The priest has chanted Ite Missa Est and you head down the basement stairs with the kiddos to have coffee with the homeschool mothers. Its a reprieve from the other 6 days and 23 hours without contact with fellow traditional Catholic. And then its an hour and half drive back home.
We need friends. We need like-minded friends. We need fellow conservative Christian people to share time with. And we need traditional Catholics. Not just Latin and doctrine, but traditional Catholic friends.
On a number of occassions I've heard our traditional priests warn the faithful from the pulpit about the internet, the blogosphere, and the trad Catholic forums. Its almost as of they are suggesting avoiding it altogether.
I understand that Father. But when you live in TimBuckTu (literally or figuratively), how else can you have regular at least semi-real human contact with fellow trads. For me at least, the odd trip to trad enclaves for conferences is just not satisfying the primordial need.
Hence traditional Catholic forums. In today's segment of the Okie Traditionalist, Id like to muse about this phenomenon. Its history and dynamic, with a few ideas what might one day save these places from self-demolition.
History of Trad Forums
My experience started circa 2000 on Fish Eaters. What an enlightenment. It became a catechetical source in traditional Catholicism. But I didn't post much because I noticed some bickering. At the time that didnt seem a significant datum to me needing critically to learn about the Faith in an integral way in which Id never learned before.
This was a point of reference until around 2010 and by happenstance I ran across Angelqueen forum. Good source of info, but a lot of crazy arguments mixed in with your odd mini-scandal. Some kind of controversy between those for or against the writings of Fr. Malachi Martin. After the hot summer of 2012, with heated friction over closer contacts between Bishop Fellay and Rome, suddenly the forum was shut down, and soon later converted into kind of a lame newsfeed, imo, with 2-3 regulars remaining to add authoritative comments.
Spending more time over at FE, I noticed that hub was devolving too. Tracy the owner kept getting so exasperated she kept suggesting she might close it down. And then "Impy-gate" exploded all over the forum for several months, spreading into other trad forums, and I noticed across trad blogs as well. A poster now openly identifying as a transexual made it his/her mission to explain a secret Vatican document approving of "gender transition" for rare genetic conditions. The rad trad mafia made it their mission to tar and feather him/her and demonize the forum owner. Plus, being an SSPX faithful and SSPX apologist, I got treated to some villification myself when I defended the Society, and in other threads took the side of "Impy" in the name of civility and charity. A rumor started Impy and I were lovers, which told me it was time to say "goodbye." Fun times.
Around this time I discovered Ignes Ardens and Catholic Info, but they had been taken over by the cause of the "Resistance." The virulence and toxicity made it hard to breath. IA shut down under rumor the Society had pressured them to. But CI carved out it's stronghold against the "neo-SSPX" releasing defaming, private rumors one after the other to the point, last I heard, they were named in a lawsuit filed by the Archbishop's Society. Not exactly a place for Catholic fellowship.
One day I got a pm from one of founders of the relatively new Suscipe Domine forum, around 2015, welcoming me as a pro-SSPXer. From what I understood, it was an offshoot from Fish Eaters of disenfranchised folk following the "position of the SSPX," one of the original founding principles, but also in protest to FE tolerating the presence of a transexual. Personally giving high priority to SSPX-like traditionalism but also high civility, my joining SD was a bit ambivalent.
I personally write off CI and Te Deum (for it's pedantic sedevacantism), so the last holdhoud for me was SD these last 2 years. I made some friends. Open support of the SSPX and bold promotion of traditionalism was refreshing. But 15 years lurking and posting in the forums had molded me at best into an occasional poster.
About a year ago I was disappointed to observe a downward, devolving trend there too. Things like a daily, year long feud between Jayne and Greg (who have made a career posting in the forums), and growing harsh criticisms of the SSPX to the point the owner Kaesekopf chopped out support of the "position of the SSPX" from the forum's mission statement, with tacit acceptance of the community. Uncritical supporters of the Society leadership became a dwindling minority class. Fellay-bashing became a favorite past time.
Before long the kind of petty bickering I'd always observed in the forums since 2000 started to morph more into vigilante witchhunts by some of perceived outsiders, due to some minor detail of disagreement dogmatized into a litmus test of who belonged and who didnt.
How about some English in the Latin Mass? What's up with that guy? African melodies in a black parishes' Latin Mass? Reeks of modernism! Are you really a trad?
Such is the state of trad forums at present, from my little vantage point of my Okie Armchair.
The Dynamic of Trad Forums
I think the founders and pioneers of a forum are motivated by the noble goal of creating a hangout for trads to discuss and be friends under the protection of forum rules and moderation. But everybody joining in is coming from a different state, country, or continent from within one of the overarching camps of traditionalism (sedevaxantism, SSPX, approved TLMs). Some are orientened to the virtues of civility. Others are so abused by Catholic modernism and trads themselves, every poster is suspect of modernism or trad-bashing.
Those factors combined with the unique nature of an online discussion forum makes is a recipe for miscommunication and disaster. Where else do people get into intense debates under the anonymity of a username? What other communication format begins with a "thread," followed by "posts," "replies," and "likes or dislikes?" When the users are so entrenched in their particularized traditionalist ideologies, dogmatizing theological opinion and personal experience, how is that not a recipe for disaster?
A thread typically devolves like this. The "OP" makes a statement or asks a question, say about why often TLM parishes have so few Hispanics in attendance. Alarm signals go off in somebody's head A few posts later somebody objects to the subject. Instead of ignoring thread, they hone in on that one word or phrase that to them seems enigmatic or foreign. Instead of asking about said word, it becomes branded as having a "modernist flavor." Soon the thread has been (purposely?) derailed into bickering about Hispanic social problems or what kind of Missal is being used. It comes across as inane and obtuse. Almost like each person just wants to argue "their position" as a form of intellectual masturbation. The little detail they disagree with lowers their serotonin levels. Stroking their frontal lobes helps regain their inner sense of calm and assurance. From that point the thread can take a number of directions: talk about the most oblique subjects compared to the OP, a food fight, or worse a Toxic Trad Fight Club blood bath. At that point the reptilian part of the brain has taken over, and those with either sociopathic tendencies and/or severe social communication disorders dominate.
Where is the fellowship in that? Isnt charity the first law in everything?
While from here on out I'm taking a long potentially permanent hiatus from the forums, brainstorming here, I have a few suggestions.
1. Make these places subject to ecclesiastical authority. At least a priest spiritual advisor to the owner and moderators.
2. Strict moderation. Meaning consistently, fairly, strictly enforce the rules. But keep the rules simple, Catholic, and moderate.
Alriiightee then. There's my thoughts on trad forums friends. Tell me your thoughts and experiences on the Comment box below. Its almost September with cooler temps. 😎 Deo gracias.