The Two-and-a-Half Solution

I read James Martin’s recent post with interest, but with some trepidation for the man. Pewsitter is already alight with glee and into full vilification mode. Because, really: the blogosphere is little better than an elementary school playground at its worst. Ross Douthat is just a kid with a big vocabulary on his worst days.

I think Fr Martin’s tactical error was to admit personal hurt and get off the defense of others. I think the conservative blogosphere respond something like sharks when someone confesses things like that. When sharks smell blood, they go for the throat to get more blood. Better to doink the fish on the nose when it attacks someone else.

My recent instinct has been to sit back and watch things circle the drain. I’ve been commenting on other sites for the first time in 2015, but I find I have even less heart for that than I do for blogging. What a change a decade makes, eh? Or even two-and-a-half years.

I’m reading Cardinal Kasper’s Theology of Marriage for the second time, but I’ve decided I have more enthusiasm for reflecting on it than I do for writing about it. I might sum up the book in a longer post sometime next week.

I have the next week’s worth of posts in the scheduling queue–it will be a busy time at the parish, at home, and personally. I’ll certainly stop by two or three times a day, especially now that Max is back from vacation. No doinks, just taps.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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12 Responses to The Two-and-a-Half Solution

  1. LIam says:

    The whole cycle is unedifying, and the best way to stop it is to resist the temptation to join it, because doing so will very likely undermine the best of your intended purposes and more likely serve your more egoistic purposes. Douthat is paid to be provocative; that’s the assigned job of almost all op-ed columnists these days. It’s too bad there appeared to be no one in the signatory group of that responding letter that thought self-critically enough about how it would be received (I think I could have written the script of that reaction in my sleep, not very hard).

    Always ask: how will I get in the way of the good I wish to do? (Because, being human, there’s a good chance I will in some way.)

  2. charlesincenca says:

    Bp. Barron has a good bead on it all, I think.

  3. Atheist Max says:

    From the linked article:
    “Mr. Douthat also attacked the Pope’s “ostentatious humility.”

    The Pope’s groveling for prayers is disarming and a bit endearing, yet incoherent – as if the Passive/Aggressive meter were turned up to ’11’. If the Pope himself is in need of so many prayers what chance do the rest of us have? What can such a show of humility mean? How determined is Jesus to abandon humanity than even the begging must never cease? It just begs questions.

  4. Jen says:

    Every time I hear of Douthat in the news cycle, I think about how his parish and RCIA (presumably) team failed him. It seems like us “Cradle catholics” are more prepared to weather storms of disagreements in theology than converts. I’m not entirely sure how you’d communicate that, either. More mentoring? More sponsors?

    • I think that’s because, for many converts, converting is primarily about seeking certainty and stability in beliefs. Many conservative Catholic apologists try to portray the Church as unchanging, as passing down undiluted Truth from Christ. For many evangelicals, for whom doctrinal conformity is crucial, this combines to make it difficult for converts like Douthat when disputes and signs of change do emerge.
      As one of my favorite bloggers (Sound of Sheer Silence) pointed out,

      We should recognize here that for many Catholics, especially (I have noticed) many converts to Catholicism, the attraction of the Catholic Church is precisely in the idea that it is static. Indeed, many of them explicitly left their Protestant backgrounds because the Catholic Church was sold to them as a static institution, in large measure by Pope Francis’s two predecessors. I’m thinking here in particular of someone like R.R. Reno from First Things, though Ross Douthat would fall into this category. These folks are going to think, and understandably so, that Pope Francis is pulling the rug out from underneath them.

      I don’t blame the RCIA and the parish; I blame conservative apologists who sell potential converts a bill of goods.

      As for a solution, I don’t think we need “more sponsors” but a radically different way of thinking about the Church. As Sound of Sheer Silence writes, “Is the Catholic Church fundamentally an unchanging (and unchangeable) ahistoric institution, or is it a pilgrim, dynamic institution?” If we stopped pretending that the Catholic Church is an unchanging and unchangeable ahistoric institution, converts would not expect it to be an unchanging and unchangeable ahistoric institution.

      • Atheist Max says:


        “sold a bill of goods”
        Well said.

        Many people change their religion in life – some do it several times. Religions are ideas like any other ideas or philosophies. They should be discussed, critiqued and cherry picked however one chooses. Before converting, usually one examines the religious idea fully. The choices about what preachments to accept or reject in the religion are therefore personal. It is fair to judge the ideas within each religion as part of that process.

        Some things are not choices – and it is not fair to judge a person on those things:
        skin color, eye color, nationality, ethnic heritage, sexuality and gender – for example.
        Bigotry is about such unfairness.

        But since a person must freely decide for themselves on their religion they must also accept personal responsibility for the morality (or lack thereof) of the ideas they have taken on with that decision. We remain personally accountable for the ideas we have willingly purchased by our own volition when we “buy” that “bill of goods.”

        The change needed in the Catholic Church (I say as a former Catholic) is to be as honest as possible: There is no permanence or perfection in human endeavors. Flexibility and adaptation is a virtue, not a fault. And it reveals dogma as an illusory, wrong-minded comfort.

  5. charlesincenca says:

    Anathema, sit!

  6. Atheist Max says:

    ‘Anathema’ –
    (1) a person or thing detested or loathed.
    (2) formal curse involving excommunication.
    (3) Any imprecation of divine punishment.
    (4) A curse, execration.

    All that from pointing out religion is a personal choice? Was I wrong to say it?
    Is religion not a personal choice? What should we say instead? If religion is not a personal choice….what is the point of discussing redemption as fate is already decided for you? The alternative of choice is to be a robot. I don’t see how the theory of ‘free will’ can survive the theory of ‘Anathema.’

    • Liam says:

      There’s a comma between the two words. Therefore it is an imperative command to a pet or person name Anathema.

      • Atheist Max says:

        As in, [Sit,] “dog”- Jesus (Matthew 15:26)?
        One cannot deny religions to be choices, nor deny ideas about God to be optional and fluid. Jesus insists it is ‘My way or Hell’ (paraphrasing Mark 16:16) but this cannot be true if he is being fair. Because His way is itself a vague set of options within options.

        Emma was profoundly correct in her reference to religion selling “a bill of goods.”
        My only point was to broaden adding such buyers have many options – even within the philosophies they are choosing. If intelligence, fairness and compassion are already present in the buyer before the purchase it doesn’t matter which idea they buy, they will do no harm. But If intelligence, fairness and compassion are not present, the idea purchased will likely be problematic religion. Religion reflects the buyer’s taste in the same way clothes do – it is always on display.

  7. charlesincenca says:

    Max, you are so predictable. See Liam’s comment (Sit, Ubu, sit.) Maybe, just maybe, you’re not anathema. Relax, dude.

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