Patheos and Catholicism
After reading an interesting article about The Problem With Patheos, I decided to give the site a couple of minutes more.
I discovered some of the well-known Catholic blogs are, in fact, there. I must admit my ignorance here, and openly confess when I read Mark Shea’s (seldom) of Fr Longenecker’s (somewhat more often) blog I did not even care to see whether their site is embedded in a bigger organisation; or perhaps they weren’t in the past, and I didn’t notice when they were embedded. I google them, and follow the link.
Now I did go to visit Patheos, and I must say I wasn’t pleased.
I see three main issues here:
2) independence, and
3) moral relativism
As to 1), let me say beforehand I have nothing against people who make money with their blogs. If they attract enough readership to complement their earnings, or are even able to make of blogging their profession, more power to them. I do not consider money “filthy”, or money earning “bad”, nor do I think Catholicism should never be “contaminated” by monetary considerations; Real Catholic TV, a private organisation, is a good example. Still, there should be no suspicion financial considerations influence the way they blog.
Which leads us nicely to 2). I wonder if a blogger would be allowed to stay on Patheos who would be seen to contravene to the “safe” environment Patheos wants to create. What if a Catholic blogger should insistently and vocally ask for the reintroduction of, say, sodomy laws, and the one or other pervert would start to bitch around saying how traumatised he is? This is just an example, but at some point “big Patheos brother” would intervene, because at some point Catholicism must be at war (otherwise, it wouldn’t be Catholicism) with the world, and give scandal to non-Christians. You might say the same thing happens with the editorial policy of a newspaper or magazine, but the beauty of blogging is exactly that there is no such control, and this is the reason why blogs are rapidly becoming a better alternative to professional journalism – always constrained within the “policy” and “directives” of the newspaper or magazine owner – whenever this kind of “sensitive” information is to be exchanged.
Then there is point 3). I seem to remember (vaguely; perhaps it was two years ago; perhaps I wasn’t paying attention) the site to be aimed at Christians of various denominations; apparently, it is aimed at (or it has been extended to) not only Muslims and Jews, but even atheists, pagans and the oxy-moronic “progressive Christians”. I can’t see how this very format cannot be seen as encouraging moral relativism, and I cannot see how if one is in such a company he can deny to give a contribution to it.
I (and many others, I am sure) see Catholicism as a world apart. Catholicism does not put itself in the shop window, asking “customers” to consider it. Catholicism does not participate in a system by which it is perceived as one of many possible flavours. May it be that in life a potential convert would see Catholicism as one “alternative”, but this is exactly what a Catholic must not do. There is no alternative to Catholicism, therefore Catholicism never puts itself in the position of being considered one of many possible “flavours”. Catholicism builds churches, sends priests and missionaries around, grows on the granitic conviction of its followers. Catholicism doesn’t participate to beauty contests, because there is no contest.
This, besides the grave reservations described in the article concerning the way Catholic doctrine is “explained” to those, so to speak, coming from outside, and by which the suspicion arises the one or other Catholic bloggers has read them, and decided to do nothing. Granted, this latter problem can be rather rapidly solved (though perhaps having to pay some attention to the “sensitivities” of the structure). The problem of moral relativism, instead, cannot be solved, because it pertains to the very nature and structure of Patheos.
Now let us ask ourselves: are there really no alternatives? Hugely followed blogs like Father Z’ feel no need to be embedded into a big multi-faith (or no faith) blog structure; their autonomous structure is guarantee of their independence. They have become big because those who visit their blog know they need not fear interference or (more probably) unspoken self-censorship.
More importantly, the idea itself of a blog reacts to the concept of endeavouring to reach an audience. The beauty of blogging is someone sitting at the computer and writing what he thinks should be said, without constrictions and without even caring whether he will have many readers, or none. This is what makes the freshness of blogs, and determined their success; and this is particularly important in Catholic blogs, which are provocative and counter-cultural by definition.
A big platform with its own editorial policy (which it must have, at some point) will at some point become nothing else than an online magazine. This can’t be good for blogging in general, let alone Catholic blogging.