arrogant catholics

Love is not boastful

It is important for Christians to show their love by the way they treat family members who are less knowledgeable about the faith, weak or less sure in their convictions. At times the opposite occurs: the supposedly mature believers within the family become unbearably arrogant. (Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia 98)

Pride and arrogance are never pretty. Pride and arrogance in a Christian are not only ugly, but also go against all that Jesus modelled in both word and deed. Pope Francis often echoes Jesus’s zealous criticism of the Pharisees of his day, challenging modern Catholics to judge less and dialogue more.

The recent death of Mother Angelica, the founder of EWTN, has prompted a discussion on the legacy she has left behind.

On the one hand, this conservative nun built a media empire that was the envy of many American bishops. This anti-feminist woman showed that women can, indeed, be a powerful voice in the church.

On the other hand, her brand of ultra-orthodox Catholicism rankled many. Behind her folksy speaking style was a harsh, judgmental view of Catholics who did not live up to the high religious, cultural and moral standards promoted on her network.

Many years ago, I used to watch a lot of EWTN. There was some good, solid catechetical programming. The daily liturgies and prayers are, I’m sure, beneficial to many shut-ins. But, I was quickly turned off by the zealous orthodoxy of some of its presenters, including Mother Angelica herself. Interviewers and interviewees fed each other on a constant diet of “spot the heresy” and “point out the sin” in liturgical practise, doctrine, and the daily lives of ordinary women and men.

There is a big difference in seeking perfection in our own faith lives, and spending our lives scrutinizing the imperfections of others. Self-appointed heresy hunting is seldom wrapped in a cloak of charity and humility.

Father Thomas Rosica C.S.B. is also a founder of a Catholic media network, Salt and Light TV here in Canada.  (In my humble opinion, Salt and Light TV is to EWTN what BBC News is to Fox News.) Father Rosica is a respected scripture scholar and communicator, and also works for the Vatican Press office as a spokesperson for English speaking media.

On May 11, 2016, Fr. Rosica received the St. Francis DeSales Distinguished Communicator Award. His Keynote Address is a brilliant synopsis of the change in tone and “branding” of the Church under Pope Francis. You can watch or read the full speech online at Salt and Light TV.

In his address, Rosica describes the culture of encounter and dialogue promoted by Pope Francis. Francis is showing to the world what we, as Catholics, stand for rather than repeating a long list of things we are against. Our pope preaches about the need to care for the poor, the marginalized, the migrants and refugees. He promotes care for the environment and the need for mercy in both the world and the church.

When speaking about the “Digital World and Catholic Blogosphere”, the usually calm Rosica gives an emotional observation of the harm being done by some overly zealous Catholics online.

It (the internet) can be an international weapon of mass destruction, crossing time zones, borders and space. In its wake is character assassination, destruction of reputation, calumny, libel, slander and defamation.

Instead of using the internet as a graced platform for evangelization, those who partake in this character assassination have,

…turned it into a graveyard of corpses strewn all around. Often times the obsessed, scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering virtual guardians of faith or of liturgical practices are very disturbed, broken and angry individuals, who never found a platform or pulpit in real life and so resort to the Internet and become trolling pontiffs and holy executioners! In reality they are deeply troubled, sad and angry people. We must pray for them, for their healing and conversion!

These are harsh words coming from a man skilled in diplomatic communications. For this reason, his words aren’t to be taken lightly.

I’ve written before about the heresy hunters that troll Catholic sites looking for victims for their inquisitorial endeavours. (I’ve been a victim myself.) The wonderful discussion boards at the National Catholic Reporter are often high-jacked by these self-righteous souls.

Pope Francis continues in Amoris Laetitia,

In family life, the logic of domination and competition about who is the most intelligent or powerful destroys love. (AM 98)

The logic of domination and competition about who is the holiest or purest destroys love in the church.

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See also: EWTN: The Legacy of Mother Angelica  by Michael Sean Winters (National Catholic Reporter)

Can Catholic TV move beyond Mother Angelica’s legacy? by Raymond A. Schroth (National Catholic Reporter)