Sunday, September 21, 2008

Good Ignatian, Bad Ignatian Part II

At the risk of appearing obsessive, I want to call attention to a message Joseph Fromm left in his comment box. Before I do so, a few things to note:

  1. Following my initial post, Joseph deleted the post I referenced. The post and the comments have both vanished. Why?
  2. When I responded to his response on his site, the post was deleted. I guess I should not be surprised: why should he allow another person's views to be presented in full when it is his longstanding tactic to cut-and-paste only those bits of peoples' writings that he (mis)understands.
  3. I don't mean to sound obsessive, but I'm not letting Joseph off too easily. He doesn't like having attention called to himself or his posts, nor is he willing to engage in some measured debate. He prefers guerrilla blogging tactics where he takes shots from afar and retreats into the shadows.

So without further ado, this is his latest response over on his blog:

I deleted both posts, not because my positions were untenable, but because they caused you disorder. As a Jesuit you know that it is improper for one to discuss the spiritual gifts that we receive form our Savior. So, I will not provide you a lengthy discourse on the subject, you can read a light treatment on the subject in my blogger bio. Your blog is much different than mine; I think this reflects more of our individual states in life. I could not possibly blog about the tin whistle or my experience with yoga. I did not address you in any of the posts that you cite, so I did not “bully” you. If you choose to take issue with me over someone who is a public advocate of abortion and has assisted in the suicide of a friend that is your business. As for the post on Terrence Klein, I referenced another blog, did you write a comment in their combox? I juxtaposed in my post title, Klein’s argument that conservatives are fundamentalists and reversed his premise. Klein wrote a publicly published piece, is his work above criticism? The last time I debated you, you burned the bridge, so forgive me if I did not rush right in. I deleted your combox comment because you crossed a line of civil Christian conduct. I have Jesuits and Ignaciophiles from all over the world that read and support my blog. I will continue my work knowing that not everyone will agree with me. It would be a rather boring world if everyone agreed exactly with everyone else on every subject, would it not? I pray that both of our lives are reflected in the light of Christ, and that we will be able to reconcile fully in person in the future with a firm handshake, knowing that Christ is our Master.

Let's begin by making some distinctions (this is my new favorite word, especially in treating issues within philosophy).

First, I am fully aware that I was not referenced in either of the posts I mentioned. I don't reckon that I need to be the one bullied in order to call out a bully. It would not have been difficult in the least to scroll through the archives and pick numerous other instances of Joseph's labeling of others. He never offers a sustained, reasoned argument for his criticisms.

Second, I'm taking issue with your tactics, not with your content - if you even can be said to have content. Your blog aggregates various news stories - I suspect you use Google reader to pick up any mention of Jesuits - and then you post them with your labels affixed. Sometimes we get a little paragraph explaining why you take exception to whatever that moment's issue is for you, but in general you just give a bunch of links.

Third, people are free to criticize any piece of published work. But, Joseph, you snipe at people, you don't offer an argument. In a spirit of charity, I'm encouraging you to re-evaluate your style and to offer arguments for your positions, rather than quickly affixed labels.

Fourth, I think you have much to learn about "civil Christian conduct." I don't know how it fits into your schema of Christian life that it is ever appropriate to situate people within a plane of "Good Jesuits and Bad Jesuits" as though you were the arbiter of goodness. As I said originally, you may well be fully qualified to do so, but you've not offered us any sense of just what it is that gives you the credentials to adjudicate the rectitude of one's understanding and appropriation of the Ignatian tradition.

Fifth, I know you have quite a bit of site traffic, but I sincerely doubt if it's from adoring fans. I reckon many people like myself log on once a day to see what bizarre thing has been posted. I've no doubt some Jesuits love to see Tom Reese referred to as 'lunatic fringe' but I'm not one of them.

Sixth, we never really debated and, even if we had, you deleted all of your comments back in early June. You were incensed the I had the audacity three months ago for you to give an account of your ability to judge. As I've said repeatedly, I'm not saying that you don't have this right, but it would be enormously helpful if you would offer your credentials. In the "debate" in question, I gave a litmus test for making my distinctions: the work of God's Holy Spirit encourages peace, reconciliation, and inspires love; the work of the evil spirit is divisive, breeds suspicion, and instills fear and distrust. I believe I made myself fairly clear in how I saw that distinction playing out in regard to your blog, but that seemed too much for you to take. It didn't burn the bridge, I merely set forth the terms of engagement which you spurned.

Seventh, and finally, I am not looking for agreement. I want transparency. On my blog, I talk about nearly everything: someone once compared my blog to confession. So from yoga to cooking, tin whistle to prayer, softball to vocation promotion, I have no problem covering any issue. But they are my issues and my words and, when I write something, I offer a reason for it. A very close Jesuit friend and I disagree on just about every social issue imaginable but I understand his reasons for his positions and he understands mine. This gives us an endless supply of fodder for conversation and makes for lively and engaging debate. Our fraternal love for one another only deepens as we can explore our differences. But this mutual love can grow only because we are honest with each other and we can offer a rationale for the positions we take. That's all I want: give us reasoned argument rather than pot-shots.

I love being a Jesuit. I have never in my life been happier and I count myself blessed from morning to night to have been called to be a Companion of Jesus. Every day I walk out into a world that can, so often, seem devoid of hope and joy. In preaching and trying to live fully the Gospel of Jesus Christ it is my burden and blessing to be a bearer of this saving Word to a world sorely in need of healing. If I have learned anything in my studies, it is the importance of reasoned argument and respectful engagement. So again, Joseph, I'm offering this in a spirit of charity: provide reasons, arguments, and give an account of how it is that you come to judge out of your "Ignatian Experience." If you are speaking the truth and being a vessel of that truth, then you should feel empowered by this and confident that your reasonable readers will glom onto what you've said. Do not sell us short: I, for one, know that I am ever in pursuit of a more complete understanding of the truth and, if you can help me to see it, I will be overjoyed to see more clearly. But I do not respond well to bullying tactics or guerilla blogging that takes shots at people --- there is nothing charitable or, in my schema of Christian living, of God's Spirit in that.

So I extend a hand and an invitation: a hand in peace and an invitation to deeper engagement.


Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Ryan. That other blog, at least when it's in critical mode, really does seem to have questionable motivations.

Maybe if it just focused on the writer's ideas of "good" Jesuits, I may think otherwise. But once he goes into labeling (libeling?) the "bad" ones, he seems to take a sidetrack towards calumny.

Anonymous said...

Hello Fr. Ryan Duns, SJ

I enjoyed reading you post today especially the ending of extending
your hand to Mr.Joseph Fromm in peace and as an invitation to deeper engagement.

Hopefully, he accepts the peace you offer and the request for additional dialogue.

Kazimer - Kaz

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Ryan. There's something to be said for exposing the motives of those who claim to be "building up" men who have made the committment you have done, but in reality are playing cop in some fantasy playground. This guy seems like a real asshole, and hardly a Christian. Thank you for standing up to him.

Unknown said...

It's nice to hear words of support, but let's not call Joseph names. That's not Christian and not necessary: his blog speaks far louder than any name we'll fix to him.

I'll not, however, delete this comment. I'm not big on tinkering with comments.

Anonymous said...

Excellent, Ryan Duns. I usually laugh in sadness at this fellow's screed. I too am curious as to what exactly what his Igantian Experience is or was (mine was just a spectacular Jesuit education from men of all sorts of backgrounds and opinions). Bully for you!