I am a wise and thrifty shopper; you are a little extravagant, dear; she is a spendthrift.
I am a witty conversationalist; you ramble, rather; he is a prosaic bore.
You get the idea; the notion was that we always make our own thoughts, impulses, or actions seem more palatable than we do the thoughts, impulses, and actions of others.
I thought of that when I read this, on Mark Shea's blog:
I am in the midst of several massive projects with pressing deadlines, in addition to the normal pressures about the bills and, now, trying to figure out a way to get some health/dental insurance since my employer (such as it is) no longer covers it.I've noticed the rise in sharp-tempered host-gunning at CAEI since the election. I realize that many, myself included, are sincerely disappointed about the election results, and some of us disagree with Mark's view that the Republican party has never done anything but throw token gestures at the pro-life contingent, so their loss isn't anything to be particularly sorry about; but this sincere disagreement does not need to produce a disagreeable attitude. If it has on my part, then I sincerely apologize.
All this adds up to a lot of stress. So when, for instance, somebody waltzes on to my blog, looks around for something for a second, can't find it, and then uses his ignorance as a basis for charging me with hypocrisy, I get short-tempered. When they guy writes you back, full of fine wounded feelings because, hey!, he said he was *sorry* in advance before he demanded you drop everything and prove your innocence, that doesn't help either. And when various others are likewise writing to accuse you of betraying the unborn to death, or make snotty comments, or offer improving advice, or to sadly observe what a terrible person you've become, or to sneer at you for being one of those dumb converts who is oblivious to the fact that the Church taught stuff before John Paul II, or to prophetically announce that God has personally revealed to them that the earth is 6000 years old and I am deluded by Satan because I refuse to love this truth, it gets rather old.
Most days, I'm generally able to, well, ignore the buzzing cloud of people all clamoring to tell me off about this and that. Yesterday was not one of those days. I responded rather sharply on a number of occasions, sometimes to people who deserved a sharp reply and sometimes to people who didn't. In particular, I think I was unfair to Jeff Culbreath, who rightly complained that I should not have said six day, young earth creationists are "fundamentalists who think they are Catholic". It's not my business to read people out of the Catholic communion as a small but determined cadre of my readers regularly read me out of it. Mea culpa. In addition, I apologize to Ben and Mary Margaret for being snippy when they were trying to be helpful.
To all: There's an awful lot of you and just one of me. Do take that into account when I don't
a) see the devastating rebuttal a reader has written that he assumes I'm too cowardly to answer;
b) drop everything and answer a reader's demands to do a Google search for him on some elementary problem or stand guilty of whatever he is charging me with;
c) appreciate it when a reader demand I reply right this very second to some heinous charge that exists only in his mind like "You are only a Catholic writer because of the immense wealth, power, and prestige that accrues to the job";
d) immediately grant that the matter about which I know nothing that is consuming a reader's soul needs to henceforth become the become the focus of my life;
e) think that some casual expression of mine that more or less gets a minor quip across is a crime against humanity if it is not written with precision sufficient to satisfy a battery of scientists and lawyers;
f) feel that I need to listen to a reader ever again when you call me a liar for some honest opinion;
g) appreciate it when readers accuse me of suppressing free speech because I don't give them a forum to insult me in my comboxes;
h) welcome free psychological advice or diagnostics on my standing with Almighty God today;
i) hail the insight of those who locate the source of McCain's defeat with me;
j) welcome pinheads who accuse me of secretly rejoicing in Obama's victory and wanting more destruction of human life;
k) feel the need to refight the merits of voting third party for the next four years and listen to people explain to me that Obama is really pro-abortion, you know;
l) feel the need to be told that my contentment with the Mass in whatever form it is given me by Holy Church is a sign of the desperate plight of my protestantized half-breed unconverted soul;
and so forth. I run a fairly loose ship in the comboxes and people actually have rather a lot of room to talk about a lot of stuff. Just show some consideration for my limitations is all I ask. There's only one of me and there's not much of me to go around at this point. Prayers, rather than griping, accusation, criticism and soul diagnostics would be appreciated. I won't be stressed out forever, but right now I'm under the gun.
I find it especially sad that a certain contingent of cradle Catholics finds it necessary, when they disagree with something Mark has said or written, to throw his convert status in his face, as if converts are to be condemned to live their whole lives under the suspicion that they might at any second fling off the mantle of Rome and high-tail it back to the denomination of their youths, and as if it's perfectly proper for sour-faced cradle Catholics to congregate at a convert's funeral and pay the grudging encomium, "Well, he was almost one of us."
Christ Himself, we are told in Scripture, warned the Pharisees that God the Father could raise up sons of Abraham out of the stones of the earth, when they were unduly prideful of that connection. God is not at all pleased by the insistence of some cradle Catholics that a Protestant convert has nothing to teach us, and should, instead, sit with his mouth shut at the feet of cradle Catholics listening to their wise and noble discourses in abject humility for a couple of decades before venturing a timid opinion; the zeal for the Lord's house that consumes a person and prompts him to speak is not even remotely the sole prerogative of cradle Catholics, and those among us whose formative years were spent singing "Hi, God! How are you doing today?" should really avoid creating the false impression that wisdom and nobility of Catholic discourse is our birthright.
But of course, I think that few cradle Catholics really believe that. It's just a way to get in a cheap shot, an ignoble dig, at a fellow Catholic who disagrees with them on something they think is a matter of almost doctrine, like the notion that the Earth really is exactly six thousand three hundred twenty seven years, seven months, eleven days, five hours and sixteen minutes old, which they can prove by virtue of their cradle Catholic status and reference to out-of-context quotes from various papal writings. It's the playground equivalent to referring to the wealth or strength or status of one's father to prove that one is right in some obscure childish argument; it doesn't mean anything in favor of the argument, and is designed to be hurtful and provocative.
And I think, deep down, cradle Catholic commenters know this quite well; it's just an example of that "conjugating" thing I show above: I am a wise and intelligent cradle Catholic who by virtue of my special connection to God and His Church is pretty much always right on matters of faith and morals; you are a less intelligent cradle Catholic who sometimes has the temerity to disagree with me despite the mortal danger into which this puts your soul; he is a convert, who can't be trusted in any way, because his Protestant ways of thinking are hard-wired into his brain and cause him to make all sorts of errors, chiefly the error of pointing out magisterial writings which disagree with my profound personal wisdom and prove me wrong.
And that, of course, is baloney--dangerous, prideful baloney, at that, the sort that's turning greenish around the edges and is a bad deal even at $1.99 a pound.
In our lifetimes the Church has been so richly blessed by the spiritual and intellectual gifts of converts to Catholicism that only a profound ingratitude to God for His gentle drawing of these magnanimous souls to His Church could ever prompt such a dangerous spirit of hostility toward them. Resorting to playground taunts in comboxes is hardly a way to bolster respect for one's arguments, and insisting that a cradle Catholic somehow has special wisdom ignores Scripture, history, and human nature.