A Comment on Comments

Pray Tell’s editorial committee had a great meeting this week. Interesting questions like these came up. Why do we (and similar blogs) get more comments from conservatives and hardcore traditionalists than from moderates or progressives or liberals? Is all the energy and vitality today on the right? Are the “liberals dying or hiding,” as the NCReporter recently asked? Or are all the centrists and leftists too busy to post because they have jobs and are occupied in actual ministry? Why is there so much anger and lack of respect in comments from the right, compared to the comments from the other side? What does all of this say about the Church today, and/or about the web today?

Our revised comment policy is here. We welcome your comments on this post. And we can’t wait to see just who comments!


  1. Personally, I don’t really have an interest in a following up on a thread with 50+ comments. Generally, if I do comment on any site, it’s a one-time thing; time being the primary issue here.

    Secondly, I’m not interested in trying to win an argument with someone of a conservative bend, who isn’t truly interesting in hearing (let alone accepting) any thought other than their own.

    Thanks for the update… I should probably try to comment more! Keep up the great work!

    1. Personally, I don’t really have an interest in a following up on a thread with 50+ comments. Generally, if I do comment on any site, it’s a one-time thing; time being the primary issue here.

      Secondly, I’m not interested in trying to win an argument with someone of a LIBERAL bend, who isn’t truly interesting in hearing (let alone accepting) any thought other than their own.

      Thanks for the update… I should probably try to comment more! Keep up the great work!

      Thank you Chase Becker, these, too, are my sentiments–with the exception of that one word!

  2. People tend to be somewhat blind to the lack of respect shown by fellow travelers, or hear it in muted volume. This is no less true of progressives than traditionalists. In fact, if one is not noticing lack of respect by fellow travelers, one might use that as a red flag that a blind spot may be lurking nearby.

    The progressively inclined in the liturgically dimension have often not had to triage what is most important about the liturgical reforms – in a forced choice exercise, there would be a lot of disagreement among us about what we most cherish in those reforms. Frequently, we spend time defending things that are less important, or we don’t see how our defense of X may be in tension with Y.

  3. It’s easy to read negative things into what is read–eye contact or voice contact is best. I’m very liberal in orthodox ways and quite busy too–quite a week of ministry and administration. Finally, having a limit on written characters has helped me to do my actual job better, less time with this, but I might have to resort to “text messaging” script. R u ready for that? i c i have 33 characters available. 🙂

  4. I wonder if, in general, the more progressive considerations allow for more acceptance of variation. Issues of hymns vs. antiphons, enculturation, posture during Communion, to name just a few — I, for example, am OK with the conservatively inclined having their conservative ways, as long as I can also be accommodated. On the other hand, many conservative comments claim that there is only one right way: e.g., we should always use the antiphon of the day instead of a hymn. So — when you’re fighting for the ONE right way you have more to fight about.

    1. Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed first-hand my fellow progressives’ ability to drive a steam-roller on matters liturgical. Not everyone, mind you, but when someone’s sacred cow is threatened, accommodation narrows dramatically.

  5. I really question the premise of this thread, dear editors, as it suggests that a certain bloc seems to dominate the volume of combox replies, as if there is, de facto, some conspiracy of bullies at their pulpit keyboards. Your blog already had comments’ protocols, which were much more articulated than other blogs of which yours seems designed to be an antidote. And you had and have the keys to your kingdom still.
    If you all would delve more deeply into your “adversaries'” threads, you’d find that their practices are far more accepting and tolerant than their polemics and philosophies. Isn’t that the sort of thing that bonds us; that approach of which Frs. Ruff and Joncas have been preaching for years?

  6. The conservative anger can partially be explained as a backlash to the decades-long liberal dominance of liturgical decision making. Internet technology, which keep in mind is still relatively new, merely serves as a relief valve for this pent up rage. In time, one hopes the venting will subside.

    Another factor fueling the fire is the ease with which liturgical/theological points of view get enmeshed in the coarseness of everyday politics. The politicos are successful playing rough, so must we! The corrective to that is the realization that liturgical and political leaning don’t necessarily correlate.

  7. I find many of the posts intiguing and informative, and I am tempted to chime in. But then I wonder: Will my comment really change what others think or especially what others do? I am merely an interested layman with academic skills who has read and researched many of the issues and subjects discussed here. I have no formal power when it comes to making decisions or implementing them.

    I also consider myself “a radical of the center” (as Suenens characterized John XXIII). I have found too much truth in the saying: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be shot at by both sides.”

    1. Samuel, excellent example. The reason for the collapse of liberalism, in politics, in the church, in talk radio, is rhetoric like that, amongst other more serious considerations. Progressives in the Church seem ill-at-ease with orthodoxy, canon law, the GIRM, the hierarchy, Tradition, Church Councils, all of them, and Catholic identity. They are not liberal when it comes to the EF Form of the Mass and its music. Traditionalism born of concern for Orthodoxy, complains about progressive’s theological views which denigrate at times what it means to be One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic–it is as though they desire a post-Catholic Church. There is much to criticize there.

    2. Samuel – good point. The question which came up at our meeting (and I wouldn’t call the committee members uniformly ‘liberal’ BTW) was, why is that people on the right are the ones who post over and over and over? Where do they find the time? In our experience that comes mostly from the right, and we really wonder why.

  8. So what you are saying is that the editorial board declares themselves “liberals” and are wondering why those “others” keep posting? If that is true, you have abandoned the whole “let’s go beyond liberal/conservative” line.

    1. Fr. Costigan,
      Nope, nope, and nope. Mix of views on the board, observations based on the actual comments we get. Read what I wrote please.

  9. Why is it considered “right wing” to be concerned for orthodoxy, canon law, GIRM, and the Magisterium? I do’t understand that. Politically, I am firmly left of center; religiously, I simply try to respect the rules of our faith. After many years away from the Church, I came back having attended the EF me. I am happy for those who find more comfort in the OF and have no wish to see it replaced by the EF. There are many valid ways of being Catholic. I just do not understand why there are those, including our LA Cardinal, who clearly do not like my having the option to attend the EF. How liberal is that? I do not understand the premise of your meeting. Orthodoxy is not right or left wing, conservative or liberal. Those are worldly terms. Perhaps there could be a better discussion here if you explained what you understand by those terms.

    1. Cecile, At least since the time of the media’s reporting on V2, everyone uses terms like “liberal” and “conservative” in the church. People in various camps have clearly discernible differences in how they understand terms like, eg., “orthodoxy.” This is all a fact. You may wish it weren’t so, or you may wish to redefine all the terms to give priority to your position, but I frankly don’t see you succeeding in convincing everyone else of that. Three times you say that you “don’t understand,” and I respect that. I kindly suggest that you would have to read lots and lots of boks from other viewpoints to understand – your comments tend to confirm that you truly don’t understand the views you’re trying to counteract.

  10. Comment #1 said it well, “I’m not interested in trying to win an argument with someone of a conservative bent who isn’t truly interesting in hearing … any thought other than their own.”
    I do not comment much because I do’nt like being torn to shreds for upholding V2 liturgy. It has fed the spirituality of many faithful people worshiping God with texts they understand and love and good traditional and contemporary music by ensembles. I am sorry some of you have had bad experiences (seemingly regularly) with V2 liturgies. I have too, but I have also seen much beauty, reverence and genuine prayer.
    Yes, there have been abuses, but there have been abuses of EVERY kind in EVERY age. We need to be open to the Spirit and try to discern her purpose.

  11. I apologize for not reading this new comments policy until I had already attempted to comment on the “Sacrifice” post by Fr. Daly. I think 750 characters is a bit restrictive, especially given the length of some of the blog posts themselves.

    I share Samuel’s displeasure at the “jobs/ministries” comment.

    I suppose the reason “conservatives and hardcore traditionalists” are such frequent posters on liturgical blogs is because they are trying to correct what seem to them to be improper or inadequate interpretations of Church regulations and instructions. I think the Church’s documents don’t get the attention and respect they deserve.

  12. Labelling others is mostly a human need to help us determine our place and response. (See Andrew Casad’s article on bilingual liturgy in Pastoral Liturgy.) But the labels often don’t represent the full range of views of a person. There’s likely liberal and conseravative in each of us.

    I am conservative in that I want to conserve the tradition of the rites as they have developed over the centuries and are embodied in our books today. So, do the rites by the book.

    I am liberal in that I believe the rites as they are in the book need to be adapted for each particular situation. Like good jazz musicians, know the melody, technique, and history backwards and forwards, then adapt from there.

    We need to breathe with both lungs.

  13. I come here first because I respect Fr. Anthony Ruff and know him as a friend and fellow traveler. Second, I have read several blogs from the more traditional/orthodox point of view because I agree(esp w/Fr.Z), but I decided I need to understand the other points of view. I was hoping here I would find articulate posts from intelligent progressives that would help me understand their viewpoints.

    For the most part I have not been disappointed, and for that I thank Fr. Anthony. I am extremely busy in too many ‘ministries’ but I post because I want to participate in the discussion.

  14. “Why is there so much anger and lack of respect in comments from the right, compared to the comments from the other side?”

    I see more “lack of respect” as coming from people who disagree with me. I’ve responded to some very thoughtless comments with restraint I never knew I had.

    1. Johannes – please tell us if something said in response to you is innappropriate. We’ll considering deleting anything disrespectful, per our comments policy.

      1. Thank you so much for the kindness. I have to admit that I don’t think that the lack of respect is at all intentional, at least that’s the hermeneutic with which I try to read comments. I’m pretty think-skinned, and I do try to explain why I find a comment objectionable. I certainly haven’t read anything that I think warrants removal. I think that there is enough distance between the two sides that stepping on toes is inevitable.

  15. Ioannes raised a very important point about the sad distance between the “two sides”. We need to remind ourselves that there is more than one way to be Catholic. I still prefer to attend the EF but I attended the OF in St. Peter’s in Rome last month. I admit my hackles were raised to see some people arrive and leave without genuflection, standing through the consecration. Yet the next day I saw one of them on his knees for Eucharistic adoration and felt guilty for my uncharitable thoughts. Perhaps those of us who prefer one form over the other should try to attend that “other” form to remind ourselves that we still share one faith and to see how that “other” form may bring people to the faith which our “preferred” form may not. Further, the split in the “two sides” is not necessarily always clear – in the OF at our church, some women wear mantillas but receive communion in the hand; others are bare headed but kneel and receive on the tongue. I quite like that each person may choose how best to show his or her respect.

  16. Sorry – should have noted your new strict policy on keeping posts on 750 chars (I still think that is very short).

    “please tell us if something said in response to you is innappropriate. We’ll considering deleting anything disrespectful, per our comments policy.”

    As I tried to say earlier before I was deleted, some of your contributors have written posts that have been derisory and provocative towards people of a traditional bent. If you were to consider deleting something you should start with Rev. Richard Giles’ post on the Episcopal Rite II (in which he says some very uncharitable things about traditional Anglicans) and at least edit the recent article by Fr. Richard Daly which you have yourself posted, Father.

  17. One reasons the more “open” liturgists and musicians don’t reply to those that are more “narrow” in their understanding is that many are not willing to dialog. Too many people in our society are equating unity to be equal with uniformity. If we are truly Catholic in our understanding of church, isn’t there room for all.

    I suspect God shakes his head in despair over our petty bickerings. Remember that God is not in need of our poor attempts at liturgy, we are.

  18. I don’t feel the need to spout off on every single posting. But when I feel strongly about something and can back up my position with a reasoned argument, I certainly will show up. There are very few places like this in which pastoral competence and concern are valued as much as passionate intensity about liturgy in the abstract. And it makes a great bulletin board, too.

  19. It’s not for nothing that there’s an old punchline that at least you can negotiate with a terrorist.

    Talking about liturgy is a dance on the electrified third rail. I’ve not been bashful to poke at partisans of both contemporary and traditionalist music and liturgy, and am amazed at how some will apply an analytical framework to others but not to themselves. Some years ago I went through a long battle with traditionalists on a blog, following open criticism of a progressive parish, over the parish in the same diocese that also violates liturgical rules – only that they were traditionalist. Sauce for the goose … No! comes the trads’ reply. After a while you realize you just can’t win.

    Maybe a wisely moderated forum…

  20. I support Ben Blackhawk: it is good to see an attempt to present views other than those sympathetic to Fr Z.
    The balance of comments might just reflect the balance of opinion amongst those who feel strongly about these matters.
    I suspect that the majority of the faithful assume that the priest is right without question or desire to challenge. By staying silent or away from church they pass judgement on hymns or practices that they do not like.

  21. Perhaps the “liturgical left” are busy reading Cardinal Mahony’s blog? I hope I am on topic here but people here may care to see http://cardinalrogermahonyblogsla.blogspot.com/ and his post for 5 February 2010 “Coming New Roman Missal” which reads in part as follows:

    “Since the 1974 version was translated in haste, there were many errors in the translation which rendered the Missal inaccurate in many places.

    The Archdiocese… completed a series of Workshops for all of our priests to inform them about the coming new Missal, reasons for changes, and a good grounding in the efforts taken to produce a Missal which is more theologically correct.”

    Sounds like a great topic for both “sides” to discuss – perhaps here?

  22. Here’s a deal, Fr. A. If all clerical members of the board commit to restrict their homilies to five minutes or less, I’ll eat my hat.

  23. One faith in God with a plurality of expressions is a challenge. If someone has encountered the divine in a particular mode of worship, he may enthusiastically want to share that experience with others. This is good. The challenge comes when he encounters people who have similarly had divine experiences in other, seemingly conflicting modes of worship. When our sinful nature enters in, then “my” way becomes “the” way. We can begin by recognizing that God is not limited by our designs. Or, that your favorite denomination and style of worship does not have an exclusive contract with the Holy Spirit.

  24. “Or are all the centrists and leftists too busy to post because they have jobs and are occupied in actual ministry?”

    “Editor”, I find this statement offensive and unnecessary.

    I think it’s time for me to take “Pray Tell” off of my reading list.

  25. “Or are all the centrists and leftists too busy to post because they have jobs and are occupied in actual ministry?”

    This is an egregiously disrespectful comment.

    1. Kathy – perhaps it was, I could see how you took it that way. I was reporting what was said at the meeting, not just my own thoughts. I think it was meant as a serious question – why on earth are the comments here so unrepresentative of what all sides say is the makeup of the liturgical establishment?? One person honestly wondered how some people have so much time to post over and over – are they retired, or do they have little to do? Finally, I hasten to add – I’m sure no one had YOU in mind 🙂

      1. Fr. Ruff, I suppose the real sting of the remark arises from the reason the liturgical establishment often seems univocal. Up till a few years ago, and even now in many places, candidates for liturgical positions had to pass a “smell test” of ideology. To say that a conservative liturgist isn’t working or hasn’t been very successful is a lot like saying there haven’t been a lot of Catholic presidents.

        In any case, I think the editorial board might show more openness to dialogue with all comers, and at the same time it probably would behoove us reactionaries to behave like guests.

  26. I’m afraid the blog’s line on respect appears only to cut one way, Kathy. One of the more liberally-inclined posters here has called those who disagree with him ‘disingenuous’ (Oxford Concise: “having secret motives; insincere”). It was bad enough that the Editor allowed this to be published, but to make matters worse my complaint about it was removed with no explanation – not discussed, not rebutted, simply removed. Ditto my suggestion that the 900 character comment limit prevents meaningful analysis of posts, comments and their subject matter.

    It’s sad to see a blog that began with such good intentions descend to this.

    1. If you read the post again carefully, Ian, you’ll see that the word “disingenuous” appears in a quotation from the book itself, not from the reviewer.

      1. If you read the post again carefully, Paul, you’ll see that you appear to concur with the assertion. If you don’t, you still have an opportunity to distance yourself from it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *