Why Are Catholics So Nasty?

Whenever I want to think through a coding problem for a web site, I “waste” time by looking at a number of religious blogs. The distraction helps, and I often end up finding something useful or stimulating while the coding problem resolves itself once I have stopped thinking about it. Maybe it’s just the blogs I follow, but I have to say that the ones I enjoy most are not often Catholic. Indeed, the Catholic blogosphere is sometimes a very nasty place to be. Why should that be so?

I think it may have to do with the current fashion for damning Vatican II and all its works and exalting the minutiae of liturgical observance. Now, I am not uninterested in liturgy, said she with a dangerous gleam in her eye, but I believe reverence is more important than anything. Say the black and do the red, but don’t accuse those whose practice differs from your own of lack of orthodoxy or worse. Don’t cherry-pick the Councils, either, if you want to have a truly Catholic understanding of the Church. Those more papal than the pope worry me. The energy devoted to hating others seems inconsistent with what we profess to believe. Of course, it could just be that I am out of step with the times. I don’t mind that if I am in step with Christ and his Church, or at least not too far off-course, though I can’t judge.

In the novitiate we were urged to be always one with the mind of the Church. That means reading and reflecting and taking the trouble to find out for oneself, rather than just assuming. It also means being kind. I think we sometimes forget that. When Christians cease to love one another, they cease to be Christians except in name. The history of Christianity is marred by rows and we live today with the resulting divisions. As we prepare to go to Mass, I can’t help wondering how I shall answer the question, “What did you do to bring unity to my Church? Did you love as I have loved you?” I hope that I won’t have to say, I abused your gifts, I wrote nastily about others, I hated and divided; but shall I?


15 thoughts on “Why Are Catholics So Nasty?”

  1. Interesting post.  Two brief points. 

    1. Kindness is good, even imperative for Catholics. But it does not equate to a kind of middle class veneer of conformism that never says anything that could possibly upset someone. 

    2. We may get a bit snappy sometimes, but this is because we care about our faith, deeply and passionately, and our concern for it won’t always fit easily into an ‘acceptable’ or ‘nice’  framework. 

    Nevertheless, we must try and remember the advice of our first Holy Father who told us, ‘Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence

  2. While I was on the Protestant wing of the Anglican Church, it seemed that the blogosphere was full of nastiness from Evangelicals towards other Evangelicals who had deviated ever-so-slightly from [their] pure doctrine in favour of compassion.

    Now I find the same struggle for primacy between Truth and Love, Head and Heart, in Catholic circles, except that the ‘field of battle’ is liturgy rather than doctrine.

    The enneagramatic NINE in me can only shrug and sigh. 😉

  3. I find myself allergic to bile – in politics and in religion. Mind you, I have been bilious in my younger days, being feminist and seeing how women were treated. Anger has left me (I still am a feminist, just ‘at peace’ now, not that women are treated any better) and the quest for Godde in daily life is what calls me. I find internet a great place for synergy in faith development and understanding.

  4. Wow. I disagree. Vatican II was horribly distorted by enemies of the church, from within the church. The evidence is apparent now in our world today and our lack of catholic identity overall. Fr. Z and others like him are doing all of us an extremely charitable service by proclaiming the truth loud and proud. That IS love.

  5. Thank you for your comments. I love when people disagree with me! I don’t think I would identify kindness with being middle-class, nor would I say that being passionate excuses one from the need to be courteous to others (not that you are saying that, either, but being passionate is often taken to excuse). I may be passionate about printing, for example, but that wouldn’t justify my pitching into someone I thought was a sloppy printer. Unfortunately, we “churchy” types do pitch into one another only too readily when we disagree about something. The fact that it concerns God or the things of God is sometimes taken to justify behaviour that would not be acceptable elsewhere.

    As to nastiness in the blogosphere, it would bolster my argument if I were to cite some instances that have appalled me recently, but that would go against my own principles. If that sounds prissy, I’m sorry. I do not think one can be rude or dismissive and have love in one’s heart.

    A wise old nun once remarked “I have performed an act of charity but in such a way as I ought never to have done.” That’s a warning to me, if not to others.

    Finally, as regards Vatican II, perhaps I should have underlined what I said about reading and reflecting. Very few people take the trouble to read the Council documents in Latin or ask themselves how church documents are to be interpreted or understood. There wasn’t a golden age of Catholic understanding and identity before the present. For instance, those of us us old enough to remember how Mass was celebrated before Vatican II know that it wasn’t always celebrated as we should have liked it to have been. It was often rushed, the beautiful Latin phrases carelessly spoken, and the Mass for the Dead, being the shortest, appeared more often than it reasonably should have done. If anyone lacks Catholic identity now, surely it is because we have ceased to be Catholic from the inside and relied too much on being Catholic from the outside? I might even make that the subject of another post.

  6. As a previous commenter stated you might want to take a look at some protestant blogs.

    1) The Episcopal/Anglican arguments over the past few years have been played out on the web on blogs and discussion forums and it’s *nasty*

    2) Take a look at the Evangelical blog world especially the Reformed end. Those people are vicious.

    3) So for example – look at the “discussion” going on right now about Ann Voskamp’s book – you can track it at Elizabeth Esther’s site. http://newsite.elizabethesther.com/

    And go from there.

    4) And really – just do a search for “Rob Bell” “Rick Warren” “Brian McClaren” and see what the blog commentary is directed towards these leaders in Emergent Christianity. The one thing you don’t hear a lot on the Catholic blogosphere is the accusation of heresy. You really don’t. But Protestants call each other heretics all the time.

    *Because the Bible is so self-evidently self-explanatory I suppose.* /snark.

    Anyway. Catholic blogs represent the Catholic world. Some are sweet and sunny some are opinionated and news oriented and some use forceful language. It’s okay. It reflects life and reality – that’s the way people are.

  7. A wise old nun once remarked “I have performed an act of charity but in such a way as I ought never to have done.” That’s a warning to me, if not to others. Thank you for this. I like this very much.
    I am a product of Vatican II. I was 16 when it took place and I have grown in faith with it. The fact that some want to roll it back, makes me feel in the church but not of the church.
    Finally, if you can ‘spare a prayer,’ I know a Catholic Parish that is going through great turmoil at the moment because of a fund-raising. Tomorrow night there will be an Extraordinary General Assembly. Depending on how it is handled, up to a third of the parish may move to either the Episcopalian, Anglican, or Lutheran parish…
    Conflict over power and money creates havoc in any community. …

    • How very sad that one third of all the believers in that Catholic church will turn their back on Our Lord. He created the Church for us to give us access to the “rivers of living water” He promised to the Samaritan woman at the well. How can anyone who knows Our Lord abandon Him for a power struggle or over money. I shall pray for those poor souls.

  8. Thank you very much for your shared insights. I think we all know how fallible we can be, and how much worse the written word is than the spoken. Let us pray especially for the parish Claire mentions.

  9. As a “newer” Catholic blogger, sometimes speaking the truth clearly and frankly is necessary and only seems nasty to those who don’t agree. Nonetheless, the fraternal correction is often written in the spirit of enlightening those who don’t understand or misunderstand.

    And, what if I were to say that I find your assessment as nasty, as well? I’m sure you didn’t mean to offend. Often the written word doesn’t do justice to the love that is found behind the phrasing.

  10. If it’s any consolation: it’s not only Catholics. – Next time you have coding problem try this: Go to Google and type in “Why are Catholics so” and see what Google suggests for the next word – then try the same for atheists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims etc. – The only group who seem to get a positive result are Buddhists (Why are Buddhists so happy …) – There’s something to ponder!

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