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Internecine strife July 28, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in General Catholic, silliness.

I like Steve Kellmeyer.  I know him personally, we’ve been on the radio together several times and just recently at the Pastor Broden rally I spoke at, I joked that since I was speaking before Steve, he was stuck with me as his MC and intro guy forever.   I’ve learned a good deal from Steve about the Faith – he has a fantastic knowledge of Church history and many other topics.   Having said all that, I know he rubs some people the wrong way with his stridency, and that he sometimes might be a bit over the top in his rhetoric.  That’s just his nature, and you have to take that with the rest he offers, which is very good IMO.

Before I go any farther, I have to say that I hate talking about other blogs in a critical sense.  I have been blogging now for nearly 8 months and I have assiduously avoided picking fights with other blogs.  The only time it has ever really occurred was during the run-up to the passing of Obamacare, when I was being, admittedly, very critical of the Catholic Health Association, Sister Carol Keehan, and all the LCWR women religious who came out in support for Obamacare.  In that case, I got into a squabble with Vox Nova, a very liberal Catholic blog that has begun, in recent months, to relentlessly attack everyone in the pro-life movement.  I think these kind of inter-blog debates are unproductive and largely a waste of time, which is why I won’t link Vox Nova so that a) I don’t give them traffic and b) don’t get involved in another spat.

Having said that, I’ve never quite seen such a dramatic pile on as I’ve seen in the past day or so regarding Steve and his blog.  Now, Steve has been critical of Janet Smith and others associated with Chris West for some time.  Steve has said some pretty explosive things.  His recent post asking why Janet Smith would hold a Theology Chair at a seminary when she has no training in that field was apparently the final straw for some people, because within a day of each other several very well known Catholic names came out and pounded Steve.  This includes Dr. Ed Peters, Patrick Madrid, Mark Shea, and Carl Olsen.  These are some heavy hitters in the Catholic media.   The complaint is that Steve has gone too far and is just lashing out in envy at others.  Now, I really respect Patrick Madrid and I’ve been reading Olsen’s blog lately and enjoying it, but I’ve seen Mark Shea drop some unfair and uncharitable comments on the likes of Fr. Eutenaur for no apparent reason, so his repeated attacks on Steve (which in going through the endless links have not been returned in kind) are kind of mystifying, but whatever.  Perhaps Steve gave him a hard time in some post I haven’t seen, yet.

What I don’t get is this – what is the motivation here?   If you think Steve’s an idiot and shouldn’t be allowed access to a keyboard, why are you continually throwing him link after link after link (this is directed at Shea more than anyone else)?  Is this like some Catholic Jedi-mind trick to increase his traffic by repeatedly criticizing the critic?  

Anyway, this seemed to be by far the biggest news in Catholic blogdom, and I had a couple of people ask me about this, so there you go.  I think it’s all pretty silly, but then I don’t make my money based on my being a full time lay Catholic author/commentator, so perhaps I don’t get just that gig goes.


1. Subvet - July 28, 2010

“We’re eating our own” is a thought that comes to mind more often these days. The Church is under increasingly severe attacks from without, those Catholics In Name Only within Peter’s Barque are doing their best to serve the Prince of this world and tear Catholicsim apart, yet too many of the truly devout become fixated on the nickel & dime stuff.

“Eating our own” is where I’d put the entire mess regarding Christopher West and his statements. Rather than disagree in a civilized manner, the preferred method seems to be all out nuclear warfare. It’s insane. It’s also weakening us when we need to stand against the powers now arrayed against Holy Mother Church.

We need to remember the Apostles. Think of how different that group was, even after Christ rose from the dead. With their varied backgrounds only a singleness of purpose could calm the inevitable squabbles and help them spread the Good News. We need to emulate that singleminded dedication and just shut up about the small stuff.

It won’t be long now before we’ll see an increase in persecutions of devout Catholics both in Third World countries and the more developed ones. All the indicators point to it. I’m not just going on my own gut feeling, I speak to others (at least one a well know blogger) who feel it too.

When that which is warm, brown & stinks hits the oscillating ventilation enhancement device we’ll need what allies we can get. That includes those who now put our noses out of joint with every uncrossed “tee” and undotted “eye”.

As far as the noted bloggers you mention, I’ve a lot of respect for Dr. Peters, Patrick Madrid & Carl Olsen. Haven’t read Steve Kellmeyer yet. I’ll check into him after posting this.

2. tantumblogo - July 29, 2010

Ditto on Patrick Madrid, and I respect Dr. Peters although he disappointed me on the tribunal issue (that’s a long story of a private conversation we had). I’ve been digging Olsen’s blog alot lately, but I’ve yet to fully form an opinion. Mark Shea just isn’t my kind of guy.

3. Steve B - July 29, 2010


” ‘Eating our own’ is where I’d put the entire mess regarding Christopher West and his statements. Rather than disagree in a civilized manner, the preferred method seems to be all out nuclear warfare. It’s insane. It’s also weakening us when we need to stand against the powers now arrayed against Holy Mother Church.”

Really ???

I beg to differ with you on the CW/TOB controversy that began after his ABC Nightline intervew last year….

Perhaps there are some/many bloggers out there who are uncharitable and uncivilized in their approaches to correct/challenge CW and his TOB methods/teachings. I am not aware of them myself, since I’m quite selective on which blogs I bother to read regularly – that is why I am commenting here on Tantamergo’s blog! 😉

Several commenters/bloggers who HAVE had the utmost professionalism, integrity, objectivity, and respect in dealing with the TOB controversies that Christopher West himself created are: Fr. Angelo Geiger (maryvictrix.wordpress.com), Dawn Eden (dawneden.blogspot.com), and Dr. Alice von Hildebrand. Those whom I have read that have had serious issues with CW’s TOB approach/content have NOT been challenging him only on his STYLE; they have also been challenging him on his CONTENT.

So, no, I very much disagree – the CW controversy is not “all out nuclear war”, its not always uncivilized, and its definitely not all insane.

Dr. AvH’s latest critique of CW’s methods of promoting/teaching Pope JPII’s TOB is unambiguously and uncompromisingly Catholic orthodoxy (as opposed to the pro-CW support/”excuses” given by Dr. Janet Smith, Dr. Michael J. Healy, and Dr. Michael Waldstein). See Dr. AvH’s latest essay (btw, I am a HUGE fan of her late husband, Dr. Dietrich von Hildebrand!), which is a grand slam in my book:


Also, Dawn Eden put together a MASTERPIECE of work in her Master’s Thesis, where she bent over backwards to research the original sources that CW has grossly misconstrued to justify some of his off-the-rails TOB content and methods. Dr. AvH’s essay above hits just some of the high points drawn from Ms. Eden’s thesis. But, if you want to get your own hands on Ms. Eden’s objectively documented and clearly stated criticisms of the controversy CW himself that has caused, here’s the place to go:


Ms. Eden is asking for a minimum of a $10 for you to get a copy (to finance her Doctoral studies at Catholic University of America), but that is a pittance compared to the value/benefit of her efforts for the Church.

Is see the CW/TOB debate not entirely as Catholics “eating their own”. I see it instead (for those who meet the criteria of being objective, professional, and respectful) as an effort that is trying to more perfectly harmonize his TOB teaching and methods with the FULLNESS and true beauty of the Catholic Faith.

On top of that, the debate (when it meets the three criteria above) is certainly the living out of what Holy Scripture calls us to do in Proverbs 27:17 (NAB) – “As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens his fellow man.” Those who have properly challenged CW are doing so for no other reason than to strengthen and benefit his apostolate and its effectiveness in spreading the Gospel.

So, IMHO Subvet, I am completley convinced that the CW/TOB debate will ultimately make the Church and Her members STRONGER against the evil powers of the world which attack us and the Gospel message, and NOT weaken us/it.

Please do give the above sources a read, and let us know if I’ve convinced you to change your position.

Pax et benedictiones tibi, per Christum Dominum nostrum,

Steve B
Plano, TX

tantamergo - July 29, 2010

The Dawn Eden piece is a great work, and sorely needed. Unfortunately, Chris West has some problems in his work, as Ms. Eden shows clearly and thoroughly. Due to his bizaare upbringing (unwitting cult member), his views of how most people approach sex today are pretty skewed. I certainly never had any of the hangups he describes in so much of his work – my problem was quite the opposite, I was given carte blanche to be a sexual libertine from a young age. I think the criticisms of his work are fair.

Having said that, Steve K goes too far sometimes. I was very charitable in the post, in reality, he gets carried away and says things that are excessive, like describing JPII’s TOB audiences as “bloviating.” That’s just unnecessary and unlikely to win friends due to the great popularity of that Pope. I don’t think the response of others is helpful, either: they are giving Steve’s excesses a far wider audience they would have earned on their own, and they are making the entire ‘striving-for-orthodoxy’ side of the Catholic talk-o-sphere look bad. Apparently, there has been bad blood between Steve K and Chris West for many years, as well as betweeen Steve K and Mark Shea. I’ve been told one side of a story that does not make Shea look good, but since I don’t have both sides I won’t repeat it. Nonetheless, I don’t know that pounding on Steve via repeated blog posts bringing up things he said weeks/months ago is helpful. I’ve seen Shea say some ugly things about Fr. Eutenaur that I thought were uncharitable and unnecessary.

Back to the main point, I think Chris West is long past due for a very serious, critical analysis of his work. This analysis is all the more critical due to the enormous popularity of his work and the influence it is having. If there are problems with respect to Catholic Tradition, they need to be identified and West needs to change his presentation to suit. I would imagine that is why he is on his sabbatical. At least, I pray it is. But, this analysis needs to be done dispassionately and with as much charity as possible for all involved.

I liken what’s gone on to a circular firing squad. One person says something excessive, and then others pound on it, then there is the return fire, and others join in, and it just degenerates from there. Maybe I’m adding to it, I hope not. I would like to think folks could drop this. If Steve says something he shouldn’t, it’s best just to ignore it, not make a number of blog posts about what a fool you think he is.

What worries me is that in all the sturm and drang the real important matter, a critical re-evaluation of Chris West’s work, will get lost.

Subvet - July 29, 2010

Steve B, thanks for your thoughtful reply to my comment. I’ll certainly check out those sources listed.

As for my own comments, the CW/TOB controversy as “discussed” on the other blogs I frequent often include personaI attacks on West and anyone daring to not wish for having him drawn & quartered. That IS a bit of exaggeration but not much.

Other unmentioned items also drove my comments. In a better attempt to make my point they should have been mentioned. Chalk it up to poor communication skills on my part that they weren’t.

Those items that were in mind are fairly common, such as the ongoing dispute between those favoring the EO Mass over the NO form. Sometimes it reminds me of a bunch of fundamentalists shouting “My Jesus is better than your Jesus” at one another. This is just an example, others could include discussion of Arizona’s new immigration law, homeschooling vs. putting your kids in a public school, the list goes on. At one site quite some time ago there was even a controversy over breastfeeding and whether those who DIDN’T were less Catholic than supporters of the practice. You can’t make this stuff up.

In the meantime, it appears that Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular are under attack in a manner not seen recently. The flap and furor over small things by many faithful Catholics brings to mind passengers of the Titanic arguing over a poor paint job on the lifeboats as the main deck goes awash.

I’m probably not as selective as yourself in which blogs I frequent. So the vehement attacks mentioned are undoubtedly part of that territory.

Like runs to like. Should you go to my own blog and view my avatar (shameless plug) you’ll see it’s a headshot of a Neanderthal. That wasn’t chosen purely on a whim. Two ex wives, several former supervisors and numerous subordinates would enthusiastically agree it’s an accurate depiction.

4. mary - July 29, 2010

If I may,

Various people have criticized West’s TOB; Alice von Hildebrand is one of them, Steve Kellmeyer another. The two have completely different approaches to criticizing West’s work, but both have major issues with it.

A big problem with FAME is it tends to prevent an openness to criticism (of course we all have difficulty with it). West isn’t listening to what von Hildebrand, Kellmeyer and others (Dawn Eden) are saying. He has big bucks invested in his Institute and trainings and doesn’t want to hear about flaws.
A TRUE MAN would listen, discuss, admit where he has wrongs, make corrections, and go on. To think his talks are seamless would be saying he’s perfect.

I personally like the more gentle approach, probably something from my upbringing, but I think the critics have something worth listening to.
I think West has some serious flaws that are not in line with the Church teaching. To think he can go out and proclaim a revolutionary teaching is egotistical. (from AvH: The first is that West “erroneously” assumes “that John Paul II has initiated a ‘revolution’ in Catholic teaching” in the concept of the Theology of the Body.)
I also have a problem with West’s discussion of things that are intimate and sacred (again from AvH: The second concern is that West uses “loose” and what could be viewed as crude and graphic language in describing what she calls the “intimate sphere” of human sexuality.)
In an over-sexualized world, we need to be careful what we contribute to it. What has already been “taught” is much more difficult to undo. (In saying this I think of those who are following West’s theology; in particular a cousin, a nun, who is assuming West’s talks are in line with Church teaching and then turning and spreading the information to her students).

I agree with SubVet that Catholicism in particular (is) under attack.
The more I read the more I learn and learn I don’t know. I see how the Church is being attacked on so many fronts, from within and without. Satan must be feeling mighty proud right now. But that doesn’t mean we stop fighting any of the attacks; we must all use our own God-given talents to uphold the Truths of the Catholic Church.

A problem with the West ping-pong is, as one blogger stated, we won’t even remember the real issues at hand (instead we’re attacking the parties, but perhaps that’s their plan).

5. Steve B - July 30, 2010

Mary & Subvet,

Thanks for your further commentary and/or clarifications. I agree with and understand your comments completely.

Certainly, there is far too often today a completely inappropriate animosity/disdain shown between the EF/OF “camps” (that term shouldn’t even be considered a viable one amongst faithful Catholics), and over the many other issues you raised Subvet.

I believe also that is a CORE tenet of our Catholic faith that there is no room WHATSOEVER for the sarcastic, snarky, and disrespectful barbs and personal assaults being hurled to-and-fro, often in both directions. Those who have lowered themselves to such depths should check out and reflect upon the following passages from Holy Scripture (and then get themselves to the Sacrament of Penance ASAP!):

Rom 14:19, Eph. 4:29, and 1Thess. 5:11.

As Pope John XXIII said in his first encyclical – Ad Petri Cathedram of 1959 – “in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.”

The points of contention are usually in those “doubtful” matters – some have the mindset that “if the Church hasn’t explicitly condemned it, then it must be OK”; others have the mindset of “raising the bar” and aiming to promote the fullest expression of Catholicism as the “striving for human excellence”.

In my book, those who have been critical of CW and his TOB methods/content (while remaining professional, objective, and respectful) are absolutely of the latter camp. And, I support them unconditionally. We need MORE Catholics, not less, to present to the world the Gospel message that – as completely as is possible – tries to help each person (in cooperating with God’s grace) to LIFT herself/himself up to the FULLNESS of the potential God provided when He created each and every one of us.

Certainly, we need to give some latitude for each person to “discover” his/her God-given potential and/or discern the “best” way for them and their families to live out their faith in Christ. That has always been part and parcel of our Catholic faith. To “put down” others on matters of personal discernment/discretion is foolish and ridiculous at best, and sinful more often than not.

Nonetheless, there is no need whatsoever to “bring God down to our level” by lowering the bar on standards of morality and/or belief; that is what those who have been charitably yet assertively critical of CW and his misguided TOB methods/content have been focused upon, rather than the person of CW.

God, please enlighten us on these important matters, and have mercy on us ALL when we put our own agendas before Yours!!!

Pax et benedictiones tibi, per Christum Dominum nostrum,

Steve B
Plano, TX

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