"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Catholic Church in Canada “too much fun not to be blogged” 
says theology prof
Friday, 24 February 2012 08:24 By Deborah Gyapong Canadian Catholic News
OTTAWA (CCN)— Colin Kerr has discovered his “initial assumption that Canadian Catholic bloggers are a bunch of cranks didn’t add up”---but he has discovered a Canadian content problem.

The assistant professor of theology at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy (OLSWA) in Barry’s Bay, Ontario has found more than 100 English language blogs in his investigation of the Catholic blogosphere in Canada. The father of five who blogs at http://thetheologyofdad.blogspot.com said he is surprised at the quality.

“These blogs were not narrowly political, angry or philistine,” he said in an email interview. “They were well-written, by people who seemed to be alive in their faith, in their families, in their priestly and religious vocations.”

But he never thought he would be echoing the Canadian content prescriptions of mainstream Canadian media.

“Frankly, we look south too much,” he posted at the Society of Canadian Catholic Bloggers (SCCB) (http://canadiancatholicbloggers.blogspot.com/), a new site he created to capture each new Canadian post in a constantly updating blog roll. “The negative in this is that we pay less attention to our own problems and blessings.”

“Do we know the great American bishops and other personalities better than we know our own?” he asked. “Our bishops and our 'personalities' are the ones who should be 'informing' us (in the Aristotelian sense) - otherwise we will be too 'represented' by people like Justin Trudeau.”

The Society’s blog roll gives Canadian Catholic personalities a chance to shine. It includes blogs by bishops such as Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith, Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast and Montreal Bishop Dowd, blogs by priests and religious, blogs by organizations such as the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and Salt and light TV, blogs by homeschooling moms, pro-life blogs like Big Blue Wave, blogs on liturgy, on theological reflections, on parenthood, and on religious life inside a monastery.

Many posts are veritable gems of inspiration, beauty and encouragement.

The SCCB also includes some blogs that might make people angry or upset.

When Kerr put the word out that he wanted to launch the Society, he laid down some general standards. “I like a good debate,” he said. “Too many people want to stifle thought and expression these days.”

“Sure, charity and respect are important, but there is a way to interpret even them too narrowly,” he said. “We do that these days. And, it’s a very common tactic to shut up those who disagree with you.”

So some of the blogs he has included might raise eyebrows. “We’ll develop our internet etiquette eventually,” he said. “It is a new forum. The thing is, acrimony is boring. People want good news, and I’d like to influence Canadian Catholic bloggers in that direction.”

Catholic blogs have been criticized for setting themselves up as an alternative Magisterium, and thus undercutting the authority of bishops as teachers, but Kerr said he did not find that. “Not even the cockier ones presented themselves that way. “

“That latter kind, sure, they have a zeal for the truth, but I think they just want their pastors to exercise greater leadership,” he said.

One site Kerr did not add immediately was Sylvia’s Site (http://www.theinquiry.ca/wordpress/), which focuses almost exclusively on documenting the clerical sexual abuse scandal in Canada. Blogger Sylvia MacEachern has developed perhaps the most extensive data base on priestly abuse in Canada, with links to newspaper articles she has scanned from as far back as the 1980s.

“It makes for a hard read,” Kerr admits. “No one wants to read this kind of thing for itself. But, I have to admit that love for the Church, love for the truth – which has to be the hallmark for every Catholic, especially every theologian – means looking in the face of evil at times.”

“Child abuse is not a rare event,” he said. “I know more than a few victims.”

“If I may worry about the emotional state of people who become pre-occupied with single-issues, like the Latin Mass, or even terribly important issues like child abuse or abortion, I nevertheless regard these people as legitimate members of the Catholic community,” he said. “We have to get away from the ‘Church of only the beautiful people.’ It’s arrogant.”

Syvia’s Site grew out of MacEachern’s coverage of the 2006 Cornwall Inquiry into sexual abuse by members of the city’s establishment, including some Catholic priests.

One priest who asked not to be identified said Sylvia’s Site is a daily stop. Not only does it have the biggest archive in Canada on the sexual abuse scandal, it keeps track of court dates for sexual abuse cases across the country. He joked that maybe the CCCB should hire her. But the priest raised concerns about the publication of unproven allegations that can harm reputations unfairly.

“I think as the years have rolled by and I get closer to this, I realize that my concern for children and the vulnerable trumps my concerns for the rare instances in which there may be false allegations,” MacEachern said in telephone interview. “And they truly are rare.”

The anger of victims against the Church is one of the hardest things for MacEachern to deal with. “I am a practicing Catholic and I do love my church.”

But the native of Northern Ireland who converted to Catholicism 30 years ago understands their anger. “We shouldn’t have these men in the priesthood. We shouldn’t have cover ups. We shouldn’t have people put willfully at risk.”

Her site has uncovered three cases of convicted sexual abusers continuing in public ministry in other dioceses, she said, noting all have since been removed.

Kerr recognized the role blogs have played in breaking news on both sides of the border. He considers them a “boon to free speech.”

But just as universities were supposed to be places for freedom of thought, the “PC thought police come along and begin to try and control what gets said there,” Kerr said. “We need to resist these forces. It is a Christian duty.” But he admitted there are consequences to speaking one’s mind and one has to be ready for them.

“In my opinion there is a great deal of space between imprudence and cowardice,” he said.” With my blog, thetheologyofdad, I try to navigate within that space. I’m not always ‘theologically correct,’ and neither do I always get family life right, but we can learn together online, or at least we should.”

“It’d be safer if I stopped blogging, but I need to be able to look at myself in the mirror too,” he said. “Jesus didn’t convert me so that I might live the safe life.

“A few people have chosen to blog anonymously, and there’s a place for that, I think. But as a theologian I have a duty to live my doctrine publicly, otherwise I bring shame upon the Church,” he said.

“In this I find a great deal of inspiration from some great Churchmen, like Archbishop Prendergast, or Fr. De Souza. Need I mention the Cardinal-Archbishop of New York? This is true leadership for bloggers like me,” said.

Among the anonymous and highly controversial blogs Kerr has included in the SCCB is The Heresy Hunter (http://heresy-hunter.blogspot.com). Begun in 2009, and reaching a relatively small audience of about 200 regular readers, The Heresy-Hunter sometimes publishes posts that could add up to a dozen printed pages, complete with footnotes.

Kerr joked that the author probably irons his jeans because of his attention to minute detail. But the posts reveal writer well-versed in philosophy, theology and the personalities in the Canadian Church, even if he makes fun of them or lambastes them.

“I don’t think that he and I would ever be good friends were we to meet,” Kerr said. “I’m not that intense! Just reading him exhausts me. But he is smart. So much of what he says is true.”

“But would I ever refer to a bishop as ‘Sparkles,’ for instance?” Kerr said. “Not publicly I wouldn’t. But you have to admit it’s funny. There is funny and there is just plain mean.”

“Intense blogs like his aren’t my cup of tea, but I believe it deserves to be listed on the SCCB because it is an absolute trove of information, and it provides a legitimate perspective,” Kerr said.

The Heresy-Hunter who calls himself TH2, cannot be criticized for lack of Canadian content. He takes aim at every icon or institution in the Canadian Catholic world.

TH2 has put the CCCB, Catholic media and individual bishops and prominent Catholic personalities under his gaze, making caricatures of them. He even lists most of them, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in his blog roll under the heading: “Subversives/heretics/apostates.” Which might come across as outrageous unless one considers the listing is a form of satire.

Contacted by his Twitter account, TH2 said he uses satire and his sometimes “outlandish” sense of humor to “lighten” what are otherwise serious topics. He said he aims to cross-check or validate the claims and opinions of Catholics in the media, in education and those holding official positions in the Church, using the Magisterium, Catechism and the saints as benchmarks.

TH2 said the mainstream Catholic media has been “unable” or has refused to tackle issues of heresy because of connections and income from the Catholic establishment. He said they exhibit an “obliviousness to the modern crisis in Catholicism.”

Kerr agrees the Internet has opened up many forums for discussion. “Thought is no longer so easily controlled by CBC, NBC and whomever else,” he said. “That is an unimaginably good thing.”

But he acknowledged some Catholic shepherds might be reluctant to be too bold in the public square for fear of being labeled as “unfeeling, unthinking zealots.”

“Religion gets a bad rap these days,” he said.” Pastors are expected to be smiling teddy bears if they are to escape censure.

“In the past the clergy were expected to tow the hard line, to be condemning and puritanical, and so they were,” he said.

“Of course, the clergy runs the Catholic media, generally speaking, and so the expectation to never offend percolates down to the editors and writers,” he said.

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