Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Friday, October 04, 2013

The Long And Winding Post

This is a longish post, where the point I want to make is miles from what you're reading right this second. Sorry about that.

The video at the left will give you a hint of where I'm going with this.


About two months ago, a friend, the editrix-in-chief of [Big Respected Brainy Magazine] asked me to write something on tribal identifiers. Like an idiot, I said yes, and got to work.

The whole thing with [Big Respected Brainy Magazine] fell through, but the idea lingered in my head, especially as other discussions, chats, conversations, etc. seemed to collide and intersect with the notion I'd had of Tribal Identifiers. This took a turn for the serious when I jotted (and showed a very few pals) a piece I'd called: Well, if you're SO Catholic, why do you only have two kids?

Which raised all kinds of interesting questions and issues among some of my friends.

Y'see, I have a problem -- actually, I have several, but I want to focus on this particular one for the moment -- which is that I happen to have a very loose policy for making friends. Basically, if you are kind, interesting, witty and a good conversationalist, you can be my friend. No thought of whether you agree with me in matters of politics or religion or civilized gentlemen's apparel. Basically, if you engage my interest, you can be my pal.

This of course means that I am "all over the shop" when it comes to friends. Some of them are friends with some others and that's where it starts getting modestly weird. Why?

Because all of my friends who skew hard on any given issue all (generalization follows, be warned) tend to gravitate towards each other. In the case of my pals who also happen to be Catholic, some of them would strike the casual observer as very Catholic. Very large families, residing in small-town communities known for being the homes of like minded people, that sort of thing.

Some -- not, and I am being wildly emphatic here, all -- of them sometimes look at me a bit puzzledly, as I only have two sons, and not seven. I tend to fuss and fret over vintage bartending manuals and not, say Flannery O'Connor or Chesterton (both of whom bore me comatose). That, as noted above, sort of thing.

I had always wondered why this might be, until I started pondering the matter of tribal identifiers. It's not that I don't agree with them, it's that I don't look like I agree with them.

Which was brought to the fore by the Pope's two most recent interviews. I, fortunately, was able to read them in the original Italian and am further fortunate to be able to suss out what Pope Francis, primarily a Spanish speaker, might've had in mind when he said something in Italian. I found both interviews wildly unremarkable.

But not all of those with whom I generally agree on matters doctrinal and liturgical would see eye-to-eye with this. Over at First Things, R.R. Reno spelled out his concerns pretty bluntly (I paraphrase): "Yeah, the Pope's not saying anything new here, but he's using the nuances and terms of the progressive wing."

My translation. "There is a disconnect between what the Pope is saying and the verbal tribal identifiers on display."

Of course, the "THIS is why we can't have nice things!" Eeyores came to the forefront -- some of whom are notable Professional Catholics -- and went into whatever the Catholic version of emo might be. You can spot them pretty easily because, when they cite something, and you helpfully point out they are basing their misunderstanding on a poorly rendered translation they merely roll their eyes and go back to using the lousy translation. They also have, Catholicwise, nothing (and I mean N-O-T-H-I-N-G) at all to say beyond discussion of the Pope and these two interviews. Seriously, go look at their FB feeds. Not a peep about some charitable activity in their parish, a review of some book, some wise saying from a saint...nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Bupkis. They also get verrrrrrrrrrrrrry touchy when you point out Chicken Littlesque behavior.

Very, very touchy.

And I don't mean Trads. Nonononononono. I'M a Trad. I'll stack up my Trad credentials against anyone and spot them a Divine Office. I mean people who are, frankly, predisposed to look at the dark side of things and only the dark side of things. To hear them say it, Hans Kung is now Pope. If you point out any refuting evidence to their assertion, take out your stopwatch to time exactly how quickly it is dismissed. (Not in any factually meaningful way, just...dismissed.) The Pope excommuncated and laicized a renegade priest? Yawn. He delivered a fiery anti-abortion homily? He's just saying things people want to hear.

In 0ther words they not only want a Pope who'll do X, they want a Pope who'll do X in the style and manner in which they want X done.


  • At 12:31 PM, October 04, 2013 , Blogger gnelson said...

    That was good. You. Are a funny little writer.

  • At 1:24 PM, December 03, 2013 , Blogger Janet said...

    Well, hello there! I have made a similar observation regarding trads and Flannery O'Connor, at the end of my "St. Flannery--Not!" I have attributed the tendency to instantly forget data that contradicts the current one to the fact that they are making their living off the current one. They are professional trads.

    But understanding Pope Francis does not depend on the translation, can't you agree? He makes the point so many times, so many ways, there's no getting around his support of Vatican II and its re-interpretation of tradition in the big three: ecumenism, religious liberty, and collegiality.

  • At 1:27 PM, December 03, 2013 , Blogger Janet said...

    I'm sorry, that point might be rather at the end of the other O'Connor work, 'Ruby Turpin is the Church Triumphant and Flannery Takes Her Down.' Sorry, it's so boorish to point to your own blog, it's just that it's the same point you make exactly, except I give a countdown: you argue and argue and cite and cite, and then their eyes glaze over, and three, two, one, puff, it's gone.


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