Crux – Fr. Z’s initial observations

I have been watching the new initiative from the Boston Globe, with the involvement of former Fishwrap writer John Allen: Crux.

I have some initial observations.

Happily, it seems to me that Crux has the potential to make the National catholic Fishwrap irrelevant.  Sadly, it could be that Crux will make the National catholic Fishwrap irrelevant.  That is to say, Crux might be a slicker, smarter Fishwrap on steroids.

Now for a few more concrete observations.

Crux‘s ”spirituality editor” is former Boston Globe wrote Margery Eagan.

Back in January 2014 Eagan wrote in the Boston Herald that

“a birth control ban has never been central to Catholic doctrine. The church says family planning is fine, as long as it’s done by the natural rhythm method. A commission made up of bishops, cardinals, and theologians did vote to end the ban on artificial birth control in the mid-1960s, but then Pope Paul VI overruled them, mainly for political reasons. Pope Francis, whose politics are clearly different, could actually lift the ban.”

In her bio at Crux we read:

Maybe you’ve heard some variation on this line: “I’m an American. Just because I disagree with much of what America’s doing, I don’t run off and become a Canadian.”

I heard it years ago from a friend explaining why he remained a Catholic despite his massive disappointments with the Church.

I’ve used it myself when somebody asks: if you disagree with the church on gays, birth control, women, their handling of the sex abuse crisis, etc. – why not become an Episcopalian, a Methodist, a Quaker, a Jew? Why stay when you’re at odds with its teachings?

What I read in this is that she disagrees with the Church on “gays, birth control, women, their handling of the sex abuse crisis”.  However, she won’t “leave the Church”. Why?  She explains that she stays Catholic because of the Church’s “intellectualism”.  The problem is that you can’t have a personal relationship with intellectualism.  You can’t pray with and for and even to intellectualism.  You can’t love and be loved by intellectualism.  She has more reasons:

The sensual parts of Catholicism. The bread, wine, incense, candles, phenomenal stained-glass windows. Smudged forehead ashes at the start of Lent. Anointing with oils. Palm Sunday. White lilies crowding the Easter altar, the liturgical season in sync with our own.  [All great things.  But these are externals, literally skin deep.]

Daily Mass, 365 days a year. It is peaceful, short, intimate, a holy half-hour of quiet before or after a frantic day. Some people stay afterwards to say the Rosary, in unison. [You can go to a tanning parlor for that.]

Community. The older I get, the less I like “Bowling Alone,” as Harvard’s Robert Putnam wrote in his book of that name. I like being in a prayer group with people who don’t think I’m crazy. I like parish life, the chances to volunteer, meet and greet. I like seeing the same parishioners in the same pew week after week. [A gardening club or Red Hat group can do these things.] I like being with people very different from me but the same in this: we are seekers, some days frustrated doubters, some days drawn, as if magnetized, into the mystery. Many, like me, were born Catholic. Keenly and even painfully aware of Catholicism’s many and gargantuan flaws, we stay Catholic. And we will die Catholic, too.  [There's a ringing endorsement.]

Not a word about Christ.  Nothing about God, or grace, or sin and redemption.

This is Crux‘s spirituality writer.

Let’s turn the page.

Whom did they choose to answer questions from readers? Lisa Miller. Miller has a BA in English. She wrote for Newsweek about how stupid and backward the Church is, how awful Pope Benedict was. When writing about a movie on Hildegard von Bingen for Newsweek she used the opportunity to bash the Church and leave the reader with the image of the Mother of God as a “potty-mouthed BFF”.  See how she writes about the Catholic hierarchy.  HERE

In any event, atCrux she answered a question:

What of those who cannot accept in good conscience various teachings of the magisterium [official Church policy]? Are we still to consider ourselves Catholic, or should we go elsewhere?

Did you detect a problem there?  Anyone who goes out of her way to describe “teachings of the magisterium” as “policy” is not going to be able to approach the question from the right perspective.  Only one sort of person frames the Magisterium’s teachings as “policy”.  Policy, after all, can be changed, especially after extensive polling.

Let’s glance at something from Miller’s answer:

Perhaps a more provocative question is this: To what extent must the hierarchy heed the consciences of the faithful? [There actually is an answer to this, in Lumen gentium 25.]

For decades, the bishops have appeared to be a my-way-or-the-highway kind of crew, and Pope Benedict gained a reputation for disdaining the cafeteria approach of American Catholics, wanting instead to build a smaller, purer church.  [This is a biased misrepresentation of Benedict.  There was no one more patient when dealing with dissent.  I don't think he has ever "distained" anyone in his life.  But WAIT!  There's more!   You can hear the next word coming....]

But [BUT!] Pope Francis has taken a different, and historically significant, tack, says the Rev. Drew Christiansen at Georgetown.  For him, the beliefs of faithful Catholics ought to define the faith – at least as much as the hierarchy does.  [Is that even true?]

Benedict bad.  Francis good.   At least Francis will be good until she, and other liberals, turn on him.  When he doesn’t conform to their expectations, they will turn on him.

And sample her penetrating analysis of Justice Scalia HERE.

So,Crux asked Lisa Miller to answer questions about the Catholic faith.

Moving on, Crux also tapped on Michael O’Loughlin to be their “National Reporter”. In the past he was written for The Advocate (a homosexual advocate, if you hadn’t guessed), Religion News Service, Foreign Policy, America, National Catholic Reporter, Religion & Politics, Busted Halo, and Faith & Leadership.

On Saturday 13 September, John Allen wrote (among other things) about what he thinks Crux aims to do and to be.  Here are relevant excerpts.

The vision behind Crux:

[...] Toward the end [of the roll out event], I fielded a question about the vision forCrux and whether it can do something about the widespread polarization that many American Catholics perceive in the Church.

The truth is that if someone should be laying out a vision, it’s really not me. Brian McGrory, editor of The Boston Globe, and Teresa Hanafin, editor of Crux, are the decision-makers responsible for overall direction.  [Get that?  The Boston Globe is guiding this "Catholic" endeavor.  What could go wrong?]

That said, it’s a legitimate question, and obviously I have my own reasons for getting involved. For what it’s worth, I’ll recap my answer.

To begin, the basic ambition ofCrux is simple: To get the story right. Catholicism is a complicated and difficult beat; it’s hard enough to be accurate, comprehensive, and balanced in the way we cover the news without trying to accomplish another agenda.

That said, I also believe that ifCrux can get the story right on a regular basis, one natural consequence could be softening divisions in Catholic life.


IfCrux becomes a trusted forum for all voices ["all"?  I'm not seeing a lot of balance.  Just look at their staff.] in the conversation, it will create a virtual space in which members of different Catholic tribes can build friendships. Over time, that can’t help but have a positive effect.

So, yes, I suppose helping to mitigate polarization is part of the plan. Just don’t ask us to think too much about it, because most of the time we’ll be too busy trying to nail down today’s news.

Crux is slick. They have had a big, splashy roll out. My jury is still out. My sense is, however, that Crux is poised to out-Herod Herod, or out-Fishwrap Fishwrap.

And there must be bails of money behind it.

But, for now, we are on Crux Watch.

The moderation queue is ON.

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The post Crux – Fr. Z’s initial observations appeared first on Fr. Z's Blog.