Are You Kidding Me John Allen?

Wednesday, November 24, AD 2010

John L. Allen Jr., otherwise referred to in most circles as John Allen, is the prolific writer for the dissident Catholic newspaper National Catholic Reporter has come out defending L’Osservatore Romano in the recent Pope Condom Comments controversy.

John Allen laid the blame clearly on orthodox/conservative Catholic bloggers for “jealousy, politics, and dated expectations of how the Vatican paper ought to behave.” referring to critics of L’Osservatore Romano and its editor Gian Maria Vian, of which I am one of those critics.

Mr. Allen, by “dated expectations of how the Vatican paper ought to behave”, do you mean as in defending Church teaching and not embarrassing the pope at all costs?

Are you kidding me?

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14 Responses to Are You Kidding Me John Allen?

  • I would call this post outrageous, but it is so over-the-top that it seems just plain silly instead. John Allen is generally respected by Catholic commentators of all stripes, and his comments about “Taliban Catholicism” did not refer to “practicing Catholics” but to Catholics who direct inflammatory nonsense like this at their fellow Christians.

  • Ron,

    Just par for the course of your nonsensical comments.

  • Why heterodoxy failed . . .

    By even-handed, do you mean Mr. John listed a positive for every detraction of Opus Taliban?

    I wouldn’t waste my eyesight or time . . .

  • Use of the phrase “Taliban Catholics”, a common enough phrase on the Catholic Left, indicates that Mr. Allen knows little about the Taliban, and that his prejudices are what one might expect from someone who writes for the birdcage liner called the National Catholic Reporter. Of course what truly upsets him I think is that Catholic bloggers are eclipsing the readership of rags like the National Catholic Reporter that used to have a virtual monopoly in attempting to shape Catholic opinion in this country. No matter how many unread copies of the National Catholic Reporter are ordered by leftists priests, and the chancery staffs of leftist bishops, they simply cannot compete in aggregate readership with the Catholic blogs, most of which are orthodox. Allen’s comment is the lament of the buggy whip manufacturer as more of those horseless carriages are clogging the roads.

  • For the record, I consider myself orthodox and do not think I would fall under Mr. Allen’s “Taliban Catholicism.” Now, there may be a few on the distant right who think I’m a heretic, but they’re pretty rare birds. It seems he’s referring to more than just orthodoxy here.

    Whether using a loaded term like “Taliban” to make his point was a good move is, however, another debate.

  • Allen is usually good when writing about the Vatican, but when it comes to writing about the American scene in Catholicism he has a tendency to get all tribal in defense of his fellow National Catholic Reporter writers. How one gets off seeing the Mark Sheas and Fr Zs of the world as “Taliban” while having not beef with his fellow columnists like Chittister, McBrian and Winters (who are prone to far more frequent accusations that their fellow Catholics aren’t real Catholics and do so from a dissident psotion to boot) escapes me.

    In this case, that’s compounded with Allen being of the brand of Catholic which while not dissident would clearly like to see Church teaching on birth control be more “open” — and some such seem to have deceived themselves that this particular blunder by LOS indicates this is coming.

    Honestly, though, that site is just hard to read. I’d read Allen’s first piece on the issue, which was good, and the comment boxes were 90% 60s bitter Enders lashing out at the pope, with many of them accusing him of being “clearly obsessed” with male prostitutes. I think beyond a certain point, one’s readership is indicative. If you’re mostly read by people who hate the Church, there’s something wrong with what you’re doing.

  • Brett,

    I wouldn’t sweat it about where you fall in this category.

    The bottom line is that Mr. Allen should have never even uttered the world “Taliban Catholicism” for whatever reason.

    The AP picked it up and clearly planted in the camp of Catholics that love Jesus and His Bride.

  • The term “Taliban” may not be the most fortuitous, but I’d sure like a word other than “conservative” to tell the difference between Michael Voris and Robert Barron, between Steve Kellmeyer and Matthew Kelly. Any suggestions?

  • Donald,
    I also find the comboxes under Allen a little frustrating, but I think he’s managed to pull off something important; namely, not always preaching to the choir. Sometimes insisting on only writing for audiences that already agree with us is a little like putting the lamp under the bushel basket.
    A lot of the time high ratings for a blog indicate its tribal nature, not its evangelical possibilities.

  • “The term “Taliban” may not be the most fortuitous”

    That will do as the understatement of the day on this blog until something better comes along.

    As to what to call one’s adversaries, I always prefer something that actually fits them. “Taliban Catholics” is purely insulting, since no Catholics on the blogosphere that I am aware of have embraced suicide bombing or any of the other charming manifestations of that Afghanistani political/religious movement. School yard insults against one’s opponents are good for venting purposes, but for little else.

  • I’ll take understatement over overstatement when I can help it. 😉

    I’m not sure it’s much to do with adversaries. The thing about Catholics like Barron and Kelly is that they don’t frame their Catholicism in terms of how wrong everyone else is. They’re precisely non-adversarial and they’re perfectly orthodox, I daresay moreso than Voris or Kellmeyer. Not that Voris or Kellmeyer consciously dissent, but it is very easy to say something out of step with the tradition when you are more intent on pursuing your enemy than seeking understanding.

    Hmm, maybe the word for such Catholics should be “adversarial.” I’m really quite sick of letting them steal “orthodox” out from under the rest of us.

  • If Allen simply wanted to complain about the approach of folks like Voris (which I would consider legit) a term like Gonzo Catholicism would suffice and be far more accurate it seems to me. What makes “Taliban Catholicism” particularly offensive is that it manages to neatly package a whole set of prejudices (that people are irrational, ignorant, fundamentalist, prone to violence, hate women, likely to commit stonings and beheadings, etc.) in one neat package which gains instant support from an anti-religious stereotype which the New Atheists have been at pains to create about religion in general and traditional religion in particular. That Allen chose to use the term in a secular outlet where he could better harness those anti-religious prejudices strikes me as particularly bad.

    On can hardly blame people for feeling that this represented a nasty case of playing for the other side.

    And, of course, there’s a rather nasty irony to attacking people who you ink are too quick to try to discredit the orthodoxy of others as “Taliban”, since this is, effectively, attacking their own orthodoxy and taking things to a higher level as well.

    On the diversity of opinion point — I certainly don’t think one should try to foster a readership of only those who already agree with you. But at the same time, it strikes me that if a Catholic periodical’s readership is made up almost entirely of those who disagree with at least some of the Church’s teachings to the point of scorn and really hate the pope (so much that the first thing that jumped into many of these commenter’s heads was to imply that the pope frequented male prostitutes) this might suggest that people with these feelings find something about your periodical rather congenial. And if you care about the Church, you might want to consider what those elements might be and change them.

    By analogy: if for some reason my writing seemed to have drawn a huge number of white supremacist readers, I would consider it a moral requirement that I examine my writing and see if I was somehow doing something that appealed to these people’s errors. If I failed to do so, I would be implicitly supporting them.

  • Gonzo Catholicism? I like that.

  • Also, I don’t think Allen is the one drawing the crazies to read his publication. On the other hand, I know many like me who read his column online each week and don’t have much to do with the rest of the Reporter.

AP's Article On The Catholic Blogosphere & NPR's Firing Of Juan Williams Are Par For The Course

Monday, October 25, AD 2010

National Public Radio’s ludicrous firing of Juan Williams and a subsequent mainstream media article on Catholic bloggers may seem to be two separate issues. Some may say what does the overwhelmingly conservative leaning Catholic blogosphere have in common with the liberal leaning Juan Williams? The answer is quite simple; both scare the mainstream media because Juan Williams and the majority of the Catholic blogosphere put forth interesting solutions to often discussed questions.

The modus operadi of some in the mainstream media is to find a couple of unnamed fringe Catholic bloggers, who few read, and then make them become bigger players than they really are. Combine this with a Juan Williams quote which most of America agrees with and voila you have it; the ultimate straw man from which you can tear apart any minority who appears on Fox News or any Catholic blogger who faithfully defends the teachings of the 2,000 year old Catholic Church.

In this Associated Press article on the Catholic blogosphere, the piece mentions Thomas Peters and Michael Voris (who is known for his videos not his blogging,) but focuses on harsh unnamed Catholic bloggers. The article quotes John Allen who calls elements of the Catholic blogosphere “Taliban Catholicism.” The highly respected Mr. Allen, who though working for the dissident leaning National Catholic Reporter, is often known for his many high ranking Church contacts and his fairness. He should have know better than to give the quote that he did. To take a few bloggers from the right (or even from the left) and call them the Catholic blogosphere is the type of journalism that would not pass muster for a high school paper, let alone the AP. This would be akin to taking the worst rated college or pro football team and telling the world this is the best of American football, or perhaps watching the Walla Walla Community theater production of Hamlet and saying this is Hamlet at its finest. John Allen should have realized where this article was going and chosen his words more carefully.

The AP article continues by naming a Church official who seems worried about the Catholic blogosphere. One wonders if the Church official would know the difference between Father John Zuhlsdorf from Father Richard McBrien, Amy Welborn from Aimee Semple McPherson, Mark Shea from Mark Sanford, Rocco Palmo from Rocco Mediate, or Tito Edwards from Tito Santana. I worked for years in a diocesan office and I have yet to meet, even in my travels, a diocesan official who is well versed in the blogosphere. It seems to be a generational thing and most diocesan officials are not to be confused with the younger, more conservative seminarians or young priests being ordained.

While some in the mainstream media snicker at the Pope and Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Catholic Church) they in reality have their own magisterium. In their secular magisterium anyone who believes in the Catholic Church’s authority is hopelessly outdated, because according to gatekeepers in the mainstream media, true thinkers are those in the dying liberal churches who don’t know what they believe. Sadly, GK Chesterton prophetically predicted this would happen. He said, “It’s not that atheists and agnostics believe in nothing, they believe in everything.” In modern parlance, “It’s all good.” How sad that some who proclaim to be “open minded” can’t see the obvious; liberal Christianity is dying on the vine.”

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19 Responses to AP's Article On The Catholic Blogosphere & NPR's Firing Of Juan Williams Are Par For The Course

  • Pingback: AP’s Article On The Catholic Blogosphere & NPR’s Firing Of Juan Williams Are Par For The Course: The American Catholic « Deacon John's Space
  • Keep preaching brother!

    I nominate the following excerpt to be the quote of year here at The American Catholic.

    “One wonders if the Church official would know the difference between Father John Zuhlsdorf from Father Richard McBrien, Amy Welborn from Aimee Simple McPherson, Mark Shea from Mark Sanford, Rocco Palmo from Rocco Mediate, or Tito Edwards from Tito Santana.”

  • Nothing to “wonder” about. The answers are self-evident.

  • Well said, excellent, wonderful!

  • Uh…it’s “magisterium.”

    Good piece, though.



  • It’s not clear to me that Allen was interviewed for the AP story. He was using “Taliban Catholics” in his own writing at least as far back as February.

  • Great piece with good insight. I especially like your quote about people not knowing the difference between Catholic bloggers and others.

    One note: Allen’s quote reveals more about himself than it does about Catholic blogging or orthodox Catholics. For all those who believe him to be fair, you might want to read his work more closely and don’t forget that he chooses to work for the dissident Reporter. His work displays some real blind spots.

  • It’s just funny that in article that to some extent is bemoaning in the incivility of the blogosphere, the term “Taliban Catholic” is so casually tossed about as though there is nothing uncivil about that comparison.

    But that, of course, is par for the course for people who yelp the loudest about tone and the harshness of dialogue. What it really is is an attempt to change the topic and avoid having to defend indefensible positions.

  • Defending the indefensible?

    As in an article that defends the civility of Michael Sean Winters but paints Catholics who are righteously standing up and saying enough as fringe.

    30-40 thousand readers a month may be ‘nobody reading’ to you, but I think it is enough to get an army of Catholics to get folks who espouse the opinions of dissent, silenced.

    It is half past time we take our parishes and schools back.

    We’ll look forward to more armchair criticism from you.

    Carry on.

  • Someone should ask John Allen when was the last time a Catholic blogger destroyed millenia-old works of art. Or shot a woman in the back of the head as halftime entertainment at a soccer match. Or sponsored terrorists who flew airplanes into buildings killing 3000 people.

    For the life of me, I’ll never understand why people who should know better consider John Allen to be “fair”. “Fair” people don’t make such idiotic comparisons.

  • We’ll look forward to more armchair criticism from you.

    Umm, what? I was critiquing the Allen quote and the condescending tone of the AP article, not Dave’s post.

  • Please, please, please – check your spell-check and correct “magEsterium” to “magIsterium”. The word comes from the Latin – magister.

  • Paul,

    Yes, my comments were about the article, not your comments which I completely agree with and thank you for stepping up to the plate to say.

  • p.s. I am not of the opinion that the article had coded message in it that needed to be cracked.

    There are many of us that are finished with letting teachers and priests preach and teach dissent and we area shutting it down by exposing what is going on with teaching, sanctifying and governing.

    Writing intellectual treatises on the internet is swell but it is not helping our children down at the local school being hoodwinked by Sister Mary Wear the Pants and Fr. Hehirtic. We have had to flee from our parishes, pull our children out of schools.

    What are we running from? It’s time to go back and demand our religion be taught.

    1. Pour through every bulletin and expose every problem, naming names and exercising your gifts by explaining the theological problems and consequences to our children.

    2. Start holding the priest accountable.

    3. If the priest won’t be held accountable, go to the Bishop.

    4. If the Bishop won’t be accountable, go to the Nuncio.

    5. If the Nuncio won’t hold them accountable, go to the Holy See.

    Round up as many in your area who are willing to do it.

    If in time, they do not intercede and do something to stop the people poisining the wells our children are drinking from, start a campaign to hold up the money on the annual Bishops appeal.

    Build it and they will flee.

    People may call it harsh. People like this author will call it fringe. Whatever hits you have to take from the author of this article on The American Catholic or anyone in the AP – Do it anyway.


  • Anna, I do hope your not talking about me as being part of the dissent, or just sitting at my computer composing essays while Rome burns. I do think my bona fides as a writer, educator (working in the Church and taking a lot of heat from Church liberals) etc should fit pass muster. I would hope so anyone, considering how many nasty names I have been called by the liberals in the Church. If I have misinterpreted your remarks, please forgive me. However, it would appear to me that you think this article is somehow not orthodox enough. I don’t know how that is possible. It would seem to me that the first three or four commentors (among others) like what I have to say. Anyway, God Bless & take care!

  • David,

    I actually never knew you existed before I found your article, but I can see that you are not a dissident.

    It has been such a refuge to come to the internet and read solid opinions. But we need those opinions to get into our schools and parishes and it is time to do something a little different.

    As a Boston activist who is part of the blogging community described in the AP, those of us on the ground doing this difficult ministry not only get called ‘names’ by dissidents, we are undermined by people on the right, sitting staring at their computers using their orthodoxy and bonafides to take cheap shots at us.

    ” to find a couple of unnamed fringe Catholic bloggers, who few read, and then make them become bigger players than they really are. ”

    Is blogosphere a game of “who is the bigger player”? Is it about chumming around with folks who post comments telling you how great you are?

    Oh wait…

    Look, I’ve done my share of years of writing and defending the Magisterium.

    But you know what we realized?

    Not a single dissident in our children’s schools been removed from teaching children by the things we are writing on the internet (myself included)

    A lot of us have been parish shopping for ten years.

    It’s time to go to plan b.

    I can appreciate your frustration with the article that they failed to recognize the big wazoos who have been banging away at their keyboards. But the work we are doing is critical new work and the author of the AP article knew more about that then you did!

    Nobody on the ground is a threat to your thunder. We will not be competing in who is the greatest of them all contests. At ease.

    We are people who are trying to focus getting orthodoxy to our own children, family and friends while you bang away at your ministry doing it for people in the com boxes. Not as worthy as the work you are doing, but it is nonetheless, worthy work that did not deserve your cheap shot.

    The kicker was your respectful attitude towards John Allen, who in between working with Joan Chittister, Tom Roberts, Michael Sean Winters and Bishop Gumbleton (talk about fringe!) serving up poison to Christ’s souls, characterized parents fed up with dissent that is continuously being taught no matter how much you write with concerns to your Bishop, as lecherous murderers.

  • Goodness Anna I think the liberals have got the best of you. I spoke kindly of John Allen? I took him to task for his comment. I only said he was respected by many. Have you ever read what Father Zuhlsdorf says about John Allen? Father Z calls him “his friend and highly respected.” Do you think Father Z has gone wobbly too?

    I understand what you must be going through living in Boston. You may remember that I mentioned in my article that my childhood parish was scourged with not only one priest sent to the slammer for molestation, but two. Some of those these two deviants molested were my friends, so believe me I don’t need any lectures on that subject.

    I would suggest you take some time to pray over the whole matter, calling those that are on your side not wholly orthodox doesn’t help. God Bless & take care!

  • David,

    I must not be making myself clear.

    I have the greatest respect for Fr. Z. But I disagree with his characterizations of John Allen. I am NOT attacking Fr. Z or his orthodoxy. Nor, am I attacking your orthodoxy. Nor am I attacking you.


    There is no need to be defensive. Be at peace.

    The AP wrote an article about a new ministry in the Church and your reaction to it was a knee-jerk.
    Look here:

    ” to find a couple of unnamed fringe Catholic bloggers, who few read, and then make them become bigger players than they really are. ”

    The good people in Boston are getting off their fannies and taking our schools and parishes and chancery back. That’s what the article was about.

    What is it about that you wouldn’t embrace?

  • Anna, there is nothing about what you said that I wouldn’t embrace. God Bless you and the good people of Boston who are helping turn the tide. May God Be With You All!