Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Poking the Protests out of the Printing Press

Poking the Protests out of the Printing Press


Lyons—The printing press is not all that it’s cracked up to be, and sometimes the truth can slip through those cracks.

That’s the message Father Bonaventure Aveugle, OFM, CEO of Superior Sheepskins, passed on about the wild frontier of print when he gave a talk to 65 priests from the diocese of Paris. Father Aveugle was visiting the diocese of Lyons from Paris to give a number of talks. His clergy lecture was on March 22, 1491.

Father Aveugle focussed on new challenges to the Church in the areas of books, newspapers and pamphlets. “These are really important areas, so much so that a big part of the last meetings I was heavily involved in myself, the last two rounds, has been spent on this,” he said. “The printing press is an international phenomenon.”

There are serious ethical questions that must be addressed by the Church and by individuals, he continued, making sure to distance the concept “Church” from the concept of “individuals”, e.g. ordinary parish priests and laypeople. These include issues of the dissemination of information the laity ought not to know, and “frank criticism of shepherds by sheep.”

“The printing press is not only a source of problems, it is a source of great benefits to the human race when used properly,” he said. “The benefits can be fully realized if only the right people have access to it.”

He said the three main issues are: the destruction of the privilege of the very few to control information, the challenge of mass literacy, and the lack of accountability which permits laypeople to comment on Church life without getting punished for it.

He discussed the importance of assessing content found in the print media, and not believing any of it. Father Aveugle used the example of a priest he knows who takes homilies from books and preaches them at Mass without reading them first.

“There are some things that are being proclaimed from the pulpits that are questionable,” he said. “Discernment is required in what you take from print books. It’s no substitute for texts carefully written on sheepskin.”

Print materials, he said, are becoming a major topic of discussion amongst scribes as well as at the Vatican. He said they were useful for disseminating news and such doctrines as ordinary folk can handle.

A relatively tiny number of people read his own newspaper every week, he noted. “We use it as a teaching tool,” he noted. “Thousands of priests rip off our stuff to write their homilies, and that’s fine with us.”

However, since anyone—not just Superior Sheepskins—can set up a printing press, readers must be wary.

“I have rules for my scribes,” said Father Aveugle. “We don’t say anything that defames anybody except LifePrintNews, other newspapers, pamphleteers, other sheepskin suppliers and other utilizers of the printing press.”

Father Aveugle said that a study of Catholic print materials involving Catholics and heretics looking at Catholic print materials found they were filled with “filth, hate, conjecture, and innuendo.” The printers try to look official by including woodcuts of their favourite popes and saints.

Many of these printers say nasty, negative things, he said, citing rival LifePrintNews as a notorious sinner.

“I don’t care how many people at LifePrintNews are Catholics or how many of their readers are Catholics or how much they write about Catholics,” he said. “It’s not a Catholic blog. It has no authority, unlike me. It is causing division in the English Church, not just in France.”

He cited how upset unnamed English bishops are by LifePrintNews. One English Cardinal assumed LifePrintNews had its own glittering fortress in Paris. “I said, non, non, monsieur. They operate out of someone’s parent’s root cellar in Rouen. And may I say how much I have admired you all these years?”

LifePrintNews and other print materials are dangerous when clerics and laypeople read them more than they hear the Scriptures or Vatican documents proclaimed. He said people were citing print materials more often than those teachings selectively chosen by Superior Sheepskins for dissemination.

Some print materials have muddied the waters of Catholic dialogue in past years, said Father Aveugle. “The anti-Borgia pamphlets, the anti-infanticide pamphlets which are, indeed, anti-infanticide but too critical of those prelates who aren’t as concerned as they are about infanticide, the pamphlets criticizing me criticizing the pamphleteers—ooh, it makes me crazy.”

He added that powerful and influential heretics read these materials, which give skewed vision of what the Church—by which he meant the authoritative, clerical bit—is about.

"If we judged our identity on certain printed materials, Christians and Catholics would be known as the people who stand against everything and against everyone," he said. "If anything we should be known as the people who are for something."

There was a startled silence as his audience wondered what he meant by Christians AND Catholics.

Despite these issues with printing, Father Aveugle said mass publishing has its place. He said it has linked the Church between continents much more closely, but we also need to be wary of how mass literacy can erode and cheapen personal relationships.

"Writing letters makes some kinds of communication easier, because it is not tied to geography, or governed by social norms, therefore writers can communicate whatever and whenever they want," he said. "While many of us can get back in touch with our friends via letters, there is a danger that print interactions can hurt our real-life friendships."

Writing, Father Aveugle explained, can encourage a "new form of narcissism." He said people reveal in their letters—especially those Christmas ones that go out to the entire Chrismas list—the most intimate details about themselves to the world and "we can't take it back."

He said print is an important tool for evangelization, but it also reinforces a belief that every mundane detail of our lives is worth publicizing.

"People are not just living in the moment, but they are publicizing the moment. This may lead to the spread of novels, poetry and heaven knows what else."

Father Aveugle said these new forms of communication can hurt the "art and language of friendship."

Though these technologies are supposed to better connect us, he said, there is an increase in reports of loneliness and distance between people. Instead of talking and visiting all the time, they read and write in isolation.

Father Aveugle talked about a woman he had met after Mass who said she received 20 letters a day from her granddaughter in the fields. She invited her to see her, because they lived in the same town, but the granddaughter doesn’t make the time.

"With letters, you don't see people. You see letters," he said. “A, B, C….”

"Without friends, human beings, to connect with, what are we doing?" he asked. “Writing? Our faith is about the Good Shepherd, and the sheep should know to trust his shepherds and the doctrine and news we see fit to give them, like the fine quality information carefully selected by Superior Sheepskins.”

As much as Vox would like to credit for this wonderful satire, alas, I cannot. It was our old friend Anonymous whom I abundantly thank for permitting me the honour of its publication. Oh, in case you missed the motivation.


Bear said...

Interesting, but the satire has a little blind spot: The invention of the printing press lead almost directly to Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Very great problems did arise from the printing press in the hands of the masses for the Church.

Vox Cantoris said...

The first English-language Holy Bible was the Douay-Rheims created on a printing press. I really don't think the protestant reformation was the result of the printing press. To be analogous, there was no "Internet" from 1965 to 1995 and look at the new "protestant reformation" in the Catholic Church today that blossomed then. Catholic blogs really did not start until about 1995.

In fact, it is the very existence of the Internet and the blogosphere that is helping Catholics unite to lead the restoration.

Educated and informed Catholics stand up for the truth and the faith and would have generations ago had our parents and grandparents had access to the truth 45 years ago.

Bear said...

The first non latin Western European Bible was Luther'
s, in German. The printing press was absolutely critical for the Protestant Reformation. Luther's resolutions were to have been an academic debate, in the old monastic tradition, until printers got a hold of it and spread it around Germany and debated it outside of the monastery, and away from Luther. Before long, Luther found himself on a crash course with Rome,at the head of a movement, because of the press.

As for the snslogy, Father Blind is a stand in for a priest who warned seminarians about problems with the rising internet. Should a Father Blind have warned seminarians about the printing press posing a danger to the faithful, he would have been at least in part correct, as the press did fuel the Reformation. By this analogy, the modern priest may have had a point.

I am not saying I arguing against you, only that this satire could be seen as proving the opposite point it is intended to.

Naturaltonsure said...

Your point is well taken. The internet does pose a problem, a huge problem. The inescapable reality is the huge problem of pornography. Luther used the latest technology to spread the error of private judgement and interpretation of Sacred Scripture. Pornographers spread the error of private, consequentless pleasure. That should be the analogy. Luther was the pornographer of his day; he took the sacred and distorted it to his personal interpretation. The grotesque obsession with sex has replaced the late middle ages obsession of theological controversy. The present clergyman has targeted the wrong enemy. It is not lifesite, but pornography. Why does he get this wrong? because, there is an agenda that motivates him.

Vox Cantoris said...

I think you are reading more into this. It is not advocating a protestant reformation; it is a satire on the problem of clericalism of the worst kind not dissimilar to that of 500 years ago.

The laity have their rights; and as long as they are upholding Magisterial Teaching, then they are not "protestant." The issue is not the printing press or the internet.

What would have happened if Catholic laity could have risen up with the press and challenged Father Luther's actions?

As or the bible in other than Latin surely you're not suggesting that the people not read scripture.

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve G said...

This is a brilliant post!

Nor the Internet nor printing can be blamed for problems such as the Reformation or pornography. The media are neutral in themselves and can be used for both good and bad (like just about anything on Earth). It's up to good people to use these inventions for the good to counter the bad.

Sure, these inventions facilitated the transmission of bad things, but they also facilitated good. Is the telephone evil because it allows prank calls and porn hotlines? Is cutlery evil because knives and forks can be used as a weapon? Is alcohol evil because it can be abused? Yet it gives us the Eucharist! Is writing evil because it can be abused for hate? Yet it gave us Sacred Scripture!

This discussion is getting totally side-tracked by a false issue.

Well done, David, for posting this article.

God bless.

Pascendi said...

The creation of the proverbial "straw man" just won't do in these attacks. The attacking of persons will not do either. Are there insignificant bloggers who do blow off a lot of nonsensical steam? Absolutely. One will, sadly, always find people with an obsession. It may be a singular attachment to the new Mass or to the old Mass. [On this count, the Church "establishment" should concede that their opposition to integrating the old Mass into regular Catholic life is absolutely essential. I am still waiting for the occasional 1962 Mass to be shown on television in Canada].

As such with strident bloggers the answer is to leave them alone. Why give them an audience? I suspect that it may be to undermine the really serious sites that are raising very serious issues that some would rather not have raised. Hence the appearance of the: "Taliban Catholic". However, it should be underscored that a mark of the Talibanist is to suppress...

The fact is that the Internet has done an end run around the previous strangle-hold on information by the regular press. This is something that people are going to have to live with.

Excellent blog Vox!!!