Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Conjugating Catholic Comboxes

Years ago, a newspaper held a contest for people to send in creative verb "conjugations" illustrating, humorously, how differently we view our own actions from the way we view the actions of others. While I can't remember the exact examples chosen as winners, the idea was something like this:

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.

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'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.

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.


This_Cross_I_Embrace said...

I just love your blog :)
You're right. We "cradle Catholics" have to be very careful to not become like the disciples throughout the Gospel. (i.e. "Why is Jesus eating with TAXCOLLECTORS??!! Is he NUTS?")

I'm also reminded of the parable of the workers in the field. How the ones who began working in the morning were disgruntled at the fact that those who put in only a few hrs in the afternoon were paid the same wages as them.

Rene'e said...

Upon my reverting back to a practicing Cradle Catholic from a non-practicing Cradle Catholic in 2003,I was suprised by the bickering,lack of charity and dissent from Catholic teachings which I witnessed from other Catholics in my prayer group, towards each other , other Catholics and The Church. I asked a Priest in my Parish about this.

This is part of a letter he sent me in reply. It applies to ALL Catholics regardless of when they became one.

"Renee, one of the most amazing things about the lay-Catholic faithful is that we come in all shapes and sizes; in all forms of fervor and tepidness; some filled with Truth and oftentimes many filled with error. You are encountering "The Church." In essence, you are having your "bubble burst" a little. You've been thinking that everyone should feel as you do; a sense of peace, a sense of belonging and purpose. Feeling that the Church is always right in everything.

Magisterially speaking, the Church is always right in everything. But yet, people struggle. Mostly they struggle because they have not taken the time to read the documents of the Church; her Catechism, her encyclicals, and to understand these documents as being assistants to the Truth of the Gospel. Most folks have their heads too much in the world and not enough in heaven. They often lack the time to pray. They worry too much about who's watching and what so-and-so will think or say. Church is not a place to impress others or to be worried about what others think. Its a place to practice being in heaven, where all judgment is perfected. (Check out Matthew 23:1-12) In the same way there is no scorning in heaven, there should be no scorning in Church. If there is scorning and judgment going on in church, it is only there because we are weak and lack so little control over our emotions and self-worth.

I think the most important thing is not to be discouraged amidst the questions and imperfections of your fellow Catholics. Part of a person's authentically claiming the faith comes in challenging it and testing it. Another part of authentically claiming the faith comes by opening one's heart to it, not by hardening our hearts. Here's some scripture to ponder: Psalm 118:6-9. Look it up and put your trust in the Lord.

The Peace of Christ be yours - Fr. John"

Betty Beguiles said...

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."

As a convert myself, I have felt this suspicion directed at me many times (not to be hyper-sensitive or anything--lol). Thank you for writing this. I don't think I've ever heard anyone address this before.

Patrick Archbold said...

I am absolutely convinced that this 1594 word post is merely a contrivance to work the words "prosaic bore" and Mark Shea into the same post.

Red Cardigan said...

Nope. It's just a wordy excuse for a bad baloney metaphor.


Jennifer F. said...

I think I'm oddly immune to those sorts of insults because I just don't understand them. To me that would be like some physicists saying that they have a better lock on the law of gravity because their dads were physicists. The truth is the truth, whether you grew up knowing it or discovered it late in life. I just don't get it.

As a side note...sometimes I wish Mark Shea would take a little breather from blogging for his own sake. He's such a brilliant writer, but it doesn't seem like his blog is bringing him closer to Christ these days.

Dymphna said...

I'm a convert. So far I've never had any cradle Catholic throw it up in my face. As for Mark Shea, ever notice how angry he seems so much of the time?

Anonymous said...

Mark Shea here.


Speaking of missing lots of stuff for days, I totally missed this till just now and I thank you for it. Much obliged.


Have you ever noticed how often you leave nasty comments about me on various blogs but never have the guts to say things to me directly? If you have a problem, feel free to email me. Otherwise, your Truly Christian schtick looks a lot to me like catty gossip and backbiting.

Red Cardigan said...

Dymphna, I wasn't aware that you've been in the habit of saying negative things about Mark on other blogs. I'd appreciate it if you do as he asks, and address him personally if you have some problem with him.

I'm glad you've never been attacked for being a convert, but many, including some I know personally, have been; I've also heard some Catholics speak dismissively of the idea that converts have anything to say that cradles ought to hear. So you should thank our good God that you've never been slighted in this way, and perhaps in charity you might pray for some who have been.