This year has been a struggle, as I work things out relative to the shifts that have happened in Catholicism since I've been Catholic. The last vestiges of pre-progressive culture have been swept behind us, except for those sexual issues that would likely not impact celibate men. Everything else is increasingly along the lines of modern, Western, progressive and even secular social and political theory.
That is enough right there. Add to it the slammed doors on any hope that I will be able to act in the capacity of a minister of the Gospel, and it's been tough. What to give up? What to sacrifice? What to commit to?
Well, I decided, a few weeks into Lent I admit, that my penance will be a daily visit to Catholic and Enjoying It. That may sound strange. But here is why.
In my early days of looking at non-Protestant Christianity, I stumbled on CAEI largely by accident. I was searching for some free downloadable articles by Scott Hahn, without success. Then I found an article by someone named Mark Shea. It dealt with the strange aversion many Protestants have regarding Mary. It was direct, but nice. Even respectful. There were some clever zingers, making the point without offending. But the point was solid, fair, and truthful.
I went back, found his website, and gobbled up the articles. They were almost all wonderful. Here was a conservative American Catholic, not afraid to point out when Conservatism wasn't following the path of Christ. He was also fair when liberalism was correct. His blog was a little more raucous. But those were usually the readers. Mark himself was often the goalie, stepping in and stopping things before they went too far. Even telling his friends to back off. No personal attacks or accusations were allowed. Those would get you the door.
There you had it. You could be conservative and Catholic. The stereotype of Catholicism and Liberal Socialism voting Democrats as the sacramental calling of modern Catholicism was not universal. You could love America, admit it sins, but not emphasize them (which Mark pointed out was often a very un-Christian thing to do). You could respect the heritage of Western Civilization. You could evenly boldly declare "Why We Must Fight" following 9/11. He even liked Tolkien, and the books I liked. And his humor and mine were not too far off each other.
Perhaps it was my own fault that I saw in Mark's rather balanced approach as what Catholicism was, rather than looking further. But that was well over ten years ago.
Today, the Church has changed in just the time since we came into it. The generation that had welcomed Protestant Clergy Converts into the fold have passed to retirement. With some exceptions in the priesthood, most now in charge (Boomer age) seem to want little to do with us, unless we can design webpages or raise money. And it isn't hard to see that Oprah style liberalism and the growing pronouncements about reality from Church leaders sound increasingly the same. The Bishops' willingness to almost in one voice support the Democrats in all things, as long as they don't screw the Church, and the shift toward accepting the Secular narrative are hard to miss.
True, Pope Francis is a horse of a different color. But those who have studied liberation theology and the Marxist influences in South American Christianity will recognize at least some influences there, even if what he is willing to take a stand against other forms of radical leftist morality (again, usually where sex is concerned).
On CAEI, the change is even more pronounced. It's almost an entirely different world. An entirely different blogger. Most regulars of old have long since moved on. The readers are either post-modern non-conformists cheering on their own superiority over all those loser "tribal Catholics", or clearly hard to the Left progressives, with varying degrees of anti-abortion and non-gay marriage support. In fact, opposing gay "marriage" is about the only thing that separates much modern talk about homosexuality in the Church from your average LGBT rally. And CAEI echoes this.
CAEI is a strange mixture now of Jack Chick, Glenn Beck, Huffington Post progressive thought, and a reminder that Catholics are, whether we want to admit it or not, heirs of the Inquisition. For a couple years, many regulars tried to warn that there was little to do with enjoying anything on CAEI, and a growing discrepancy between a man who claims to be conservative, and a man who increasingly seems to love liberalism but hate conservatism. One by one, those readers have apparently given up and moved on. Only a handful remain. God love them.
For me, who has been accused of horrible things by the stock readers and by Mark himself - including not caring about murdered children at Sandy Hook and desiring to increase human slaughter - there is little joy or happiness now. The anti-Western, anti-American, anti-Traditional and anti-Conservative narrative fully embraced has made me more of an outcast there than I was at the Huffington Post. And to be honest, I've been called far worse on CAEI than I was at the Huffington Post. And it was leaving HP (as well as being banned for not being liberal) that was one of the reasons I started my blog! Which is always a possibility at CAEI, since the thing that gets you banned now is pretty much defending traditional and conservative viewpoints, with rare exception.
So why keep going? Because, as I've said before, Mark stepped in and helped our family when we needed help. He also helped us by sending us drafts of his Mary books when we were asking questions, before I even visited his blog. And I do think that, deep down, Mark is a sensitive, thoughtful individual. It's just that he seems to get his comfort from being entirely obedient to the Vatican, the Vatican now, as opposed to "Cafeteria Catholics" who aren't. And as the Church shifts to the Left, what can he do? Openly disagree? Perhaps the tension between realizing the Church's embrace of modernity and his deep down preference for more Conservative ideals is the cause of the rancor. Perhaps he was never really that conservative. Maybe he did think Conservatives were equal to God, and had a meltdown when he realized the truth. Who knows? But he's become successful in this new incarnation, and it's unlikely now that he will change and go back.
So I've committed myself to one more round. I will visit everyday, and try to post at least one post each day. I will avoid anything that will bring the accusations and condescension from readers whose bizarre level of lunacy and leftist judgemental intolerance appears to be accepted, if not supported, by Mark. If it happens, it happens. Then, come the great celebration of Easter and the Resurrection, I too will rise from the dregs that have embraced the worst of our post-modern culture, and move on to where I can once again find joy and happiness in the historic Faith, not despite this or that blog, but because of this or that blog, if I decide to find another one at all.