Are “Cyber Wars” Tearing the Church Apart?

Over at the UKs Catholic Herald this week veteran Catholic journalist Damian Thompson writes here about the “cyber wars” in the Catholic world.

At the moment it revolves around Fr James Martin SJ who has become a poster boy for Catholic LBGTQ activism. The Savonarola de nos jours, Michael Voris calls him out with strident words and twirling pencil, while one of Martin’s supporters–Bishop McElroy of San Diego said such criticisms were like a cancer in the church.

Villanova academic Massimo Faggioli, Aleteia editor Elizabeth Scalia and others jumped into the ring supporting Bishop McElroy. Last summer Faggioli stirred into the pot a hefty pinch of snobbery by suggesting that converts were too extreme and too conservative and ought to learn their place and keep quiet.

Meanwhile James Martin, usually as meek as a lamb–came out slugging by calling his critics the Catholic alt-right–which was a not so subtle slam since the alt-right movement is associated with white supremacists and Nazis.  When Martin is not on the attack he switches from aggressive to passive, puts out his bottom lip and plays the poor little victim.

Austin Ruse over at Crisis jumped into the melee with a screaming headline, “Fr James Martin Thinks you are a Nazi” It seemed to be a case of an Austen powers Struggle–the other Austen–Austen Ivereigh weighed in, Twittering away against the conservatives. This was the Austen who, over the summer, offended lots of folks by saying certain conservative pundits were neurotic (aka mentally ill, aka crazy)

Damian makes the point that the “progressive” Catholics can hardly complain about the right wing cyber attacks when over the last six months Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ wrote a funny piece that smelled like a conspiracy theory article about secret links between conservative Catholics, right wing nut jobs and prosperity hot gospel fundamentalists.

When Ivereigh and Faggioli fired both barrels against conservative converts and James Martin and Bishop McElroy threw out their “cancer” and “alt right” accusations it would seem that there is more mud being flung from the left than the right.

The best thing about Damian’s article is the observation that this tempest in the Catholic teapot is a symptom of the polarization of society in general. Let’s face it. We don’t read the blogs and papers and journals from “the other side”. Why should we? We know what garbage they write and they think the same about us.

The elephant in the sanctuary is the fact that there are two Catholic Churches under one tent. The big question is, do we smile and co-exist and ignore the elephant and drift into latitudinarianism or do we slug it out and eventually split and drift into sectarianism?

Neither option is necessary. My suggestion is that all Catholics on both sides quietly leave the boxing match and get on with the job at hand.

I am a parish priest in a small parish in the bad part of town. What I see in my parish is a lot of good, ordinary, hard working, hard praying Catholics who don’t give two hoots about some academic in Philadelphia or an English intellectual or a conservative blogger or fogey Catholic journalist slugging it out. They have work to do building a school, building a church, mending their marriage, helping the homeless, feeding the hungry and worshipping God in beauty, truth and goodness.

Instead of the Catholic cyber shoutout-shootout, anybody who cares about it should read the gospels instead of the screen and try before its too late to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ that is revolutionary and radical in its response. Then there we be no division in Christ’s church because as we all draw closer to the one we profess to follow we would all draw closer to one another.

And if someone has strayed into heresy and false teaching, the passionate orthodoxy of their life of prayer and service will soon correct that fault.

2017-10-06T20:19:59+00:00 October 6th, 2017|Categories: Blog|Tags: |3 Comments


  1. Eric October 6, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    Father, I agree with a lot of what you have to say, and usually do. Many Catholics I know have no idea about the current crisis, and if asked could probably care less. But, that leaves me wondering, shouldn’t they? Do they know what is at stake? Maybe I spend too much time with it, but not to stake some ground, isn’t that some failure on our part? You are no doubt right I should however spend more time on my knees and with my breviary than reading my favorite blogs and news sites. But than again, I would not get to read yours! It is a tough time, and I am quite sure I do not possess all the right answers about what to do as an ordinary layman.

    • Dwight Longenecker October 6, 2017 at 11:07 pm

      Yes, but what I was getting at is that, in the end of the day, rolling up our sleeves and getting stuck into the ordinary work of saving souls, teaching the ignorant, helping the poor, educating the young, IOW living the gospel accomplishes much more that is real in the world and that this, strangely, does actually have apologetical ramifications. The vibrant example of lives of radical disciples corrects heresy, and if I am inclined to a heresy that is invisible to me, then this also corrects the problem in me.

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