It sounds harsh but most of our opinions don’t really matter. The only thing that matters is truth and action, and that is not the same as opinion.
SISTER THERESA ALETHEIA NOBLE,
At the outset, I need to say that I am a fan of Sister Theresa, and it is a rare article that falls from her pen that doesn't get a retweet from me. She is always thought provoking. This particular article is no exception. In fact, it has provoked more thoughts than the norm. I can't even say if I agree or disagree with her. What I can say is that it has made me reflect a bit on blogging especially in the context of blogging on faith and morals.
The easiest criticism to make is that it sounds hypocritical for a Catholic blogger to be calling out the Catholic blogosphere. But that criticism rests on the assumption that all Catholic blogs are the same. There is a wide divergence between Mark Shea and Rorate Caeli. Yet, the one thing they share in common is a willingness to traffic in controversy. I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that Sister Theresa is writing about those blogs that are more about creating heat than shedding light.
What is the difference between heat and light? Heat is where people share opinions and gossip. Light is where people share truth about faith and morals. The problem here today is that we have a lot of heat created by Pope Francis with Amoris Laetitia over an issue of faith and morals. Orthopraxy flows from orthodoxy. It does not flow from heterodoxy.
When prelates and priests counsel people to take the body and blood of our Lord unworthily as a consequence of living in an objective state of adultery, they lead people into serious error that could possibly damn their souls. This is truth, and it is controversial. This begs the question. When the popes, prelates, and priests teach and encourage error, who should call them out?
Catholic bloggers call out the sins of politicians and the world all the time. Whether it is abortion or indifference to the poor or that transgender lunacy, Catholic bloggers voice their opinions on these matters on a constant basis. Should they shut their mouths and just be holy by not getting an abortion or attending a gay wedding? Or, should they voice their opinions on these matters like Chesterton and Belloc before them? And, are they merely opinions?
I can agree that speaking without wisdom is foolishness. These fools abound, and they are tiring. We know these people as Protestants. Conversely, wisdom that is silent is cowardice. For a long time, disgusting priests have sexually abused children while bishops covered up for them and lay Catholics remained silent on it. Finally, the secular world spoke up in glee at the scandal and the shame that the Roman Catholic Church carries to this day. Should we remain silent on such things as this?
As a blogger and as a Catholic, I find myself following a very simple rule. When you know what you are talking about, speak up. When you don't know what you are talking about, shut up. Since knowing the difference can be difficult, you should err on the side of silence. Truth does not spoil like milk, so you can be patient in sharing it. But you still have to share it.
I disagree with Sister Theresa. The Church certainly needs our holiness, but it also needs our opinion. In my opinion, I think child molesting priests are a disgrace. In my opinion, a Vatican bank that launders drug money for organized crime is a disgrace. In my opinion, a Pope who preaches mercy while kneecapping those who stand for orthodoxy is a disgrace. It matters not if I am silent, speak my opinion, or these things come from the mouth of Satan. They remain what they are--a disgrace.
The Mafia have a name for it. It is the Code of Omerta. You keep your mouth shut. You do not interfere. Evil flourishes in this silence. Or, as Edmund Burke put it, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Silence in the face of evil is to do nothing.
How many evil things could have been prevented or defeated if people had spoken up? I tell you now that St. Thomas More's head would have remained on his neck and England would be Catholic today if more than two men had spoken up. Likewise, the scandals in our Church would not be what they are if more people had voiced their opinion or told what they knew.
It is a terrible thing to spread falsehoods and lies. But it is worse to hold back the truth from those who have a right to it. The truth cannot harm you. To hold back the truth from those who need it is a sin of omission. Whether it was prophets of the Old Testament or the apostles of the New Testament, the consequences of holding back the truth were severe. As St. Paul put it, "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel." He knew what those prophets of old were told. If you are silent, there will be condemnation.
Catholics who blog and tweet the truth do a service to the Body of Christ. This includes a blogger like Sister Theresa. Blogging is no substitute for personal holiness, but it is not incompatible with holiness either. We should certainly remove the logs from our own eyes, but we are still under the duty to remove the specks from the eyes of others. Certainly, there are those bloggers who do a disservice, but we do not damn all newspapers because of the libels published in the supermarket gossip rags.
I think Sister Theresa suffers from the internal conflict that plagues all sincere Catholic bloggers. Am I being truthful? Am I being charitable? This is certainly a good thing since we don't want those logs in our own eyes. But this endless internal conflict leads to timidity and lack of confidence. We doubt ourselves into passivity, and we let the children burn to death in the house fire because we are afraid we might screw up the rescue attempt. I tell you now that neither St. Paul nor St, Catherine ever gave it a thought. Their love for the other made them forget that they were sinners. Love is what pulls the logs from our eyes and the eyes of others.
Sister Theresa strikes me as someone of sanctity and great love. As a religious, she does not enjoy the freedom that laypeople like myself have at our disposal. I do not labor under the vows she has made. The Church needs the religious to perform their roles and do their jobs. Likewise, the Church also needs the laity to respond to the universal call to holiness but to also use their freedom to call out priests and religious when they err and stray. This is one of the blessings of Vatican II. Despite the charges of the critics, that council exposed the disease and provided the cure. The cure is an empowered laity answering the call to holiness. The lay faithful are now the ones promoting and defending orthodoxy. There is an irony there I will save for another essay. As for this one, I don't see the sin in telling people to change their ways.