How would I get through any day if I didn't come across nonsense written about me? The Internet is a cesspool of such uncharitable speculations about the nature and motivations of others. It's the opposite of Christian love. If the speculations are false, this is an example of gossip and slander. Even if the things stated are true, the way these things are usually discussed online, behind people's backs (or with a pronounced herd mentality, if the recipient dares to disagree in the venue where the chit-chat was initiated), is a sin, because it helps others form negative opinions and impressions of another person.
Before going further [this is added later than the original post], I want to note with pleasure and gratefulness, that the author of the comments at my expense, that I originally documented and objected to, has retracted, writing, "Removed at the request of author, with apologies to Mr. Armstrong." I accept that (thank you), and as in all such cases, I have reciprocated by removing the words that were retracted from public view, from my site, since it is now a resolved and closed matter.
That said, the thoughts expressed are still apparently held by many (?) other folks, regarding myself and other non-"traditionalist" orthodox Catholics, and so I want to make some sort of general response, hoping that some good and increased mutual understanding can come of it. For example, I'm one of six individuals mentioned in the Wikipedia article, "Neo-Catholicism," as supposed examples of "neo-Catholics."
As to the charge that I and other Catholic apologists (often converts) are overly influenced by our Protestant backgrounds, I am utterly despised by many from the small, fringe anti-Catholic Protestant Internet community, because I have opposed their errors (see some of the delightful things they write about me on the bottom of my sidebar). It's quite a feat to be described in this fashion when one has specifically rejected falsehoods of Protestantism, converted to Catholicism, and has written many critical articles, and indeed, several books, too, about the errors of Protestantism; and to be called (not infrequently) "anti-Protestant" and "anti-Luther," etc. Can anyone explain to me how both things can be true?
If I am viewed as "Americanistic" or prone to Americanism, to the point of this conflicting with my Catholicism, I must say that is highly amusing to me, since I am on record stating that America is the wickedest nation in the history of the world. I despise the greed and excess of corporate capitalism, and am virtually a Chestertonian distributist in economics: a position beloved by many "traditionalists." Just two days ago I wrote in a combox on my blog: "Catholic social thought is correctly viewed as a "third way" that is not by any means identical to American capitalism." In referring to criticism of Pope Leo XIII's famous encyclical Rerum Novarum, I described that as "the capitalist blind spot."
"James 02" weighs in on 28 July 2009. His observations, if applied to me, as a supposed example of a "neo-Catholic" (as the authors of the Wikipedia article wrongly think) -- are false:
By the way, if you meant "what is a Neo-Catholic", then a Neo-Cath is a Catholic that suffers from false obedience and the heresy that a Pope or Council is infallible in everything they say or do. It was a term that was desperately needed.
Let me give you an example. A liberal "Catholic" will support altar girls because they oppose the idea that men should have authority over women, and therefore see it as furthering their agenda. A neo-Catholic supports altar girls because the Pope reversed himself and said it is allowed, therefore it has to be "right". It is hard to call the second group "liberal", even though they support "liberal" things in the Church. So we differentiate them from heretics by calling them Neo-Catholics.
Anyone who believes what is described in the first paragraph is simply an uninformed Catholic (frankly, a "dumb" one), who understands little about how Catholic authority works. To use my own example, I obviously don't believe this since I supported the Iraq War, which was opposed by the present pope and the previous one (and have explained at length my rationale for that within a Catholic perspective). I also support capital punishment in extreme cases, and that was opposed by Pope John Paul II, though not in an absolute fashion.
Moreover, I have written for years about how there are instances when a pope can be disagreed with or rebuked (examples: one / two / three). Indeed, I have an entire section on my Papacy Index Page, entitled, "Disagreeing With Popes". Because "traditionalists" often criticize popes far more than they should, they feel a need to caricature criticism of that tendency as the extreme in the other direction (blind obedience in every jot and tittle; no conceivable criticism or dissent at all). A recent exchange with a "traditionalist" illustrates my true opinion:
to criticize his prudence in matters of jurisdiction for example, (leaving bad bishops such as confessed homo activist Weakland in place even after the same offered his resignation, or promoting bad bishops) or questioning the fruits of his pontificate with respect to monumental tradition is hardly "trashing him".
I agree. It is mostly the overall tenor and presumptuousness of many trad critiques that I object to. My position is not that one can never criticize a pope. I've written about that many times, and my view has often been distorted with regard to that.
My point is that it must be done with the utmost seriousness by a person who is qualified to do so, not just any person who has a blog and has only been a Catholic for a couple of years, or is just now coming to understand his faith.
A few days later, I clarified further. Note that again I stated that one can disagree with a pope in the right circumstances. This is not blind obedience or "hyper-infallibility" or what one might call ultramontanism:
I just think it is silly for any Tom, Dick, or Harry to be judging decisions made by popes and ecumenical councils. In my opinion, "trads" exhibit an extraordinary lack of proportion and proper Catholic humility. Everything is liable to "trad" judgment, as if everyone is on the same plane as the pope is. This is preposterous, and it is pseudo-Protestantism, where all is equal in the end and there is no distinction of hierarchy. . . . .
There is a proper time for criticism and disagreement even with a pope, but "trads" continually do not understand when that is. They lack prudence, propriety, and proportion to a huge degree.
Even if some of the criticisms are warranted, legitimate, and have real force, it is altogether debatable whether such critical materials ought to be aired publicly. Of course, with the Internet, everything has to be public.
Also, on 3 October 2009, I wrote:
I agreed that criticizing certain prudential decisions of Pope John Paul is permissible. What I object to is the knee-jerk reaction, which is usually according to one's preconceived notions and biases, whatever they are. To me that indicates a lack of respect both for the pope and for the document he has produced. . . .
You seem to think private judgment is whenever someone makes a commentary on a prudential decision by someone in the hierarchy.
I obviously don't mean that because I agreed recently that this is permissible to do. My problem is with the quick, knee-jerk judgment and doing all this publicly. The pope is a little different from the next blogger or some apologist on TV, is he not?
As for altar girls, it was written: "A neo-Catholic supports altar girls because the Pope reversed himself and said it is allowed, therefore it has to be 'right'."
Wrong again in my case. I don't "support" altar girls in terms of preference. I have attended a parish for over 18 years that has never had them (and we have altar rails and receive on the tongue, and never have EMHCs, and have Latin Mass every week, including the Tridentine, and have strongly pro-life homilies, such as occurred yesterday, etc.). Nor would I say that everyone has to have this opinion just because the pope said so. At the same time I am not "knee jerk against" the notion, as "traditionalists" are, as if it is some huge sin and intrinsically "liberal" if a little girl serves the altar.
I give enough benefit of the doubt to Pope John Paul to grant that he had some rationale for what he did. I have read that he allowed altar girls, but at the same time issued strong proclamations (infallible in the ordinary magisterium) that there would never be female priests. Thus, the liberal rationale and "plot" of first having altar girls, to suggest a connection between that and female priests (just as altar boys often become priests) was undercut from the outset. I've written elsewhere:
Some have argued, beyond that, that having exclusively altar boys leads to a certain "environment" that fosters more priestly vocations. That may be (I don't know).
If a boy feels called to the priesthood, I think he will arrive at that divinely-aided knowledge and resolve for reasons other than the mere fact that he was an altar server, or due to vigorous "recruiting" efforts from his priest, and (conversely) that he would not miss his calling merely because he served the altar with girls. To argue in this way demeans (in my opinion) the very nature of vocation, which is not nearly that trivial of a thing, in terms of how one ascertains it. Just my opinion, for whatever little it is worth, that carries no authority whatsoever . . .
There can be such a thing as an altar girl, just as there can be a female reader. I have no intrinsic objection to that. But my reasoning is not based on "the pope said it, so it is infallible, and there is no possible dissent." It is the "traditionalist" position that is simplistic, not mine.
But there was a ray of light in the thread, and a few people started objecting to the foolishness and lack of charity of false labeling:
"Jacafamala": I just can't stomach the mean spiritedness of it all sometimes. Like somebody's not up to snuff, somebody can't be in the trad club because of this or that. So silly.
"QuisUtDeus" [Forum Owner]: The more disturbing thing is that oftentimes these labels don't restrict themselves to saying you're a bad "Trad" or whatnot, but they imply (or outright state in the case of Steve's description of a "Neo-Trad") that you're heretical or schismatic in some way which is a pretty damning charge and more than mean-spirited. So, I agree there's a huge negative aspect to labels as well. . . .
Neo-Catholic and Traditional Catholic can be useful and not for mudslinging. One group supports the reform-of-the-reform and the other supports a return to pre-Vatican II liturgies, etc. It's only when someone decides in their own minds to say Neo-Catholic = Modernist and Traditional Catholic = Schismatic that the labels become ugly and also outright lies.
So when will I stop being called a "neo-Catholic" and held up as an example of it in the silly Wikipedia article? It's a matter of truthfulness and accuracy and ethical integrity and principle. I have written elsewhere about the vapid inanity of the terms "neo-Catholic" and "neo-conservative" as used by self-described "traditionalists":
Am I a "Neo-Catholic"? / My Belief Concerning the Criticism of Popes is Taken Out of Context and Distorted by "Traditionalists" (in Wikipedia) (+ Discussion)The Catholic "Traditionalist" Derisive Term Neo-Conservative (Catholic) (+ Discussion)