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Saturday, October 12, 2013

All at sea.

I recognize that the blog has become painfully self-absorbed, and understand fully if you are sick and tired of it. I sympathize, really. I'd rather be posting about the Byzantine Empire myself. Or the latest Steve Stirling book.

Which I've finished, by the way, and is really well done. The flash-forward ending is a transitional classic, he says obliquely. Later, though.

Yeah, I'm sick and tired of me, and I have to imagine God is, too. Frankly, this has become my way of dealing with the worst case of spiritual chaos I've had since the revelations of the abuse crisis started hitting with wave-like repetition a few years back. Some days, I feel shoved halfway out the door. Today, it's three-quarters.

I think I have isolated the problem, and it involves certitudes. Not mine, obviously. I don't have much in the certainty department these days.

No, rather the problem is the certitude of those who genuinely love the Pope. That the Holy Spirit is clearly on the move. Deacon Greg Kandra posted this on his popular blog, without any framing commentary.

I guess this sort of thing is supposed to be good news now, in the sense of "there is no such thing as bad publicity." The Times is paying attention to us!

Note that the only person quoted is Seattle University's Jesuit president, happy that the more secularized locals think well of him now. Apparently, being one of the zeitgeist's collared batmen wasn't sufficient to win over the lefty locals. I guess his Stuart Smalley moment makes it all worthwhile.

No, I suppose the real reason the essay was posted was that it was, somehow, emblematic of the "Second Look at Catholicism" caused by the Pope.

Which would be fine if, in the essay, there was some evidence for it other than a Land O'Lakes apparatchik's self-esteem boost. Sadly, there is is not.

It is a remarkably nasty piece, so linking to it with silent approval left my jaw dropping. A bitter taste:

It’s long been known that most North American and European Catholics ignore church teachings on gays, contraception and abortion. These teachings range from absurd to unscientific to outright hateful. Without specifically changing the official line, Francis prompted millions of Catholics to give the church a second look when he criticized the hierarchy for being “obsessed” with those issues. Amen, said nearly 70 percent American Catholics who agreed with him in a Quinnipiac poll.

The anecdotal reaction is equally intriguing. “People come up to me all the time on the street or at a restaurant and say things like, ‘I just need to tell someone how much I like this pope of yours,’” said Father Stephen Sundborg, a Jesuit (like Francis) who is president of Seattle University, based in one of the most secular cities in the United States. “Suddenly, it seems O.K. to be a priest out there.”

All of this is by design. Francis is working two broad strategies. The first is aimed at lapsed Catholics, and those who are open to a spiritual life with an intellectual framework. Thus, he dismissed proselytizing as “solemn nonsense,” in a recent interview. “It makes no sense,” he said of the blunt harangues over whose God is better.

The Jesuits have always tried to get people to think for themselves, to arrive at belief through an arduous process. When bishops started telling parishioners that their gay and lesbian siblings were sinners, and that family planning was a grievous wrong, people stopped listening to them — for good reason.

This father of six thanks you for the gut punch. Which are my wife and I: absurd, unscientific or outright hateful? No, really--Get bent, you smug prick.

And, really--the Church had no intellectual framework in the bleak years Before Francis? Waiter, my essay has a Pseud in it--please take it back.

I'd point out the obvious, that Mr. Egan is obsessed with pelvic issues, but apparently this represents an Important Sign. And the home office has said ixnay on that strategy, so there you have it.

On one point, at least, the Era of Francis in America has one point of continuity with pre-Francis times: the desperate craving of American Catholics for validation from non-Catholics. Starting with Rev. Sundborg, but also, apparently, with more grounded members of the church, willing to post screeds like Egan's without a murmur of protest.

Proselytism may be solemn nonsense, but self-flagellation is in, baby.

If I am coming across as out of sorts, it is simply because I am. In the face of mounting personal stresses, the sense that I am one of the Pope’s redheaded stepsons is a burden I never imagined I’d encounter. Not having any money coming in assuredly plays into my mental state these days, but I've been out of kilter since the first faboo interview. Seeing Catholics cite sneering contempt as--I don't know, the Spirit in motion?-- is something I can't begin to process.

More encounters with the Spirit? Stay tuned!

I feel profoundly out of step with other Catholics, so much so that I haven’t taken communion in three weeks. Frankly, it would feel like a lie, even if I was otherwise disposed to receive. It's not getting better.


  1. Oof. My man, my commiserator, everything I can think of off the top of my head would sound cliched. All I can say is this: as I hope my posts show and will keep showing, we are not the marginalized: we are drawing to the heart of the faith as it's always been understood. The wave of fanboys are just like the masses who followed Jesus because he gave them bread and miracles. It didn't take Pope Guido to make me feel outrage at the Whateverist Catholics; I've long been annoyed by Catholics who disdain confession and then blithely take Communion. The sad fact is, we're under a Pope who rewards that kind of "pastoral" bullshit. But as aggravating as it was before Pope Guido, it didn't prevent me from receiving my Lord in the greatest Gift He has to offer. As your crisis buddy, that's the only thing I'd say your wrong about: it behooves you to assert your rights as a son of the Most High and take Communion, or I honestly don't want to hear more about "exile" from you. As I hope you know, I also feel exiled from what turns out to be a majority of feckless soft ultramontanists in the pews around me. But I think I "have chosen the better part" by drawing even closer to God in prayer and in the Sacraments. They are your only real defense against despair, scandal, and apostasy. If you're my commiserator, I want you to be my fellow Communion-taker. I NEED to know that you are WITH ME in the Lord tomorrow at Mass! His Holiness the Innovator and Dissembler has nothing on the Faith: if anything, I prophesy, he is going to end up making integral orthodoxy coming out smelling like a rose. Let the craven masses jump on to his float for the time being. Meanwhile, there is a quiet and unpopular place called the Holy of Holies that you would be a fool to spurn. See you there tomorrow.

  2. Mark 4 –
    [37] And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.
    [38] But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care if we perish?"
    [39] And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
    [40] He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?"
    [41] And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?"

  3. Dale, I am sorry that this is hurting you so much, and I certainly don't think that "There's no such thing as bad publicity".

    But I do think that this has all happened before. Catholics (indeed, Christians) of all ages have had to live through times not alone of open persecution but what, in some ways, was worse: a successful, applauded, worldly Church that was quietly sliding along with the Zeitgeist, 'going along to get along'.

    I know darn well that the same papers that are purring about the pope 'telling' the Church to stop being 'obsessed' with abortion etc. are the same papers that would love to slap up a juicy headline about a clerical sex scandal.

    I know that the Spirit of Vatican II types are now having their moment in the sun and are all suddenly full of re-discovered loyalty and admiration for the pope (no more of that 'old white guy in Rome out of touch with the modern world', I note).

    And I say: so the heck what?

    Until Francis gets up and makes an ex cathedra, this is the official teaching of the Church, you have to obey or else, pronouncement that abortion is not a sin or that same-sex civil marriage is not alone okay, we'll be having one next week in the Sistine Chapel, or that the Eucharist is only a symbol, then let the dogs bark.

    The one thing I would say is don't cut yourself off from the Eucharist, and I say this as someone who has spent years not receiving. It does you no good and only worsens any feeling of isolation. Yeah, so receiving the Body of Christ means you are in communion with the Nancy Pelosis of the world? I'm not thrilled about that, either, but we don't get to separate out the wheat and the tares until the harvest is all reaped.

    For your own consolation, for your own support, for your own need of grace to help you through these days, take the Medicine of Immortality, the Food of Angels, the Love of God.

    It's easy to sleep on another man's wound, is an Irish saying, and it's easy for me to say "Offer it up" but if you can lay your burden before the altar and ask "Lord, make your yoke easy for me to bear", then I hope you can do so.

    If you have any particular patron saints or favourite intercessors, I'd be happy to pray to them for you.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. My communication skills aren't for squat of late, so let me clarify: the problem isn't the Pelosis, it's the people who tell me they see an image of the Blessed Mother in the Pope's used hanky, or the Holy Spirit in a secular cheap shot.

  6. I shared in your jaw-dropping. I couldn't believe it was posted without comment. I couldn't believe Mrs. Scalia was defending it as anything other than a hit piece. What good does it do someone to take a second look at the Church if they so radically misunderstand her teachings? Every time some lapsed Catholic says that they really like this pope I want to put a little tracker on them so I can visit them a year from now and see if they've decided to attend Mass again.

  7. Elliot, I'm still attending Mass. I haven't given that up.

  8. "Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you. You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?"

    Persecutions that come from the places one least expects them can be the most hurtful, so it follows that persevering against those persecutions is in some way even better than persevering against overt Marxists.

  9. Dale, I'm with you 100%. Perhaps even ahead of you. If I were still blogging, I'd have written dozens of posts like this by now. I'm still attending mass for the sake of the Extraordinary Wife and the kids, but I'm just going through the motions at this point. I'm past being scandalized by the laity, bloggers, clergy, parishes, bishops, and even popes, and am now scandalized by God.

    I'm even scandalized by good, devout, traditional orthodox Catholics such as I used to love being among.

    And I know what that money thing does to you, too.

  10. Keeping you in mind.

    Again, you review this man's history and compare to all of his predecessors over the last century and it hits you that he never had the sort of academic or diplomatic training which would have habituated him to formulating his public statements with precision and care.

    I get the impression you are having practical problems from a job loss...

  11. I'm not quite where Paul (Regular Guy) is. Even though I'm having the same issues as Dale and Eliot are (and perhaps that's why you two are the only Catholic blogs I'm reading right now), it isn't having a personal impact on my faith. In fact, I'm taking this time away from blogging and using it to delve a little deeper into Catholic writing and history. That said, I can completely understand why you are feeling the way you are.

  12. I'm sorry to hear that, Paul, and for what they are worth, I'll keep you in my prayers.

    I have taken some positive stock, believe it or not, and I still believe in the Risen Christ, grace and the sacramental life--marriage being an especially convincing example of late.

    If you have any interest in recommendations, I'd take refuge in readings from before the Great Confusion. St. Francis de Sales is truly superb--the Gentle Doctor is often what the spiritual doctor orders.

    But, yeah, it sure would be nice if people I respect stopped long enough to recognize that the scent wafting up from their shoes isn't Shineola.

  13. Art: it's an income loss, but while the money has stopped, the bills haven't. Most recently (Friday) a detached brake line on the family Yukon.

    Your prayers are appreciated.


    This you?

  15. Used to be. :)

    It's about 12 years out of date.

  16. Hello, visiting from Don McClarey's site.

    I was astounded to read Elizabeth Scalia's Facebook comment to Deacon Kandra's post, in which she sneers with contempt at Protestants for their "Bootstrap Ideology".

    As though Protestants are too stupid to understand the distinction between "Voluntary Socialism", which is charity, and "Involuntary Socialism", which is not charity.

    As though Catholic Charities wasn't the first in line to lobby the federal government this past winter to increase taxes on the rich whilst retaining charitable deductions for the rich. Yep, we are all about the Voluntary.


    The Lord bless you, and keep you;
    The Lord make His face shine on you,
    And be gracious to you;
    The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
    And give you peace.

  17. Ironically, wasn't it one of the St Francises who said we are often called to suffer from the Church as much as for Her?

  18. you're not alone, not at all. take some small comfort in that. by the way I wrote off Anchoress a long time ago. The entire patheos catholic channel aspires to gaining the approval of what they perceive as the "elites". I ignore them.

  19. Just wondering -- when all these new converts enter the church due to the silencing of anything disagreeable, will this portion of the Easter Vigil be removed?

    "I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God."

  20. Dale,

    I am sorry that you are going through such grief. Like others I urge you not to deny yourself the healing Eucharist.

    It is so hard to be in a spiritual desert and harder still to understand why God has placed us there.

    You are not alone. Take comfort in the small acts of grace that infuse your life.

    Christ will not abandon His Church, nor will He ever let you be forsaken.


  21. That's my point, Dale. By denying yourself communion, you deny us communion with you. It is a mystical unity we enjoy at every and any Eucharist. Christ is raised up every time to "darw" you to Himself. It is important to many of us to know that you are there, in the One Place, in the Once Flesh, with us. Take heart. Indeed, take refuge in His Heart, and lay--systematically inlay--every part of you into the shelter of His wounds. Pray and pray and pray the Anima Christi, and then fill it with the actual Body and Blood.

  22. I see land--and it's Catholic.

    Stormy and cold, but Catholic.