Sunday, May 01, 2005

Why is the Catholic internet so weird?

Here's a scenario -

You are a potential convert to the faith, having done some investiagtion into history or theology, and you look up a Catholic parish in the phone book to enquire about becoming Catholic. You go to the place and walk in the fornt door, and you see a man sitting at a desk behind the imposing title "Parish Administrator".

"How do I join the Catholic Church?" you ask him.

"I have no idea." is his reply.

"Well, should I even bother?" you further query.

"I don't see why, I'm not Catholic and I'm perfectly happy." is his answer.

Would your Bishop tolerate this situation in a parish in his diocese? Should he? How does it make you feel? Most regular Catholics, faced with this scenario, presume that our poor hypothetical convert must have stumbled into St. Joan or perhaps another of the most liberal wacko parishes in the world.

However, if you troll around the internet a while, you'll find a situation analgous to this going on at major Catholic websites. The website of a fairly-well-known conservative Catholic convert/apologist had, until recently, a Protestant administrator. I ask - how can a Catholic website supposedly focused on conversion hand the keys to the front door over to an obstinate heretic?

I think, although I am not sure, that the answer is this: Just like parishes will often hire people without any discernable Catholic faith to key positions to avoid hiring someone with a real Catholic agenda likely to cause problems, so these website owners place people without Catholic agendas in charge of the websites to avoid trouble.

Any vigorously Catholic person who takes a real interest in the faith will likely develop a definite agenda, be it liberal, conservative, or traditionalist. A Catholic website owner unable or unwilling to choose between these philosophies is in a quandry - I'm sure they simply desire that their website be "genuinely Catholic" - but the outcome gives lie to this bit of naivete.

Just like in the real world, it's almost impossible to ignore the fractures in Catholic America on the internet. The desire of Catholic webmasters to have non-ideological websites and message boards in this environment is simply an impossible dream. People of conviction inevitably take sides. As Chesterton said, "the purpose of opening one's mind is to close it again on something solid". To demand that the people who work in either the real or virtual Church avoid having a solid ideology is to condemn us all to be led by the least capable, the people who really believe in nothing. And, to again take a famous quote, "If you don't believe in something, you'll believe anything."


At 12:38 PM, Blogger BekahS. said...

A little off-topic, yet still our parish a few weeks ago, a Lutheran woman was allowed to act as an EMHC during our First Holy Communion Mass! I didn't know about this until after the fact. Why in the world DO Catholics allow this kind of stuff?

At 1:00 PM, Blogger Jimbo the Terrible said...

They're nice peeple, those people.

Very nice.

At 1:01 PM, Blogger Kokopelli said...

Due to the vagueness in details I may have missed some important point but... Effective administration of a website requires a fair administrator and one versed in the technical aspects of the website. Unless the board explicitly states that one must be in lock-step with the whims of the admins, issues of ideology should not even enter into the admins job description.
I just don't get it. Either one is fair or one is not. And it would seem that one without a vested interest is the most likely to be the most fair.

At 1:07 PM, Blogger Jimbo the Terrible said...

What a perfectly nice opinion. I suppose the Lutheran in the above example, having no vested interest in Catholic communion, was an ideal impartial distributor of it?

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Kokopelli said...

Equating a website with the Holy Eucharist is simply hubris that borders on blasphemy. And you call yourself a Catholic? Shame on you.

(FWIW, I have serious reservations about allowing a non-Catholic to serve as a EMHC.)

At 5:00 PM, Blogger BekahS. said...

Serious reservations? You've got to be kidding me.

Since when does a protestant on a Catholic website guarantee one does not have a vested interest. An invalid assumption. As the world's largest Christian Church, one would think there would be no problems finding a fair administrator for a Catholic website without having to hire someone of another faith.

At 5:11 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Depending on the particular Protestant, I wouldn't see a problem with some Protestants acting as webmasters. If I needed one, and a particular Protestant friend of mine offered to do it, I wouldn't have a problem with her doing it (and who knows, maybe she'd convert doing it :D). Other protestants, I would. I don't see it as being much different than having a Protestant being an accountant for, say, Catholic Answers.

Now, something like a Protestant being an EHMC is simply unacceptable.

At 7:07 PM, Blogger Chad said...

At first, when I read this, I wondered what the big deal was. Who cares whether a Protestant is hired as a webmaster or not?

But as I think about it, it is a big deal. Do we take our faith seriously or not? If the website is geared toward aiding in conversions, then we'd better take it seriously, and we'd better not have people who could chop our legs out from under us in our employ.

There are plenty of orthodox Catholics out there looking for jobs in every conceivable area; to hire a Protestant to a visible role where he could easily affect the mission of the apostolate is not wise.

At 7:13 PM, Blogger Jimbo the Terrible said...

"Hubris that borders on blasphemy"?

That's so over the top that I'm sure Kokopelli is just trying to get a rise out of me. Fact is, we Catholics are supposed to be consistent. Trying to model our lives outside the Church on the principles we learn inside Church isn't "blasphemy" and Kokopelli probably realizes that. He's just being a jerk.

At 1:18 PM, Blogger Kokopelli said...

I suppose y'all are right. "Serious reservations" is not nearly strong enough. Rather any Protestant caught even signing up for EMHC should be hung and impaled and then after about 100 years dug up and have their bones burnt down to ash. Is that more in line with your thinking? OF COURSE, it is improper for someone who does not fully accept the Real Presence of our Lord to distibute the Host. D'uh! But once someone pisses you guys off you go after any conceivable (and I use that word lightly) offense even if they agree with you on a particular point. Heck, I'm surprised you didn't knock me for my font.

At 1:23 PM, Blogger Chad said...

Actually, Koko,

the Catholics who allowed a Protestant to serve as an EMHC should be excommunicated...but I'm beginning to think that you are arguing for the sheer sake of arguing. Why so much resentment? All I think we've said is that Catholics aiming to convert Protestants shouldn't have Protestants serving in highly visible roles in their apostolates. That's perfectly reasonable; you're not.

But of course you're welcome to continue commenting and I think I speak for all of us that we won't be deleting anything unless it gets seriously personally offensive.

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Jimbo the Terrible said...

Yeah, I think this is speaking volumes. Do continue.


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