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A Failure of Trust: An Apology to Our Readers

In troubled times, one of the rarest commodities is trust. While we have never shied away from controversy here at 1P5, we’ve worked very hard to build trust with our readers. Unfortunately, after an article we published yesterday, we have heard loud and clear that a number of you feel that this trust has been violated.

The article in question, which has since had a disclaimer placed at the top (and which I explained further here, before I had time to take into consideration many of your comments), took an unusual approach to the Church’s interminable liturgical debate; it introduced the idea that the pope would be offering a new and controversial version of Mass at the end of the synod, and offered a number of quotes from the pope himself along with other Catholic figures both for and against.

The ploy was that the new Mass being described was the current Novus Ordo Missae, and the description of the new Mass’s creation, while both historical and factually accurate, gave the illusion that what was being done was something totally new.

The idea was to awaken in the reader — some of whom avoid the often circular and repetitive liturgical arguments that often appear online — that natural sense of panic and alarm over changes to established worship that is normal in the faithful. The twist was to then make the big reveal, alerting them to the fact that this was, in fact, what Catholics were put through in 1969/1970, and have been living with to this day.

I had some concerns about the possible reaction to the piece, but I did not anticipate how strong they would be. My failure was in part because my own reaction on first reading — where I, too, was at first “duped” by the bait and switch premise — was appreciation, not anger. I admired what I saw as a clever and effective device that made an old crisis feel new again. This was also the reaction of our editor, and, as it turned out, not a few of our readers, many of whom have expressed their appreciation for the piece.

But certainly not everyone felt that way.

Many felt manipulated or misled. I initially resisted the criticism we were receiving, because it struck me as misplaced — and some of it was excessive. But after fielding comments along these lines all day yesterday, I grabbed my rosary and took a walk, asking Our Blessed Mother to help make clear to me how the matter should be dealt with. I took more time. I slept on it. And now, having considered a lot of opinions on the matter on both sides, I’ve come to the conclusion that whatever its merits as a rhetorical exercise, running the piece — particularly at this time when people are so on edge about what is happening in Rome — was a mistake.

What I regret most is that people feel as though it damaged their trust in our work. Although we are a commentary site and not truly a journalistic enterprise, many of you come to us for the important news of the Church and our take on it. And since the article we published had a “clickbait” headline and appeared at first glance to be a current news piece, a lot of people felt as though we exploited their trust in our work. They expected a straight story, and they were given something quite different — and ultimately, a cause to doubt us when we are covering straight stories that all too often sound every bit as outrageous. What many of you have expressed in the past 24 hours is that you, too, are “on the ropes” — you’ve had your fill of bad news, and you feel that this episode played on your fears.

That was never my intention, and to those of you who were made to feel that way, I sincerely apologize. I take responsibility for my failure to see the effect this piece would have.

I remain firm in my belief that we need to continue the discussion around the piece’s core message: namely, that the imposition of a new Mass with all its attendant novelty was not only disruptive to the life of faith, but destructive to the faithful, and that we should all be actively seeking better liturgy to the extent that we are able. I do believe that the pre- and post-conciliar paradigms are essentially incompatible, and that this is becoming more clear all the time. The Mass is the most obvious example of this, but this pertains also to sacraments and theology and our general approach to the Catholic faithful, other religions, and the world. On the other hand, certain more “traditional” practices — like how abuse cases were made to quietly go away to avoid scandal, are clearly in need of serious revision.

There is no blueprint for how we get out of this Mess, and simplistic solutions won’t cut it. Our goal at 1P5 is to inform and edify, wherever possible, those Catholics wishing to cling to and grow in an authentic faith and find solutions that work. Do I believe that a return to pre-conciliar forms of liturgy and sacraments are essential to those who wish to be fortified for what’s coming? Absolutely. Do I believe the Novus Ordo was designed to undermine the theology of Catholic worship and the larger faith, and to weaken our resistance to heresy through an inversion of lex orandi, lex credendi? I do. Do I believe it’s sinful to attend it? I do not, but I think it is imprudent for many, if not most people, to do so if they can avoid it. It’s like eating poisoned food, and for those who have no other food, they may not have a choice, but the deleterious effects will still be present. It is important therefore for people to make an effort, wherever possible, to move away from it and toward an untainted and authentically nourishing liturgy. It is not now, nor has it ever been, my intention to attack people in this unenviable position. If the original piece overstated or oversimplified these complex issues, I take responsibility for that, too.

With that in mind, and with the body of discussion that already exists on the piece and its followups, I’ve decided to keep them in place, with a disclaimer at the top of the original, and requisite links to this post. Pulling the pieces would only create new problems and questions. Better to keep them up and discuss them honestly for what they are. I don’t believe in throwing things like this down the “memory hole.” We can learn from this and move on.

For those who have expressed a concern that they will now feel as though they have to approach every 1P5 article with their guard up, waiting for the trick, I assure you that we will not take this approach again in any of our articles. I hope that the good work that we have done, and will continue do, will be sufficient to restore your trust.

Experience has taught me that there are those who will think this apology is a mistake; others will say it doesn’t go far enough. We can argue the particulars forever, but I don’t think it will do us any good. This much is clear: with the kind of darkness we are facing in the Church, we cannot afford to be divided or distracted over something like this. It’s exactly what the enemy wants, and we need to keep our focus on the real problems.

I am grateful for your prayers for myself, the editorial staff, and all of our writers that we seek to do God’s will in all of our work.

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