(There’s more than two sides to Problems with Catholic Blogging...)
I've had a lot to say about the bloggers gone bad in the Radical Traditionalist sense. But I have become more aware of another bad trend in Catholic blogging—the abuse of one's reputation as a Catholic blogger to promote a particular opinion on how to best obey Church teaching, treating other opinions on how to best obey Church teaching as if it was the sign of a cafeteria Catholic. I say that such Catholics abuse their reputation because people do look to them to explain the faith and defend it. So when they use their blog as a platform to attack people who disagree with them and treat this difference of opinion on ways and means as if the person who disagrees are actively choosing to disobey the Church, they alienate the faithful into thinking the Church has no place for them.
Making A Distinction
Now we have to make a distinction of course. When the Church teaches “We must do X,” or “We must not do Y,” then the Catholic who tries to undermine these teachings or tries to say that one may disobey the teaching of the Church are being faithless Catholics. The refusal to do this is rejection of the authority that our Lord gave to the Church:
can. 751† Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.
can. 752† Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.
can. 753† Although the bishops who are in communion with the head and members of the college, whether individually or joined together in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, do not possess infallibility in teaching, they are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the Christian faithful entrusted to their care; the Christian faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops.
Code of Canon Law: New English Translation (Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America, 1998), 247.
So the person who tries to justify their disobedience to the Church teaching on sexual morality, abortion, social justice or any other area cannot be said to be having a disagreement on ways and means obeying the Church. This applies to the liberal politician who says they are more “pro-life” than the person who opposes abortion, and it applies to the radical traditionalist who says they can disobey the Church because they are being faithful to an “earlier” tradition.
But if two people agree that the Church teaching must be obeyed, but have two different ideas on how to best follow that teaching, the person who prefers method A has no right to denounce the person who prefers method B. He has even less right to accuse the person who supports method B of all the abuses that he thinks comes from not supporting method A.
This happens in many different ways. For example, the person who accuses a supporter of gun ownership rights as “not really being pro-life” (that’s a No true Scotsman fallacy by the way) or the person who favors a strong stand against abortion treating bishops who try a gentler approach as if they were secretly supportive—these things are twisting the Church teaching in such a way to make the it seem that disagreement with them is disagreement with the Church. But the person isn’t disagreeing with the Church. They are disagreeing with the claim that there is only one way to obey the Church teaching.
The Fruit of This Abuse Is to Alienate the Faithful
So this is an abuse of the credibility one has as a Catholic blogger when it is used to promote a certain preference tends to be harmful to the Church. In essence, it leads people to think that the Church is limited to one ideological view and has no place for them when the actual alienation is with the rash judgment of the blogger. I think we need to keep this in mind. Most of us recognize that it is scandal to try to tell people that it is all right to reject the Church teaching. But some overlook the fact that it is also scandal to tell people that they are sinning when they actually agree with the Church but disagree with us on the ways and means of obedience.
We who want to be Catholic bloggers (as opposed to bloggers who are Catholic—there is a difference), whose purpose of writing is to exhort people to be faithful to the teachings of the Church, need to distinguish between what the Church teaches and how we would prefer for that teaching to be lived out. The former is to spread our Lord’s teachings. The latter is to usurp the authority of the Church for our own purposes and can lead people into rejecting the Church without cause.
Let us as bloggers always keep in mind the words of Our Lord:
6 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come! (Matthew 18:6-7)
If we drive people away from the faith because we cannot distinguish between our preferences and the teaching of the Church, we will answer for it. So let us always consider our words—especially when we are angry over something. Let us always pray that what we publish is in keeping with what Our Lord wants us to publish—defending the faith but showing love and compassion in doing so.