Do you know what all the bloggers over at the eclectic mess called the "Patheos Catholic Channel" have in common?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. They're not even all Catholic, now that "queer convert to Catholicism" Melinda Selmys of "Catholic Authenticity" sadly un-converted and is now authentically something else, apparently.
Some of the bloggers still appearing on the channel, past and present, are actually pretty stellar and faith-filled folks. But there is a growing cadre of writers with some disturbing threads in common, gathering there under the guidance of the channel's most recent editor, uber-feminist and consistently zany Franciscan University of Steubenville former adjunct professor Rebecca Bratten Weiss.
Weiss has spearheaded a noticeable uptick in Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS) alumni active as bloggers at Patheos. Why does this matter? Because a number of the alum-writers are really what could be described well as members of the "alt-FUS" whose ideologies are causing major headaches on campus.
What ideologies are at work in the alt-FUS mindset? Three features have emerged. First, virtually everything discussed gets discussed through a political lens first, and faith second. Second, there is a distinctive attitude toward things homosexual that corresponds readily to the infamous "gay lobby" even Pope Benedict acknowledged was present at the Vatican (the writers can't comprehend the fundamental problem of "gay identity" and mock and ridicule Catholics who do).
Third and most important at this moment, however, is the alt-FUS' unswerving commitment toward defending vulgar and profane words and speech. This looms large on the FUS campus, which is dealing with the scandal and debate over FUS English Professor Stephen Lewis' use of a pornographic and blasphemous book in class, a topic readily bleeding over into the alt-FUS bloggers' posts.
Past readers of the Patheos Catholic Channel are probably thinking to themselves, "those three features sound familiar." Indeed, they should. Past writers already blazed this ideological trail. Some of the first "alt-FUS" pioneers to arrive at Patheos included Weiss, who infamously defended the pornographic "Game of Thrones" TV series; former Catholic Channel editor Sam Rocha, who posted in 2012 that the New Evangelization "needs profanity" and that we all need to be "rude" like Jesus was, as well as the slightly more demure feminist Mary Pezzulo of "Steel Magnificat" and occasional guest blogger Jenn Morson, whose screeds are more readily seen at the rag National Catholic Reporter. This particular posse has been honing these ideological benchmarks for years, paving the way for the fresh crop of younger scribes brought in by Weiss as editor.
Other non-FUS veterans of Patheos in this same camp include the aforementioned Melinda Selmys, the ubiquitous Mark Shea, Cynthia Schrage, Scott Eric Alt, past Patheos mommy-blogger Simcha Fisher, and a more-freshly-arrived foul-mouthed Sean P. Dailey, a self-identified "Chestertonian" (sic) who drops the F-bomb as though it were dandruff falling from his scalp. Notably, it was Shea and Fisher whose writings were dumped by the National Catholic Register in 2016 after an August 1 podcast that year in which the duo publicly defended profanity and vulgarity as not prohibited by Scripture like "swearing" is, and is at most only venial sin and "sometimes not even venial sin."
I can attest that all these writers live and die on this particular hill, being the recipient of years of vulgar and profane attacks from all of them at one time or other. One can merely search by keywords at Patheos Catholic under terms like "cuss," "profanity" and "vulgarity," and numerous posts defending such communication will show up.
But these bloggers are pretty long in the tooth compared to the alt-FUS newbies more recently arrived at Patheos Catholic. While other alt-FUS voices are in this chorus, two in-your-face examples come to mind, given their most recent posts defending the vulgar pornography and blasphemy found in the scandalous book that has caused this root ideology to be further exposed. Alt-FUS Marie Kopp (who writes with FUS alumna Jenn Riley at "Shoeless Banshee," as in "wailing female spirit") and Emily C.A. Snyder ("Pop Feminist") give their editor Rebecca Bratten Weiss a run for her money — and Weiss has gone as far as dropping the F-bomb in a very recent post (not on Patheos Catholic) about burning Nazi testicles as a witch's sacrifice to the goddess Hecate. Hard to top that for zany, and disturbing.
Even so, the F-bomb does drop at the end of Marie Kopp's defense of FUS professor Stephen Lewis (who assigned the scandalous book), a defense based on the false equivalence of describing things vulgar and profane found in other classic works taught at Catholic institutions. But Plato! Aristophanes! Rabelais! Chaucer! And don't forget Eusebius!
Alt-FUS ideologue Emily C.A. Snyder takes a similar approach in her post with the disparaging title "SCANDAL! Mary Has Genitalia! 'The Kingdom,' Church Militant, and Steubenville." Snyder bewails the pearl-clutching "mob mentality" of those raising "internet pitchforks" over Professor Lewis' lapse in judgment. But Snyder doesn't think it's a lapse. She thinks Church Militant's coverage of the scandal is "click-baiting." Snyder regales us with a disturbing explication of the Blessed Virgin Mary's female anatomy, and she thinks "academic rigor" should absolve Professor Lewis. She calls FUS leaders "anti-academic, Puritan 'Catholics'" (yes, the scare quotes around the word Catholic are Snyder's).
There is one more FUS connection to mention — or is it an "alt-FUS" connection? That may well be the question at the heart of the turmoil experienced now by FUS administrators. In late December, a brand-new blogger stepped up at Patheos Catholic: Suzanne M. Lewis ("Convivium Salon") is writing some lofty prose as a blogger for her FUS friend Rebecca Bratten Weiss. In "Which Hill Will You Die On?" Lewis writes:
Today my husband and I find ourselves on a new mountain: neither Calvary, nor Tabor, nor even the Mount of Olives; this time we have arrived on Mount Carmel, where Elijah once challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest (1 Kings 18: 21-39). Instead of the prophets of Baal, we confront the prophets of Greed, Calumny, Power, and False Witness. Weirdly, these prophets also do a lot of hopping. In our corner, we stand by our God, whose name is Love. His respect for human freedom makes him appear, sometimes, as though he sides with those who are wrong.
Yes, her husband is Professor Stephen Lewis, and yes, she appears to cast those objecting to her husband's pornographic and blasphemous book choice as "prophets of Baal" opposing the true God.
This new Patheos Catholic blogger sounds a bit "alt-FUS," don't you think?