I was surfing a bit this afternoon, visiting blogs and following links I haven’t seen in weeks or months. I wasn’t aware about all this hullabaloo about Mark Shea. People seem really yanked off about him. Lots of people.
Fr Brian Stanley, who used to poke in here now and then:
I sadly place him with other blogs I used to read regularly: Andrew Sullivan, the Cafeteria is Closed, Amy Welborn, Dominic Bettinelli. I’m not so sure that it is that they are the only ones who have changed — although I think they have changed. But I know I have changed, too — I hope the change is growth.
Unlike Fr Stanley, I’ve never had much ideological congruence with these people he mentions. I’ve always found them to be a bit on tilt, but that’s likely because I disagree with them and they with me. No change there as far as I can tell.
One of Mark’s characteristics is that he’s come to division with his detractors on torture and the incompetence of the Republicans. Like some progressive hangers-on in the Catholic blogosphere, he d0esn’t mind going toe to toe with them. And he does it a lot. And he’s provocative about it. I don’t know what it does to his hit count on his site, but he sure knows what buttons to push and the people come out of the woodwork almost on cue. Somebody suggested he’s angry. I don’t see it. I think he’s laughing at it all. But maybe I’m wrong; laughing is what I would do.
It’s been several years since the Catholic blogging community bloomed after 9/11 and the bishops’ cover-up scandal. I don’t know that these bloggers have changed. Fr Stanley is right: some readers have changed. But most haven’t. And what I see directed at Mark is very similar to what has been written about me and other progressives who inhabit discussion forums and blog threads.
“You’re angry!” That’s the common accusation I read. It’s hard to accept that kind of input from people one knows and trusts. On the net it seems to be untrue more often than true. What people really seem to be saying is, “You’re different!”
And for some, that’s an even harsher accusation. It also happens to be true far more often than the other diagnosis.
9/11 and the bishops have spawned a branch of the Culture of Complaint many of us see in our parishes. If somebody like Mark didn’t change his tune, I suspect that dissatisfied and frustrated readers would find somebody new about whom to complain. It’s a mob mentality: no change there.