Bitter Fruit

The tremors of civil war continue to shake the Catholic Right. Here. Also, here, in case you wouldn’t have guessed it. I get the unease with the pope. I’ve felt that way once or twice myself in the past thirty-five years. I get way more nervous about the bureaucracy or the deputies, but that’s another story.

I don’t get the blindness behind Dale Price’s comment:

The most visible fruit of the pontificate that I have personally witnessed is exceptionally bitter: watching good and intelligent Catholics who genuinely love the Church savagely turn on each other. That has been painful, and has left me speechless.

As a disclaimer/identifier/table-setter, Dale has had a link on the far right of this blog virtually since I figured out how to do a blogroll. He’s a good egg: a family man, goes to Mass, likes his sports (suffered through an 0-16–and that’s no mean feat). He and I don’t fly in the same flock, but we’re both warm-blooded Catholic men who, when we get to the end of our respective long days, get down on our knees and pray the same words to the Our Father and Hail Mary. Or the same intent to say them when we drift off to sleep a little bit later than when we planned.

What I don’t get is the insular observation quoted above, one that’s insinuated if not echoed in a lot of conservative blogosphere places. Because I have to say, “Really? The hail you say.”

For me, this was the iconic image of April 2005. That sort of cheering, fist-b/pumping spirit is exactly what plagued Catholicism and its internet enclave pretty much since Father Z was into discussion boards and Amy Welborn was about a dozen blog titles in the past.

There was a subtle poke from the people who woke up one morning to find out that a top tier of Catholic celebrities actually made money off writing down their morning Catholic thoughts.

My suggestion is that a parade of splits over such celebrities as Father Corapi, or Michael Voris, or even Father Z (check the second “here” above, way down in the combox) have already been going on. Which doesn’t account for the wildwest nature of the Catholic internet over the past decade-and-a-half splitting up people who say the same Our Father and Hail Mary, but fly with a different set of feathers.

I have no illusions that I’ve delivered, especially in my younger days, my share of stingers. And I’ve gotten as good as I’ve given. I’ve been banned from a good handful of sites. Unofficially, my comments don’t appear elsewhere. These are not the fruits of a Pope Francis papacy. This is just human nature expressing itself. No more. No less.

Maybe Dale’s circle of friends has narrowed over the years to the point where they don’t label people who disagree with them as “trolls” anymore. Or maybe the disagreeable sorts all left their discussion threads years ago. Those other blogs went dark and people in the other flocks got into a different sort of life. And the only people who were left didn’t dare step out of line on groupthink on insurance, same-sex unions, or putting those LCWR witches in their place.

The bottom line is that rifts were happening ever since Mrs. Zebedee presented Jesus with her administrative plan for her boys. We choose to see these rifts. Or we dismiss others easily and we ignore what happens when among Catholics, German is set against Italian, organ against guitar, sister against father, Latin against vernacular, and now, Francis against Benedict.

Clearly, the Church on earth is not so perfect. Unless it is so small that it retains a certain acceptable purity. Eventually the purifying process nets a church of one. Holy, catholic, and apostolic then become figments of the imagination. But one is the inevitable, lonely result. Then clearly, the fight against abortion, bad music, and sisters practicing yoga becomes very tiring. No wonder people are spent.

Luke’s Last Supper is so illustrative–in his Gospel, this is where the rifts appear, after the bread and the cup. What did Jesus have to say?

The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as ‘Benefactors’; but among you it shall not be so. Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at table? I am among you as the one who serves.

Action and doing things are not always the highest expression of faith. But I believe it can give needed perspective.

I think my troubled conservative friends have the glimmer of this. Or more. They tuck their little daughters and sons into bed at night. They wipe their mouths and bottoms. But the people they want to cast out of the Church sometimes–these people take care of their kids too.

And the person who got weirded out by Pope Francis’s stare and “false” smile? A little discernment might be in order. Did that come from without? Or from within?

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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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