The Terra of Cathnews!

Kate at Australia Incognita (aka Terra) has taken issue – and quite rightly, thinketh I – with a number of recent articles on Cathnews.

Sr Joan Chittister’s piece and Terra’s reply.

Fr Ron Rolheiser’s piece and Terra’s reply.

And then today we get this from Fr Gerald Arbuckle and Terra’s reply.

One wonders what is going on in the Cathnews editorial room. Have they decided, in these last days of the Summer hols, upon a project of continually baiting the conservative Catholic blogosphere in Australia to divert them from other more productive pursuits towards the goal of the Reform of the Reform? Is this some kind of revenge for “censoring” Fr Hodgen’s article?

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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33 Responses to The Terra of Cathnews!

  1. Tony says:

    I couldn’t get past Terra’s first response to SrJC. It was so full of loaded language.

    But what I really don’t get is the internal logic of your statement, David. Are you suggesting that CathNews is inflicting revenge on itself for the censoring (I’m glad you’re calling it what it is, in spite of the quotes!)?

    • Schütz says:

      No, revenge on us poor old crunchy cons, Tony!

      I don’t agree with everything that Terra wrote, btw. Just that given that she had done such a job on each of the three pieces, I thought it wasn’t worth a second go. Summer hols and all that.

  2. Terra says:

    Thanks David, appreciate your drawing attention to them (and do hope Cath News changes course and lets me indeed get to topics like the new missal!).

    I suspect Cath News’ current run might indeed be by way of response to the Swag affair. And perhaps also be way of response to my think piece of a few weeks back on the general problems of Cath News, which received quite a few hits: http://australiaincognita.blogspot.com/2011/01/cath-news-dissent-and-fight-to-reclaim.html

    And while I wouldn’t expect everyone to agree with all of the points I made, I’m happy to discuss any of them!

    As for loaded language Tony, would that be words like heresy? Given that both Sr Joan and Fr Arbuckle have written books and articles advocating the role of religious as leaders of ‘creative dissent’ in the Church, I rather imagine that might be a badge of honour to them rather than an insult. And is having erroneous views pointed out really equivalent or worse to being categorized as a violent fundamentalist bully?

    • Tony says:

      Heretic and dissident — like ‘Taliban Catholic’ — are just ‘positioning’ words, Terra, it means you’re in the fray; you do the ‘them and us’ thing. For me, it’s not a serious attempt to critically examine the claims of another. It’s all about being part of an ‘opposing camp’ and using the language that reinforces that. Of course the other ‘side’ do it too but that’s no excuse. Beyond the venting of spleens, it doesn’t contribute much beyond reinforcing what people think.

      It’s full of labels — always ill defined — and claims that can neither be proven or disproven:

      ‘Sometimes they turn to all kinds of bullying – emotional, political, even physical violence at times – to get things back to “normal”.

      Those are pretty strong claims. And I’d like to see some evidence to support them. Because I am not aware of any cases at all of violence for example.

      And most of the bullying has been from the liberal side of the fence, not the conservative-traditionalist!

      To which, of course, the other side would repeat something like your middle para:

      Those are pretty strong claims. And I’d like to see some evidence to support them. Because I am not aware of any cases at all of bullying for example.

      And so it goes.

      As for CathNews, I’ve seen it get stick from both sides for years. Maybe that’s a sign that they’re getting it right. I’m not particularly convinced either way. I suspect it’s being run by journalists whose main priority is ‘the story’.

      • Gareth says:

        Tony: I suspect it’s being run by journalists whose main priority is ‘the story’.

        Gareth: I suspect your own bias dictates your own defence of the rude and bigoted people that run Cathnews who like most Sunday Catholics can dish it out, but can’t take it.

  3. Stephen K says:

    Here I was, wondering whether I should ever post again for reasons that probably should remain personal and along comes the provocation of more infighting! I have to say I’m a little bemused: I thought Cathnews was just a headline digest with an assortment of opinion pieces from across the spectrum, but being an official service, one which would not go out of its way to give air to the positions at either extreme.

    Yes! There are extremes at either end. I realise how those at Catholica Australia would be regarded by many mainstream or traditionalist website communities: but at the other end, you don’t have to go so far as Lucian Pulvermacher (aka Pius XIII) or Daniel Dolan to find extremes either.

    I should pay Kate the courtesy of making my comments on her Gerard Arbuckle reply directly. So I’ll leave any potential comments in that regard aside. What I think would be salutary for the SCE readership is a chance to reconsider why one would want to pillory the team at Cathnews.

    I don’t have a brief for them, by the way. In many ways, notwithstanding the gradual revisionistic bracket creep of traditionalism at the higher echelons of the Church, Cathnews is far more representative of the “official” Church than SCE or Australia Incognita etc. This “official” Church, by the way, is the “real” Church: it is where Catholicism is really to be found. It is the Church of everyday, unreflected, automatic procedure; of complicit, docile flock; of safe, contented or unreflective non-probing of the theology; of financial support for the myriad and general charity in which this Church is involved; of the status quo – for sake of the status quo.

    By contrast, the forensic analysis of the super-educated or the ecclesiological sensitivity of what I call the uber-orthodox, is, I’m sorry to say, as protestant as the rest of us religious worryworts.

    I know this description will be hard to swallow, but in fact I believe it is true. The supreme irony is that nearly all the vast spectrum of traditionalism – consciously revisionist or neo – as “neo-Thomism” was in its day – is fundamentally at odds with the tranquilising, compromising, steady hands mentality and psyche of true Catholicism.

    How else do you possibly make sense of the absolute internecine squabbling and mutual excommunicativeness (to coin a word) of the modern Catholic website phenomenon?

    I don’t want to become too autobiographical, but really, I doubt that there is very much anyone on this website can tell me much about catholic traditionalism. From Lefebvre to the new generation of militant Catholics, is a progress, essentially of Protestantism.

    In a recent post – probably in connection with the in partu doctrine – someone said that if you didn’t believe something because and solely because the Church taught it, you weren’t really a “Catholic”. Believe you me, I framed that thought myself over 40 years ago!

    So what are you (we) all doing? Teasing things out; got to get on top of things intellectually; putting people into descriptive boxes; ranking them by degrees of virtue or truth!

    This is fundamentally not a “Catholic” exercise!

    But don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying Gerard Arbuckle’s position is unassailable, or that I think the “Catholic” position I’ve described is healthy or good. After all, I’m one of you, in a sense, otherwise why I would be bothering to comment? (I have come to the oxymoronic conclusion that Protestants make the best Catholics!)

    It’s just that, in my assessment, Cathnews is the “Catholic” service and just about everyone else is the spirited intellectual or emotional colt or filly that has soared over the fence!

    Think about it and regards, sincerely.

    • Schütz says:

      This “official” Church, by the way, is the “real” Church: it is where Catholicism is really to be found. It is the Church of everyday, unreflected, automatic procedure; of complicit, docile flock; of safe, contented or unreflective non-probing of the theology; of financial support for the myriad and general charity in which this Church is involved; of the status quo – for sake of the status quo.

      Ahah! And methinks you have put your finger on exactly what it is that joins the Sr Joans and Fr Arbuckles to the Terra Kates and Sentire Schützs of the world, Stephen: the absolute conviction that if the “real” Church is about anything, it is about upsetting the “status quo” in the name of Jesus Christ! The word “subversive” comes to mind – and it fits both the crunchy cons and the socialist lefties in the Church. As long as it is Christ who is at the centre of our Gospel, then our message will be one that will never be satisfied with the “status quo” of the “pew sitter”.

      And here let me share a little Sydney Carter song, which I reckon Fr Bob and Fr Eric would probably be happy to join Tony and me (and perhaps you and Terra?) in singing:

      “Come, holy harlequin! Shake the world and shock that hypocrite. Rock, love, carry it away, turn it upside down.
      “Come, holy harlequin! Shake that graveyard, split that sepulchre. Rock, love, carry it away, turn it upside down!”

      • Terra says:

        Excellent point David and you are quite right.

        It would be one thing if we lived in an era where our country was Catholic and we were immersed from birth in a healthy Catholic culture: then we could focus on just contributing to build that culture and life.

        But the reality is very different, and the Church has a mission to bring Christ to the world that is inevitably subversive.

        • Tony says:

          I think David’s point is more than about ‘them out there’, Terra. It’s about all of us. We all get comfortable with our positions. We all talk the talk that shows we’re ‘in’ one group and ‘against’ another.

          One of the reasons I like this forum is because I get challenged well out of my comfort zone (in more ways than one!).

          It is easy to create forums or participate in forums that provide comfort for our world view — and there’s nothing wrong with that! — but it is much harder to challenge and be challenged in places where our views are considered ‘liberal’, ‘dissenting’ or even ‘heretical’ (you can choose the perjoratives from the other side of the fence!) and stay respectful and try to understand the POV of another without resort to sweeping generalisations and bearly disguised ad hominem.

          But it’s also much more interesting!

  4. Stephen K says:

    I hope I won’t outstay my welcome if I add this:

    Where there is charity and love, there the God of love abides.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that most of us (I’ll include myself), whether or not we feel confident in asserting our Catholicisim or protestantism, are not………….. Christians.

    • Louise says:

      Kind of depends on what we mean by “love.”

      The official teachings of the Church are many and are somewhat condensed into the Catechism of the Catholic Church. To the extent that people dissent from these, I think we can say they are not “official.”

      I personally do not go around labelling my fellow parishioners. I doubt David does, either. I am aware of those who dissent substantially from Church teaching, but while I’m happy to correct them where needed (a rare occurrence), I just treat them as fellow Catholics. However, here on the ‘net it’s all about information so, if we’re mostly banging on about ideas and stuff here, that’s why.

  5. Terra says:

    Tony – Firstly your comment on ‘loaded terminology’ was on my first article, your examples were all from my third. And yes in that particular case I used it quite deliberately to draw out exactly how loaded the language Fr Gerald uses really is, and how little actual evidence or even logical argument is included there to support it.

    But if you actually read all three articles I have been quite careful to set out how much of it I agree with and why, and where I differ and why.

    On Stephen’s many rather curious propositions (tranquilising, compromising, steady hands mentality and psyche of true Catholicism – doesn’t sound like any reading of Scripture and Tradition I’m familiar with?!?).

    I’ll wait to see what he has to say to me directly, but can I suggest in the menatime this rather useful article, entitled Dissent or discovery? by Fr Longenecker. His basic proposition, which I agree with is that asking questions about a doctrine with which we have difficulties is fine, outright rejecting a doctrine on the other hand is not:

    “…a difficulty is the attitude which says, “How can that be so?” whereas a doubt is the attitude that says, “That can’t be so.” The first is open, engaged, intelligent and searching the tradition in order to understand the teaching. The second puts on above the tradition and the teaching by insisting that one knows better than Holy Church.”

    As for degrees of certainty around doctrine etc – actually that is a very traditional thing to do at least amonst theologians. Dr Ott’s famous Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma listed six main gradations, with numerous subjdivisions in some of them!

    And on charity, we celebrated earleir this week the Conversion of St Paul. Take a read of some of his letters – the charity he models for us is ‘tough love’, calling an error in doctrine or practice for what is, and doing his best to get those in danger back on track…

    • Tony says:

      Tony – Firstly your comment on ‘loaded terminology’ was on my first article …

      Some more examples:

      ‘… piece from dissenting nun, Sr Joan Chittister, …’
      ‘… it is so mixed up with outright with heresy as to disqualify it as “catholic” …’
      ‘… I guess dissenters don’t often bother reading …’
      ‘… she sees it as a potential boon to liberals …’
      ‘… Yes, somehow I’m pretty sure that’s not what she means …’
      ‘… Given that so many bishops and priests are liberals still, or at least fellow travellers, the orthodox young priest needs …’

      For me, this language just swamps the post.

      … your examples were all from my third. And yes in that particular case I used it quite deliberately to draw out exactly how loaded the language Fr Gerald uses really is, and how little actual evidence or even logical argument is included there to support it.

      So how is this line, ‘… And most of the bullying has been from the liberal side of the fence, not the conservative-traditionalist! …’ any less logical or any less evidence-based than Fr Gerard?

      • Gareth says:

        The hard facts are the Fr Gerald’s piece was an unacceptable piece that took unneccesary swipes at other members of the Catholic Church. His article doesn’t belong in any resource belonging to the Australian Catholic Church.

        I hardly think the people that Fr Gerald has had a go at are going to stand there and take his fundamentalist diatribe.

      • Terra says:

        This all seems pretty factual to me Tony. Sr Joan is indeed on the record, both in this article and many others dissenting from the magisterium. I clearly showed in my piece where her article turned into error.

        And if there a bit of rhetorical flourish surely it is justified – it is pretty curious for someone to write in 2011 about the 1983 code as if they had just discovered something amazing when in fact the implications of Canon 212 have been fully treated in books and courses on canon law for the laity as well as more academcially oriented texts for years. Have a look at the popular works of people like Russell Shaw and Pete Vere.

        But I guess what we are seeing here is exactly the problem that we are seeing everywhere. To me the pieces by Sr Joan, Fr Ronholser and Fr Gerald come across as nasty trad-con bashing, bullying pieces – virulent attacks on orthodoxy and anyone who advocates it as being insufficiently Christian.

        Fr Gerald Arbuckle’s piece in particular called trad-cons names, accused them of unspecified acts of violence and much more. If that isn’t a classic example of bullying I don’t know what is, justification enough for my counter comment (though of course I do have a long list of specific examples – which it would be totally unhelpful I think to put on the table).

        I’m a believer in having a vigorous debate in frank terms – calling a spade a spade. But to me these three articles just go a step too far in terms of the framework for acceptable catholic discourse, which requires at least some attempt to ‘think with the Church’ as the title of this blog suggests.

        • Tony says:

          This all seems pretty factual to me Tony. Sr Joan is indeed on the record, both in this article and many others dissenting from the magisterium. I clearly showed in my piece where her article turned into error.

          To me there is a difference between a considered argument that identifies errors or flaws and one that, more or less, opens with ‘… from dissenting nun, Sr Joan Chittister …’.

          Among other things, it begs questions like:
          – Who has the right to call someone else a ‘dissenter’?
          – What is a widely accepted authoritative definition of a ‘dissenter’?
          – How does it contribute to our understanding of that persons particular position on a subject?

          So, for example, am I at liberty to call the person (yourself) who made the following statement ‘Given that so many bishops and priests are liberals still …’, a dissenter?

          But I guess what we are seeing here is exactly the problem that we are seeing everywhere.

          Depends where you look, I guess. You don’t have to look far at all to find examples on the net of unsavoury, bullying behaviour from all sides. If you’re suggesting that there is more coming from one side, then I think you need more than just a sweeping statement.

          (though of course I do have a long list of specific examples – which it would be totally unhelpful I think to put on the table)

          On the first point, so do I. On the second, I agree. On that basis, however, generalised statements become fairly meaningless.

          I’m a believer in having a vigorous debate in frank terms – calling a spade a spade. But to me these three articles just go a step too far in terms of the framework for acceptable catholic discourse …

          And I think your response just contributes to that (unnacceptable catholic discourse).

      • Alexander says:

        Tony, you have dishonestly quoted Terra. Why? Do you have an agenda? I draw your attention specifically to “ ‘… I guess dissenters don’t often bother reading …’ ”, when in fact she said “ ‘I guess dissenters don’t often bother reading the Code of Canon Law of 1983!’ ”, which uses a different verb entirely. It is though you accused someone of freedom of the truth when they said “… I’m lying …”, even though their complete sentence was “I’m lying down”.

        You feel Terra that is being intentionally hypocritical, I think. But what else are you doing here? Surely you know the difference between “John doesn’t often read” and “John doesn’t often read The Australian”.

        In the context, it is clear that Terra was using a particular rhetorical style, which I think can legitimately described as unfair (although I would not; to do so would be tantamount to hypocracy for, I think, almost every person). But she never accused anyone of voluntary effective illiteracy, which is the claim you attempt to make.

        • Tony says:

          It was a cut and paste Alexander, the verbal constructions are word for word.

          It was also a set of quotes in which my purpose was to highlight what I thought was loaded language. In that particular instance it was the construction ‘… dissenters don’t often bother reading …’. The subject of the sentence — the Code of Canon Law — was not particularly relevant to the point I was making.

          Surely you know the difference between “John doesn’t often read” and “John doesn’t often read The Australian”.

          I do know they use the same verb and, in the first, there is no subject which could, in the context of other accusations of general illiteracy, be deceptive.

          In my example I’ve implied a subject by ending the excerpt with an elipsis and the notion that I may have been making some sort of assertion that Terra was accusing SrJC of ‘voluntary effective illiteracy’ is not supported by anything else I wrote.

          I short, I make no such claim.

          • Alexander says:

            As I demonstrated by the difference of meaning between “lying (about something)” and “lying down”, a mechanical cut-and-paste in no way absolves you of dishonest quoting. It also shows that the fact that the letters are the same doesn’t mean that the verb is the same, and “to read (something)” is clearly different from “to read”.

            The subject of the relevant verb, being “dissenters”, was not implied but expressly stated. And you did not such thing as imply an object, because every one of your quotes began and ended with an ellipsis, even when it would not make a difference to the meaning of the verbs and other words used—in fact, even when no part of the sentence was skipped.

            It remains possible you did it in ignorance but in good faith. In such a case, you should acknowledge the error and apologise and correct or retract the poor quote. The fact remains that Terra never said they don’t often read, but you have manipulated her words to make it appear as if she did.

            (The claim you make about subjects would be as if I confidently asserted you can easily survive a bullet to the head because it might only hit the femur. Avoid technical terms if you don’t know what they mean. If you only remember your high school teaching, you don’t know what they mean.)

            • Tony says:

              Alexander,

              The point I was making was about loaded language not ‘voluntary effective illiteracy’.

              The fact that you’ve seen that in what I have posted and have now chosen to ignore my express denial is not something I need to apologise about.

              Let me assure you, if I wanted to make a point about ‘voluntary effective illiteracy’ and that was the intent of my excerpt, I would now be defending that point. But, again — and this is borne out in the rest of the post — my point was about loaded language.

              Read into it what you want, but I’m not playing along.

  6. Paul G says:

    I see that Eric Hodgens has been published in the Sydney Morning Herald today:
    http://tinyurl.com/4lmq7dj

    The article starts by talking about a proposed website, whose success in the US, Fr (rtd) Hodgens says, is “hard to evaluate”. From doubt comes certainty, and he then says he is convinced the website will fail to achieve its goals here.
    The rest of the article is a random catalog of examples where the Church has had the temerity to disagree with Fr (rtd) H. Is this the article that he says was censored?

  7. matthias says:

    Uhm er i experienced just an hour and a half ago a reaction to the WORD ‘catholic”. i work for a Catholic community service agency ,and have no bones in telling people that. I was just at a meeting where some one raised a point about part of our agency’s profile ,when a another person said ‘well we’d rather use the term Christian than catholic’ or words to that affect,as if they were ashamed of it-and the speaker of this is also a Catholic.
    It ‘s like whEN for New year i quoted King George VI speech where he said ” i said to the mAN who stood at the gate” and holding the Hand of God was safer than light etc,when i put it in my Out of Office reply for the New yera period. i got a tellign off from a dear colleague who said that it was inappropriate to put that!!?? What do you reckon,when even people whom, work for catholic organisations have shameful creep

  8. Gareth says:

    I concur with the comments on Terra’s blog that in attempting a balanced and fair-minded response to some of the less-than-Catholic opinions posted in Cathnews, the response by the Moderator (Christine Hogan) to be told that I was in some way offensive.

    Liberal Catholics playing fair game- yeah right.

  9. Terra says:

    Tony – I really have to the issue with this idea that it is never possible for anyone to say someone is a dissenter, heretic etc (but of course it is alright to call someone else on the other side a fundamentalist, bully, etc).

    I think you are confusing two concepts: assessing the facts, and judging the consequences of them for the person concerned. Let me give some examples.

    If you see someone out in the bush lighting setting a fire in the middle of a fire ban, you can call them an arsonist. If you see someone stealing you can call them a thief. If you read someone publicly rejecting a dogma, then…

    In all the above situations, we are talking about observation of facts. And if we see it happening, we have a positive duty to report it to the appropriate authorities, and if they refuse to act, find some other way of getting action taken.

    Of course with dissent as with any other offense, there is a whole process after that has to happen.

    First one always hopes that by calling people on it, however unlikely that hope might be, they might reconsider their views.

    Secondly, those in authority have a duty to consider what to do about it. It might be an offence on paper for example, but should any formal action be taken?

    In the case of heresy for example, a person may be automatically excommunicated, but should the bishop take the next step and publicly declare the fact in order to distance what they say from the Church’s position, and try and bring them to repentence?

    It’s a judgment call, and many if not most bishops made the wrong one when it came to pursuing the abuse cases for example. I personally think that they are similarly making a grave error in not pursuing cases involving error, particularly those involving people whose titles or positions in the Church such as priests (retired or otherwise) lend authority to what they say.

    Then there is what happens when it gets to court if it ever does. The offender can admit guilt, repent and accept a penance. And the judging process involves questions such as how serious the offence is, any extentuating circumstances etc that is another thing altogether.

    When it comes to court cases, we can all have opinions on each of the steps in this process. We know of course that nonetheless it isn’t up to us to make the actual final judgement! But equally, there are times and places where those opinions can legitimately be expressed, in the hope that they influence or change the judgmetns being made. Similarly, when it comes to doctrine…

    • Tony says:

      Tony – I really have to the issue with this idea that it is never possible for anyone to say someone is a dissenter, heretic etc (but of course it is alright to call someone else on the other side a fundamentalist, bully, etc).

      That’s a form of argument I’ve never used and I’ve consistently condemned such labels from both sides of the divide in this and other forums.

      I think you are confusing two concepts: assessing the facts, and judging the consequences of them for the person concerned. Let me give some examples.

      Given you’ve started from an argument I’ve never used, it may not be me that is confused.

  10. Terra says:

    Tony – I was simply reponding to the no doubt rhethorical questions in your earlier post:

    “..Among other things, it begs questions like:
    – Who has the right to call someone else a ‘dissenter’?
    – What is a widely accepted authoritative definition of a ‘dissenter’?’ etc

    You alluded to a common line of argument….

    • Tony says:

      You alluded to a common line of argument….

      And, from that, you ascribe this to me?:

      … this idea that it is never possible for anyone to say someone is a dissenter, heretic etc (but of course it is alright to call someone else on the other side a fundamentalist, bully, etc).

      Again, it not an argument I make, so I don’t feel compelled to defend it.

    • Louise says:

      There is nothing fundamentally wrong at all with labelling people.

      Woman, man, child, Catholic, Protestant… these all have particular meanings and are important.

  11. Joshua says:

    Remember that Tony appears to like weaselling out of everything – he delights in deconstructing and backing away and protesting “Oh, I never said that”. Some would say that is the very mark of a modernist.

    (Cf. St Pius X, Encyclical Pascendi Dominici gregis (On the Doctrines of the Modernists), 8th September 1907.)

    Dear Tony, this is my perception of you, and it annoys me, but God love you and bless you.

    • Tony says:

      Remember that Tony appears to like weaselling out of everything – he delights in deconstructing and backing away and protesting “Oh, I never said that”. Some would say that is the very mark of a modernist.

      If that were the case, Joshua, it should be like shelling peas to counter. This is a printed medium. All you, or anyone else, has to do is cut and paste the offending text. I’m happy to answer for, clarify, and even apologise, for things I’ve written, but I don’t have to answer for things I haven’t written or the interpretations of others.

      Dear Tony, this is my perception of you, and it annoys me, but God love you and bless you.

      And to you too, but I try to live by the maxim attributed to Michael J Fox: What other people think about me is not my business. I try to call it as I see it and I also try to avoid personal swipes and posting my uncharitable ‘perceptions’.

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