I admit it, I like to argue. If I didn’t, this would be the wrong line of work for me. That said, I also try to be a professional. I worked in PR and corporate communications for years, and while it’s hard to be the guy who absorbs all the negativity from irate customers and clients and then responds with careful diplomacy, it does wonders for an organization’s reputation.
This week, I’ve been feeling the weight of a long and difficult few months, and I’ve been less scrupulous about pulling my punches. I’ve been more combative and less conciliatory. I can feel the Irish in me creeping up, and I have to be on guard against it.
Last night, I failed to do that. I read a post — one I’m not going to link to because it doesn’t deserve our traffic — from Artur Rosman, the new Patheos Catholic Channel manager. Rosman replaced Elizabeth Scalia when she went to Aleteia a couple months ago. Like most of you, I don’t read Patheos much. It’s rarely worth it. But this post caught my eye. It was about the ABC television show Scandal, which recently aired an episode featuring the mistress of the President of the United states (in that show’s universe) getting an abortion to the dulcet strains of “Silent Night” while a bill to defund Planned Parenthood was being filibustered in the Senate.
Rod Dreher, writing at The American Conservative, summed it up:
On ABC’s hit show Scandal last night, the main character, the US president’s wife, had an abortion while a gospel version of “Silent Night” played. According to Breitbart, Planned Parenthood released a statement after the program praising the episode.
It’s not enough to present a pro-abortion episode of a prime time television show. They have to choreograph it to “Silent Night,” a hymn celebrating the birth of the Christ child.
There’s no other word for this: diabolical. If this is what America stands for, no wonder other people hate us so much.
Rosman took issue with this:
He seems to be saying, “I don’t support ISIS [there is no other interpretation given the timing of this post and the content surrounding posts], but I understand” in response to a TV show.
Granted, there is no indication he actually watched Scandal. After this unconsidered gut reaction worthy of Spengler’s The Decline of the West the likelihood of him watching it is probably pretty low.
There’s another person who didn’t watch the show, but embodied a much more Christian response, what Alan Jacobs calls a hermeneutics of love…
The whole post is just an insulting mess of an analysis. The idea that Dreher is insufficiently Christian because he called this episode “diabolical” is simply ludicrous. I realized when I read it that Rosman was among my Facebook “friends”. I have hundreds of “friends” I don’t know, who join me on Facebook because they know my writing. In a feisty mood, I fired off a less-than-charitable assessment, fully intending to burn that particular bridge:
Please note: This was not the proper Christian way to have handled the situation. I was feeling particularly fed up with all the dissimulation and open embracing of heterodoxy that is so rampant in the Church, and I pulled out a sledgehammer because I wanted to break something. I have had serious and repeated disagreements with Elizabeth Scalia’s views on Catholicism — and have gone rounds with her through email trying to get her to rein in some of her slanderous writers in the past — but I needn’t have brought her into it. I wanted catharsis, and so I was being purposefully inflammatory, and quite frankly, a jerk. I’ll own that.
Then Rosman showed up, game for a fight, and off to the races we went. If you’ve ever played this game, you know how it goes. Back and forth, cleverly-worded insults flying, all of it making you look like an idiot no matter how many points you score because you’re arguing on the Internet in the first place.
Why am I telling you this? Because what followed grew increasingly surreal. In a short time, our little brawl somehow spilled over into Twitter, where this salvo was fired:
(Somehow, I doubt that Fr. James Martin, SJ, will come to my defense.)
On and on it went. Are you bored yet? After an hour or two, I was. I started to taper off my responses, but Rosman refused to let it go. As I tried to go to bed, my phone kept buzzing with more little jabs, baiting me to respond. (This, boys and girls, is why you don’t start social media fights. Learn from me. Learn from my time-consuming forays into futility.)
I finally fired back with a screencap of one of his obscene Facebook posts — of which there are too many — and told him he should stick to that kind of humor. I’m not going to post it here, because it’s vulgar, and visually so. Nothing could have prepared me for what he responded with:
I’ll admit it: I’m a Gen Xer steeped in pop culture. My friends and I tend to be a little too comfortable with ribald humor (amongst ourselves in private, not published for the world to see.) I’m not above off-color jokes. But This?
This is blasphemy. And a particularly vile kind of blasphemy at that.
The post it links to is irrelevant. The insinuation in the tweet itself, along with the title of the post and the accompanying image…let’s just say I’m really hard to offend, but this did the trick.
I don’t care if a guy wants to make adolescent jokes at my expense. I put my big boy pants on every day. Heck, I started a fight with a guy trying to defend perhaps the most pro-abortion television episode in history from a Catholic perspective. I didn’t have high expectations for the debate. But when you blaspheme Jesus Christ by using Him as the means of delivering your insulting sexual innuendo, you’re off the rails.
Isn’t He offended and abused enough? Why scourge Him even more? For the sake of a put-down, of all things.
Patheos Catholic has been a damaged brand for years now. This, though, is a new low. And this isn’t just some writer – he’s the best candidate they could find to run the channel.
If Patheos were an authentically Catholic publication rather than a big amalgamation of all faiths and none (Atheism and Paganism both have their own channels) it might be worth appealing to higher management to have him removed. As it is, I don’t expect they care. Personally, if I were a Catholic Patheos writer, I’d refuse to be associated with Rosman. He should resign. His contempt for Christ, made clear in this Tweet, would, in a sane world, disqualify him from being in a position of authority as a commentator on Christian topics. (His history of obscene social media posts, which he makes no attempt to hide, only accentuates the problem.)
Alas, this is the world we live in. When vulgar prelates like Cardinal Kasper and Cardinal Daneels enjoy the pope’s favor, what possible redress can we expect when it comes to Catholic writers?
So instead, I will commend to you the only truly effective course of action I can: this Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Our Lord is incessantly profaned, and we can ask Him to forgive Artur and those others — including ourselves — who so constantly offend Him.
O sweet Jesus, Whose overflowing charity for me is requited by so much forgetfulness, negligence and contempt, behold us prostrate before Your altar (in Your presence), eager to repair by a special act of homage the cruel indifference and injuries to which Your loving Heart is everywhere subject.
Mindful, alas! that we ourselves have had a share in such great indignities, which we now deplore from the depths of our hearts, we humbly ask Your pardon and declare our readiness to atone by voluntary expiation not only for our own personal offenses, but also for the sins of those, who, straying for from the path of salvation, refuse in their obstinate infidelity to follow You, their Shepherd and Leader, or, renouncing the vows of their baptism, have cast off the sweet yoke of Your Law. We are now resolved to expiate each and every deplorable outrage committed against You; we are determined to make amends for the manifold offenses against Christian modesty in unbecoming dress and behavior, for all the foul seductions laid to ensnare the feet of the innocent, for the frequent violations of Sundays and holidays, and the shocking blasphemies uttered against You and Your Saints. We wish also to make amends for the insults to which Your Vicar on earth and Your priest are subjected, for the profanation, by conscious neglect or terrible acts of sacrilege, of the very Sacrament of Your Divine Love; and lastly for the public crimes of nations who resist the rights and teaching authority of the Church which You have founded. Would, O divine Jesus, we were able to wash away such abominations with our blood. We now offer, in reparation for these violations of Your divine honor, the satisfaction You once made to Your eternal Father on the cross and which You continue to renews daily on our altars; we offer it in union with the acts of atonement of Your Virgin Mother and all the Saints and of the pious faithful on earth; and we sincerely promise to make recompense, as far as we can with the help of Your grace, for all neglect of Your great love and for the sins we and others have committed in the past. Henceforth we will live a life of unwavering faith, of purity of conduct, of perfect observance of the precepts of the gospel and especially that of charity. We promise to the best of our power to prevent other from offending You and to bring as many as possible to follow You.
O loving Jesus, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our model in reparation, deign to receive the voluntary offering we make of this act of expiation; and by the crowing gift of perseverance keep us faithful unto death in our duty and the allegiance we owe to You, so that we may one day come to that happy home, where You with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, God, world without end. Amen.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.