Some Comments on Comments

J. Peter Nixon at Commonweal linked to PrayTell as we published his very fine master’s thesis on the translation debate. Lots of interesting comments at Commonweal on Peter’s work. Here is my favorite, from Nancy Danielson:

Peter, I am wondering how you view the Filioque and the Primacy of the Pope in regards to the Sacred Liturgy debate? I am also wondering if you view the rejection of The Church’s teaching on abortion, homosexuality, in vitro fertilization, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, female priesthood, as stemming from the failure to understand the essence of The Lord and Giver of Life Who proceeds from The Father and The Son, and the complementary relationship of Perfect Love that is The Blessed Trinity. Do you believe that the failure to recognize an affirm the fact that The Petrine Office is the foundation of Church unity is part of the problem?

And Peter didn’t even reply to her! Peter, how would you translate ad rem?!

The day PrayTell went online Grant Gallicho at Commonweal gave us a nice shoutout, then added this: “God help the poor souls who have to moderate its comboxes.” Actually, we enjoy it. Only very rarely does it get us down. No doubt God is helping us. Still, we heartily advocate prayers for the poor souls.

We’ve noticed a few things in our first seven months. Quite regularly a comment comes in from the Angry Right which is rather close to the line. We want to give a newcomer the benefit of the doubt and approve the comment. But only a first name is given. So, per our policy, we email the person and request a real full name. It bounces back, no such email address exists. I can vouch on the Catholic edition of the Bible with deuterocanon and on the ’62 missal that this has happened almost once a week from conservatives, but not yet once from moderates or progressives. What do you make of that?

I suppose some readers are already offended at the label “Angry Right.” Relax, relax: if you’re a regular PrayTell contributor, perhaps the term doesn’t apply to you. But it applies to some people, and you know it.

I think we have a problem in the Catholic Church – and not only there, I’m sure. For sure we need a wide diversity of voices – not least in confusing times like these when it’s not always easy to discern the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We need conservative, traditional voices. But we don’t need the Angry Right. These are the folks who don’t understand any position differing from their own, are unable to engage in dialogue, and have nothing new to say which would interest or challenge anyone. Oh, and lots of times they are utterly uninformed or misinformed.

Despite PrayTell’s commitment to the liturgy, including the liturgical calendar, the fact is that our lives are largely organized by the academic calendar. Which is to say, we’re now gearing up for what feels like a new year. And we’ll be thinking about new contributors to PrayTell. We would like a few new conservative or traditional (or whatever you call it) voices on our roster. Really bright people who can engage and challenge others’ assumptions. People who aren’t afraid of the Big Bad Middle – perhaps because they’ve already been there and moved on for good reasons.

We’re now taking applications. Be sure to indicate your position on the Filioque and the Primacy of the Pope – especially if you’re not Roman Catholic.



  1. One has to wonder…
    Would posting a comment about comments be the same as serving on a committee about committees?

    ¡Feliz fin de semana!


  2. I don’t care one iota about the Filioque clause, but I do care that Fr. Anthony is reminding posters of the need to be civil, informed and considerate. Thank you, Anthony. It was a needed reminder. Let’s keep the dialogue elevated and charitable.

  3. As you probably know, poor Grant Gallicho has repeatedly tried to politely ask Nancy Danielson to refrain from her innane postings. A good example of someone who is uninformed or to be more kind, misinformed based upon whoever taught her or passed on the faith to her. It is an example of the inability to move from a childlike faith to a mature, adult faith – that big messy middle with lots of questions and not a whole lot of certifiable, definitive answers. Poor Grant has had also had to deal with the multiple and, at times, tangential postings of Joseph O’Leary.

    You will notice that Kathy also posts at Commonweal but since she was taught by Fr, K, she appeals to him when her comments (uninformed) are met with resistance.

    No amount of education or documentation seems to change the pattern or approach. You have done an excellent job of patiently challenging her when she cries: “Ad Hominem” …..alas, it is always somone else who created the ad hominem.

    I will admit – it becomes frustrating at times to participate in the midst of various learning curves, old or outdated education, misunderstandings in terms of interpretation or the meaning intended by a commentor.

    On the other hand, you have posted some remarkable liturgical arguments; educational/historical materials; documented liturgical timelines, authorships, etc. to help frame the issues and move the “middle” along.

  4. Not sure what turns me off more… Those of the “Angry Right” who because of the firmness of their conviction in their own opinion can be downright mean. Or those of the “Elitist Left” who can rationalize just about anything and make it sound intelligent. I would suggest avoiding any of these labels like they are a plague. They are so dehumanizing. To project a label like these, with all of their baggage and false assumptions, on the basis of a comment on a blog is unhelpful and wrong. How many times have we assumed we knew for sure what someone else was going to say or do, only to be surprised?

    Fr. Anthony describes his Angry Right: “These are the folks who don’t understand any position differing from their own, are unable to engage in dialogue, and have nothing new to say which would interest or challenge anyone. Oh, and lots of times they are utterly uninformed or misinformed.” I’ve met quite a few folks on both sides of the debate who fit this description. Not proprietary to the Angry Right. Seems universal that we apply the above description to those who most annoy us.

    1. Jeff – thanks much for your well-moderated comments.

      I know that there are plenty of Angry Folks, right and left. I know it sounds “correct” to many people to say it’s present everywhere on the spectrum, universally. But I honestly don’t think it’s even-up. Not right now in the Catholic Church. Mainline liberals and progressives tend to feel beaten down, excluded, discouraged, weary. They waver between having to compromise their principles as much as they can allow in order to be taken seriously (still) while they give up more and more, or feeling resigned as they throw in the towel. A few have some fighting spirit left, but not that many.

      In my read (I grant this is totally subjective), there’s a lot more sheer anger on the Right. 20-30 years ago it was the desparate anger of being excluded. Now it’s (oftentimes) the confident anger that God and the Pope and the Future are all on their side. Mind you, my liturgical tastes are similar to theirs in many respects. Cody recently outed me, correctly, as right of center in my liturgical tastes.

      I do most of the monitoring of the combox here. You have no idea what I have to delete daily from the Angry Right. I know whereof I speak.

      Frankly, I think this is one of the biggest credibility problems faced by liturgical traditionalism. It’s certainly giving a bad name to many things I believe in. It also tends to drive me into the arms of the liberal camp, however much I’m not always on their aesthetic wavelength.


      1. I wonder if a “traditionalist” blogger such as Jeffrey Tucker might have a different experience. There is no doubt that the right has the advantage when it comes to expressing outright anger, often irrationally. I share your fear that the many beautiful liturgical traditions of the Church that ought to be part of the experience of all Catholics are becoming more and more a denominator of ones’ politics and perceived level of orthodoxy.

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with your call for reasonable, “conservative” or “traditionalist” contributors. I, myself, would love to read the dialogue that ensues between, say, Rita Ferrone and such a contributor on any number of topics, liturgical or otherwise. I don’t write this with the anticipation that one might have for a boxing match, but rather with the desire that I may be more informed by both viewpoints. As for myself, I like to think of myself as “moderate”, but, perhaps, since I frequent Pray Tell daily, I may be considered a “liberal” afterall!


  6. I think the old labels just don’t work anymore. A liberal parish today is parish that celebrates both forms of the one Latin Rite. While it is more difficult, many of the principles of Vatican II can be enjoined on the EF Mass, such as active participation in Latin, use of lectors and Latin chants that the congregation can sing. But of course the OF is the normal Mass and we need to excel in celebrating it and not deforming it. But of course, both forms can be deformed in the manner of style of celebration. I do think that boundaries are being redefined and roles clarified. This is change and is hard for many who are enamored with a particular theology. Even progressives can be somewhat narrow in their vision of things. But I do have to agree that the far right can be rather mean spirited at times, but have you every read comments on the NCR blogs from the far left? The right has no monopoly on anger and mean spiritedness. At least you censor. I don’t think the NCR does.

  7. We certainly need more diversity among the comments, but I am not sure that we need more ideology.

    The topics posted for discussion on this blog are certainly diverse, and interesting.

    I am surprised at how many of them I have commented upon, occasionally even had a conversation with someone, usually an infrequent commenter. But there needs to be more commenting by diverse, infrequent people on specific topics.

    Some of the posts with the most comments have had a strong ideological, confrontation flavor. I have contributed far less to these, because they often violate my mental health cultural rules.

    A colleague of mine described his own electrical engineering culture as “we fight like hell about solutions, then get the job done.” He described the mental health culture as “ You talk and talk and talk. At the beginning people seem to disagree, but nobody mentions this. At the end everyone seems to understand everyone else, and there seems to be consensus. Then nobody does anything!”

    The purposes of talk therapy are insight, understanding, compassion, openness to change rather than converting people, getting things done, or setting the world alright. Honest opinions and emotions are welcome, but you can’t trespass on and disrespect other people, their opinions and emotions.

    In my experience, the mental health system was far more supportive of being an intellectual and liking to talk about ideas than either academia or church settings.

  8. Joe O’Leary has to deal with Nancy quite frequently, and Bill De Haas. But generally Commonweal is undramatic and middle-of-the-road.

  9. Living in Japan, where conflict is eschewed, with immensely debilitating effects on critical thinking and dialogue, I relish dialectic — and good conservative argument should be welcomed.

  10. Fr. Anthony – thought you might enjoy this satire by John Churchman:

    Bishops’ Prayer

    Dear God,
    Please forgive the Laity.

    They actually had begun to think
    the Liturgy was theirs.

    They forgot that it is the clergy’s
    and that they are allowed to witness it
    and participate
    only in the way
    we prescribe.

    Forgive the common language,
    Forgive the applause,
    Forgive females at the altar,
    Forgive the singing of popular songs,
    Forgive the enculturation
    of the liturgy entrusted to us your Bishops
    by the Vatican.

    Dear God,
    Please forgive the Laity.

    They actually had begun to think
    that the group assembled at Liturgy
    was part of the Eucharistic Consecration.

    They forgot
    that the consecration of bread and wine
    requires a special power
    given only to the ordained
    by us Bishops
    the only true successors to the Apostles.

    Forgive them
    for misunderstanding
    Jesus� call to priesthood of the laity.

    Dear God,
    Help us to restore the liturgy
    to what you intended.

    Help us to make it
    a Ceremony above and beyond and apart from the laity,
    one which they witness from afar
    and attend in the prescribed manner.

    Dear God,
    Help us not slip back
    to the times when the Church had no
    professional clergy
    and liturgy was celebrated in homes
    by laity.

    Help us return to the times
    when clergy were deemed
    Representatives of Christ
    with special powers and honors
    and Liturgy was celebrated
    in one official language
    in one official manner

  11. A lot of these labels – right/left, conservative/liberal, traditional/progressive, center/moderate are quite meaningless, and are also very value-laden.

    For Catholics, we should be united In all the essential matters as taught by the Magisterium. In the other matters, we can disagree charitably without the need to resort to labels.

  12. Fr. Anthony – it seems sort of logical and inevitable that if you post liberal things then the angry comments are going to come from conservatives, no? Why would a liberal ever get mad and post something nasty on this site? You cite the National Catholic Reporter, for Pete’s sake…

Leave a Reply

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