“Fr James Martin SJ,” the editor reported yesterday in his Morning Catholic must-reads, “says that ‘web-based McCarthyism’ is on the rise in the Catholic blogosphere.” What he means by web-based McCarthyism is what John L Allen (of the National Catholic Reporter) calls the “Catholic Taliban”.
Allen’s explanation of this term was recently spelled out to an audience at the University of Texas. It was necessary, Allen said, to strike “a balance between two extremes”. This is how he described these extremes:
“On the one extreme lies what my friend and colleague George Weigel correctly terms ‘Catholicism Lite’, meaning a watered-down, sold-out form of secularised religiosity, Catholic in name only. On the other is what I call ‘Taliban Catholicism’, meaning a distorted, angry form of the faith that knows only how to excoriate, condemn, and smash the TV sets of the modern world.
Some in the audience chuckled, but others weren’t so amused. One younger faculty member rose during the Q&A period to offer a thoughtful, and heartfelt, challenge:
“To say things with clarity is not to be the Catholic Taliban,” she said, adding that she found the phrase “profoundly offensive”.
“There are no suicide bombers in the Catholic Church,” she said, “but we have had an epidemic of Catholicism Lite for the last 30 years.” Younger Catholics, she insisted, should not be dismissed as fanatics simply because they seek “fidelity and clarity.”
Her remarks were met with applause, suggesting she had struck a chord…”
Well, quite. But it’s pretty clear that orthodox Catholic bloggers are coming under fire, on both sides of the Atlantic: remember the Tablet’s attack on Fr Finigan’s splendid – and massively successful – blog, the Hermeneutic of Continuity? The interesting thing is that one of the chief grounds for attacking these blogs is that they allegedly use extreme language: and this from critics who talk about McCarthyism and the Catholic Taliban.
This controversy was reported recently by the ultra-liberal New York Times, which is, of course, all in favour of Catholicism Lite. The paper went for the “McCarthyism” line, with the headline “Catholic Bloggers Aim to Purge Dissenters”. “Pressure is on”, claimed the writer, “to change the Roman Catholic Church in America, but it’s not coming from the usual liberal suspects. A new breed of theological conservatives has taken to blogs and YouTube to say the church isn’t Catholic enough. Enraged by dissent that they believe has gone unchecked for decades, and unafraid to say so in the starkest language, these activists are naming names and unsettling the church.” [my italics]
Singled out for special attention was RealCatholicTV.com, which, accused the paper, is “hunting for ‘traitorous’ nuns, priests or bishops throughout the American Church”. “We’re no more engaged in a witch hunt than a doctor excising a cancer is engaged in a witch hunt,” said Michael Voris of RealCatholicTV.com and St Michael’s Media. “We’re just shining a spotlight on people who are Catholics who do not live the faith.”
Well, that makes them sound like a pretty over the top bunch, so I thought I’d better have a look at these people, who when you get on to their website (you have to register, but it’s free) turn out to offer not a blog but a daily TV-style news bulletin. I had a look at yesterday’s bulletin, which was a sober, straight report of the following five news items, with no condemnation of anyone:
1) The story, also reported in Morning Catholic must-reads on this home page yesterday: the editor’s words were “Catholics in the Swiss city of Lucerne have created controversy after they distributed 3,000 condoms as part of an anti-Aids campaign”.
2) A bishop has discontinued a regular Mass celebrated for the last 15 years for homosexuals in San Antonio, Texas (which sounds just like the Soho Masses here), on the grounds that it was “sending conflicting messages about Catholic teaching”.
3) A Mgr Scully has died celebrating Mass; his bishop said it was how he would have wanted to go. This elicited the bulletin’s only comment: “God rest his soul.”
4) The conversion of Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, Lauren Booth, to Islam.
5) An attempt by a 16-year-old girl’s parents to force her to have an abortion was foiled after the girl got a court order, with the support of the child’s father, who also “did not want the baby killed”.
And that was it. Moderate in tone, simple, factual. Michael Voris certainly wants to expose people he thinks are disloyal to the Church, who he thinks “are hijacking the Church for their own ends”. Well: and why not? We know they exist, these people. You may think the tone of this quotation sounds a bit paranoid: but maybe there’s something to be paranoid about.