Fr Z and I go back a long way. We were both some of the first priest bloggers out there and long time readers may remember a friendly feud between us which featured a contest in outmoded, but stylish clerical outerwear.
I tried with my biretta, feriola and cape, but he won with some sort of garment I’d never even heard of.
It was all good fun, and we’ve followed each other’s blogs for some time–finally meeting face to face by bumping into each other on a plane bound for Rome last May.
Fr Z’s blog has continued to soar, and his readership continues to grow as he stakes out a position as a traddy online alternative to Pope Francis and all things liberal, leftie, soft and snowflaky.
He’s garnered notice from Joseph Bernstein at Buzzfeed with an extended article here.
It’s a good read, but the journalist, who clearly is unfamiliar with things Catholic, keeps trying to place Fr. Z somewhere in the political universe, but of course, as a conservative Catholic priest Fr. Z doesn’t fit into the anti-Semitic neo-Nazi box any more than he does in the hard right culture war army.
It’s actually a pretty good article, but what tickled me most about it was the predictable response from the poster boy of Catholic liberalism “priest in good standing” Fr James Martin SJ.
Fr. Z alerted his audience to an upcoming speech by the progressive Jesuit priest Rev. James Martin at Catholic University, shortly after the publication of a new book by Martin urging dialogue between the Church and LGBT Catholics. Following Fr. Z’s post, and denunciations by other popular conservative Catholic and schismatic websites, Martin became the target of an online harassment campaign, including threats of violence. And two days after Fr. Z’s post, Catholic withdrew its invitation to Martin, citing “increasing negative feedback from various social media sites.”
“For me the saddest thing about Father Z’s blog is how cruel it is,” Martin told BuzzFeed News. “It’s astonishing to me that a priest could traffic in such cruelty and hatred.”
Fr. Z told BuzzFeed News that it was not his intention to sic the Zedheads — as he affectionately calls his readers — on Martin, and added that though he did not think it was appropriate for Martin to speak, he, too, had been disinvited from similar engagements for his views.
“I don’t whine about it though,” said Fr. Z. “This isn’t bean bag.”
Indeed. Fr Martin is the classic crybaby bully.
The other textbook liberal is the Italian academic Massimo Faggioli who also tut tutted about Fr Z.
All of this has given Fr. Z the image of a rogue blogger-priest, accountable to an obscure authority, firing red pills from his digital pulpit at a hidebound institution that is unprepared to deal with the new age of online dissent.
“Our assumption used to be that [the internet] was a new community, a new way of becoming connected,” said Faggioli, who added that the Church has no regulations to deal with internet priests. “We now know that it has fostered new kinds of divisions. These Catholic blogs play a very important role in this. They tend to speak to a particular kind of audience, against a particular kind of church.”
And thanks to the reach of the internet and social media, the message of what Mark Silk called “religious entrepreneurs,” like Fr. Z, can find and consolidate a politically and culturally homogenous audience in a way a parish priest never could.
Indeed. I’m not as conservative and outspoken as Fr Z, but what I have learned over the years with blogging and tweeting is what Donald Trump has learned: you can go straight to your audience and skirt right around all the establishment media, all the establishment bureaucracies, all the establishment universities and academics and speak right to people’s hearts and minds.
Faggioli ‘s liberal chum, the urbane Englishman, Austen Ivereigh, tweeted that he is shocked that Fr. Z considers his blogging to be evangelization.
From my experience of the English Catholic Church, its hierarchy and its intellectual elite, they wouldn’t know what evangelization was if it exploded on the front of their grey clerical shirts.
Of course conservative blogs evangelize because their writers proclaim to an increasing world wide audience the simple tough, but glorious truths of the Christian gospel rather than the milquetoast message the liberals mistake for Christianity.
What continues to delight ordinary people is that at last the stranglehold of the liberal elitists who control the media, the movies and the mainstream are being undermined by people like Fr. Z
Bernstein’s article compares Fr. Z’s use of the new technology to Martin Luther’s use of the new technology of the printing press to appeal straight to ordinary people.
He’s not far wrong, and perhaps such writing will continue to help bring about the new Reformation which the Catholic Church (and mainstream Protestant churches) so desperately need.