Monday, January 5, 2015

2014 Catholic blogosphere year in review

I’m a big fan of Dave Barry’s “Year in Review” columns.  Alas, this year’s installment just didn’t seem as funny to me as previous years’ columns have been.  Maybe the year itself just wasn’t funny enough. Maybe we’re in a time of--dare I say it--malaise.

Or maybe Dave Barry just had an off year.

But what a nationally-known and syndicated columnist can write (even in an off year), a nearly-anonymous and totally unknown Catholic blogger can attempt too.  Oh, not for Big National Events; Barry already covered those.  But it occurred to me that we here in the tiny insignificant St. Blogs Catholic Blogosphere corner of the Internet could use our own Year in Review too.  So here it is:

In January, legions of high school students at Eastside Catholic High School in the Archdiocese of Seattle reacted with shock and horror to the news that, apparently, and despite the plethora of evidence to the contrary, they were an actual Catholic high school.  “We didn’t sign up for this,” claimed potential valedictorian Bunny O’Donnell, one of the many students carrying a misspelled protest sign outside the school amidst a typical Seattle-area January mist-storm.  “Everybody knows that the Catholic Church is bigoted and homophobic and anti-woman.  We were promised that none of the ‘religion’ stuff would be important here, and we expect the school to keep that promise.”  School officials reportedly issued an apology and promised to do a better job of making the school exactly like Seattle’s public high schools, with the exception of their $20,000 a year price tag, which is non-negotiable.

Also in January, a group of geocentrists released the movie The Principle, which sadly did not turn out to be a story of a school administrator who believed the earth revolved around him, because that would have required the -pal ending to “principal.”  Instead, The Principle takes the position that the Earth really is the center of the universe and that this justifies tricking voice actors and scientists alike into appearing to agree with the idea, because a God who places Earth at the center of the universe doesn’t mind a bit of dishonesty here and there.  The estimated tens of people who saw the film could not be reached for comment, but Catholic bloggers who did not plan to see the film and did not see it wrote blog posts and articles excoriating it, thus keeping alive a proud Catholic blogging tradition of not being  made to endure nonsense before pointing it out as such.

Bad movie news continued in February, as several Catholic commenters noticed that, after all, it was a really, really dumb idea to turn Tolkien’s The Hobbit into three feature-length films.  There were also some warning shots fired re: Noah, and Mark Shea may well have been the first Catholic blogger to mention that a new Left Behind movie, starring Nicholas Cage, was going to be inflicted on the unsuspecting movie-going public.

February also kicked off “Pre-Synod Catholic Blog Fretting Season,” to be followed in later months by “Synod Catholic Blog Fretting Season” and “Post-Synod Thoughtful Catholic Blog Analysis.” Okay, who are we kidding?  It was followed by “Post-Synod Uber-Hysterical Catholic Blog Fretting,” which continues at present, and includes various fantasies under which Pope Francis throws Church teaching on marriage out the window, freeing everybody up to become Eastern Orthodox, because they already have remarriage after divorce. (Wait.  What?)

In March, our little Diocese of Fort Worth Texas made Catholic Blogosphere News, when it was reported that a small traditional faithful Catholic Latin Mass-friendly college was coming under fire for being friendly to the Latin Mass.  Pixels flew with various accusations until it turned out that the college in question was not being penalized in any way for being friendly to the Latin Mass, but for a host of other problems, including some rather serious financial ones, at which point those E.F. Mass supporting bloggers who had assumed the bishop was unfairly attacking Latin Mass communities immediately and publicly apologized and promised not to jump to such unfounded conclusions ever again, and went on to admit that it’s “no big deal” whether or not women wear veils at Mass.

Meanwhile, Charlotte Catholic High School students reacted with outrage when an actual habited nun came and gave an actual talk on actual Church teaching.  “First Seattle, now us,” said tearful junior Ashley Ashleyson during a school-sponsored listening and healing session.  “What is this, the Inquisition?”  Ambulances were then called to the scene to remove history teacher Jane Smith, who had fainted upon hearing Ms. Ashleyson use a historical term in a sentence, something that has never happened at Charlotte Catholic before.

April brought with it news that Brenden Eich of Firefox was forced out of the company for daring to think that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, because apparently Mark Shea has been right all along: Tolerance is not enough; you must approve!  In a stunning show of solidarity, six or seven Catholic bloggers all wrote posts within days of each other pointing out that we Catholics are going to be in the crosshairs of the New Tolerance, after which we all got back to sniping at each other over politics, liturgical matters, and whether or not women can wear slacks.

April also brought the release of Jennifer Fulwiler’s long-awaited memoir, Something Other Than God, which some speculate will eventually be a movie, a TV show, an award-winning Broadway play, a yearly inspirational gathering of insightful women, and a “Seven Quick Takes” footwear product capable of transforming from a simple flat flip-flop to a high-heeled boot with seven easy attachments.

In May a Catholic writer boldly asserted that the really traditional thing to do in regard to a pope who isn’t doing things the way you would do things if you were pope is to stand up for the Church against the pope, which is not at all the same thing that liberal Catholics do when they don’t like what the pope is doing, for reasons that are too complicated for anybody to understand. Meanwhile, at another Catholic blog where it is still 1955 or so, the blog author indulged in his annual Ascension Thursday Rant over the practice in most dioceses of the United States of transferring the Ascension Thursday feast to the nearest Sunday, because in those places where it is still 1955 the only thing stopping any Catholic in America from attending Mass on a weekday Holy Day of Obligation is either a) too much option-overload from all the many, many possible Masses he can go to beginning the night before with three or four vigil Masses within a two mile radius of his home or office and continuing on to the next day when Average Joe Catholic can attend Mass at nearly any hour of the day from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. because of all the many, many Holy Day Masses scheduled for his work-day convenience, or b) Average Joe Catholic’s selfishness in refusing to go to Mass at either 8 a.m. (a whole hour or so, in 1955-mind, before he has to be at work!) or at 6 p.m. (again, a whole hour or so, in 1955-mind, after he gets off of work!) which can only be attributed to Average Joe Catholic’s laziness and selfishness in wanting to sleep in until 8:30 a.m. on workdays before rushing off to be at his desk by 9, and then going to catch a ball game at 5 p.m when he leaves work instead of going to Mass, because isn’t that what a typical work day in America in 2014 looks like?

In June Catholics celebrated the news that the Supreme Court of the United States was not going to force Hobby Lobby to pay for abortions or abortifacient contraceptives by rushing out to buy glue guns and glitter even if we didn’t need those things and, in fact, cannot be trusted to use a glue gun unsupervised (I am speaking of myself only, as I am the sort of Catholic who would not get into Heaven if it required a craft project portfolio or even a felt banner).  Also in June the news world in general, and the Catholic blogosphere right along with it, reported breathlessly that some nuns in a place called Tuam in Ireland had overseen the deaths (maybe by neglect! maybe worse!) of some 800 babies, or if not, had at least thrown the babies’ bodies into a septic tank, or if not quite that, then probably something even worse, because nuns orphanage evil Catholics etc. It turned out that what had really happened was that over a 36 year period some 796 children in the area had died, some of them orphans, and some of them--perhaps a hundred--may have been interred in a crypt (not a septic tank, and not even a water tank) following proper Christian burial. The death rate, by the way, was lower than that of most orphanages in nearby England in that time--a time in history when infant mortality rates were generally quite high across the board.  But none of that Fit the Narrative, so the embarrassed mumbling corrections caught a lot less attention than the sensational spins had done, human nature being what it is.

Catholic bloggers were stunned to learn, in July, that despite all the thousands and thousands of hours and dollars spent making lay Catholic volunteers learn all about how to recognize child predators and report them and keep children safe, children were still being abused in the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and there were credible accusations against lay volunteers choir members extraordinary ministers of holy communion  priests.  Calls for priests in the archdiocese to have to take the same “Keeping Children Safe” classes as lay people were reportedly dismissed as being far too extreme.

In August, hundreds of planned posts about modesty in dress and the problem of people wearing shorts or sleeveless dresses to Mass unaccountably failed to appear on schedule.  Rorate Caeli allegedly drew a connection between the absence of the seasonal modesty posts and Pope Francis’ failure to wear the camauro or to restore the train on the papal cassock, a custom ended by that known modernist Pope Pius XII.  Rumors that EWTN was planning a new series titled What Not to Wear to Mass turned out to be unfounded.

In September, Cardinal Dolan of New York shocked the Catholic blogging world by deciding that it’s just no big deal for a parade in honor of a saint to be hijacked by groups of people clamoring for sins against the sixth commandment to become mainstream and normalized.  Cardinal Dolan plans to lead this parade, though it is unclear whether Adultery Pride, Cohabitation Pride, and Self-Pleasurers Pride groups will be permitted to march alongside the Gay Pride groups in the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York.  There will not, however, be a Pro-Life Pride Group, as this would be upsetting to those marching under the Aborters and Contraceptors Pride Banners (slogan: we do a better job of getting rid of the Irish than the English ever did!).

October is annual Let’s Fight Over Trick-or-Treating Month on Catholic blogs, but this year’s fights were somewhat tame.  This is because most of those fights have been moved to Facebook, where stunned Catholic moms can see a quick, cute post like “Here are my kids in their Halloween Costumes!” or “Here are my kids in their All Saints’ Day Party Costumes!” blow up into comment threads where dozens of women they barely know will tell them why they are doing Halloween/All Saints’ Day/The Hallowmas Triduum totally and completely wrong, and give them detailed instruction as to how to do things properly.

A lot of things--many of them bad--happened in November, but if you were reading Catholic blogs, the happenings you would be most aware of were these: 1) Holy Innocents Church in New York, which offers a daily E.F. Mass, was not, after all, on the list of prospective parish closings in the Archdiocese of New York; 2) Cardinal Burke got sent to Malta, thus ensuring his easy victory in WDTPRS’ “Man of the Year” post in January, 3) The Vatican invited Patti Smith to sing at the Vatican’s Christmas Concert, 4) Pope Francis prayed at a mosque, 5) Pope Francis bowed his head for a blessing from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  Whether these were good things, bad things, or a mixture of both depended on the blog you were reading at the time.

And in December, the Catholic debate about the morality of torture was reignited by the Senate Torture Report; depressingly enough, there appear to be a greater number of Catholics than ever who seem to believe that a) drowning someone via waterboarding isn’t torture, b) the Catechism’s prohibition against torture doesn’t forbid torturing possibly innocent people who haven’t had any due process at all because they are being questioned about Ticking Time Bombs and there’s no time to play nice with people who are only going to be innocent civilians 26 times out of 119 or so, and c) the Catechism was written by a bunch of lily-livered liberals who hate Latin and tradition and Republicans and America, so who the bleep cares what it says anyway...

...which brings us to 2015, which promises to be a really, really different year in the Catholic blogosphere, if for no reason other than that there are strong rumors that Simcha Fisher plans to live-blog the birth of the newest Fisher baby, Mark Shea and Jimmy Akin will trade places for a week to see if anybody notices, Matt Archbold will trick his brother Patrick into making a felt banner and will secretly video the whole prank, and the Eye of the Tiber blogger will film a Catholic comedy web series that will be purchased by EWTN and will become the network’s top-rated and most-watched program within six weeks after the first episode airs, leading to serious questions about whether Larry D and the Curt Jester are interested in coming up with similar concepts, both of which new programs would then be hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler.

Happy New Year!

UPDATE: Welcome, New Advent readers!  Thank you for stopping by! :)


Larry Denninger said...

Very good, Erin!

Anytime Jeff wants to get together and work out a series, I'm game! We'd need Kevin O'Brien's input, of course...

ivan_the_mad said...


Tito Edwards said...

Is it torture when I dip my head in the ocean!?

Erin Manning said...

Tito: no. But if, against your will, someone else ties your hands and feet so you can’t move and then plunges your head into the ocean for 30 seconds (or more) at a time until you begin to lose consciousness and begin to drown, reviving you just in time to keep you from dying, only to do the whole thing over again: then, yes.

This isn’t hard.

Tito Edwards said...

So although I suffered no pain, just scared, it is considered torture? ie, getting pulled out to sea and then rescued? Being scared witless, but surviving? Is that torture?

Erin Manning said...

Tito, do you honestly believe that drowning to the point of unconsciousness and water in the lungs is totally painless?

In addition, the Catechism’s discussion of torture uses the phrase, “...physical or moral violence...” which seems to me to include such things as “merely” pretending you’re going to kill someone. But since lying is also intrinsically evil I’m sure you’re not suggesting it’s okay to lie and tell people you’re going to throw them into the sea if you’re not really going to, right?

Mark Shea said...

Tito: The "as long as you don't die and aren't permanently physically injured it isn't torture" line of argument is an excellent defense--of rape.

Anthony S. Layne said...

Err ... getting back to this post: Very well done, indeed!