Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"We're gonna make you a STAR!"

America Magazine's blog has an entry by Fr. James Martin, S.J. mentioning the opening of GC35. In said post, Father briefly mentions some of the comments made by Cardinal Rodé in his homily at the opening Mass of GC35. So, basically, nothing really exciting or unusual one way or another in the blog entry itself. Fine.

But then -- AHA! -- we get to the comments section, which affords us pretty exciting stuff.

In the spirit of generosity, I'll share some selected tidbits and offer some brief comments. Ready?

It seems [Cdl. Rodé's] stress was on church defined as Curia and Pope rather than Church as defined as People of God.
Actually, a careful (rather than cursory) reading of H.E.'s homily would indicate his stress was on the Magisterium and Pope, calling to mind St. Ignatius' explicit admonitions to adherence to the Vicar of Christ and the hierarchical Church. This commenter's take appears to me to be skewed in favor of a given mindset, and not representative of what Cdl. Rodé said or what he meant by what he said. Maybe I have ultramontane-on-the-brain, but to adhere to the Magisterium and have fidelity to (and affection for) the Holy Father IS to the benefit of the People of God.

I would be interested to know the opinions of America's (the magazine) Jesuits on the blog and opinions of Karen Hall. She seems to be the blogger with the most popular voice on Jesuit issues, for reasons I don't quite understand[.]
That last little fillip is what gives this comment its piquancy. I have read lots of people who have had very negative opinions on blogs such as Karen's (why, I have received some comments along those lines my own self) but I have never seen, heard or otherwise been made aware of anyone expressing a confusion as to why blogs such as Karen's opine the way they do nor why they have the audience they seem to have. I would make so bold as to claim that, by saying "for reasons I don't quite understand" a sentiment is expressed which proves PERFECTLY emblematic of the issues raised by those concerned with Jesuit issues. Speaking strictly for myself -- Karen is a big girl and can express herself -- if you "don't quite understand" then you are part of that which we are trying to rectify.

The last comment, and it's a lengthy and well-written (although it strikes me a curiously oblique) comment by Fr. Jim Keane, SJ., deals with "Jesuit-focused" blogs in general. It will appear as if I am fisking Father's comments, but I am not. His comment is thought-provoking and has much to comment upon. So don't go there. (I'll use the tried-and-true emphasis and comments format.)

I think one of the great opportunities the internet offers is that of equal access; at first glance, a website with eleven readers can seem to share authority with one with a readership many thousands times larger. I don't recall of any blog which made even an implicit claim of authority Oftentimes this is to the benefit of the reader, because the normal hierarchies of knowledge are overturned in favor of a more populist interesting choice of words, individual take on matters. Who's to say that a huge news organization, or a prestigious religious organization, has a monopoly on information? In such cases, the more the merrier, as far as I'm concerned. Real transparency requires being open to all opinions, all people, all experiences, and through that transparency any group (including the Jesuits) gains knowledge that can help them better serve their apostolates. Amen.

However, it can also be easy to claim authority and familiarity with an organization (because where's the proof?) on a blog, Again, I don't recall seeing any such blog where opinions can be distorted and alternative views filtered through the lens of the blog owner. In the case of many blogs claiming particular authority or inside information on the Society of Jesus, No, seriously, I've never seen any such blogs here's my standard of judgment: who's talking? If the posts (and the comments) are all from the same four or five people, or consistently represent an identical point of view, I ask myself why the 3,000-plus Jesuits in the United States and the 50,000-plus people who work in their apostolates are never represented. I have no idea why, either. It's not like blog comboxes are somehow proscribed them. They are certainly represented among the blogs extant; perhaps Father is not as aware of all of them as he might wish.

Another criterion: "by their fruits you shall know them." Is the point of the website detraction and calumny? There have been a few of those, yes...but (as near as makes no difference) none of the main "Jesuit-focus" blogs have that as their template; furthermore, whenever an individual blog entry is acknowledged to have stepped over a boundary of accuracy or propriety, the blog owner invariably apologizes and retracts Or is there a realistic attempt to portray issues in anything near a balanced approach? I'd venture to say that's not the purpose of the blog; it certainly isn't the purpose of this blog. Rather, the purpose is to point something out, and shed light on why that "something" raises concerns for the blog owner. If the former is the case, you can adduce from that the real intent of the writers. Which is, unfortunately, often the opposite of the their stated intent. It is a dangerous thing to speculate on whether someone is masking or misstating his/her intent. "Detraction and calumny" can be relatively malleable things, and therefore one's adduction may be skewed by the biases one brings into play.

For the most part, the format of this sort of blog is simple:

1- X happened
2- This is what I think X means
3- This is why it [what I think X means] makes me happy/sad/worried/giddy

In the blogs I read and recommend, there is very little of the "insiders say" drivel we get from the MSM, for which we ought be infinitely grateful. But the dangerous part is to get caught up in discussions over format, intent, template, tone, etc. In doing so, we do not afford a given group (including the Jesuits) gaining "knowledge that can help them better serve their apostolates."

Just one man's opinion,



  • At 12:51 PM, January 10, 2008 , Blogger Karen said...

    I'm still waiting for someone to tell me when and where I declared myself an authority on the Jesuits. I am only an authority on (a) my personal experiences with the Jesuits and (b) my personal opinions thereof.

    In which areas, I hereby declare myself the world authority.

  • At 3:17 PM, January 10, 2008 , Blogger Joe said...

    You are, indeed, an authority on your own opinions and experiences. I have heard you and I was amazed and speechless at the knowledge and authority with which you expressed yourself on the matter of what you thought.



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