Midweek Scribbling

As I scanned the Catholic news waves this morning, I found a great deal of chatter about the Sovereign Order of Malta and Pope Francis; some consternation over a liturgical directive in Rockford, Illinois; and a few words about an Anglican Use parish in Texas. What surprised me about all of this is not the fact the Roman Catholic Church continues to be in disarray, but how unmoved I am by it now. Two or three years ago, I would have been up in arms; now I can barely muster the energy to read these tales of woe from start to finish. Have I given up? Am I losing my faith? Do I actually believe that what is transpiring in the Church is “right” or, at the very least, “ok”? The answer to all of those questions is an unqualified, “No.” I do believe, however, that I have hit the burn-out point when it comes to “crisis porn”; one can only gawk at the carnage for so long before they start to feel like a pervert.

This is not to say that responsible pressmen shouldn’t report on what’s happening around the Corpus Mysticum, nor that all analytical commentary be ignored. There are, thankfully, two or three sober-minded voices out there, the sort who are willing to put the Church’s present problems into perspective without falling prey to pearl-clutching hysteria. Hysteria generates hits, and for more than one traditional Catholic website out there, that’s what seems to matter above all else. What, I wonder, would these folks do if their wildest dreams of Pope Pius XIII ascending the throne and cleaning up the house came true? What would they write about? Maybe at that moment all of the ire directed toward the Novus Ordo Missae will be rerouted toward, say, the Pian reforms of the Breviarium Romanum; there’s always something to be upset about, I suppose.

Speaking of hysteria and hits, I took time out to track my web-log traffic over the past year and compare it to the previous two. Not surprisingly, the less angry, bitter, perturbed, and resentful my posts became, the less interest began to be shown in Opus Publicum, particularly from the traditional Catholic community. Granted, that may be a coincidence, especially since an increasing number of posts started to focus on “things Eastern” which, as best as I can tell, is of little-to-no interest to a vast majority of Catholics out there, specifically those who enjoy magic prayers, ahistorical theology, and early-modern devotions that wantonly displace the liturgical patrimony of the Latin Church. And, naturally, a web-log penned by a dirty “Uniate” is unlikely to attract all that many Orthodox readers, though ironically I seem to have far more of those than I do of the “Orthodox in Communion with Rome” types, that is, those who persist in promoting a “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style ecclesiology.

The other day a veteran, long-single theologian who used to have some renown in the Catholic blogosphere sent out a social-media message that began, “I have been asked several times lately how I’ve managed to avoid fornication for all of these years.” Setting aside that this statement is one of the finest humble brags I have ever come across, I personally can’t imagine ever asking someone that question, particularly since it rests on the assumption that the individual being queried has, in fact, avoided the sin in question. Moreover, were I asked how I’ve avoided, say, defrauding large financial institutions millions of dollars or purchasing Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, I wouldn’t go public with it. It just seems so, well, untoward to parade certain virtues or, more accurately, “things we’re supposed to be doing in the first place.”

Or maybe I missed something along the way. It’s happened before.


  1. Graph three is hilarious.

    I stopped reading most blogs except ECC ones for similar reasons. The Latin Church’s provincial streak, combined with good old American philistinism, make for wearisome blog reading.

    I am not perfectly sure what you mean by “magic prayers,” though.

    1. By “magic prayers” I mean those old pious prayers you still see reprinted on cards, like the St. Gertrude Prayer than immediately releases X number of souls from Purgatory, etc. Maybe I will sound impious, but any devotion that has a seemingly “automatic” reward attached — ranging from releasing souls from Purgatory to guaranteeing one’s Salvation — make me deeply uneasy, and I really wish that sort of thing would go away for good.

        1. Right, I get that the phenomenon can be found among the Eastern Orthodox, too. I just don’t recall seeing it promoted quite so heavily.

  2. Thanks for this post, Gabriel, I am beginning to sense the same sort of burnout. The Atonement thing is particularly troubling to Anglican Usage/Ordinariate types like me, but also more generally because it seems to be yet another example of clericalism of the sort whose parallel in the political world is: “As Comrade Ulbricht said, those class enemies must be taught that they cannot leave, they can only stay and help build the socialist paradise.” That is, no concern for the good of the souls involved, just insistence on one left foot size fits all.

  3. I have to say, I enjoy your blog though I am not Catholic. I am rather a very unenthusiastic Orthodox with lots of doubts about where I stand ecclesiologically. Anyway, your posts provide a refreshing alternative to the over-the-top Chestertonian “beef & beer” post-Protestant aficionado Catholicism which dominates social media. I will confess, though, I have to be in the mood for it (not sure if that makes this a backhanded compliment, but I did not mean it as such).

    1. I’ll just interpret this as you saying that like coffee and pumpkin ales, I am “an acquired taste.”

  4. “I have hit the burn-out point when it comes to “crisis porn”; one can only gawk at the carnage for so long before they start to feel like a pervert.”

    Loved this line, by the way.

  5. As an Orthodox fella about to come home to Catholicism, I deeply appreciate your blog and your thoughts, Gabriel. Don’t get discouraged. You’re doing a lot of good, in my book.

  6. I’m a nominally evangelical Christian who has found your posts on Catholic-Orthodox relations very helpful in thinking through some questions. In particular, your posts on the Coptic martyrs and the veneration of say, Gregory Palamas, in Eastern Catholic churches was encouraging. Peace.

  7. I’m currently a college student and am an avid follower of your blog. Posts here are thought provoking and well written. I am a Latin Catholic but find your posts on Eastern Catholicism particularly interesting and hope to attend a local Byzantine Catholic liturgy in the future.

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