Saturday 28 November 2015

A Short Homily on Blasphemy...

...for which only a few readers will divine the reasons. Sorry.

Say a chap sends a tweet he means to be cheeky (not blasphemous) to a friend over Twitter. He is referring to a theological post he wrote, and he copies in the guy he's being cheeky about, so that the guy might read the post.

Then say the mocked guy goes nuts because he assumes--not without cause--that the tweet is blasphemous.

The mocked guy then publishes the tweet he thinks is blasphemous on his blog to disgrace the mocker and bring his workplace into disrepute.

The mocked guy's readers rage in the combox about the mocker, demand that he be fired, offer conspiracy theories that he's not a Catholic but "a Jew", etc., because the stupid tweet does look blasphemous, especially after the mocked guy's side of the story.


The mocker didn't intend his tweet to be blasphemous. He published it on Twitter for two people to see.

The mocked believed the tweet to be blasphemous. He published it on his blog for as many people as possible to see.

Who has blasphemed? One, both or neither?


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. All of the above. This is multi-choice, right? ;)

    Actually, that may not be too much of a stretch, given the Golden Rule - our Lord equated loving God with loving our neighbours, so a lack of charity & mercy towards others on the twittersphere equates to a lack of charity towards God, which is kinda blaspheming against Him, right? Ok, that's a bit of a stretch, but the Golden Rule wasn't just a fancy bit of legal footwork to get Jesus off the hook; He was trying to get us thinking differently about what we mean when we say we 'love God'.

    TWEET 1 (FROM MOCKER) - uncharitable, not blasphemous (no intent)
    TWEET 2 (FROM MOCKED) - zealous, blasphemous (because republishing a blasphemous tweet spreads the blasphemy - unnecessary, he could have just posted 'upset I've just seen a blasphemous tweet by mocker')
    REPLIES (ON MOCKERS BLOG) - oh dear. Angry, vengeful, racist. No apparent direct blasphemy in what you've posted. Great if they were aiming for the rabid mob image, terrible if they wanted to project Catholic concern. Though in mitigation, at least they care God was (in their minds) being mocked.

    So much for the positive blog tone thing huh? Tho good on ya for gently castigating the offenders. Perhaps a cat o nine tails would be effective too? ;) Oops, there's that lack of charity again...

    Seraphic, you appear to at least have interesting faith friends. In my culture, only 'fundamentalist evangelicals' even talk about God; most Catholics seem to find God a boring topic of conversation... (not that He comes up in most conversations, but still...)

    Southern Bloke.

    1. Oh dear! Just seen Flannery's comment, and he has clearly seen the (unlinked) tweets in question, and they are evidently .... questionable. I may be wrong claiming Mocker's tweet was not blasphemous due to lacking intent; it is a very fine line between clever and crass, and Mocker may well have trampled that line into submission...
      Apologies if I sounded flippant - it sounds like the cheekiness was well up there on the Richter scale.

  3. I took down Flannery's remark because she repeated the remark, which she interpreted as blasphemous (but repeated anyway). I don't want things that can be construed as blasphemous on my blog.

    You see the problem? If you don't think something is blasphemous, and you tweet it without realizing that this is how it is going to seem to many other people, then it is very imprudent. However, if you think something is blasphemous, WHY REPEAT IT? You put the same image in the minds of others that went into the mind of the offended person.

    This situation reminds me both of the Mohammed Cartoon Crisis and of the Regensburg Crisis. In both situations, mischievous people took material to an unintended audience to stir up trouble against the authors. In both situations, people were killed. In this situation, the worst that has happened--besides the grief and anger caused to dozens of blog-readers--is calls for the firing of the cheeky chap, and the reduction in reputation of both men involved.

    I don't think the cheeky chap's tweet can be defended. It was at best very badly thought out. However, I don't think publishing it abroad can be defended either, for any reason.

    The one good thing that has come out of this--that I know of--is that I have had a wake up call about online anger in the traditionalist community. We have a bad habit of tweeting, posting and reporting to each other scandal after scandal after scandal in the Church. I agree that it is necessary for someone to do it. I agree that we have sleepwalked into an atrocious state of affairs. But I think that this is best left to men and women who are truly prudent and truly prayerful, so that we aren't all scandalized and demoralized.

    1. Blasphemy (and other hellish sins) are in Holy Scripture. It is necessary to show these things to put them in context, to explain that sin is sin. You decided to shoot the messenger instead of focusing on the blasphemer. Remember, you started the thread. You wanted comments. But apparently you wanted people to make a decision without seeing the evidence. As you know, the evidence is damning, not against the one who reported it (because that would make the writers of Scripture guilty) but against the one who committed the blasphemy.

    2. I'm not shooting anybody. I'm just pointing out the irony in publishing a perceived blasphemy while yelling that the first guy who published it is a blasphemer. (As a matter of fact, the first guy is a devout, Mass-attending Catholic.) I didn't read the Cheeky Guy's blog that often, but I was a regular reader of the Mocked Guy. I didn't expect him to use his blog to trigger rage, anger and hatred for a publishing rival. Now I'm disappointed.

      The question was about culpability in publishing a blasphemy. BOTH the first guy and the second guy published the EXACT SAME TWEET. The first guy did it not thinking it was blasphemous. The SECOND guy DID think it was blasphemous. First guy put an unpleasant image in one head (since the friend he was addressing knew what he was talking about). Second guy put an unpleasant image in dozens of heads.

      If a child came running up to you saying, "Johnny said *****! Johnny said *****!", would you not be inclined to point out that it was wrong both for Johnny and this very same child to use that obscenity?

      Meanwhile, it was NOT necessary for the second guy to publicize the first guy's moment of poor judgement. In fact, I think Scripture would suggest he write to him privately to say, "Hey, buddy, not cool. You may not be aware of this but that was blasphemous because..." It was not the second guy's job to shout out, "HEY EVERYBODY, this guy I don't like--here's his name and his job--tweeted THIS foul thing to me." He neglected to mention exactly what he tweeted to Cheeky Guy just before Cheeky Guy made his remark to his friend. It wasn't pretty. Later he boasted it was a trap....which is when I stopped talking to him.

      Finally, I am hardly "shooting the messenger" when I haven't as much as named him OR his blog. Those who don't know the scandal already will not be scandalized by me. They can just shrug and forget about it, unlike the Mocked Guy's readership

      Incidentally, your messenger is not a writer of scripture. He's not a member of the CDF. He's not even a priest. He's just a guy who thought he had too good a "gotcha" moment to pass up. His "gotcha" post was all about driving his metaphorical chariot over his enemy yelling "Wahoo! I win!" as you will see if you read his comments.

    3. By the way, one of the reasons why I didn't say (or even hint) what the perceived blasphemy was, was so that commentators would operate from their INTELLECTS, not their emotions. As we saw in the Muhammad Cartoon Crisis and the Regensburg Crisis, perceived blasphemy goes straight to people's emotions, bypassing reason.

    4. "Shooting the messenger" referred to me, as in you deleted my comment.
      Regarding Holy Scripture, I was not suggesting that any blogger is a writer of Scripture. My point was that many despicable things are included in the Bible even though they may be scandalous to some readers. I provided my initial comment (that you deleted) to allow people to decide for themselves if the "cheeky chap" committed blasphemy. The reason the tweet in question was made public, I think but could be wrong, is because the "cheeky chap" is a public figure in charge of a large Catholic website. Sending personal or public blasphemous messages would be grave misconduct. I have no relationship with either chap. I responded to what seemed to be a real interest on your part for a discussion. If you didn't want the evidence of the blasphemy to be discussed, then you should not have started this thread.

    5. I am not sure how to respond to this remark except to point out that concrete events sometimes inspire abstract discussions of points of principle. That was my intent with my post. Nobody needs to know, or indeed, wants that badly to know what the exact words/images were. The issue was not "Was this remark blasphemous?" but "Does intent matter?" and "Is it blasphemous to repeat a remark/image one thinks is blasphemous?" These are pertinent questions in the wake of the Mohammad Cartoon Crisis and the Regensburg Crisis. Exploiting the piety of emotional people to whip up a frenzy of hatred for a perceived enemy is a very serious and dangerous thing.

      I am sorry your feelings were so badly hurt by my removing your comment, but please understand that it wasn't personal. I have no idea who you are, and you are presumably writing under a pseudonym. I merely made a prudential judgement to protect my regular readers, the majority of whom are pious Catholic women who do not want their brains polluted. And now I shall make another prudential judgement and slap on comment moderation before I go to bed.

  4. And, yes, the cheeky chap does walk the fine line between clever and crass. His work is not always to my tastes, but the article he wrote (and linked to) was very informative and scholarly.

  5. Walks the fine line between clever and crass with a heavy stomp, I should have said. Meanwhile, the cheeky chap has pointed out that we consume ALL of Christ when we receive the Eucharist. Cheeky chap's massive theological and spiritual interest is in the Incarnation, and so what is extremely shocking to traditionalist sensibilities just makes sense to Cheeky Chap. (He has pointed out that Our Lord telling his hearers that they had to eat His body and drink His blood shocked the living daylights out of them.) That's as far as I can go in defending what he wrote. Again, highly imprudent. He shouldn't have done it. And it shouldn't have been published abroad.

    1. Having realized who printed it, I think Cheeky Chap's actions were materially blasphemous. But I do not think that was his intent. Material, not formal.

    2. One way or another, it shouldn't have been published on Twitter or anywhere else subsequently.

  6. Agreed, no repetition of blasphemy (actual, inferred, imputed, etc). I hadn't made the mental link to the cartoons or Regensburg address - they are good comparators.

    Have you had a homily against gossip recently? Apparently a request from Pope Francis - he is scandalised by the gossip about scandals in the Vatican and throughout the Church, and is urging us to rise past it. That appears to be a weak point of most of us in the Church, not just traddy's. It can be so hard to discuss what needs to be fixed without straying into gossip against someone...

    Also, I hadn't thought of the Eucharist as Cheeky Chap has posited it, but I guess we do consume all of Christ. Just doesn't shock us, because we know He told us its what comes out of our mouths that can be impure, not what goes in. That, and there are no alt. connotations in consumption of the Eucharist other than the apparent one of gaining the graces of God because it's His body & blood, soul & divinity. Which is about as close as I want to get to referencing the scandal, especially as I'm not a theologian.

    I hope Cheeky Chap doesn't lose his job (journalist/writer?) over this - whenever I get scandalised over other's behaviour, I try to think of some of the worse things I've done, and just be immensely grateful for the mercy of God and those I've offended ;)


    1. I don't think he will--and thank heavens as Christmas is in four weeks and he has a wife and three children. Professional editors have a high tolerance for what their writers get up to outside their publications and usually give them a long leash within the publication. I know there are people who think that a Catholic newspaper editor is (or should be) a one-man Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but he (or she) never is.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Your comment was quite funny! I'm sorry you erased it.

  8. I'm rereading the work of a certain French writer whose novels were condemned as obscene in the 16th century. After this condemnation, the censors did not print lots and lots of copies and give them to all the populace so they could see for themselves how very obscene they were.

  9. So I stumbled across one of the posts referenced here and suddenly this post makes sense.

    I do find the tweet QUITE shocking, although I don't think someone should lose a job over a moment of poor judgment. We all exercise poor judgment, and in the era of the internet, it spreads like wildfire.

    However, I don't find the response to it that shocking even in its lack of charity, because I have yet to read an article on that website that is either just or charitable (disappointing, because I know I've read other things by this author that I've liked). Literally no one is Catholic enough for them, and they recently gave space to a blogger let go from a more respected site due to extreme disrespect to the pope. I thought she should have been let go sooner, because she wrote almost entirely in insinuation in ways that could have had disastrous effects on people less in rank but not in dignity than the pope.

    So I'm in a pickle. I think the first tweet was horrid, but I agree spreading it is problematic, and I have a hard time defending the person who spread it because I think his site is really uncharitable and unfairly judgmental pretty much all the time (and this is not from a dislike of traddiness, I promise).

    1. Oh dear. I'm sorry you saw it.

      It is rather a dilemma, but you don't have to take a side. There is a way of reading the tweet which makes it not horrid--although reason compels me to admit that it was imprudent. Those of us who actually know the Cheeky Guy know that he did not intend blasphemy, but it is hard to make others believe that.

      I notice that the Mocked Guy's readers have come up with more disgusting interpretations than I would ever have made, even with Mocked Guy's long preamble. I wonder why their brains seized so quickly on such pornographic thoughts and WHY they thought it okay to publish them for others to see.

      There are many lessons here, I think. The first one--for me--was how public Twitter is; you forget that ANYONE on Twitter can see what you write. The second is how fast it is: there's no real time for reflection. The third is how it seems to bring out the worst in people. And so I deactivated my account.

      But beyond that there is a lesson about a thirst to do harm to one's enemies, justifying detraction in the Name of the Lord. It shook me that so many people of "my own party"--if you wish--were happier believing the Cheeky Guy had committed a serious sin than being told his sin was, indeed, LESS serious than they believed. Trads are often called "Mad Trads"--meaning angry, not crazy--and so now I am examining myself for how I may be helping to whip up this anger.

    2. For those with families, it is extremely imprudent to say anything online that jeopardizes the welfare of the family, specifically the potential loss of salary. This is, of course, unless you have no other choice because to do otherwise would be to sin.

      Think of Thomas More. He had a family, Bishop Fisher did not. Fisher could speak up immediately and powerfully against the wishes of the king, but Thomas More needed to resign and avoid any situation that might put his family at risk. Unfortunately they would not leave him alone and he did what he had to do, unwillingly.

      Mocked and Mocker, who both have families, should remember this discretion and prudence before any further furor is directed toward either one.

    3. Well, I've gotten over seeing it. :-) I live now in a huge city and see more scandalous things on the subway.. the ads, not the people. :-)

      I don't really have a dog in the fight (and I don't know the cheeky fellow at all) so I'm content to just say, "What can we learn from this?" The first thing is maybe to take a step back and calm down. Mocked Guy was mocked after somewhat picking a fight—why did he have to do that? And Cheeky Guy should have taken a few moments and thought about how it could look—he has to know Twitter isn't private, and, honestly, that Mocked Guy was at least in an argumentative mood ("fully intending" to burn a bridge).

      Although some introspection on how you may be contributing isn't a bad idea, I hope your honest assessment lines up with mine: you're not a "Mad Trad" - which I hadn't heard before but is certainly an apt description for some folks. You definitely are more on the "Trad" side, but you're not uncharitable, and I think we all have different things that speak to us—it's no slight to a Benedictine to become a Franciscan, is it, if that's the spirituality that helps one connect best with God, and I have met deeply faithful and orthodox Tridentine people and deeply faithful and orthodox Charismatic Catholics. I've also met bad ones. I guess that's why we're all in Church! :-) Particularly militant people, if you take my meaning, or the mocked fellow's website, are reliably uncharitable in my opinion, even if some of their critiques are valid. Many of them I also find overly cynical about the Church and their fellow Christians. I am hopeful by nature, and that includes for the Church and humanity.

      I think I was fortunate to be raised catholic among Catholics—my family is Latin Rite, but we went to a whole variety of Catholic, different rites, different spiritualities, different cultures. We have several valid ways to celebrate the Mass, and any of them can be done well (and beautifully) or badly. The ones with less room for changes will be less susceptible to bad decisions, but they can suffer their own problems (as the first time I went to a Tridentine Mass as a kid, all excited, and instead it was extremely disappointing—a ghetto for large families where children were not really welcome, and where everything was mumbled but "those other Catholics" was still audible in the homily).

      Fortunately, despite that being quite a souring experience, I've been to Tridentine since then and found it beautiful. I have a lot of sympathy with "Trads" when I have to sit through the same 15 songs shuffled around every week, but I know too that part of the reason the old songs are good is because time has a way of dropping out the bad songs (and there are good ones I think will stand the test of time). :-) When I step back, I can find things to appreciate and critique about all of them. Mostly, though, I just try to get my brain to cooperate during Mass and focus on Jesus, which is hard, because I'm easily distracted, and my mental litany becomes apologies to God.

  10. Mr. Cheeky and Mr. Outrage actually base their respective online endeavors largely off of Cheekiness and Outrage respectively, actually, which is why I have chosen to avoid both for some time. Mr. Cheeky is a good fellow in a certain respect and one wishes he would find a very good academic job and not have to advertise himself all over the internet, since one feels maybe it would be a little better for him to settle in security and domestic affairs. Alas, our times are cruel to intellectuals like Mr. Cheeky, but in the meantime he may benefit from taking some edge off his wit.
    Mr. Outrage sincerely believes he is being a Light of Truth in a time of Darkness, but his criticisms are always proactive rather than reactive. He, for example, pores over the Holy Father's remarks looking for things to pick apart. It isn't the best, even though he often chooses fine contributors for his little publication.
    Blogging is a terrible temptation to indulge in one's excesses...
    But the real moral here is to avoid Twitter like the plague.

    1. Emily, I absolutely love your comment. Also, as a practical matter, the funniest/most salient/most entertaining things off twitter are often collected by other sites and shared—hence Buzzfeed's Funniest Tweets from Parents weekly feature.


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