Breaking Down Our Babel: A Response to “An Open Letter to the Catholic Blogosphere”

For a church that professes to be “one,” we sure do have a lot of divisions. A few months ago, I wrote about the claim of being one church versus the reality and the ability of that disconnect to scandalize non-Catholics. This weekend, I read Fr. Denis Lemieux’s “Open Letter to the Catholic Blogosphere, On Pentecost.” Naturally, with all that on my mind, I felt convicted and compelled to respond.

Fr. Lemieux cites the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit and calls Catholic bloggers in particular to cultivate those fruits and eliminate division. Assume the best of people (even troll-like commenters), be gentle about offering an opposing position instead of “coming out with all guns blazing,” and show the love you have for other Christians. That’s good advice, and it makes me think about what’s going on right now in my corner of the diocese and my circle of Catholic friends.

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As we enter the summer, we begin the season of priestly ordinations and reassignments. We will get a new pastor at my parish, and based on what he’s done at his current parish, the transition will be significant. (I hope and pray for significant good.) Maybe your pastor is leaving, and you are considering following him to his new parish. Please don’t. We’re not supposed to follow our pastors, our earthly shepherds; we’re supposed to follow the one Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Jesus will still be at your current parish. When we make our experience of worship about Father So-and-So instead of God the Father and his Only-Begotten Son, we build a new Babel.

I have been practicing Catholicism for a little over nine years now. I have friends who are youth ministers and friends who are secular professional musicians. I have friends who are Extraordinary Form devotees and friends who are Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. I have friends who are religious and diocesan priests and friends who are in praise and worship bands. I have friends who are female religious, friends who are parents of honeymoon babies, and friends who are married couples without children (but not for scandalous reasons). They are all so different from one another and from me. Yet they are all united with me in friendship.

How often do we let differences such as those divide us? How openly do we denigrate people who attend Novus Ordo Masses if we have moved to the Extraordinary Form—or vice-versa? Have you ever found yourself listing the “obvious” sins of the childless couple or the “recklessness” of the parents of three under four? Who hasn’t rolled their eyes at the type of music played at a particular liturgy? (Guilty here.) Have we built a new Babel?

Recently, the Church celebrated Pentecost, recalling the day when the apostles and disciples received the Holy Spirit and proclaimed the Good News to people who spoke many languages. It was a reversal of the dispersal after the people built a tower at Babel, seeking to make a name for themselves against God. Those people were scattered when God made them speak many languages and they could no longer understand one another. The first members of the Church used their unity in language to build a unity in faith.

If you’re reading this, you are probably familiar with the Catholic blogosphere and the ugly side it can sow. Do your part today to sow unity, not division; peace, not argumentation; gentleness, not passion. The Spirit is the one who inspires. Let him inspire you to show him forth from the pews to the combox.

  • Jenni

    “Have you ever found yourself listing the “obvious” sins of the childless couple or the “recklessness” of the parents of three under four?” No! I hope we don’t have people in the Church who do lame stuff like this.

    • http://lindsayloves.com/ Lindsay

      Your heart is much more pure than mine in that respect, then! I wouldn’t call that line of thinking “lame” so much as “a failure to presume the good of others,” but I’m glad we agree that we should try not to think that way.

  • http://soulpainter.com/ Cristóbal Almanza

    All of this is very unfortunate. We are all fallen people and make mistakes, but blogs make some mistakes embarrassingly public. We need to continue to pray for each other in the Catholic media world.

    • Mark

      Hi Cristobal. I really like what you have to say here, specifically about “blogs making mistakes embarrassingly public”. That is so true. I am old enough to live in a time where my mistakes and growth where more private and thus less potentially embarrassing, thank God. And I made (and still do) plenty of them. But in the age of the internet, what we say and do is pretty much up there for all to see. Forever. It is a good challenge because it can make for more community accountability if we let it. And your wise words are part of that.
      I want to ask you a question concerning this and would really like to hear what you have to say. About a year and a half ago you responded to a blogger on this site with a comment about Fr. James Martin, and his “problematic leanings”. (Starting The New Year With Thomas Merton, Jan. 2013) Now, I am not here to discuss theology or Fr. Martin personally. I don’t know him.. But I had a client who saw Fr. Martin on Jon Stewart and loved his sense of humor. It made her want to go to mass again after many years (yes, that shouldn’t be the sole reason at all, but that is another discussion)
      She saw your public response on Fr. Martin and was dismayed and confused as to what “a problematic leaning” meant. And why a Catholic would say that publicly about a priest who as far as anyone knows, is in good standing with the Catholic Church (not in agreement with everyone, but good standing) I obviously had no answer for her because I don’t know you and of course that can mean a lot of things. And I am not Catholic and don’t find it my place to speak for Catholics and what is problematic or not.
      I think this is what comes up when we publicly post things that are worth a deep discussion but can’t really take place in a short “sound bite”. We risk confusing or worse alienating the very people hopefully we all want to come back to God and a relationship to community.
      This is not an attack, but hopefully can expand dialogue and I only use this “old” post because it is a concrete example and you can speak for yourself, not somebody else’s comments. I really would like to hear what you have to say because things like this come up and I don’t think we always intend the consequences. But it is public and lots of people read them.
      Love to hear from you on this and know as I have said before, that is site is such a valuable tool for outreach. God bless, Cristobal.

  • jdzondo

    I actually made a similar point during our last board meeting and it’s one of the reasons I stopped following so many people on Twitter. I’ve actually cut my Catholic blog and podcast listening down substantially because of all the back-bitting and echo-chambering (if that’s an actual word)

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  • Julia Mendonca Motekaitis

    Thank you for writing this, Lindsey! Sometimes it’s most difficult to be charitable to the ones CLOSEST to us, like fellow Catholics! The world will know we are Christians by our love for the world and fellow Christians alike. How much we all can grow in learning from Jesus in how to teach through love.

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  • Mark

    I loved what you had to say here, Lindsay, and how you said it. As a person who has served as a pastor of several parishes, I sadly say that I sometimes Christians of every kind treat each other with more judgement and hurtful behaviors than almost as much as anyone outside Christianity. And honestly, I think it often comes when one is too sure of their “rightness” of one thing or another and forget how to be humble before God. Stubbornness begats stubbornness. I have done it, too. Too often. The gift of it for me quite frankly, has been that I understand how non-Christians and marginalized Christians sometimes feel so hostile, angry and hurt about the Church. All denominations. And with prayer and God’s guidance, it has helped me to better listen and understand them more. And, I can actually learn from them, too. Positive things come when we are willing to look in the mirror. And I know my own reflection is where I need to start. And thank God, love and mercy begats love and mercy. God bless, Lindsay.