Today I would like to talk a bit about Joe Bloggs. Joe Blogg is a bit of you (yes, you), you, you and… You. Joe Bloggs is, in a way, us.
Joe Bloggs is a wretched sinner, but in the end he is a good guy. In him concupiscence – the lot of all of us – always mixed with a desire for sacredness and purity, for a wholesome, well-ordered life able to counter with a reminder of the things of heaven the attraction for the sins of this earth. Joe Bloggs is not a saint. But he never liked to be a sinner, either.
Joe Bloggs is a smart guy. He knows that religion isn't a private matter, like his passion for model trains. Even if he is not trained in Catholic matters, and has never heard of the Social Kingship of Christ, he confusedly but at the same time clearly perceives that Christian rules must be the fundament of societal organisation, rather than merely the personal choice of individuals. If it's right, it is right for everyone and must, therefore, apply to everyone.
Joe Bloggs sees – has seen for decades now – strange things happen in the last decades, and the strangeness has become more and more alarming in the last two years. He knows that something is very wrong, because all his being shouts it to him.
At the same time, Joe Bloggs is unable to formulate exactly what is wrong, and why. Those he was taught to recognise as spiritual guides – the priests, the bishops, the pope – appear confused or worse, and talk like mediocre politicians on the look for easy approval. They keep repeating the same slogans of mediocre or populist politicians, a rhetoric of peace and love in which he feels religion cannot find its fulfilment, because religion must, in the end, be something serious, and it could therefore never be as childishly senseless as that politician's rhetoric.
Joe Bloggs does not know where to turn to. The newspapers and magazines he reads are full of the same rubbish, and they look at religion like a zoologist looks at the life of a termite house: will the pope do this, will he steer the church there, will there be married priest, and the like. Joe Bloggs keeps thirsting, and finds nowhere to drink.
One day, Joe Bloggs decides to surf a bit on the Internet. He does not know it yet, but his life will never be the same. There it is, the well-ordered society he was so confusedly looking after! An army of simple people – most of them laymen – has taken it on themselves to fight for it, and dedicate to it the time he dedicates to his model trains.
At the beginning this is, for our friend, no more than a pleasant surprise. But something has changed now. The next time he feels confused he will know where to look. And the next. And the next! In time, Joe Bloggs will learn to navigate this world, discern the blogs most congenial to him, make of them a regular reading.
As he reads, he learns. He starts to buy books he never thought existed – much less, would be read by him – and he even enjoys them. He realises reading is not enough, and a life of prayer slowly develops. As the prayer develops, other thoughts begin to appear: how comes his grandma always attended Mass, his mother seldom, and he never? Oh yeah, because Father Frederick Aggot was always so shallow and trite, and bored him to death at Christmas and Easter with the need of not kicking the cat…
But perhaps is there more to that? More books about the Mass follow, and then the decision is taken: next Sunday, to Mass. And what about communion? Well that can't be, his grandma – who was smart, was she not! How many things he starts to remember about her now! – would have said. General Confession is it, then. Trembling at the start, and crying of joy and consolation at the end.
A new Joe Bloggs is slowly being shaped; by Grace first, but by his willing collaboration with it, too. Prayer, reading, and Mass attendance work on him almost imperceptibly, and still very clearly. He is still a sinner, but he now puts up a fight against his sins. The comfortable numbness of his former days has made way for a keen awareness of his own sinfulness. He now understands the meaning of the word “Catholic Guilt”, and he is strangely proud of it! He begins to really change: abortion, contraception, “social justice”: so many false teaching he took for granted are now revisited, as he allows himself to be led by Truth rather than think he is the source of it or, at least, of his own one.
As he reads more and more he discovers more and more. The Social Kingship of Christ is no mystery anymore; on the contrary, it is so natural, and so coherent he wonders how he could ever think otherwise. And in fact, the same happens for all the many teachings of this extremely complex, fascinating world: they match in a most wonderful way, like as many Lego parts; they can be easily understood alone – contraception, abortion, adultery, the lot – but he also becomes aware of how harmoniously they combine, how they come all out of the same mould. Like the most fascinating, complicated mechanical watch, every part is both a wonder in itself and a tiny part of a much bigger wonder.
We leave Joe Bloggs to his readings now – have I told you? He has started some light penance recently; to think he used to mock the old women who did it when he was a boy! – and make some short reflections:
What was the vehicle chosen by God's grace to bring Joe Bloggs back to the fold? Was it the state television channel? The newspaper he still subscribes to (not for long, I assure you!)? A documentary? A movie? The parish magazine? The boring, blabbering priest he remembers ruining his Easters?
It was countless other people like him, simple men and women with a mortgage and a bad dishwasher, who have taken the keyboard or the smartphone and have started saying like it is; in blogs, on facebook, on Twitter, on Internet forums, on every one of the very many ways in which simple men and women can now have their voice heard.
By God's grace, Joe Bloggs has heard their voice. He will never be the same. By God's grace, Joe Bloggs has been given a vehicle, an instrument of learning and growing to counteract the terrible tragedy of the modern Church; a Church disfigured to such an appalling extent that not even the numerous churches around him had awoken in him more than the slightest religious feeling, much less quenched his confused thirst for truth.
With blogs and forums, with Facebook and Twitter, in who knows how many other ways in the future, Joe Bloggs has now discovered the wonderful, divine Lego construction the parish priest so accurately kept away from him, or did not know, or simply hated. He is now a different man. His life has become more difficult, too. But he would never come back.
Imagine a pope ravaging the Church at every step, and no Internet to show the world – and some bishops – how many we are, and how stubborn, and how righteously angry. Imagine a heretical pope publishing his delirious encyclicals without any resistance, any open criticism, any mockery of his infinite childish stupidity. Imagine him prepare a quasi-doctrinal coup with a bunch of heretical cardinals without fearing world indignation in a matter of hours, when most bishops are still reflecting how dangerous it is to speak out.
Thank God for the Internet.
I read around an appeal to getting rid of one's TV set in order to avoid exposure to the abominations of our times, now represented in growing measure even in mainstream programmes like, say, the Grammys.
Allow me to say why I disagree.
Firstly, I would say that if it is undeniably true that the TV set can be the source of inappropriate or outright perverted content, this is the more true for the Internet, which makes filth of all kind far more easily available, around the clock to boot. If, therefore, I had to throw away my TV set, I would have to get rid of my Internet connection first. Which would be unusual, since I write a blog and rely on the Internet access of other people to be read, and on mine to run a blog in the first place.
Secondly, I have no qualms with the TV set, but I do rarely watch TV these days. The fact is, a TV set can be used to watch perfectly fine DVDs, play video games, watch learning material, and so on, providing countless hours of perfectly innocent entertainment or even useful education. What about my dear collection of Walt Disney Classics, then? No Cinderella, Snow White or 101 Dalmatians anymore? No “Passion of the Christ” during Holy Week? No history documentaries? No football, cricket, Formula 1, you name it? An Italian who doesn't watch at least a bit of football should have his citizenship revoked. Well, you know what I mean.
Thirdly, the argument reminds me of those who want to ban weapons, because “weapons kill”. No they don't. Humans kill. How many knives do you have in the kitchen? How about that meat cleaver? Should we ban it, too?
“Ah”, you will say, “this is all fine in itself; but then it is so easy for the wrong content to creep in!”. Look, it is life that makes the wrong content creep in, and it is much better to teach one's child – and oneself – to look for the right content and have the right frame of mind, than trying an escape from a reality of modern filth that will never succeed anyway.
In London, Stonewall regularly has ads put on the underground and on buses. No child can escape them, and it makes no sense to try to protect the young from the reality of filth. Politicians talk of sexual perversion all the time, and their words are reported by radio and newspapers, even in the morning.
No radio, then? No newspapers?
Speaking of children: at some point, the child will ask anyway what “same sex marriage” or “homophobia” are supposed to mean, and then you'll have to give an answer or your child's liberal teacher will give it for you, earlier in life than you can imagine. Far better, then, to have this child in front of the TV set watching the “passion of the Christ”, or the DVD about the Tridentine Mass, or a documentary about the Roman Empire, or a game of Chelsea FC come to that.
This, of course, presupposes control. But it has always been this way. As I was a child, my parents decided if and how long I could sit in front of the TV set, to the minute. There is no reason whatever this should not be done now. If one hasn't the time to properly supervise the children, the problem is that he cannot supervise his children, not the TV set.
We can't shut ourselves, or our loved ones, out of life. Life will enter our and their world anyway. Rather, use the TV set, the Internet, the radio and whatever will come in future as an instrument to make this world cleaner and better for you and them, and to live a better life.
You are, in fact, doing it just now, as you are using the Internet to read a Catholic blog.
The TV set isn't a pervert. Perverts are.
If you, for example, happen to land on what must be the most clicked Catholic questions and answers forum on the Internet, you will find, broadly speaking, two sections: the one where you can ask a priest or theologian, and the other parts where you can interact with other readers.
The first section offers answers generally (not always) consistent with Catholic teaching, and not deprived of a certain assertiveness at times; but depending on who writes the answer, can be extremely misleading for the faithful. I remember one instance where the relatives of a suicide were told not to worry (add here a ton of sugar), without any deeper explanation as to why they should have been, in fact, very worried. This wasn’t even Catholicism, this was bad “emotional assistance” work.
The second section was (with his various sub-sections) an attempt at making the rules as one goes along, with a mixture of well-informed and properly instructed posters and the usual crowd of “sensitive” half Sixty-Eight, half New Age Catholics having oh so much understanding for pretty much everything and being properly instructed on oh pretty much nothing.
When I was at the very beginning of my journey of rediscovery of Catholicism (I was the usual V II product: a horribly instructed lapsed Catholic, carrying with him an utterly shameful, awful system of values. Like many others, I rediscovered the religion of my forefathers outside of the usual V II-priest channels, and out of a natural thirst of knowledge and truth going past the waffle of V II priests) I found this kind of forum instructive; but rather soon I noticed that a lot of tar was mixed to the wheat, and as I became more and more knowledgeable the extent of the problem became fully known to me. I then stopped visiting such sites, focusing on the blogs of priests above suspicion and the specialised books and sources I could find in or buy from the Internet.
More amusing (I won’t even call them dangerous) are the kind of “questions and answers” places like “Yahoo answers”. These are pages you can visit for your own amusement, and they remind one of the kind of conversations cats would have about the intellectual life of dogs. It’s as beautiful an example of the blind leading the blind as few others on the Internet, and the product of the astonishing mentality according to which everyone is always entitled to open his mouth, just because he feels like it. Of course, the point system plays a role; but Good Lord, not even the promise of points should be enough to persuade people to expose their abysmal ignorance in such a way. The difference with Catholic fora, though, is that the exercises a’ la “Yahoo Answers” are so evidently amateurish that no sane person aged ten or above (fourteen, if he is the product of a progressive education) would ever consider the place a source of real knowledge in religious matters.
Of course, my esteemed half-dozen readers are of a different kind, or they would not have landed on this blog in the first place. Still, if colleagues or friends happen to touch the subject with you, you might want to warn them beforehand from the danger represented by half-baked knowledge, particularly when dished out in pages leading the uninstructed to think they represent legitimate, authentic Catholic patrimony.
What I generally do is to suggest to the “curious” that they do a very simple thing and start ordering the “Penny Catechism” from the Internet (I have given away a couple of those myself; they are so cheap you will not even embarrass the recipient, or you can “handle” them a bit and then give them up saying “take this, it’s my copy, I will buy another one”). Even a simple Penny Catechism, well-studied and properly digested, will make of an attentive reader a better Catholic than a vast number of nowadays priests and bishops, let alone of the amateurs writing on Catholic fora. After that, other Catechisms may be chosen (I find the higher Baltimore catechisms excellent for an attentive learner; the fourth has an easy-to-understand commentary too). At that point, more sophisticated books can easily be attempted and rapidly and properly absorbed, and at this point the choice is so vast that even after discarding everything remotely stinking of Vatican II one will have enough to read for more than one lifetime. But seriously, already the proper knowledge of the Penny catechism from the pewsitters would be enough to change the face of every English-Speaking country. Which must be the reason why I never see them on sale in nuChurches.
The Internet made this possible, and in fact I own to the Internet my re-discovery of Catholicism. The availability of serious texts on the net allowed me to research and instruct myself past the usual waffle I was surrounded with in my younger years, when Vittorio Messori and the likes of him were – amazingly – believed to be sources of proper Catholicism. The priest read once at school some pages of one of his books. Never in life had I met such a sugary succession of vapid common places, and inconsequential wannabe logical arguments. Even the believers among us laughed out loud at the idiocy but boy, the man sold well in the sugary atmosphere of the Seventies and Eighties, which demanded “feel good” platitudes and this ever-present idea now everything is done better and smarter. Unsurprisingly, the man supports the Medjugorje scam.
The priest couldn’t defend himself and the book from the logical remarks of seventeen years old accustomed to think logically. He abandoned the experiment. This was, by the way, the priest who once said in class (whispering in that too-clever-by-half way which conveys the message “boys, I’d get in trouble if my wisdom were known to my superiors”) that “the devil does not exist”. I kid you not. I hope they have retired him by now; and I hope he will save his soul, fat ass as he was.
Therefore, we see that the Internet is, in this as in pretty much everything, a double-edged sword. A wonderful source of knowledge and mutual enrichment (I am always rather pleased at thinking from how many countries my half-dozen readers connect to this blog…) and the source of endless drivel, trite common places, or much worse.
Use the Internet well, is the counsel I would give to your “curious” colleague or acquaintance. For example, by using it to purchase a Penny Catechism in your winter coat pocket, a small thing he can read three minutes at a time when he queue for the train ticket or at the post office.
Already this would be an excellent start.
We are all aware (or better: we should all be aware) of the fact that the secular society tries – with increasing energy and a more and more aggressive behaviour – to ban Catholic thinking. This is a disease common to lefties the world over (they have it in their genes, I suppose), but it is particularly evident in the formulation of legal heresies like the “hate crime” and all it is being used to justify.
We are informed from the “hermeneutic of Continuity” blog that steps have been undertaken to allow the police to block whatever site is – according to the judgement of said police – used to “commit crimes”.
Whereto this can lead is easy to see. In a world where political correctness is at a premium over the old activity of thinking, almost everything controversial can be considered “hate crime” and the removal of relevant pages be asked of the police without any need to have this view upheld by a court. This is the wet dream of Heidi’s governess and of all those like her and a poof, lesbian, and every other pervert’s paradise.
If this goes on, the pressure will be on the police to act according to the wishes of all those who consider themselves “victims”. Catholic thinking and in particular catholic bloggers will be a very obvious target.
It is astonishing that a country so proud of individual liberties as to even refuse the obligation to carry identity cards can tolerate such an intrusion of what would be a true police state into his right of freedom of expression and information.
If anyone knows of Internet petitions meant to put an end to this madness please let me know and I will give publicity to the fact as soon as possible.
The role of new media and evolving technology has been discussed for some years already. It is now clear that the Internet has revolutionised the world of information, transforming the oligopoly of a limited number of news outlets in a fragmented universe of countless sources of information.
This Michael Voris video examines the difference this made in our specific Catholic world. The following points seem to me particularly important:
1) Information control through a limited number of sources of conventional Catholic wisdom has been broken. The socialist, liberal wave of post – V II lies cannot be freely imparted to the faithful without opposition anymore. The Internet will provide that lies and heresies are exposed. If the shepherd is a bad shepherd, confused or relatively uneducated sheep will nowadays realise it faster and with more certainty than ever before.
2) The Catholic internet revolution (and reform) has been up to now mainly driven by the laity. Whilst some members of the clergy do make a wonderful effort, it is clear that the vast majority of serious Catholic blogs is run by laymen simply fed up with the misinformation, the half truths and the outright lies they have been served with for too long. The revolt against heterodoxy didn’t come from the clergy, but from the pews.
Voris doesn’t say it explicitly, but I think that a further point can be added: Catholic tradition is so strong, its message so powerful, beautiful and immutable that not even 40+ years of systematic neglect or outright attack from the inside could do anything to change it. The Truth will come out, no matter how big the efforts to reshape it to a politically correct lie. The Holy Ghost wants so. Through the Internet, the Truth can easily enter every household. The Internet is therefore a powerful evangelisation tool in a time of almost total failure of those meant to care for it.
You all are, dear readers, part of this. In the next years, the inevitable advance of the internet and of all the applications the Internet makes it possible to utilise will certainly increase the possibility for every serious Catholic to obtain good information and to expose the wolves in sheep’s clothing.
For this reason alone, there would be every reason to be optimistic regarding the quality of Catholic teaching available to the generations to come.