Catholic Self-Congratulation

This time of year starts closing out the annual exercise of Our Favorite People lists. Catholics are certainly not immune to this secular-sourced exercise in patting ourselves on the back. And indeed, there’s nothing wrong with giving a shout-out to people who have done good work. I stumbled across OSV’s Inspiring Catholics of 2012 the other day. Something bothered me about this list, but I wasn’t sure just what it was. I have to check myself on the envy front. I can drop the snark on y’all and say I wouldn’t trade places with anyone on that list. But we all know otherwise, don’t we? I checked out a few other lists here and there, and they all confirmed my own disappointment.

Now, to be sure, everybody on these lists are good, even Good, Catholics. But as I looked over OSV’s list of nine this morning, I noticed what they do. In order, they are praised for being a political activist, bishop (and activist), blogger, bishop (and twitterer), bishop, blogger, parishioner, businessman, priest. Among the twenty runners-up, I counted six bishops, one priest, four or five political activists, seven bloggers, a handful of people who have authored non-fiction books, and even a documentary filmmaker. But no one who produces film, writes books, creates visual art,  or composes music. No architects, sculptors, poets, novelists, composers, church musicians. Not even a person whose primary calling is to be a spiritual director.

In part, I think we’re seeing the natural bias of Catholics on the internet. After all, we read and follow internet personalities. In the old days, the admirable Catholic in our lives was likely another parishioner, teacher or catechist, maybe a musician, or our parish priest (who does, generically, get an OSV nod). Today, it’s the people who have built up a decade-long following, and who, in turn, recommend Someone New to those who follow them.

And long-time readers know my take on this sort of self-congratulation among internet Catholics. I think it’s misplaced. These folks had a right dose of poke toward the Big Time. Many internet Catholics have toned down their annual awards since they peaked in the middle of the last decade. Good thing, I’d say.

But as for these Catholics-of-the-year lists, what would you do to widen the field? More than one-third of the nominees are bloggers? Seems to me that just by being a blogger, maybe one should be disqualified from the list for spending too much time on the internet.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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