I’m going to assume that it’s a technological glitch, but if it’s not, it seems that I have been banned from commenting at Mark Shea’s Patheos blog!
The irony here is colossal.
Years ago, as I was becoming, or maybe had just become, a Catholic, Mark wanted to take time off from blogging in order to finish his (as it would turn out) three-part book on Mother Mary. But since he didn’t want to let his blog presence go to the dogs, he ended up asking me to stand in for him. Back then I went by the moniker Geistesweisheit. My stint lasted for a couple months (maybe?), and I only made one really big gaffe (posting large excerpts from a book that was skeptical of the HIV/AIDS theory). As a result, I got a huge (well, relatively huge) burst of traffic and notoriety from that gig, which carried me for quite a while as a semi-notable blog in St. Blog’s Parish.
Eventually, though, I blogged less and less and eventually became a mere ghost online. Meanwhile, Mark went from glory to glory as one of the justifiably praised “big guns” in the Catholic mediasphere. In that time, it seems that not only have our commitments as bloggers diverged, but also our stances on what constitutes Catholic “loyalty” and how best to implement the Church’s social doctrine. Specifically, since I am now among the Pharisees, the Pelagians, the Big Brothers, the Panicky Bedwetters in Catholicism who dare question the Pope’s cogency as an orthodox witness in some cases, it seems I’ve been “excommunicated” from the comboxes at Chez Shea. (Oh, I left off my resume of badness that I really like Michael Voris, too!)
Now, again, I’m very willing (hoping, in fact) to admit this might just be a glitch that escapes me, but I’ve tried to log in under a few ID’s and all I get is, “You are not permitted to comment on this thread.” What thread, you ask? It’s the post on October 14 titled “Conservatives continue defending Church from Pope” and here’s the hook:
A couple of years ago, George Weigel had the chutzpah to try to chop up Caritas in Veritate into the bits he liked (and we should all listen to) and the bits he disliked (and were therefore disposable).
In a burst of hyper-efficiency, John Zmirak now does Weigel one better by leading the charge to protect the Church from the Pope (like you do when you are a Faithful Conservative Catholic[TM] these days) by pre-emptively dissenting from whatever encyclical it is Pope Francis may or may not be working on.
By the time I finished reading the post I intended to add the following response:
No, Mark, Zmirak is not preemptively dissenting. I know that this sort of tar-and-feather rhetoric is better for your blog traffic, but reasonable people can disagree on Zmirak’s blip of a post. He is giving some context for whatever might be in the encyclical. (And it’s painfully obvious that Pope Francis needs all the help he can get from his lay handlers to provide the orthodox context that Pope “Aww Shucks” Francis all too conveniently elides at times.) Zmirak is making two conditional claims. First, IF Pope FRANCIS endorses what were condemned FRANCIScan theses, then, well, so much the worse for Pope Francis on that front. Second, IF the encyclical overreaches in the embarrassingly amateur fashion that Populorum Progressio did, then, so much the worse for the Pope on that front, too. Zmirak can’t be dissenting, preemptively or diachronically, from that which cannot be assented to with faith in the first place, namely, either long-condemned propositions or facile liberal fist-pumping about confused economic policies. Anyway, I’ll let you get back to your bucket of tar.
But then I was informed of my disinvitation, technological or otherwise, from that thread (and presumably from the entire blog, though I’m too lazy and unconcerned to verify that last part).
Small town hero becomes national outlaw.
Here’s the thing: although I recently asked why so few people leave comments on my posts, I failed to mentioned what the other shoe would say, which is, I’m actually relieved I don’t get a lot of comments. My codgitator latches onto valid objections and insights, and I take each comment pretty seriously, so it would quickly become cognitively crippling to have so many comments running around in my head. Maybe less is more, anyway. Aside from that, I am not for a nanosecond interested in waging a flame war with Mark Shea or any other blogger. Partially, this is because I know I’d lose.
How do I know?
It sounds horribly arrogant, but I hope you can charitably (!) grasp my non-arrogant (might I even say “humble”) point, which is that Mark Shea is a blogger while I am a philosopher. I only blog when I have some codgitations to unfurl, whereas, God bless him, Mark makes his living by writing. He’s got a fundamentally different thought-space and work-flow from me; he must keep the posts coming in order keep readership up, which in turn boosts his revenue from his paid writing, while I must simply sort through the usual jumble in my head to produce the occasional “good post.”
All well and good, but the problem, as I’ve learned for myself, is that when you write in order to generate readers, you end up generating a fan base of said readers, and once you have a fan base, your position, your voice, begins to harden: you’ve got to maintain a distinct style of readership by running a distinct style of blog. (Just look at the PZ Myers quagmire.) Am I saying Mark Shea is as bad as PZ Myers in a different setting? No, but I am saying what I said before: I am a lowly philosopher with a blog, while Mark is a professional blogger with a philosophical streak. As such, it simply doesn’t interest me to “produce blog posts” that would be needed to sustain a flame war. What does interest me is carefully and rigorously upacking what’s at play in issues or ideas that grab my attention.
(Oh, and the other reason I would lose a flame war is that I’d almost certainly be Zerg-rushed by, you guessed it, Mark Shea’s scores of loyal readers.)
It may sound contradictory, but in general the best “comments” you could leave on my posts are sharing them via social media. I want people to explore the ideas with me; I don’t want a fan base. Having said that, though, I don’t want to come across as even more snooty and aloof as I probably already do, so let me emphasize that I really appreciate hearing from whoever might stagger onto this tiny scrub patch of the blogosphere.
Lastly, let me “preemptively dissent” from a very likely charge: boy, won’t I have egg on my face when it turns out that I was never blocked, much less even particularly noticed, by Mark at his Patheos blog? If I’m wrong about being blocked, isn’t this whole post just an exercise in vanity and self-importance?
I deny that it would be. I’m taking a hypothetical conclusion to speak for a moment about what this blog is about. It’s not about flame wars. It’s not about traffic and notoriety. It’s about the facts, about truth. Or at least, that’s what I want it to be about. The “teaching moment” I’m having here is analogous to what I’m doing by codgitating on the malapapalisms: I want to treat them in the abstract, not as personal defects of one man, and I really want to understand why faithful Catholics would so unblinkingly endorse what I believe are patently sub-Catholic notions. I’m taking reported statements by the Pope, which he, if pressed, may not even really hold, and examining them as larval specimens of heterodoxy. Can the malapapalisms stand on their own two feet according to the Catholic biblical Tradition, or does it take the prestige of the papal office to give them a veneer of credibility, a veneer which too many soft ultramontanists mistake for Catholic “loyalty”?
I think you know my answer.
Stay tuned, let me hear from you (or not), and spread the bloggy goodness.