Thursday, August 14, 2008

They've improved it worse

The Catholic World News website was down the other day while the good people thereat made ready their “liturgical changes” for unveiling this week.

Today the site is back up again. But Melancholicus is shocked and dismayed. It is not the same site at all. They have even changed its name. It is now Catholic Culture, and although the news features and headlines are listed on this page, there seems to be no sign of the news archive—though this, possibly, may be due to the fact that they haven’t moved the archive to their new site yet... we shall wait and see.

But, being a Traditionalist, Melancholicus does not like change, and he especially disapproves of the same when websites he frequently visits are re-arranged by their owners in an attempt to make the site more user-friendly and accessible. For these changes, however well intended they may be, confront the visitor with something new and foreign when he is expecting the old and familiar. It is an unsettling experience, whereat the visitor quickly becomes lost, finds he cannot navigate the site or find what he’s looking for, becomes disheartened, finally leaves and then doesn’t come back but goes elsewhere to find what he sought at his once-familiar port of call but can find no longer.

Sounds rather like the conciliar church, doesn’t it?

Indeed. The good people over at the now defunct have done something really, really bad. They have taken down their traditional website and replaced it with a novus ordo version of the same. Perhaps visitors will become accustomed to the novelty in time—if they persevere; perhaps, disheartened by the abruptness and extent of the reforms, they will go elsewhere for their Catholic world news. Since about thirty to forty percent of the posts on Infelix Ego are based on CWN stories, Melancholicus finds himself vexed not a little by the change, and also finds himself facing the task of having to adjust his links accordingly.

There are some comforts, though. Diogenes is still online—if you can find him. Although he disparages the new website as novus, Melancholicus at least stayed long enough on it to see what other kind of fare it offered. While doing so he stumbled upon this obnoxious feature, namely a catalogue of site reviews wherein a private person (or persons) has taken it upon himself/themselves to judge the Catholicity or otherwise of external websites. There is a link through which the visitor can view the (in the compiler’s private opinion) “Top-rated sites”. More interestingly, there is also a “Danger list” which, as we shall see, contains some strange bedfellows. The websites on the “Danger list” are those which the compiler—in his private opinion—has judged in some undefined way not entirely consonant with Catholicism, or at least with Catholicism as he understands it.

Websites are reviewed by our self-appointed inquisitor according to the criterea of “Fidelity”, “Resources” and “Useability”. Assessment of the two latter is somewhat a matter of subjective opinion, and Melancholicus shall say no more about that, for it is the reviewer’s approach to “Fidelity” that he finds most interesting, and not a little irritating. “Fidelity” is nowhere defined, and in practical terms seems to mean no more than the degree to which a given website conforms to the reviewer’s own position on ecclesiastical politics. So let us now take a gander through his “Danger list” to see what may be afoot.

To be fair to our reviewer, the greater share of the websites on his “Danger list” deserve to be there, and would be on the blacklist of any orthodox Catholic, were he minded to compile such. Our reviewer tells us that “these sites receive the lowest grade in the Fidelity category”. Some of the sites he lists are those of obvious dissenting groups such as Call To Action and We Are Church, flaky religious orders, dodgy educational institutes, pro-homosexual ministry and the supporters of the wymynprysts movement. So far so good. On the other side of the divide he lists the websites of sedevacantist groups, as well as the well-known and notorious sites Traditio and Novus Ordo Watch. Melancholicus cannot quarrel with any of that. A lot of these sites are nothing if not absolutely barmy. But the reviewer also includes some websites on this “Danger list” whose ‘dissent’—if such it be—is not anywhere near as clear-cut and which has not been satisfactorily established according to properly-defined criterea, in effect tarring them with the same brush as the modernists and the sedes.

For instance, Melancholicus was interested to see what our reviewer would make of Fisheaters, since he links to Fisheaters himself from Infelix Ego. Although conceding that Fisheaters contains “many good resources”, the reviewer complains that these are “seriously marred by the webmaster’s ultra-traditionalist views”. Furthermore, “the language consistently implicitly and explicitly rejects the New Mass as well as the authority of [the] Second Vatican Council”.

Melancholicus has grown tired of hearing this vague, undefined charge—which is little more than a bromide—levelled at those who have the temerity to consider the new liturgy inferior to the old, or who believe that The Greatest Council Of All TimeTM was not in fact the greatest council of all time. This is a standard charge that recurs again and again in our inquisitor’s reviews of traditionalist websites. Nowhere does he explain what precisely “rejecting” either the New Mass or “the authority of Vatican II” means, or why, indeed, such should be considered a crime. On the basis of an ambiguous charge left unexplained, websites such as Fisheaters are found to be in violation of “Fidelity”, and are consigned to the trash heap alongside the likes of America magazine, Maryknoll, Voice of the Faithful, and Catholics For A Free Choice.

Fisheaters commits another crime against “Fidelity” insofar as “all of the material and resources offered are pre-Vatican II”. If our reviewer could explain to Melancholicus how this could be considered in itself a crime, he would be interested in hearing it.

Then there is Fisheaters’ Dictionary of Dissent, which really exercises our pious reviewer. He complains that the Dictionary contains sarcastic remarks about the new liturgy and the post-conciliar church. But so what? Depending on one’s personal taste, some may find the Dictionary of Dissent darkly amusing, others may find it obnoxious. But where on this page does there occur the denial of some doctrine of faith or morals one might expect if the webmaster is to be found in violation of “Fidelity”?

Another “weakness” of the Fisheaters website identified by our reviewer is its “unorthodox Catholic links”. Among these allegedly “unorthodox” links are Christian Order, Una Voce (!) and the (now unfortunately defunct) Diocese Report. By what criterion does our reviewer take it upon himself to judge these sites “unorthodox”? In any case, they are all—together with Seattle Catholic—guilty of a most serious breach of “Fidelity”. Fidelity to what, precisely? Ah, but there’s the rub. The sense in which this term is used by our reviewer can hardly be as restrictive as adherence merely to the teachings of the Church, for the aforementioned Traditionalist websites he has consigned to his “Danger list” contain no heresy. No, for our reviewer, the meaning of “Fidelity” has been expanded to include adherence not only to the teachings of the Church but to the policies and decisions of churchmen, as well as an exaggerated sense of the respect owed to those in sacred orders. All Traditionalist websites promote the old religion at the expense of the new; that is the distinguishing feature of Traditionalism, for they wouldn’t be Traditionalists if they didn’t. Why, in the opinion of our reviewer, should criticism of the liturgical dross that has been imposed upon the Church for the last forty years be considered grounds for such extreme censure? We find Christian Order roundly upbraided for the egregious crime of being sharply critical of the bishops of England and Wales. But it is a matter of the historical record that these bishops comprise one of the most corrupt and modernist hierarchies in the world. If our reviewer considers such men above criticism, he cannot know very much about them. Although Diocese Report is no longer functioning, Melancholicus used to read it regularly before he entered seminary in 2002, and he remembers it as a news source that never held back from reporting on the perfidy and malfeasance of corrupt bishops. There have been many examples of bad bishops in the history of holy Church, and bad bishops abound in every age. Why is it apparently so hard for our reviewer to believe that there are bad bishops installed in Sees today, all across the world? For what is most disturbing about our reviewer’s criterea in evaluating the ‘orthodoxy’ of websites is that he seems to be more scandalised by Traditionalist criticism of ecclesiastical turpitude than by the turpitude itself. If such be the case, he’d want to get his priorities right.

Perhaps when he says “Fidelity”, what he really means is “Party loyalty”, which is a different matter entirely.

Melancholicus is amazed and disgusted at the extent to which some will take it upon themselves to write their fellow Catholics out of the Church, even though the victims of these arrogant judgements have incurred no ecclesiastical censure.

And that is the end of today’s rant.

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