Saint Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Authority, the Media, Scandal and the Laity

Authority, the Media, Scandal and the Laity
(Don't Bring a Knife to a Gunfight)
By Matthew J. Bellisario 2011

    This piece is perhaps more of a suggestion, or food for thought, than it is to an answer to today’s crisis in the Church concerning modern communication. In the modern age the Church faces a new threat never witnessed before in her glorious 2000 plus year history. The means of modern communication and those who drive it, have been more than a thorn in the Church’s side. In fact, it can be argued that it has been the preferred tool of the Devil. One heretical statement made by a bishop or priest can be carried across the globe in seconds, and the media will make sure they are supported. If you remember, videos of Fr. Michael Pfleger and his mad rant a few years ago was aired across the nation and pumped into every television across America just minutes after it happened! This of course is a weapon that has been used to pry people away from the Catholic faith. Likewise the internet poses the same danger. The modern media entities, which despise Christ and His Church, are always looking for ways to promote their secular agenda. The most effective way to successfully lay siege to an enemy stronghold is to have an ally inside the castle you are trying to take down. Let us remember how the mighty city of Constantinople was first ransacked. Those outside her walls could not penetrate her capable defenses, but a few disgruntled sympathizers inside the gates allowed the enemy to break into the city. This same strategy holds today. The media looks for sympathizers inside the Church, and they use the modern means of communication to wreak havoc.
   
    Now we turn to the Church and her tactics, if we can call it that, and we see no counter offensive. Those who have the authority within the Church today do not seem to make use of these modern means of communication effectively to counter this siege. Doctrine and dogma do not change, but strategies and methods of communicating those doctrines and dogmas certainly do. Remember how the printing press shook the world and allowed the pretended “Reformers” to promote their heretical enterprises? The Catholic Church eventually had to counter them with their own mass produced tracts and books, and as a result thousands came back into the fold. So far, the Catholic Church has not caught up to the change of technology, and in my opinion, it has been catastrophic. Unfortunately we see laymen and women trying to fill the void left by the hierarchy. They publish more blogs and websites on the internet everyday to try and counter the massive onslaught of heresy and scandal. Most have good intentions I am sure. Some of the laity are actually making money off of this void. It appears however that few clergy are using modern means of communication to teach the faith or address problems in the Church. It is as if the hierarchy are stuck in a time warp where pen, paper, horse back and saddle are their only means of communication. By not using modern means to communicate and defend the faith, it is like bringing a pocket knife to a gunfight. Would you reject the printing press over a 10 scribes? I think not. People spend more hours now on the internet than they do watching television. Why let that medium be dominated by these nefarious hecklers who seek to destroy the Church? The laity however have not missed the boat here. Unfortunately, this is upsetting the entire structure of authority within the Church. This unfortunate situation allows guys like Mark Shea to pop up out of the woodwork, and appoint themselves as authorities on the Catholic faith, which they have no business doing. As they say, when there is a void, something will eventually fill it.

    So we have a critical problem in the Catholic Church today. Those who are blessed enough, as I have been, to be in a wonderful parish where the Mass is celebrated properly and the orthodox Catholic faith is taught, are in the minority. So what are the rest of the suffering laity to do? There are certain things that the laity have an absolute right to, and one of them is to make their concerns known to their pastors and those in authority within the Church. They also have a right to be taught the Catholic faith, and to practice that faith with due reverence. But what is one to do when there is no one in authority who will listen to them? What happens when a rightful authority neglects its responsibility? History gives us the answer. Another group will move in to fill the role, it is human nature. What happens when parents fail to discipline their children? Their children end up running the house. So we have a similar situation today in the Church. No this is not a call to clericalism! Faithful Catholic laymen and women have had enough of the heresies, scandals, and irreverence at their parishes. They are tired of giving their money to a parish which neglects the Catholic faith. They are also tired of heretical laypeople running their parishes. Again we see what happens. Folks like Michael Voris start making videos calling for change, and the faithful applaud him, because quite frankly, they see no one else speaking up! Can you blame them? Maybe, but you can certainly understand their frustration. I believe that most of us are sitting back praying for a priest or bishop to take over with rightful authority. Why do you think that Fr. Euteneuer was so popular, and why Fr. Barron is having success? The laity want the leadership of their clergy, there is just not enough to go around, and most are not using effective means of communication to effectively do what needs to be done.

    Now we must ask a crucial question. Is it Michael Voris’ place to go online and lambaste these heretical bishops and priests? I must ask myself the same question. Should I be going online pointing out these horrible atrocities that are plaguing the Church today? This is certainly an important question to be asked, since the laity are not really in a position of authority to put a stop to these charlatans. I must say, and this has applied to me at times as well, that the prudence of the laity has certainly been lacking when it comes to the modern media outlets such as blog sites, podcasts, public conferences, videos, etc. Are these blogs and video sites that are published by laymen and women doing anything to stop these problems in the Church? Does “exposing” these charlatans help put a stop to them? Maybe in some rare cases they have,  but if so, are they accomplishing this by virtuous means or by any means necessary? In other words, desperate times bring with it desperate measures. They are not however always prudent measures, and they can even at times be immoral measures, which cause more harm than good. The old saying goes, the ends to do not justify the means.

So now I will give you my suggestion, or food for thought as it were. The laity should make their concerns known to the clergy, and so I do so now. I believe that an effort must be made to move the competent authorities in the Church to use these modern means of communication to clean up the Church and communicate the Catholic faith to the world. I truly believe that if good priests and bishops would put forth more of an effort to produce quality material on the web, videos, books and podcasts, that most of the laity would be more than happy to support their efforts. Sure there would be a few Mark Sheas that would have to find a real job, but that is probably for the better in most cases. Most of the laity would rather have a great priest come and speak at their parish rather than a Mark Shea. After all, whenever people hear that a good priest is going to speak, or answer questions about the faith, they come in droves to hear them. What I am arguing for I suppose, is for the rightful authority to come and take the laity out of this odd position they are in. For example, I do not really enjoy putting up a post on Fr. Pfleger hoping that some bishop or fellow priest will actually do something about his actions. I would rather use my time and resources to learn the faith, and to promote good material produced by priests and theologians who can defend and teach the faith much better than I. In this manner we can then move forward to address the problems in the Church more effectively. We can accomplish the real work of the Church militant, which is to lead people to Christ. It is in this direction that this blog will continue to move in. I want to bring your attention to good priests, bishops and accomplished theologians so that we can all grow deeper in our faith and holiness. I love to share good sermons and good articles with my readers whenever I can. There are some great priests who are making their sermons and talks available, and I think we should be making every effort to promote their work.

In closing, if we as faithful laymen and women encourage our bishops and priests to take up the task of using the internet, and other forms of modern mass media to promote and defend the Catholic faith, then I think we will make more progress than if we are to take this task up ourselves. Sure, we as the laity can still write and speak about the Catholic faith, and there will always be a place for that, but we will be able to do it in a more effective, charitable and prudent manner with the clergy at the helm. We can point potential converts to those priests and bishops who are put in the position of teaching and defending the faith. We all know the problems that plague the Church today, and there are certainly good priests and bishops out there who can steer the ship in the right direction. We just need to encourage them to step out of the age of the printing press and into the information age so the laity can go back to being laity. Its time for the Church hierarchy to bring a pistola to the gunfight.  

1 comment:

scotju said...

Matt, your sugestions about helping the good clergy that we got to use the new media in an effective way is just what we need! Please start searching for these guys, so we can start supporting them. What we really need are orthodox bishops who can grasp the potential of the new media and train priests, deacons, and the laity in using it in apologetics that can inform church members and the unchurched what the Catholic faith really is. And as I have stated before, the bishops should require any apologists to be licensed by the diocese to control and prevent loose cannons like Mark Shea from using apologetics as a cover for spouting personal opinons as church doctrine.