Jeff Culbreath is one of the people my conscience throws up whenever I start spasming and knee-jerking my way into a snit over Traditionalism. He's congenial, reasonable, passionate, learned, and principled. He's recently expressed an interest in terminating his blog. Now this is being thought out with the counsel of his spiritual director, and so I don't even presume to think about quarreling with or questioning it. I have my own spiritual director, and I know how good and helpful that can be. (Although, to be honest, my spiritual direction hasn't progressed to sophisticated topics like blogging: My director is still at the, "There are actually Ten Commandments, you know" stage). Anyhow, one fellow posted a rather exuberant paean to disconnecting from the Internet in the Name of True Catholicism[TM], and I thought I'd reply to it here rather than waste Jeff's bandwidth. His words are in blue, my replies are in black.
The culture war is happening out there. Satan lures us to the internet where mortal sin is a click away.
Yep, porn is just a click away. But I recall that the Aquinos, desperate to keep young Thomas from "wasting" his life, threw a real live naked woman into his bedroom one night. So I don't see how anything's really changed from then to now -- I have nude women close at hand, and St. Thomas had a nude woman close at hand. Thomas threw the woman out of the room and burned a cross onto the door. One thing he didn't do was come up with a theory that bedrooms are evil and no one ought to have one. Continuing the parallel, we can't cancel our ISP subscriptions and think we've done something positive for Jesus.
Satan doesn't need the Internet to play in. He's got the human mind, where mortal sin is a thought away, with no clicking required. And if the Internet, where (as you've admitted) means that all sorts of people are out there clicking away, doesn't that mean the Internet is also "out there" where the culture war is happening? People may read blogs in the privacy of their own living rooms, but the mind they use to read with goes wherever they do when they disconnect. I think that means blogging can be a very good thing, sort of like burning a cross on the monitor screen.
Every minute we use blogging, fixing html, etc., we could be praying another Rosary or another hour of the Divine Office. We could be praying with our kids.
I know the fellow isn't a Protestant, but this reminds me of what Protestants do whenever they go on and on about how praying to saints is time "wasted" because it could be used praying to Jesus. We can always (and very plausibly) cram the whole of Christian life into the beatific vision, because the beatific vision is indeed the proper end of human life. But I don't understand this impulse to use a spiritual drive-compression program or fast-forward button and leap past everything God wants us to do in order to get ready for the beatific vision -- like praying to saints, blogging about how good it is to pray to the saints, or spending time on anything else that can be plausibly (and wrongly) called a "distraction" from God merely because it's not the beatific vision itself. People have to be very careful about jettisoning things as "distractions," because that impulse can itself be used as a distraction from the very things being jettisoned.
We've all had that experience of being distracted with something at prayer and then, just when we think we've licked it, realizing that we've just skidded mindlessly through a whole decade of the Rosary because we spent all our time thinking about how distracting distractions are and why we get distracted and why we shouldn't be distracted, etc. The only way to snap out of that spiral is to "cut and run" -- to junk the whole idea of distraction and just jump right back into the good stuff. It seems to me that sorting things out into "distracting" and "non-distracting" categories based on our personal preferences (and disagreements about them) is a larger manifestation of the same profitless spiral. Does God want you to witness by blogging? Then blog, and don't dither over whether there's a hierarchy of tasks you could be climbing. After all, in the first glorious mystery of the Rosary God may want me just to meditate on the sheer fact that "Jesus is not dead" -- even though the whole subject of the Resurrection includes far more (such as Jesus as redemptor mundi and the Resurrection as proof of the possibility of repentance) all of which is indeed a higher and more sublime aspect of the mystery. Mary chose the better part, but there are also places for Marthas, and if God wants me to be a Blogging Martha right now, then who am I to quarrel and demand mystical contemplation instead?
Fight the good fight, but do it in the real world.
I don't know how the interaction of human minds via the internet isn't "real." Indeed, men having rational souls, the idea occurs that some blogging might be a more "real" way to fight the good fight than pounding down potato salad at a KofC "friendship dinner" with the local Masonic Lodge. (Yes, Virginia, my old parish KofCers were really big on fellowshipping with the Masons). Not that everything (or most things) off line are like that, but it seems to me that evangelizing means going where the evangelees are -- to the Areopagus, for example, even though there were all kinds of nasty pagan things there, too. If people are on the Internet (and they are), then Catholics ought to be on the Internet.
The whole blogging/St. Blog's thing has lured us away from God's work, and at least know many are realizing it.
Look, just about anything can lure anyone away from God's work. Sin being a matter of disproportion, even a love of the Rosary can be used to lure someone away from God's work. This whole line of thought strikes me as an extension of the Evangelical/Reformed habit of forgetting the idea of disproportion and trying instead to make lists of the Things Which Are Limitlessly Good and Lists of the Things Which are Always Bad. All they end up doing is foreswearing cigars and spending hours listening to Jim Neighbors gospel records while worrying that he might have been gay. I can't think of anything drearier than that, unless it's another scoop of German potato salad at a KofC friendship dinner with the Tasseled Ones.
I think that's why the traditional Catholic presence online is sparse.
People with nothing better to do than read my blog know that I have a love-hate relationship with Traditionalists. On the one hand, I love the aspects of the faith that traditionalists (and just about only traditionalists) preserve (heck, they go way beyond "preserve" -- they live all that good stuff), and their uncompromising "invasive" attitude that sees the Church confronting the world rather than vice versa. On the other hand I suspect that Traditionalist Catholics are often people who've just grown too darn tired to stay in Catholicism and have therefore opted for a Righteous Remnant over a universal Church. Didn't I read an editorial in Latin Mass magazine complaining about how Traditional Catholics are marginalized? I think that might have been the same issue that had an article arguing against a widespread use of the indult because the Latin Mass is "our Mass" and those Novus Ordo trained priests would just fumble the rubrics. Orthodoxy is always elegant, but Catholicity can be messy as all get-out. Only God can expect men to combine the two, because only He can bring one out of the other. Traditionalists will win me forever once they start following Him and trying to do the same thing. I classify "you don't hear from us because we're too pious to talk to the peanut gallery" as a step in the opposite direction.
I pray more will follow.
Yeah, and if I were Rembert Weakland or the editor of America I'd be on my knees right there with you. Before I got on the Internet I didn't even know there was a Traditional Latin Mass, I kid you not. You want to keep it that way? I'm sure there are many in the Church who would approve.
Let's turn the computer off and get down on our knees in prayer. Then, let's teach our kids, assist Mass daily, help decorate the High Altars of our churches and clean our churches, learn more Latin, and pray some more.
Well, first we'd have to figure out whether learning to conjugate amare is a distraction from decorating the High Altar, or whether decorating the High Altar is a distraction from sweeping out the vestibule, or whether sweeping out the vestibule is a distraction from assisting at Mass . . . .oops! We just skidded right through Sunday!
For those still lurking around, turn off your computer and get to your nearest traditional Catholic church/chapel -- join the Church Militant in the Battle for Mary and Christ.
And don't forget that you read this on the Internet!
Jeff, if you stop blogging, I will miss you. But as I said on your site, it will be worth it knowing that you're doing whatever it is God has in store that's even better than your blogging. My prayers are with you.