Why Satirical Catholic Blogs Fail

I finally returned to internet connectivity this week, which has meant catching up on news & blogs I have neglected. Part of this “reconnecting” included denying a facebook friend request from someone I never heard of-only to find out that this someone was a fake online persona created in the Catholic Fascist’s attempt at satire. Having looked over all of the posts there, I was struck by how eerily similar the site was to another parody group blog-The Spirit of Vatican II.

Both blogs employed a host of satirical characters with enough resemblance to real life to make laugh (I think whoever thought of danmclockinload deserves a guest post on TAC) at first, both got roaring laughter from their own partisans-and neither blog was funny after a few days.

Part of these failings is the desire to top oneself. In satire, it’s hard to keep it up, because the goal of satire is to point out absurdity. To keep going, you are strongly tempted to simply make it more absurd. As you go more absurd, you get further and further away from reality, and the practical point is lost in the pursuit of laughter. Another temptation is try to find new material. You start attacking everything you see in your opponent. Sooner or later, you start attacking things that are good.

This latter temptation reminds me an awful lot of Lewis’s description of his experience writing the Screwtape Letters found in the introduction to “Screwtape Proposes a Toast”

But thought it was easy to twist one’s mind into the diabolical attitude, it was not fun, or not for long. The strain produced a sort of spiritual cramp. The world into which I had to project myself while I spoke through Screwtape was all dust, grit, thirst, and itch. Every trace of beauty, freshness and geniality had to be excluded. It almost smothered me before I was done. It would have smothered my readers if I had prolonged it.

By assuming these characters, both Spirit of Vatican II and Catholic Fascist were in essence doing what Lewis did and they both suffered (and are suffering) the same effects.

This is not to say satire does not have its place, even on Catholic blogs. It, like most other things, can be done in moderation (though it is difficult to do charitably or with an aim towards conversion & openness to the truth). An occasional satire is good if not overdone.

But in the end, satire only tears something down. Catholic blogs are at their best when they not only tear down the bad but also build up the good. All blog wars and parody blogs tend to do is tear down and tear apart, but they never point towards the true. I admit that I am guilty of this as anyone else, if not more so, but I think if the Catholic blogosphere is to fulfill its potential as a medium for Christ it must stop being merely about why “Blogger A is wrong.”

If our faith is truly being reflected in our writings, then the sheer beauty and awe of our faith and its rich traditions ought to be the shining light emerging from our blogs. Disagreements with others can help point out the finer elements of that beauty, but when our disagreements consume us, they cloud out the light.

This isn’t to say that the guys of TAC need to sign up for liturgical dancing or that the Vox Nova crowd should join us for a Independence Day BBQ & fireworks show. We can still disagree with one another frequently. But if any Catholic blog simply becomes a blog against another blog (or political party, or really anything), then it ceases to be truly Catholic. Catholics are not Protestants; we were not formed merely in opposition to something but rather we were formed FOR something. While no blog has done that yet, let’s all step back away from the ledge and remind ourselves of what we as Catholics truly are capable of sharing.

That said, if the Vox Nova crowd is interested in that BBQ, I’m bringing the beer-a few cases of Louisiana-made Abita Amber will bring everyone together.

16 Responses to Why Satirical Catholic Blogs Fail

  • GodsGadfly says:

    Two other problems with Satire:
    1. Unless it’s obvious, it really confuses those of us with autistic-spectrum personalities. I’ve seen the “Spirit of Vatican II” blog before, and I thought it was sincere.

    2. Satire and parody are only good when a) they have some level of respect for their targets and b) they don’t take themselves too seriously.

  • Blackadder says:

    The amazing thing about the CF blog for me is the sheer output. There are more posts there than there have been at AC since it started, *and* whoever is doing it is writing most of the comments.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    It’s projection and status posturing by a clever but tormented fellow.

    Much political satire is like that, but I think you need at least a few drops of real disdain and even hatred to do it in a religious context on a sustained basis.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Michael Denton,

    I appreciate your heroic efforts to be super charitable to one of the most nasty, unreasonable, uncharitable fellows these blogs have ever known.

    I do question how many times you are to turn your cheek before you finally dust off your feet per Mark 6:11.

    Frankly, if this is the “bashing” Iafrate gets for his behavior, he will have gotten less than a tap on the cheek. I don’t think you need to worry about it. He is putting himself out there to be criticized, ridiculed, and bashed – and he secretly loves it, because he does fancy himself a prophet. If people aren’t bashing him, then he doesn’t feel as if he’s doing his job anyway.

    I might say nothing about him at all for that reason, but false prophets should be denounced.

  • Phillip says:

    I personally don’t mind satire or even strong opinions strongly argued. To argue strongly back does not bother me either as one can walk away and have that Abita (which I had for the first time this weekend) with you opponent. That’s the hard part.

    Unfortunately, sometimes there are real problems with others. Pointing them out is also not off-limits either, even if jokingly, as long as one recognizes that also. Part of running with the big dogs.

    I think the author of Catholic Fascist is truly having some problems. Though I would be happy to be wrong.

  • Paul Zummo says:

    Good satirical blogs (Iowahawk, Scrappleface) take aim at everything. The former in particular is still going strong because there’s a wide variety of topics to skewer. Plus I don’t think he writes more than a post a day. A satirical blog that takes aim at either just one blog or one type of subject matter isn’t going to last – partly for the reasons Michael mentions, but mainly because it just gets old that much faster,

  • Gabriel Austin says:

    The Spirit of Vatican II is satirical? You must be thinking of a different blog. Or a different meaning of satirical.
    It is very much a woman’s blog. Satirical perhaps in the sense that women think men are pretty dense.

  • Pinky says:

    In one of my first encounters with Michael, I found my self quoting Matthew 18:

    If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

    I think it’s very difficult to make a quiet approach on the internet; maybe through email if the person’s address is known to you. Anyway, by this point, I don’t feel any obligation to respond to Michael’s postings, although I’d gladly help him change a flat tire. It’s not my job to rebuke him.

  • Pinky says:

    I should also note that his tantrum won’t be seen by more than a half-dozen people whom he hasn’t already alienated elsewhere. He may equal other sites in output, but he’s never going to get 1% of their hits. So he isn’t really scandalizing the faithful.

  • Phillip says:

    I don’t know. Certainly big boys can take the heat. For example a slam of TAC here:

    http://vox-nova.com/2010/08/18/somewhat-funny-somewhat-confusing/#comments

    This combined with comments at the Western Confucian that find that TAC as a greater threat to the common good than Vox Nova. Not that its clear that one ever found Vox Nova to be a threat to the common good here. The bizarre thought ironically comes from two people who claim they don’t read TAC.

    But again, being big boys, most here can take such comments.

  • Jay Anderson says:

    Mark Shea is, apparently, not much of a fan of TAC, either:

    “I agree with you that the bellicose messianic Americanism at TAC is far more dangerous and deadly than the nose-pulling of CF. However, as I virtually never read TAC and as CF (being the New Hotness) was more prominent on my monitor, I wasn’t attempting a full review of TAC.”

    http://orientem.blogspot.com/2010/08/catholic-fascist-revisited.html#7946745129191366168

    Good thing Shea “virtually never read[s] TAC” or he might have to actually form an opinion based in fact rather than pulling things completely out of his ass like he usually does.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “The bizarre thought ironically comes from two people who claim they don’t read TAC.”

    Judging from Mark popping in on my Victory Over Japan post, I’d say he sneaks a peak every now and then. However, considering the way Mark has of scanning articles, based upon some of his posts, rather than reading articles to actually understand them, perhaps his statement is at least partially correct. :)

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