Another response to Padnusiak

In a recent digital clameur de haro (02 June 2016), Chase Padusniak begins:

contrapad1Although he does not name his accuser, Chase refers to me.  I am the one who found an “uncritical swooning” over Pope Francis in a post of his which daringly (if prematurely) hopes that, like legacies of Meister Eckhart and of a group of priests known to Dorothy Day, Pope Francis’ own legacy may one day enjoy a rehabilitation or positive reassessment, free from the controversy and confusion which marks it today. I pointed out that placing hope in a rectified legacy years from now does no good to those people today who suffer the present confusion. Frankly, such speculative discussions non sunt ad rem; it misses the heart of the issue, and trades direct analysis of our Sitz im Leben for doe-eyed wishful thinking. Thus, by avoiding the real crux of the matter, I noted that such avoidance engenders a perceived glossing over or absolution of the Pope’s faults and ambiguous statements, precisely because Chase’s piece focuses on a future in which Francis’ legacy, in his words, “will win the day.” Resposuit mihi:

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I know it has become an almost instinctive part of pop culture to use, modo Christophori Traeger necnon et sororum Kardashiarum, the word “literally” with obnoxious liberty, but the gravity of tone suggests that Chase has indeed consciously abstained from rigor by negatively labeling “certain sites”, whose identity he revealed only after repeated prodding.

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Again, when I wished to clarify whether he intended to target sites like Novus Ordo Watch, Mundabor, or Traditional Catholic Thoughts (which are far more worthy of rebuke), or sites like 1Peter5 and Rorate Caeli (on the other hand), Chase said:

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Let’s first leave leave aside the ridiculous and risible assertion that Chase, a relative newcomer to the Patheos Catholic portal, were somehow capable of “shaming” such well-established and widely-read sites as Rorate Caeli, LifeSite, and 1P5, all of which have long had their fair share of more illustrious detractors before “Jappers and Janglers” came on the scene. (Noveritis, fratres carissimi: I wouldn’t dare claim for myself the same ability to “shame” such firmly entrenched, well-funded, stable projects.) In any case, naming those whom one criticizes is not “shaming”; in fact, it is often an act of charity and sign of the moral fortitude to stand by one’s words while graciously and courteously yet directly welcoming opposition. (That Chase denied me this common courtesy is open to a plethora of interpretations which I will leave to the reader’s assessment.) That Chase, in one turn of phrase, deftly and ably combines special pleading with a “no true Scotsman”-type fallacy shouldn’t be lost on more astute minds. (Or, as he readily admits, maybe he really is naïve.) Finally, nobody but Chase controls the length and content of his posts; hiding behind an intention of brevity is an egregiously lazy cop-out that doesn’t absolve a writer from mischaracterizing his opponents.

By reading Chase’s commentary alone, one might think that the aforementioned sites overwhelmingly focus on on producing anti-Francis hit pieces. However, I question the prudence and even the charity of claiming with such dogged insistence that these “certain sites” “quite literally” “report [Francis’] every action negatively as if it were their job”. One’s qualification to comment on any subject is directly proportional to one’s knowledge of the subject, and superficiality of commentary usually results from superficial familiarity; a quick visit to either of these three sites (Rorate, 1P5, LifeSite) reveal quite clearly that Chase himself has resorted to a judgment of these sites based on tenuous knowledge.

I come not to praise these sites; quite the contrary, I write all this as someone blocked by Rorate Caeli after I made one tweet which refuted them strictly on a point of fact. I write as one whom Steve Skojec (founder and webmaster of 1P5) offered to interview, only to have the offer come to naught after he read my article on the theoretical moral licitness of voting for a pro-choice candidate (if conditions created a context of remote material cooperation). Nevertheless, and in spite of the (albeit minor and forgivable) slights I’ve suffered, for the sake of accuracy and of true charity, I am obliged to articulate the following observations.

1Peter5, in addition to producing original content in its own right, is a massive aggregator of traditional Catholic content. It pulls theologically rigorous contributions from lesser known personages to ecclesiastics and academics with names like Burke, Sarah, Schneider, Kwasniewski, De Mattei and others. The quality and form of such content ranges from the impassioned and emotional, to poems, to short stories, to book reviews, to the rigorous and academic. LifeSite, as the name suggests, overwhelmingly covers pro-life issues, especially in the American political context. Certainly, these two sites have articles and op-eds criticizing papal decisions, but the existence of these pieces is not of itself objectionable. A quick visit to either of these sites will show no inordinate or overwhelming “picking on” the Pope, a reality drastically different from what Chase has portrayed.

Rorate Caeli is more hard-hitting than the previous two sites, prone to knee-jerk reactions, and far more pointed in its commentary. As opposed to 1P5 and LifeSite, a larger proportion of their posts lend a critical eye to the pope (not just to Francis: before the abdication, Benedict XVI was often targeted for his defenses of Dignitatis Humanae, Teilhard, von Balthasar, and interfaith overtures; John Paul II too received posthumous scorn for continued liturgical deformations under his watch and for the 1986 interfaith gathering at Assisi). These, however, do not exhaust Rorate’s efforts, and neither do they, audemus dicere, constitute a majority of its content.

The Rorate Caeli Purgatorial Society coordinates the offering of Masses for the repose of innumerable souls. The site stands at the forefront of informing the Anglophone Catholic world of developments like conferences, retreats, pilgrimages, and liturgies which continue to work for the restoration of traditional practices. Rorate reproduces top-notch traditional devotional content. Finally, as quick as its authors are to pounce on a papal misstep, they were even faster to thank Pope Francis for, among other things, recognizing the SSPX’s confessional faculties, and most recently, for extending those same faculties indefinitely past the end of the Jubilee of Mercy.

In sum, 1P5 is not Rorate, neither of which is LifeSite, which are altogether different from The Remnant and Church Militant. Ignoring all this for the sake of pigeonholing them into a simplistic derogatory characterization is not only “uncritical” in the simple, obvious, and plain sense of the word; this too is gross uncharity. In fact, by continuing to stuff this straw man, Chase indicts himself for the same error of which he accuses Rorate, 1P5, LifeSite, et al., namely, cramming the wide-ranging content of these sites into a caricaturized, pre-formed counter-narrative until he creates his own self-fulfilling prophecy. Is this the restraint from “charged talk” which he tries to practice?

Here I will conclude my observations. It seems odd that one who often praises “the ever-indefatigable Camile Paglia” will shrink like a wilting flower once hit by criticism whose rhetorical force, admittedly, is but a poor parody of Paglian prowess. Chase cites the cultural critic approvingly or posts links to her articles in which, for example, she calls Donald Trump “an art vandal, equivalent to ISIS destroying ancient Assyrian sculptures”; Ted Cruz is a “ham actor”; Taylor Swift’s girl squad antics are an “obnoxious Nazi Barbie routine”; Hillary Clinton is “the Wicked Witch of the West”; the ugliness of Lena Dunham’s “unappetizingly pallid Caucasian flesh” is matched only by “the torpid banality of [her] utterances”. The sources of such statements are glimpsed amid gushing and glowing commentary in Chase’s Facebook timeline.

However, quod Deus advertet if I should use the word “uncritical” in reference to his work! His keyboard rattles with cries of “uncharity,” charges of “unwarranted and un-Christian attacks,” and accusations of “charged talk and insults”; yet my words, moderate and restrained in comparison to the acerbic wit of someone he admires, somehow appear to him as “so full of anger”.

(Against such amateur psychoanalysis, let me assure Chase that I’ve never expressed to him any hint of the anger which, after years of soldierly toil, I’ve learned to control or unleash with devastating effect at the drop of a hat.)

Perhaps I, Chase’s poor internet interlocutor, am unworthy of the preferential charitable treatment accorded to the perspicacious and punchy Paglia.

Such a double standard should pose problems to those who pursue charitable means, but perhaps not for someone who plunders words of their common meaning until hypocrisy becomes a virtue.

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