing his letter against Helvidius, whom he considered an ignorant boor: "But all these motives for silence, though just, have more justly ceased to influence me, because of the scandal caused to the brethren who were disgusted at [Helvidius's] ravings." And we have been disgusted at Rod Dreher's ravings. So thank you, Father Munkelt, for your erudition in presenting the errors contained within the ravings. The friends and supporters of Rod Dreher have already begun to nit-pick at your work, but your words are just and true in defense of the Roman Catholic Church, and we welcome them.

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