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Readers who frequent this blog may have noticed that, of the few sites to which I provide a permanent link, PewSitter is at the top of my list (see sidebar right). It is a fantastic resource for any Catholic looking for a one-stop aggregation of everything happening on the Catholic internet and beyond. The folks behind it put in what must be a huge amount of work to provide a very useful service to their fellow Catholics free of charge. If you want to know what's going on, PewSitter is one of the best places to start looking, and I recommend it to all my readers.
This morning, while browsing PewSitter (!), I noticed that Crux magazine had run what amounts to a hit piece on the website. Having taken offense at an editorial headline, Fr. Dwight Longenecker decided PewSitter needed to be verbally flogged, with choice phrases such as "sarcastic mock enthusiasm," "steady current of right-wing political bias" and "sleazy editing" thrown in for good measure. In the attempt to give the article some semblance of objectivity - rather than letting it be the direct assault on PewSitter it essentially is - Fr. Longenecker managed to squeeze in two sentences deriding "progressive Catholics" and bring it together into a rather belabored but nonetheless palpable point. I quote:
Re-grouping into Catholic tribalism of the right or the left does huge damage to the Church. When we are in need of a strong, clear message and a united witness to the world, we descend instead into partisan bickering, mutual accusation, and self-righteous posturing. Retreating into a self-made religious ghetto is also indicative of the worst religious psychology: that of the sectarian Pharisee.
In short: PewSitter is harming the Catholic faithful by being divisive and promoting divisiveness.
Let us overlook that, in the very act of castigating Catholics for being polarized into a 'right' and a 'left', Fr. Longenecker displays every sign of jockeying for the politically advantageous position of 'moderate'. Whether or not this was intentional is unclear, so we'll call it 'potentially ironic' and leave it at that.
Let us also overlook the fact that our current Pope has, more than any other in living memory, used his speaking engagements as an opportunity to set Catholic against Catholic. In this war of words, the Pope himself has emerged as one of if not the most prolific supplier of weapons of verbal mass destruction: from "self-absorbed, Promethean Neo-Pelagian" to "liquid Christians" to "slaves of superficiality," the Holy Father seems to have a certain penchant for forging tools with which Catholics can hack each other to pieces.
Let us instead use this as an opportunity to examine the merits of the basic argument. We needn't get caught up in the terms 'left' and 'right' at this point - I'm willing to assume that both Fr. Longenecker and you, gentle reader, realize their various shortcomings. But there is an issue here which we would do well to examine more closely: the conflict between the apparently diametrically opposed forces in the Church. Before doing so, however, allow me to wax pedantic for a moment.
It is a simple and incontrovertible fact of life that people who are intent on preserving and developing something are at an inherent disadvantage to those who are trying to change or destroy it. It takes years of dedicated, loving service and self-sacrifice to raise a human child to morally-responsible adulthood. To end that precious life, a momentary fit of rage and a $0.03 bullet will suffice. A house takes months or even years of strenuous labor to build, but a wrecking-ball can reduce it to rubble in a matter of minutes. Regardless of whether we're talking about physical things, like trees and airplanes, or spiritual ones, like faith and innocence, the lesson is the same: It takes far less energy to destroy a thing than it did to make it.
The Adversary knows this all too well. He didn't need to get Eve to reject God completely. He needed only for her to doubt - if only for a moment - God's loving providence:
Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?Take careful notice of the subtle rhetoric being employed here, gentle reader, for you will find the very same at play in the words of many 'progressive' clerics. To note an example from recent memory, take the following question from Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., directed to Michael Voris in regards to people in "irregular situations":
Could the diabolical inspiration behind such a question be more blatantly apparent? Let there be no doubt: Just as the Holy Spirit used his prophets to proclaim the word of God, so does the Father of Lies inspire his children to spread doubt and incite rebellion against God's law. And, as the above example amply demonstrates, his tactics have changed very little.
Yet, am I not, myself, sowing seeds of doubt and inciting dissent? Am I not openly questioning the fidelity of one of God's holy priests? Have I not, in the past, questioned the motives of the current Pope? Perhaps I'm exactly the kind of Catholic Fr. Longenecker is talking about: a polarizing, sectarian Pharisee!
It's a fair question. That this blog is not littered with entries on "10 ways to spice up your Lent," "5 things you need to know about St. Patrick," and "10 people you never knew were Catholic" could very well be an indicator that your humble author suffers from an aversion to the vapid fluff which is regularly touted by those giants of the Catholic Internet as orthodox fare suitable for the masses. Why should you listen to me? What can I offer in my defense?
But I do not ask that you listen to me at all, being the wretched sinner that I am. I ask that you listen to the Church's authentic Magisterium and her faithful defenders. Furthermore, I ask you to examine those who would position themselves as 'moderates' occupying that supposedly safe space between two 'dangerous extremes' and inquire as to their defense of the hard truths of the Catholic Faith, viz.:
- The Catholic Church is the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ.
- The Catholic Church is an external visible commonwealth.
- There is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church.
- God desires that all men enter the Catholic Church.
- Souls who depart this life in the state of original sin are excluded from the Beatific Vision of God.
- Souls who depart this life in the state of mortal sin suffer the torments of hell.
- A valid marriage is indissoluble.
- Adultery is a mortal sin.
- Sodomy is a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance.
- The Pope does not have the power to change doctrine or to introduce any novelty.
- The state has an obligation to recognize, support and promote the Catholic Church.
The list could be extended considerably, but these are the teachings currently under attack, and these are the ones needing vigorous and wholehearted defense. To defend them is not to place one on 'the right' of a political spectrum; it is to defend the Catholic faith itself. By the same token, to ignore or consciously object to them is not to be on 'the left'; it is to object to the Catholic faith itself and put oneself outside the Church.
And at this point, we can return to Fr. Longenecker's objection, but hopefully with a new insight:
The reason why the terms 'left' and 'right' are to be rejected as applying to groups within the Catholic Church is the very same reason why those who defend the Catholic faith must take such a clear and uncompromising position. There is a spectrum of political positions, but there is no spectrum of truth. A proposition is either true or false, a conclusion either correct or incorrect. Either you accept it or you do not. If Fr. Longenecker can't see that the motivation of faithful Catholics is comprised of something far nobler than "tribalism" or "partisan bickering," I'm afraid he's missed the point entirely. We do not take this position simply to counteract the progressive forces in the Church. We take this position because our faith and our fidelity to Christ's Church demand it.
I can agree with Fr. Longenecker without reservation in that we need "a strong, clear message and a united witness to the world," but that message must be the authentic faith as we have received it, not as it is being reformulated according to the whims and predilections of faithless subverters of the same. What unites us today must be the very thing which unites us with our forefathers in the faith: our timeless Tradition.