Ugly Quotient


I suppose the ideal number for it is zero. Not that most of us (note: first person plural) achieve it. Maybe it’s something like absolute zero in physics. We can never get to the state, because it would imply the absence of any electronic or molecular motion. Perhaps saints achieve liquid helium, while some of us strive for the precipitation of an atmosphere. Sometimes, some of us seem happy with room temperature. I suppose I hope I’m not stellar interior material, but I also realize I’m not liquid helium. I do aspire to do better. At our best, we of St Blog’s can inspire one another to improve.

In a post below, I used a local example:

“What the SSPX’ers, and much of St Blog’s, fails to grasp is the importance of relationship. The internet makes it easy to divorce relationship from one’s emotional toolbox. That’s why, in part, anger and sarcasm are grafted into the character of the conversation.”

And John responded:

Even for you, Todd, this is rather condescending — especially when you can be as unlovely as any “conservative” out there. I admire you for absenting yourself from comment boxes on other blogs. But until you leave off the cheap shots you routinely take at those wretched sinners who make up “St. Blog’s,” you’re still exceeding your ugly quotient.

Unpacking my statement, I think I’m right about St Blog’s, and I’ve mis-aimed at the SSPX and was too general in the comment. The public voice of the SSPX shows astonishingly little grasp for relationship. I think they as well as the worst of the St Blogs are classic examples of the failure of relationship and dialogue. They place truth at the head of the class, forgetting that St Paul advises love.

St Blog’s, for example, is rife with personal criticism, mean-spirited sarcasm, innuendo, and occasional outright falsehoods perpetrated under the banner of Catholicism. Not everyone practices it though. But take a look at the St Blog award winners–maybe CyberCatholics still have the web pages posted. I did a few weeks ago. New blogs in particular seem more anxious to imitate the “success” of Mark Shea or the Curt Jester. Those guys, for their occasional faults, do know how to write sharp and snappy satire. In the hands of tyros, it is supremely ugly. What I’d like to know is this: If these bloggers printed out their ugliest criticisms and took it to their parish priest or spiritual director and asked for a frank opinion on it, what would they be told?

And on my part, criticism of others, what would you call it? Admonishing the sinner? Does a person have to be liquid helium to say something to a sinner? I’m quite sure many St Blog’s conservatives don’t give a hoot about what I have to say. So what? If I’m offended by their content, I’ll tell them so. Then I move on. And if they choose to move on, that’s their affair between themselves and their God. I could be wrong. The true test is what their conscience tells them.

I don’t think anything I posted about St Blog’s is a cheap shot. (But if you have something specific from recent weeks, I’m willing to entertain your comment.) I read what I read, and I call it like I see it. I don’t make suppositions about the education, the disciples, the ulterior motives, the work ethic, the sex life, the parenting ability, the state of grace, or the personal details of others’ lives like many people do. I’ve certainly offended people from time to time, and when I’m called on it, I do try to make amends in an appropriate way, most often directly to the person whenever possible.

But let’s not assume our cybercoffee and donuts effort here is above criticism. Nor should it be. But there’s a way to keep critique within bounds. Problem is, too many of us have no boundaries.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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