Yesterday we read in Numbers 13:1-2,25-14:1,26-29,34-35 the account of Moses sending out 12 spies to report on the land of Canaan. It is a familiar story of the reconnaissance and the majority report that told of the enemy peoples, some of gargantuan size, who occupy the land of milk and honey. Only Caleb and Joshua insisted that Israel march forward and conquer the land, which was in keeping with God’s will. Moses speaks with God and we discover God’s great displeasure and the subsequent remedy for the people’s unfaithfulness — for each day, one year. The 40 days of spying has now become 40 years of cleansing.
“…all you men of the census, all you who were numbered from the age of twentyshla years and over, you who have complained against me. For forty days you reconnoitred the land. Each day shall count for a year: for forty years you shall bear the burden of your sins, and you shall learn what it means to reject me.” I, the Lord, have spoken: this is how I will deal with this perverse community that has conspired against me. Here in this wilderness, to the last man, they shall die.”
Simply put — 10 of the spies were not faithful to what God had asked. They succumbed to what we could today call, rationalism and scientism. Rationalism because they limited God’s will to their own understanding laced with fear. Scientism, because they trusted the strength of their weapons and technology, and lacking in comparison to the inhabitants of Canaan, they feared based on the assessment of their own limited might.
Now let’s fast-forward to our day.
There is a strain of Catholic bloggers who appear to suffer from the same malady as Moses’ spies rooted in rationalism and scientism. They murmur about Pope Francis’ in-flight remarks and his apparent strategic mistakes or political faux pas. Moses stutters again before us.
They speak boldly, sometimes unhinged, as men clutching their computer mice to their chests — as knights a sword. The giants are huge. They will harm our people, our Church.
Perhaps, or perhaps not. What is known is that it is the Holy Father, not they, who has been given the mission-grace to be ‘Papa’. This does not make him infallible, unless co-joined to the Magesterium he pronounces on matters of faith and moral, but the spirit of leadership is palpable and real.
Certainly the Holy Spirit can also work through the Vox populi, the voice of the faithful, but why is it that our Catholic blogshere seems more cacophony rather than harmony on issues regarding the Pope? Are we self-projecting our individual wills upon the canvas of salvation history? Are we a people united in the new evangelization?
Giving even a little ground to scientism, or a faith that science can lead mankind to peace, is more dangerous than we might at first imagine. Technology that draws and keeps people within its own sphere, as opposed to a conduit to authentic human-level encounters, makes of them slaves. We often raise it up like a Golden Calf for the pleasure it brings to surf and feel mighty. Projecting ourselves upon it’s interface, technology with a human face, it desires to be master and it demands dues from its followers.
Bloggers returning from an exploration in e-Canaan may feel a rush of accomplishment. They may look at their own wonderful techno-tools, the binary electrons pulsing through cutting-edge hardware that has given them spyglasses and they doubt, perhaps just a little, perhaps some more, Pope Francis’ grip on the modern situation — the Catholic Church should follow our assessment. Our report should rudder the bark of Peter.
Fr. Angelo M. Geiger in his article, The Mob and The Machine, writes…
In fact, the tribes that have formed in the blogosphere do more to provide protection for their tribesmen, than hold them accountable for the honor the tribal name. The largest Catholic tribe on the Internet, and arguably the most vicious and vindictive, has been the conservative, which because of its previous marginalization has felt itself justified in claiming the status of victim.
While we can all admit that there is truth to the complaints that led to this behavior, it would be to ignore reality to define it as anything other than juvenile. But that is also part of the nature of the Internet. Perfectly responsible adults have a tendency to revert to immaturity when they sit down in front of a computer.
They trust their tools of observation, those media interfaces gliding across the web that can give one in a dark little-office and sense of transcendence and all-knowing. And it is easy to doubt an old man who in our savvy assessment may not speak all that well ‘our English’.
But Moses’ spies and Catholic bloggers are legitimated only insofar as their mandate is to report authentically. This authenticity is bound to the ‘shlach‘ – Hebrew for “sent”, one who sends, and there needs to be a faithfulness to the mission. That means prayer and more prayer. One can not purport to be serving the Church, sent into the new lands of evangelization that is the blogshpere or the web-landscape, without a deep grounding in the sacramental life, especially the Holy Eucharist, so that our will becomes aligned with God’s will. Even then, lest we fall into self generated authority (a protestant false-principle) we must
And so what remains is the intersection of caritas and veritas. And for that we need a spirit of humility not the weaponized technology of secular journalism if we are to be authentic in our reporting and service of the Church. I wonder how long it will take for us to wander in the desert before we are cleansed of our blogging pride.
If the computer or your smart phone cause you to doubt throw it out. Better that a man… [you know the rest].
I will close with Fr. Angelo Geiger words which echo a caution,
I have heard some saying for years that it is only a matter of time until the government gets total control over the Internet and silences the voices of opposition, but it is not the control of big brother or some darkly imagined conspiracy of a secret society that concerns me most. It seems to me that the more frightening consequence of the information “democracy” is that the many will continue to rule in the interests of a few—that more information really means more disinformation, and more self-serving manipulation—all for a good cause, of course. What concerns me is the rise of a machine inhabited by the soul of a mob.
Pope Francis explained April 26th, 2015 during the papal ordination of priests at St. Peter’s Basilica: “A fearful Christian is a person who has not understood the message of Jesus.” As baptized Christians, do we not all share in this mission of fearless faith?