The Impending Collapse (and Rebirth) of Catholic Media

News: Commentary
by M. Kobayashi  •  •  December 3, 2020   

Counter-magisterial cults of personality

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Therefore when thou dost an almsdeed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:22)

On Aug. 15, 1981, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, The Eternal World Television Network ("EWTN") aired its first broadcast.

Inaugurated by the indomitable Italian-American Poor Clare Mother Angelica Rizzo, EWTN was not the first Catholic attempt to engage the faithful via mass media.

It was, rather, the first media apostolate to function outside the aegis of diocesan ecclesiastical control.

Mother Angelica

This independence would both be a blessing and a curse for Mother Angelica as well as the wider EWTN network. The feisty Italian-American nun would be able to wage a guerilla war on the liberal "Bernardin" Church in America. However, at the same time, Mother Angelica's independence would create a "Wild West" environment in which a host of competing personalities (some of whom would leave EWTN under the cloud of scandal) built (perhaps literal) cult followings and created what amounted to a counter Magisterium through which Catholics would receive instruction on how to practice their faith.

Much of what Mother Angelica and other EWTN celebrities taught was solid and deeply edifying for Catholics starved of authentic teaching.

Nonetheless, many Catholics would build their entire lives around what were merely the opinions of laypeople, priests and religious who bore the stamp of ETWN "orthodoxy."

Parallel to ETWN, a number of "traditionalist" publications mushroomed up on American soil, which, with much more aggression and vigor, took aim at not only the Bernardin bishops, but at the Holy Father Pope John Paul II.

Publications such as The Remnant, Catholic Family News, The Fatima Crusader and the SSPX's Angelus established themselves as the allegedly authentic voice of Catholic tradition and aimed their inky cannons at what they called "the Novus Ordo Church" or the "Church of Vatican II."

As with ETWN, much of what these traditionalist publications critiqued about the state of the Church deserved to be critiqued, and much of what they reprinted from traditional Catholic teaching was spot-on.

However, even more than EWTN, these traditionalist publications (whether wittingly or not) established themselves as a counter Magisterium, and, as they have grown in popularity after the 21st century "trad Renaissance" inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI's 2007 Summorum Pontificum, these traditionalist media figures have developed their own cult of personality.

The most recent wave of Catholic journalists presenting themselves as a sort of counter Magisterium to the Church include a whole fleet of podcasters, well as a new brand of expanded and polished blogging most visibly represented by Steve Skojec at OnePeterFive.

Catholic journalism is glutted with too many people with too many (usually uneducated and unintelligent) opinions.

Traversing through Catholic Twitter and chasing articles, video clips and memes, an honest and sincere Catholic looking for truth and authenticity in Catholic media might find him or herself in a veritable labyrinth of narcissism, cruelty, grifting and general (and literal) insanity.

To be frank, the world of English-speaking Catholic journalism is glutted with too many people with too many (usually uneducated and unintelligent) opinions.

This statement is not to be cruel or uncharitable; it is, rather, to be honest.

Moreover, this state of affairs will not last forever and, eventually, as the building tidal wave of scandals in corrupt and diseased portions of the traditionalist movement reaches a crescendo, a lot of skeletons are going to come marching out of the closet in a veritable danse macabre.

This is not to demoralize the faithful any more than they already have been for nearly the past 20 years of revelations since the 2002 Boston Globe Spotlight expose.

However, many Catholics are being led down dangerous and destructive spiritual dead ends by people who are literally being paid to protect and defend dangerous organizations that seek to influence Catholic opinion.

Happily, we believe that the truth will win out in the end, and the houses that many Catholic media figures have built on sand for their own profit and vainglory will collapse under their own pride and dishonesty.

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