18 August 2011

Toppled idols

By now, most readers have heard about the Michael Voris story.  Stories such as these bring out the best in some people, the worst in others.  I was not a great follower of Voris, although I did watch a few of his videos.  He said some things with which I agreed, others with which I did not.  In general, I tend to avoid people with a large personal following.  I have too often seen such people fail and fall, and the followers find their faith shaken.  Why? I wonder.  What is a blog and a blogger that people have such a large investment in seeing them succeed, or in seeing them fail?  Why would a blogger's failure to live up to his professed faith cause people to doubt their own?

At the heart of this is the question:  what is a blogger?  What are these self appointed Catholic apologists?

Most of us bear witness to our faith on the Internet.  Some of us try to explain the faith, or push our version of it.  We do so of our own accord, with no oversight.  We exist within a vacuum, and the Church does not yet know what to do with us, or what to do about us.  We have next to no guidance from the Church in our endeavors, and we are making up the rules as we go along. We try to speak for the Church, and to defend the Church when we feel it needs defending, but we are doing so outside the auspices of the Church.  We give our opinions of how the church is, and how it should be run.  We have no authority to do so.    

Constantly voicing our opinions seems to me to often lead to pride, even if not so intended.  I often see many of our prominent bloggers say things like: "I agree with the Pope in this" which seems to me to be tending to pride, for, even though we say we agree, presuming the power to agree only makes sense if one has taken upon oneself the power to disagree.  We do not have that power. To say we agree with the Magisterium seems to say that the Magisterium needs our agreement.  We may as well say the sun shines by consensus.

We bloggers sometimes need to remind ourselves that our opinion does not matter, and, if we should on occasion speak the truth, even if only inadvertently, it is not our truth we speak, or, if it is our truth, it is so not because we have made it so, but because we have submitted ourselves to it.  On our own, by ourselves, we have no more authority than a pack of barking dogs.

My first encounter with both the world of blogging and Catholic blogging in particular was Gerald Augustinus' "The Cafeteria is Closed."  I must have visited that site ten times a day back then, to find the latest news, and to read the comments.  Gerald was a convert who ardently and stridently trumpeted his version of the faith, and one reader after another piped in to say "Amen!".  Then, after some years of being one of the foremost, if not the foremost, conservative Catholic bloggers, he did a very abrupt about face, and became a liberal blogger, becoming everything he once hated, and hating everything he once was.  His readers were shaken.  How could someone who believed everything so strongly, so much stronger than they themselves believed, turn so completely?  What did it mean for their faith, if someone with a seemingly stronger faith could turn so completely?

These questions should never have come up at all.  The Cafeteria spoke for Augustus, and not the Church, just as Bear speaks for Bear.   A blogger changed his mind, and went in a different direction from his followers.  Nothing more.

In the case of Voris, I will wait to see what comes of this, and see what has happened, and what lies at the heart of this, whether hypocrisy, incompetence, or simple misplaced trust in others to handle affairs while he concentrated on other matters.  Perhaps these revelations will mean the end of him, perhaps he will come out of it again.   Perhaps he will come out of it a better man, and show a little charity towards those who similarly slip up. For now, it seems that people are disappointed in their champion.  They expected better of him than this.  Now those expectations are salt in a wound.  Voris has not fallen so much as been diminished in the eyes of his fans. Few people forgive their heroes for being mortal.  He is, in the end, a fallible man.  Men make mistakes all the time.  If he spoke truth before, it is not lies now.  If he spoke lies before, they are so still.  Little, if anything, has really changed. Those who expected more Voris, who thought his infallible, are at best partaking in wishful thinking, at worst, deceiving themselves.  Whatever he has or has not done, he is still a man, and we are still Catholics. Our response is neither gloating nor tears, but prayers for a fallible man, like ourselves.

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