My readers know I spent a few days away at Loras College in Dubuque for a liturgical music conference. The conference experience is so different from either the parish or the blogosphere. Those few days a few of us at the conference chatted up both the internet and parish experiences. Almost everybody I saw (and we had just about a hundred participants–fairly good for a first-year conference) is strongly rooted in the parish, and those who know of the blogging phenomenon in Catholic circles (Or is it the Catholic phenomenon in blogging cricles?) see it as a curious sideshow to the mainstream Church.
Our keynote speaker, and a parish pastor, and I got into a discussion on the notion of tribalism. In part, it was a lament. They are aware of the internet phenomenon of conservative Catholicism, but have little direct experience with it. I feel somewhat well-steeped in the internet community (having been a denizen for about eleven years now) and I seem to bridge the gap to mainstream parish life. I see some things that perhaps exclusively parish-based and strongly blog-based people don’t see.
A number of conservative/traditionalist Catholics have found affirmation and support in gathering their numbers together through the internet. There would be more satisfaction, to be sure, if they were also able to gather “in the flesh” as it were, with like-minded people. But maybe it’s a good thing they (and we liberals, too!) can’t do this. We may feel as if the silent majority is like a deadweight to us, they with their mainstream concerns, as opposed to those of us prepared to reform or re-reform the Church.
Those 400,000 anti-ND/Obama signatories are nothing to discount. I don’t think the petitioners missed many Catholics, though. About one-half of one percent of American Catholics seems about right to me. A community of that size is nothing to be trifled with, and has a degree of clout unforeseen a generation ago. (I can only imagine if the internet were around in 1968, or if Vatican II were finally called this decade.)
My conference friends, not being regular internet folks, are dismayed about the damage to the Church’s overall quality of unity. Do they have a valid concern?
This bit isn’t very focused, I realize. Can anyone add some of their own to it: is tribalism good for the Church, or not?