Friday, 31 July 2015

Bloggers Under Siege

The cell of Blessed Titus Brandsma
Damian Thompson has penned an interesting piece for The Catholic Herald that warrants some kind of reply, given that it touches on many issues that are close to the heart of those Catholics who sacrifice their time and energy without financial reward by continuing to blog about Catholic affairs.

Dr Thompson is correct about some important issues that he has pin-pointed about the Catholic blogosphere, but some points should be challenged and this blogger is happy to do so.The phenomenon of Catholic blogs is depicted by Damian as a 'rise' under Pope Benedict XVI met attended by a dramatic 'fall' from 2013.

I know of some bloggers who have either cut down blogging or ceased blogging. The body blow of the abdication of Benedict XVI was immense. In many ways, because of the change in styles - and even change in emphasis - of these two Popes, the very sudden change in personnel at the top left bloggers confused and the undeniable abandonment of the vision of Pope Benedict XVI - especially in terms of the 'reform of the reform' has led to an also equally undeniable collapse in confidence of Catholic bloggers.

The difficulty that different bloggers have had with placing the papacy of Pope Francis within the context of those who have come before him has led to conflict even within the Catholic blogosphere itself. This has been echoed even within the highest positions within the Catholic Church, a scene of disunity and discord witnessed at the Synod on the Family in 2014 and we will doubtless see, at the Synod in October 2015. With the sudden and almost universally unexpected fall of Benedict XVI has come a dramatic collapse in morale among especially 'traditional' Catholic bloggers because of events that have taken place in its wake. Notable priest bloggers and some lay Catholic bloggers have responded in different ways to this collapse in morale - a morale that was high in 2012 because of the promotion of Catholic identity, truly Catholic liturgy and Catholic worship embodied in Pope Benedict XVI's exciting vision of Catholicism, rooted in Scripture, in the Person of Christ, scholastic and seamless Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church.

For many Catholic bloggers, Catholic blogging has, by necessity, moved from the offensive and presentational (here is our Faith) to the almost entirely defensive (we must protect the Faith), usually in response to an incident that has occurred during an tumultuous time in the life of the Vatican that one day appears to be entirely carefree and careless, and then the next day, scrupulously controlled and even manipulative of even the minutest details.

However, many Catholic bloggers are increasingly aware that their mission - if they choose to accept it - has not been made irrelevant by the shifting sands of time. Blogs are still doingan important job, placing under scrutiny what is going on in Rome and asking important questions because the focus of the battle to defend the Faith has moved from the local level to the Mother Church itself, where decisions that will have a huge impact on the local Church are going to be made.

There is grave consternation, voiced by even Cardinals and Bishops, that the Catholic Church stands on the brink of a crisis not seen since the Arian Heresy, an opinion held by Bishops such as Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Khazakstan. His sentiments have been echoed by others, such as Cardinal Raymond Burke and even the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerard Muller.

Are we witnessing the death of Catholic blogs? Only if bloggers lose hope and do not pray for the strength to remain true to Our Lord Jesus Christ in times when immutable Catholic teachings are coming under threat. Here is what Bishop Athanasius Schneider said recently concerning Catholics and social media...

'It is a sad truth that we are in a time of great crisis in the Church. God is with us, however. You have asked me what the faithful can do to combat the errors spreading through the Church. I would like to answer with some suggestions.
We must create groups of true Catholics, scholars, families, and clergy who will spread courageously the full Catholic truth, especially on the Church’s teachings on the family, on nature, and the commandments of God. As a means to this aim, we must make use of all the resources that the modern world offers to us. We are not confined to waiting for the media to spread these messages. We do not have to wait for each individual pastor to preach them from the pulpit. We should embrace the new media forms that allow us to spread the Gospel and the teachings of our Holy Mother, the Church. We should take our message to the Internet, publish it on websites, blogs, and social media.'

Catholic blogs appear often as sites of those who now feel 'under siege', but recent events have placed question marks over articles of Faith that demand that faithful Catholics defend the truth. The Synod on the Family has been a prime example. The coverage of the manipulation of the Synod, the inexplicable retention of the most controversial points rejected by the majority of the Bishops in the Instrumentum Laboris demanded some kind of Catholic response and it was Catholic blogs that offered that vociferously. The coverage found in mainstream Catholic media is a little more 'cagey'.

Blogs and social media retain a unique value in their own right. Bloggers are not constrained by such problems as statistics of readership or advertising revenue and they still have a vital work encouraging 'normal' media sources (people who get paid for their writing) to cover news that Bishops, perhaps even those close to the Pope, would rather not have seen published. It would be potentially very easy for mainstream (some of which can be very close to the 'establishment') Catholic media sources to simply 'go with the flow' and not ask the very pertinent questions, even forcefully, that are being raised during a period that has seen questions settled by Christ Himself brought out into the open to be addressed and re-addressed. This has caused an immense amount of scandal, the sense of which has been conveyed at times by the Catholic Press, but more so by the blogs. Some events have been, I believe, entirely ignored by the mainstream Catholic press.

The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma has itself been a source of timely and excellent analyses of documents and events in Rome that have not been given so thorough an examination in mainstream Catholic newspapers.

Yes, blogs still serve a purpose and now it appears to be one of leaping to the defense of the Catholic Truth against those who might seek to destroy it, or who through ignorance or malice fatally undermine it from within the walls of the Church.

There is no doubt that the strength of Bishop-Elect Robert Barron has been to continue presenting the beauty and sense of the Catholic Faith while allowing the maelstrom of events that have occurred in Rome go on without much comment. Yet even this Bishop-Elect has spoken of the dangers posed by the 'gnosticism' evident during the Shadow Council. There is no doubt that things have changed dramatically and that Catholic bloggers are now a crowd that could easily become a very underground scene indeed, but that is only because that is really how things are. Bloggers are raising the alarm bells that need to be rung throughout the Church when, as foretold by Our Lady of Akita, Bishops are opposing Bishops, Cardinals are opposing Cardinals and it is perceived that even the Pope appears at critical junctures, to side with those who publicly challenge even the teaching of Christ Himself.

Pope Benedict XVI predicted, as Cardinal Ratzinger, incredibly difficult times for the Catholic Church that could even see the Church become smaller, but more faithful. We all of us, in the Guild, pray very much that events in Rome will serve to clarify and uphold the timeless beauty of the Truth of Jesus Christ and the integrity of the Catholic Faith that the Pope and the Bishops are called to defend and to proclaim. That cell of Blessed Titus Brandmsa pictured at the head of this blogpost should remind us that continuing to preach the Catholic Faith during times of persecution and open hostility to the Truth brings with it numerous risks and we should recall that Blessed Titus formed, along with others, part of an underground movement of journalists who fearlessly proclaimed Jesus Christ while freedom of speech was removed by the Nazi government.

Blessed Titus remains as a patron for Catholic journalists precisely because when it became dangerous to speak the Truth, he continued to speak it. There is no reason to think that such a terrible time could not revisit Catholics in the West, in the USA and in Europe and the United Kingdom. Dark forces are at work in the Catholic blogs in as much at times Catholic bloggers discredit the message of the Gospel through a lack of charity and respect for others, but even darker forces still are at work within the Church, seeking to make the message of the Gospel irrelevant to modern man, so that man might be convinced he has no real need for Our Blessed Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Dark forces could well gather that seek to silence political dissidents and opponents of the crimes of our age. Who can say that the next five years will not see the imprisonment of those who oppose the evil and inhuman ideologies working at the heart of Western government and society? Take courage from our patron. Do not give up hope. Do not give into despair. Place your hope and faith in Our King and God. Blogs and bloggers may one day be silenced, but now is not the time for silence. Now is the time to stand up and to speak out for Jesus Christ. Perhaps, it can be considered that Catholic blogs experienced both a rise and a fall, but if they have fallen, it is a mark of Christianity, that under persecution, Christianity - and those who proclaim it, even if they should fall - will rise again.


  1. Excellent -- and so much more substantial than Damian's gratuitous navel-hazing.

  2. Well put and on point.

    While I am hopeful for the episcopacy of Bishop-elect Robert Barron and the orthodox evangelical enthusiasms it might stimulate, I am concerned about the tenability of his apparent position suggesting the possibility of 'universal salvation' ala Hans Urs von Balthasar. That view alone has ramifications for the accurate presentation of the Gospel.

    1. To clarify my fear about the promotion of the concept of 'universal salvation', I should add that if salvation is universal then there is no necessity whatsoever for evangelization. If salvation for all is virtually assured then one's belief or lack thereof is of no consequence.

      I believe the proper distinctions between 'redemption' and 'salvation' are not being sufficiently presented to the world.

      The Italian journalist and friend of Bergolio, Eugenio Scalfari, recently revealed that in an interview with Bergolio, he (Bergolio) indicated he subscribes to a belief in the annihilation of the soul after death rather than hell as eternal punishment.

    2. Balthasar was not a universalist, and FWIW I think Bishop-elect Barron has misunderstood his position.

      You say that the Pope "subscribes to a belief in the annihilation of the soul after death rather than hell as eternal punishment" -- first, given the highly dubious source of the claim, I'd advise taking it with several pinches of rough mineral salt ; second, even so, the "annihilation of the soul" is a legitimate theological position to hold *personally*, though the Magisterium does not teach it.

      For starters because the possibility of an afterlife without a Soul, therefore eternally severed from God, cannot be discounted.

      For seconds, because many of our finest mediaeval theologians argued precisely in favour of that theory.

    3. Both 'universal salvation' and the 'annihilation of the soul' after death are not Catholic belief. To subscribe to either proposition is contrary to Scripture and Catholic doctrine. Period.

      Bergolio has never refuted his friend Scalafari's claim that he (Bergolio) had claimed 'annihilation' to be a tenable belief..

    4. I'm not suggesting I agree with it -- I'm merely suggesting that it's not strictly uncatholic as a *personal* belief, because it is not a *strict* contradiction of the Dogma.

      You are right that the Church positively teaches no such doctrine.

    5. I presume those who might privately hold (as you suggest) such views which are utterly at odds with the constant teaching of the Catholic Church) would not be able to publicly recite the Athanasian Creed without doing violence to their private belief.

      "...And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved." -The Athanasian Creed (Quicumque)

    6. By the way, here is a useful link to the Catholic Encyclopaedia entry for 'Hell'. It ought prove useful background information for those whose *personal* belief questions the immortality of the soul; the existence of Hell; etc. There is quite a bit of apologetic material available, but this ought suffice to instruct the doubtful and disoriented:

    7. Those who believed that the proposed destruction of the Soul in damnation constituted the total destruction of that person would not, but those who believed that the eternal existence of the individual in damnation continued without the Soul certainly would.

      I think the doctrine is wrong, and the Church certainly does not teach it -- but it's still not *strictly* contrary to Dogma, as it is still reconcilable therewith.

  3. In a piece which I hope will be a serious contribution to this discussion of Catholic blogging, I take Damian's remarks about his own blog and Deacon Nick Donnelly's distinction between rage and reasoned criticism, and develop the theme in relation to Catholic tribalism and charismatic chiefs online. With the single exception of Paul Priest, whose response was in Chinese, this has met with general approval.

  4. Our Lord's parable on the Rich Man and Lazarus is quite instructive here.

  5. Thank you for the link, Brother Lapin, and for the astonishment it provided.

  6. I shall continue to blog until either I have to buy some sort of license, which I could not afford, or I am fined by someone who hates the beautiful teaching of the Catholic Church, or until God tells me to stop.

    Blogging for many Catholics is the ONLY way they can stay in touch with the truth of the crisis in the Church. My stand has been to encourage Catholics to become saints, plus commentary on contemporary issues.

    I am encouraging people, and have been for years, to be "spiritual preppers" for the obvious tribulation to come.

    Keep On Blogging....

  7. I shall continue to blog until either I have to buy some sort of license, which I could not afford, or I am fined by someone who hates the beautiful teaching of the Catholic Church, or until God tells me to stop.

    Blogging for many Catholics is the ONLY way they can stay in touch with the truth of the crisis in the Church. My stand has been to encourage Catholics to become saints, plus commentary on contemporary issues.

    I am encouraging people, and have been for years, to be "spiritual preppers" for the obvious tribulation to come.

    Keep On Blogging....


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...