In the News Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

A Poke at "eye" With a Sharp Stick

Maybe it’s the cold medication talking (I’m taking a sick day), but Kathy “Relapsed Catholic” Shaidle and I actually agree on something: that local alt-weekly newspaper eye’s latest editorial is cheap Catholic-baiting.


editorial starts with that typical

unresolved-rebelling-against-my-parents annoyance with the media

coverage of the Pope’s funeral and turns to challenge the figures on

the number of Catholics in the world:

But we imagine

you did see something or other of the funeral of John Paul II and the

induction of his successor in recent weeks, and that’s because there

are putatively 1.1 billion Catholics around the world. That’s one-sixth

of the world’s population. Closer to home, Statistics Canada figures

that almost half of our population — 12.8 million — is Catholic.

Which means papal doings would be of great interest and importance.

Ditto various Catholic issues, like abortion and birth control and

same-sex marriage. When priests and bishops speak, politicians and the

media tend to watch and listen.

But if they shifted their eyes

from the pulpit to the pews, they’d see something at least as

interesting as anything being said. They’d notice there’s almost no one

there. If they did a little digging, they’d also figure out that those

numbers — 1.1 billion, 12.8 million — are bogus.


is bold talk coming from a free alt-weekly dumped all over town that

probably boasts about the size of their readership when selling

advertising space.

However, that’s not the main thrust of their

article, which is “You’re probably not really Catholic, because you

probably do not buy into the tenets of the Resurrection and Ascension

or of Transfiguration. And since you don’t, we’ll show you how to

resign your membership in the Church.” Presumably after which we’d all

move to something more fitting with the eye editorial board’s aesthetic and political criteria.

Would eye ever publish an editorial telling people to waltz into a Passover seder and challenge the veracity of the ten plagues that were visted upon Egypt

in order to make the Pharoah let the Hebrews go? Would they suggest you

walk up to a Jewish friend, pat them on the back and say in a

condescending tone of voice: “Chosen people? You go on thinking that, honey…”?


would like to think that they wouldn’t and I consider that a good

thing. Of course, given the strange tendency of some progressives to

wander into anti-semitic territory, we may yet see such an editorial.


if you really want to go after the religion that’s cool to practice,

try BCB — Big City Buddhism. Don’t get me wrong, I have no quarrel

with Buddhism, but I do with the people who practice it more as a fashion than as a set of beliefs, philosophy or approach to life. Such people exist, which is why one of the names in the McSweeney’s article, Proposed Indian Names for Certain White People

is “Thinks of Self as Buddhist”. Are you really a Buddhist if you don’t

buy into reincarnation — that His Holiness the Dalai Lama isn’t

version 14.0 of the same person? Would eye call you a

bogus believer if you don’t completely buy into the concept of karma, a

cosmic arbitration force/credit plan that guarantees that the good or

ill that you put into the universe will be reacted upon like Newton’s Third Law?

Probably not.

What rubs me most raw about this editorial is something that eye

would typically be against, and that is, the taking away of a group’s

self-definition and replacing it with an outsider’s one. It’s just

another strain of what they would typically decry: Orientalism, cultural appropriation or even the argument that I’m not really a Canadian.

I may not agree with all the policies of my religion’s official office,

but that doesn’t give you the right to make the call as to whether I’m

truly a member or not.

Only I get to do that, bucko.

15 replies on “A Poke at "eye" With a Sharp Stick”

Actually, I’d take the same stance had the potshots been directed at say, Judaism or Buddhism. And hey, had I taken the opposite stance, I suspect you’d be showering me with praise — because it wouldn’t have been a knee-jerk reaction, but a clever rebuttal from a quick and gifted thinker, no?

Shoot your mouth off all you like, kid, but make sure your brain ain’t loaded with blanks first.

Actually, there’s even another level to it. Catholicism, as I’m sure you’re aware, does have a formal process for declaring someone not a member (unlike, say, Protestantism considered generally), and to the best of my knowledge, no one has declared you out of communion with the Church, so you don’t even have to assert that you’re Catholic. You are, whether you actively assert it or not. In the case of religions without that sort of organization, one might consider some sort of definition of belief (though I agree with you that it’s a bad idea), but for Catholicism, it’s quite clearly unecessary.


Is that was the editorial was about? My secular brain saw it differently: the abundance of media coverage was justified by the ‘popularity’ of Catholicism; if the numbers are over-reported, is heavy media coverage necessary?

Perhaps the editorial board is still smarting from the “World Youth Day” (aka. Pope-apalooza). Did the whole world convert while my back was turned?

If they’d run only the first part of the editorial, I’d have been fine with that: “They say thier numbers are X, nobody we know is among their number, therefore I must conclude that the number is actually smaller.”

However, they ran the second part which basically says: “You’re not really one, you’re just a poseur, so you might as well resign. Here’s how.” That’s what got up my nose.

Do C&E Catholics qualify? I’ve always wondered if regular parishioners think the seasonal drop-ins crowding the church are legit members.

I’m gonna play devil’s advocate. (and really for the sake of it here, because to be honest, I don’t really care for trolling of any kind… even if the baiting is aimed at catholics and the media, an alternative newspaper…)


the comparison between religions here doesn’t quite work (at least not between catholicism and judaism).

As somebody else pointed out: the Catholic Church, unlike other Christian churches for example, has a very precise process to exclude people it doesn’t consider true followers. It also has a very specific way of dealing with dogma, and doesn’t admit its own fallibility: you buy it or you are out, *is* the message.

Now interestingly, judaism is every bit as dogmatic, if not more, but with a major difference: as far as being ‘in’ or ‘out’, you do not have a say. “Chosen people” as you say, and as such, neither something that you can join easily, nor opt out of. Now matter what you think of the 10 plagues or even if you happily eat pork cooked with electricity on a Friday night: you will still be, for all purposes, a [bad] Jew.

The same is even more true of Buddhism, which is hardly a religion at all, more like a very heterogeneous set of beliefs and philosophical stances… It is perfectly possible to accept or refuse parts of the traditional Buddhist teachings, and still be considered a “Buddhist” (precisely, because there’s hardly such a thing as *a* buddhist).

This article attacks the Catholic Church (*not* the Catholic faith, as far as I can tell) because it makes an easy target (and also because it sells).

Two reasons to that: 1) dogma 2) proselytism.

If you look carefully, you’ll notice that few other religions have developed these to the same level as the Catholic Church. And when they do in a specific country, it usually prompts the same reaction.

Now, tell yourself it could be way, way worse: you could have Richard Gere and a bunch of crystal-bead yoga moms as spokespersons for your beliefs…

Well put. And yes. the meat of my disagreement with the eye editorial is the trolling aspect.

I’m grateful that Richard “Hamtaro” Gere isn’t a Catholic spokesperson, but I feel bad that he’s a high-profile advocate/albatross of Buddhism, a belief system with some actual substance. I’m sure some Buddhists wish he’d gone for Scientology like a lot of other Hollywood stars.

Joey – amen. (no pun intended)

It seems to be fashionable to cut down the Catholic church – my boss at work loves to do it, esp. since the bishop accused of pedophilia “was protected”. Being Catholic, it gets tedious at the least to have to listen to it. Also, like you, I don’t necessarily agree with every aspect of the implementation of the religion (say, married priests, or no meat on Friday, etc.), but that doesn’t change whether or not my religious beliefs align with my religion.

Also interesting is how “general media” or “popular opinion” is soooo upset with the church’s stance on abortion, gay marriage, etc. Hellooooo – this is a religion, people, not a consensus of popular opinion, a feel-good lazy get-out-of-jail-free-card way of exonerating you from your actions without consequences. For example, I’d agree that abortion is a sin – any woman who’s gone through it will tell you it’s hell and the experience itself is penance – but sins can be forgiven by the repentent, this is the good thing about the church. You are allowed to make mistakes. It tells you that certain things are wrong, but it expects that you will err sometimes, and if you are truly sorry, and seek forgiveness, you will be forgiven.

Thanks for letting me post Joey. — L

Well, I’m sure having such a mop-head blurt out approximate fortune-cookie wisdom on national TV doesn’t really please people who happen to have a deeper interest in the matter…

But once again: Buddhism doesn’t really have the same conception of proselytism as Catholicism does. Even if you take it in its narrowest definition and look at the Dalai Lama as a possible spiritual leader, you’ll see that he might be the only such “leader” who neither command his followers, nor even put any value judgement on other “competing” beliefs… Which is quite counter-productive for a religion, but perhaps the best indicator that it isn’t much of a religion at all…

With that, I’d say Gere speaks about as much in the name of other Buddhist followers, as the guy who slept on the pavement outside of some midwest movie theater, clad in papier-maché Marvin-the-paranoid-android outfit, speaks in the name of all Douglas Adams fans out there…

– dr Dave

And btw, since we are in the Trolling&Reclamation dpt, I thought I’d point out that your commenting system kinda sucks.

What if the writer was in fact Catholic, and what if they had written this in their weblog? Would it be any easier for you to accept that kind of busybodying from another person who considers themself to be more-Catholic-than-thou, in a different, less-traditional public forum?

I know someone Catholic who asserts that anyone who calls themself Catholic but doesn’t subscribe to church dogma wholecloth (as he does) is a heretic and should get out now, and that church membership is not up to the individual. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he posted information about how to leave the church online — surely there are plenty of people out there offering tips on how to get out of various other religions (and discussions of why people should). Do you feel there is any significant difference between the eye editorial and the infinite snark one can find elsewhere online? (Really, I’m curious. I’m honestly surprised anyone even reads editorials anymore.)

I disapprove of the “holier-than-thou” approach, regardless fo the source. Someone wiser than me said that “Jesus saved his greatest scorn for the Pharisses, not prostitutes.”

In response to your question “Do you feel there is any significant difference between the eye editorial and the infinite snark one can find elsewhere online?”, let me answer with a qualified “yes”. A lot of the snark that’s online exists in the “long tail” of the blogosphere, where each may have a readership of only dozens; eye’s online incarnation is available online (with a significantly largere readership than most local blogs) and in newspaper form (which is distributed all over town, free and doesn’t require a computer and internet connection to read). eye also has what many other online places don’t have — what a journalist at a recent journalism and blogging conference called “reputational capital”, as both a longtime part of the Toronto newspaper scene and a subsidiary of Torstar (as in the Toronto Star) coporation. These factors distinguish eye’s snark.

I may be missing something, but it seems that, in order not to be an anonymous commenter, one has to be a registered Blogware user…

While I can totally leave with no URLs, it’d be nice to follow conversation with people’s names instead of that “anonymous” thingie… Having Email notification would be nice too.

I realize that you probably can do nought about it and that this is the way BlogWare intended it… I wouldn’t bother bitching about this, if not for the fact that it isn’t a matter of technical difficulty, only an implementation decision, similar to LJ and other gated communities. I guess I don’t like gated communities much…

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