Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Father Z Saga: Part II

Yesterday I wrote about my saga with Father Z in which I had left a couple of comments on Father Z's blog about the declaration of Venerable Pope Paul VI.  To recap, many of his readers posted some pretty nasty comments, second guessing and criticizing the Pope's declaration.  

These are excerpts:
Pope Paul VI was no hero to anyone but the Masons. The nightmare of his Papacy has not ended for the average Catholic in the world today. . . .His pride and obstinate refusal, unto death, to reverse his errors is only an example to others for what NOT to do. God have mercy on his soul!
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I see things like this and my eyes glaze over. More reason to ignore about anything coming out of Rome. 
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But objective observation suggests that John XXIII was naive and impetuous, and that Paul VI was vascillating and easily manipulated. Both were frankly out of their depth in dealing with the acute and pre-planned machinations of the liberal and Modernist elements at work during and more importantly after Vatican II. 
I was appalled at remarks like these coming from those who consider themselves to be good and devout Catholics.  But Father Z seemingly had no problems with these comments as he allowed them to stand with no editorial comment of his own and no apparent editing.  

The reason these comments upset me is because they deny Christ's promise when He gave the keys to the Kingdom to St. Peter and all of his successors.  Now it's very possible for a pope to be a failure in his personal life.  We, unfortunately, have seen such examples in our 2000 year history.  But it is impossible for a Pope to mislead the Church, as I have stated several times on this blog.  The Vicar of Christ cannot resist the guidance of the Holy Spirit in his papal duties.  That is the unbreakable promise that we were given by our Lord.

But you wouldn't know that by the comments left on Father Z's blog.  These readers are either ignoring or are not cognizant of the fact that these popes were personally chosen by the Holy Spirit to guide and lead the Church.  We are not talking about elected politicians, or even men voted in as Chairman of the Board.  We are talking about the Vicar of Christ, who is personally chosen by the Holy Spirit.  Father Z's readers are telling us that these Popes were not up to the task they were given.  They were "out of their depth" as one person stated.  It is their fault the Church is in a state of crisis.  If that is so, then our Lord lied to us when he said He would never leave or forsake us.  And He certainly didn't know what he was doing when He chose these men to lead his church.

This is the kind of stuff I expect to find on right-wing conservative websites that border on or are actually sedevacantist. But instead I find this on the most popular Catholic blog on the Internet, and on a site to which many Traditional Catholics regularly go. We get the idea that these readers think they themselves would have made much better popes than Venerable Paul VI or Blessed John Paul II.  

In my comment on Father Z's site, I stated my disagreement with those who were so critical.  After letting my comment sit "in moderation" for a while, Father Z released it with his own editing and comments.  I tried not once but twice to state my agreement with one reader who supported Venerable Paul VI, and Father Z deleted my comments each time after holding them "in moderation."  You can go back to my original post to get that full story.  

When I finally posted asking Father Z why he had treated my comments as he did, he deleted that post but sent me an email stating:
Say it in a separate comment.  Also, I don't allow discussion of my moderating or editorial choices.  Period.  It wastes my time and everyone else's.  Blessings, Fr. Z
Instead of saying it on Father Z's blog, where I am at his mercy as to whether and how it is posted, I decided to say it on my own blog, even though it gets only a tiny fraction of the attention it would get with Father Z.

Yesterday, Father Z "sort of " answered me on his blog.  Now you could say it was just a coincidence and that it has nothing to do with me.  But he posted this after I did my posting on our "saga", so you make the call.  He stated the following:
I am the benevolent dictator of this blog. I cast aside registrations at a whim. I delete or edit comments at my pleasure. I don’t have to explain myself. I don’t permit discussion of my decisions. That is a waste of my time. When the blog starts to be more work than pleasure, I get cranky. Were this a group blog… and if it develops into a group-moderated blog – then I would adjust. Until then, I am absolute benign dictator. So, if I am consistently deleting everything you want to say… rethink how you are saying what you want to say. Most of the time, folks, it is style, not substance that get’s things deleted. Style and my mood. There… I said it. But what else would you expect from a dictator?
So Father Z says he is a "benevolent dictator."  I've heard the term before, but I decided to look it up just to make sure of its real meaning.  This is how Wikipedia defines it:
Benevolent dictatorship is a form of government in which an authoritarian leader exercises political power for the benefit of the whole population rather than exclusively for the benefit of himself or herself or only a small portion of the population. A benevolent dictator may allow for some democratic decision-making to exist, such as through public referendums.
If that is the case, if "benevolent dictator" means one who exercises power "for the benefit of the whole population" rather than just for himself, then Father Z is misusing this term, as he plainly tells us "I delete or edit comments at my pleasure.  I don't have to explain myself."  He is not thinking about the benefit of others, but purely how he feels, as he readily admits.  And as Father Z said, his power is "absolute", which does not allow for any "democratic decision-making" as a truly benevolent dictator would.

I actually have no problem with Father Z, as a blogger, maintaining complete control over his blog.  Most bloggers do, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  As I said in my first post, he is under no obligation to publish my comments or anyone else's, and he certainly doesn't have to give a reason why he does or does not do something.

EXCEPT. . .

Father Z is not just any blogger.  He is an ordained Roman Catholic priest.  Even though he is American, his diocese is actually in Italy.  He has special permission to live apart from his diocese and thus has no parish of his own.  He has no parish duties, no Masses he must say every day, no time when he has to hear confessions, baptize, marry or bury people.  That is certainly not to say that he doesn't do these things, but that he is not bound by any set schedule except what he makes for himself.  His ministry seems to pretty much consist of what he does on his blog, which is not inconsiderable considering the fact that he reaches probably millions every day.  He does an extensive amount of traveling, and probably comes into contact with many more people than the average diocesan priest does.  He has been a weekly columnist in his past life and has appeared on Fox News.

But with all of this comes a great deal of responsibility.  He is a celebrity in the Catholic world.  Many, many people look up to him as a spiritual leader.  He very often gives advice on spiritual matters.  When he gives his point of view on events, he is a sort of "E.F.Hutton":  people listen.   I think that it is safe to say that many people will listen to him before they will listen to their own parish priest or bishop or even the Pope.

Father Zuhlsdorf's statement that "I delete or edit comments at my pleasure" is a little disconcerting.  This is his ministry.  His "pleasure" should not play any part in it.  He has the same responsibility as any parish priest does, to lead his flock on the straight and narrow path to their Creator.  The difference is that he has a worldwide flock.  He shouldn't be doing anything on his blog that is a "whim."  This is not about him having "fun" or providing "pleasure" for him.  This is an electronic ministry given to him in an age when so much that is coming from the Internet is highly destructive to our souls. I would hope that he is praying about every word that appears on his blog, as he will be answering for it all, just as any priest has to answer for his ministry.  He should be a dictator only in the sense that he does not swerve in any way from the vows he took as a priest.  He should be a dictator when it comes to allowing nothing on his blog that is not in conformity with Church teaching.  He can't be constantly worrying about offending people, but neither should he dismissively cast anyone aside just on a "whim" or "mood."

I feel somewhat uncomfortable posting this.  Who am I to be preaching to a priest and telling him what to do.  Nothing that I say carries any weight at all, and Father Z is certainly not answerable to me in any way.   But he is answerable to God, just as any priest is.  And because of his vast influence, he has even more responsibility.  "To whom much is given, much is expected."  "Whims" "moods" and "pleasure" will not be taken into account.  Our Lord certainly didn't conduct his ministry according to how he felt on any certain day, and neither, for the sake of the souls entrusted to them, should any of his priests.

One other thing - why, Father Z, are you doing a luxurious cruise in Lent?

5 comments:

  1. You have b-lls! I really admire your moderate, rational arguments and being willing to go up (I hate to say) against this priest. I am fascinated by the whole blogging phenomenon and as one comboxer on another site posted "I am going to get the popcorn now" and watch this unfold. Seriously, you make some really good points and people who live in this glass house called the internet need to be really careful about letting their emotions and whims override their intellect and consistency. Very interesting. I suspect your blog will get a lot more hits soon enough....I will pray for you to stand strong and stay grounded even though I don't agree with everything you write. I myself am pretty uncomfortable with the rush to canonize certain recent popes but I am going to be very slow to attribute such canonizations to nefarious Vatican plots to entrench modernism. I actually need to research the whole question of when is the Holy Father (whom I just had the privilege of standing five feet away from twice in Rome recently!) infallible. For example, we know from history that there were some really bad popes (my father left me a book with that title). My puny understanding tells me that they did some pretty rotten stuff but that eventually the Church rights herself from any possible errors...Like St. Catherine of Sienna lambasted one pope for moving out of Rome I think. I just have a feeling (that I need to research) that popes can make errors even in doctrine (?) but the Holy Spirit eventually corrects the ship of the church.

    Anyway,I think human nature is weak enough that the wisdom in waiting a few hundred years to make anyone a saint maybe should not be jettisoned. But I should post my response to this on your other post about this topic. Happy Christmas, gotta go to mass now!

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    1. I hope I am not "up against this priest." Father Z is not my enemy. But he is in what can be a very dangerous position for anyone. He has the adulation of literally tens of thousands, maybe more, and that can give anyone a big head and cause him to forget what his real mission is. Father Z was put where he is in order to save souls. Let us pray that he remembers that at all times. That was the reason for my posting.

      My DH asked me this morning if I pray for Father Z. I have to admit that I have never actually mentioned him in my prayers. I think that is something we all have to do.

      May you and your family also have a blessed and holy Christmas.

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    2. Good reminder. I haven't prayed for him either but now I will.

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  3. I had been a Father Z. regular for years and learned much from his commentary. But I started to feel that he was becoming more inflexible to com box replies (as is his right), increasingly ask for donations and travel. I then grew in my doubts and since he has linked up with Voris, I very seldom visit his site anymore. I am not punishing him, as if I could, but feel that I don't fully trust him now and doubt his motives.

    b.<><

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