Patheos and Catholicism

Nothing bad with that, but it should be done properly.

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:

1) lucre,

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.


Posted on April 21, 2012, in Catholicism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Just wanted to say that I stop in everyday to read your blog — and just wanted to say “Thank you” for your labor.

  2. “[22] The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome. [23] But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be!”
    Matthew 6:22-23

    When I read the words “Common Era”, I hear air-raid alarm horns in my head and leave instantly. This was the first I heard of Patheos despite it soon being the biggest religious portal on the net. I’m glad, I take it as meaning that my internet suave is starting to wear off and thus the real world increasing its grip.

    One of the greater problem I see with Patheos and similar projects is the attempt to make all religious equally serious and presentable, sort of boiling them all down to the lowest common denominator (year / god / followers etc). That simply isn’t the case. I laugh if a Westerner says he’s a Zoroastrian or a sufist, even Buddhist, and tell him to , ‘keep searching’.

    In the end, all of the fallacies and misrepresentations is the result of the lukewarmness of such a site. It’s inherent in the concept. This relates to your second and third point. The fire that has to burn within us for Christ and His Church dies when we are forced to restrain ourselves in such a manner, to sterilize our message and castrate ourselves. When put in a position with followers of false religions it is the duty of a Catholic to ”lash out.” It’s an opportunity to preach! At the same, does the internet ever suit itself for preaching? I don’t think so. I think it is inherently sterile with its bright screen and pixels, and that we’ve made a big mistake in putting focus on the “New Evangelization.”

    But whatever the case, they don’t preach. No error, no wrong, no horrors, just polite smiles and neat articles that most gently make a case for something else while not really attacking the “opposite side.” I’m sure, as you hint at, if one was to seriously take the fight for Catholicism, you’d be thrown out for causing a stir. Eventually, the fire dies. How could it survive in an environment like that? We stop caring about the Truth, and then we are content with indifference which leads to syncretism, or even complete apostasy.

    The picture that forms in my mind is one of a gray and boring convention, where gray and dull characters shuffle themselves around gray and plain tables, with little white-and-black signs wordlessly announcing the religion of each table, on which lay sterile pamphlets and behind which stands pale and weary characters with dead eyes that force a smile to those shuffling past who deem their one table of many worthy of even a glance from their precious eyes…

    Soul-killing is only the beginning of it. What do their years and years of education afford them when they refuse to put it to good use? Everyone is a diplomat and a politician these days. Politicians and anarchists, that’s the children of the internet.

    I only read Fr. Longenecker for a short while. All of my other thoughts aside, I stopped when he supported Medjugorje in the post “The Day I Saw the Sun Spin.” When I heard Fr. Corapi for the first time, I shut it off after two seconds, despite the orthodoxy of the content. My first impressions are usually right. Another pop-priest is Fr. Barron. Again, all of my other thoughts aside, I stopped watching him when he supported von Balthasar’s empty-hell heresy in “Fr. Barron comments on Hell.” Again, another pop-priest is Fr. Brown. I stopped reading him when he revealed that he supported two homosexuals living together, supposedly in chastity, in a post about your Archbishop Nichols supporting “civil unions” for homosexuals. I’ve learned my lesson by now. I don’t read or watch any pop-priests, and I never will again.

    It doesn’t pertain only to clerics, but it’s a whole other discussion about Catholic laymen blogging. While for clerics it’s mostly about error, for laymen the big problem is immodesty. Yet, this is for another time.


    • Thanks for the beautiful comment, K.

      I didn’t know about Longenecker supporting Medjugorje, that would be very grave indeed. I also don’t like Father Barron.

      I liked Father Corapi a lot, and still have many of his brilliant sayings in my “Quotable Catholic” page. I must say, though, my instincts were less good than yours as far as the man himself is concerned. I hope he recovers, as he might well be doing as we speak.

      I do not know this Father Brown, but again I do not follow any of these sugary new preachers.


  3. Thanks for the link! Much appreciated, and God bless!

  4. novusordoughboy

    The whole Professional Neo-catholic Blogborg just needs to wither up and die. Read one of their blogs, you’ve pretty much read them all.

  5. novusordoughboy

    Yeah, I was thinking of those Patheos/ St. Blogs type people. ‘Conservative’ Novus Ordos and slushy sorta-traditionalists.

  6. I know, I know…
    I was merely reflecting with some satisfaction that this little blog will not be considered bland anytime soon.. 😉


  7. Good assessment. I’ll be doing my own Patheos post later this week (which will not be as intelligent sounding as yours) and will be sure and link to you.

    They (the bloggers) defend their position as being one of evangelization. Really? If I was a non-Catholic roaming around Patheos, their over-the-top snarky blogs would certainly not attract me to the faith.

    I’ve spent some time at Patheos and now I will go back later to see if the other “religions” are as snarky as the Catholics. I find most of the Catholic bloggers to be mean-spirited and arrogant.

    And Scientology? Give me a break…

    • Thanks, Adrienne,

      like you, I think “evangelisation” is used to cover every kind of cowardice and compromise.

      Thankfully, it is so that smart people recognise this kind of argument as plain wrong, and many pretend to believe it only because it is convenient and allows them to continue to play good neighbour and inclusive chap.

      One of the reasons why this blog is so harsh is, in fact, my terror of attracting the “inclusive” crowds…


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