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Catholic blogs in the Times

Reader Bill Mazella suggested someone start a separate thread on the best religion blogs recently reported in the London Times, a list which includes First Things but not Commonweal. [CORRECTION: This list is from the London, not NYT, as originally reported. My apologies!]

So here ya go, Bill.

While Commonweal did not make the Times  list, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster did. Actually this is less about religion than a rant against militant creationists. But the Spaghetti Monster-ites print their hate mail, most of it religious in nature, which is always a laugh. And how can you argue with SOLID NUMERICAL EVIDENCE that global temperature has risen in direct proportion to the decrease in piracy?? I use this site to detox after visits to my Fundamentalist in-laws.

The Times received at least one complaint for leaving out Ship of Fools, which is mostly Episcopalian in orientation, and since I still have leanings toward Canterbury, it is also one of my favorites, too. Catholics exercised about liturgy might find food for thought in the "Mystery Worship" department over there.

I would also gripe about Philocrites' absence. It's a Unitarian blog that is welcoming, sweet and friendly in a way I never found Unitarianism to be when I was in it. When I wrote a story about my conversion to Catholicism for Commonweal, Philocrites rejoiced that I had found my true spiritual home, even as that good Catholic, Diogenes (Off the Record) sneered. I read Philocrites to remind myself that the Unitarians still love me even when the Catholics don't.

I was surprised that the, the Times list did not include Amy Welborn, Busted Halo or Whispers in the Loggia, all blogs that have been refer'd here on Commonweal. Neither did it include Beliefnet, though maybe that's not technically a blog.

Beliefnet has its own list, which does include Welborn and the Canada-based Relapsed Catholic.

Catholic blog readers may also want to visit the Catholic Blog Awards site, which may be more revealing of what Catholics are reading and responding to than the more general Times list. Not exactly sure who's behind the Catholic Blog Awards, but there is a nice variety of blogs among those nominated (including Commonweal).

I was pleased to see one of my favorites, The Anchoress, there. A couple of years ago, we exchanged pleasant e-mails, and I like her down-to-earth, cut-to-the-chase comments. (And, Anchoress, if you read this, I love the Pre-Raphaelite image on the home page, but is that a nun or the Lady of Shallot?)

Other perspectives on Catholic blogs, please!



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Heres one I recommend. Ive looked at it regularly over the last few months: blogs self-description: A series of postings on subjects I like: Catholicism; history; art; Italy; and whatever grabs me at the time. The archives have many fine images of old master paintings and traditional religious architecture. The blogger is based in England but has wide-ranging interests.

I am not impressed with the majority of Catholic blogs out there. I'm not sure why it is, but most of them seem to be written by the most hateful, arrogant Catholics I have ever encountered. I am particularly disappointed to see The Cafeteria Is Closed on that list. That blog is one of the worst in my opinion. I do enjoy TCR News: Nonviolent Jesus: fellow bloggers at Vox Nova ( are also amazing. I mention Vox Nova, not out of self-promotion but out of genuine respect for the other bloggers there, who actually write much more than I do!

FYI, Bill was wrong about the publication that produced the list--it's the London Times, not the New York Times. So I'm not too surprised by the lacunae in their list. But the Cafeteria is Closed? Good grief.

Grant, that bit of information is interesting. What general view of Catholicism, and Catholicism's relationship with the broader culture, do you get from the blogs on the list, and how does that view fit into the battles going on in England now? It seems to me that First Things, and the Cafeteria is Closed, present a pretty combative view of Catholicism-- a "culutre war" perspective on Church and world. Such a view might reinforce, rather than dissipate, a certain type of anti=Cathoilic prejudice in some political contexts.

Just a qualification: the article is about the "most influential" blogs, not necessarily the best. It's different in that way from Beliefnet's Blogdom of God, "Where religion blogs go if they're good."I notice that influential conservative liturgy blogs like WDTPRS and The New Liturgical Movement (3200 hits/ day) are not listed. Most conservative Catholic blogs discuss liturgy, in fact. I was wondering whether the more progressive blogs do, as much.

Yes, Cathy (Kaveny), that's what I was getting at. I don't know anything about the columnist, but I recall the comment of an old family friend who left England when she was in her thirties: "It's very hard to be a Catholic in England."

What is a religious blog? Definitions?Commonweal advertizes itself (print version) as a journal of religion, politics, literature and the arts edited by Catholic lay people. That has always given it a wide range of subjects and authors.With a few exceptions Commonweal (the blog) pays more attention to "religion" than to anything else. Why is that?

Though this comment moves away from Jean's post, it is inspired by Peggy Steinfel's comment and question.Has dotCommonweal met readers' expectations?I, for one, am disappointed that a number of the listed contributors seem rarely to participate. Perhaps that accounts in part for the more restricted focus Peggy perceives.

This is an observation, not a criticism, but I am not sure I consider dotCommonweal to be a blog, To me, one of the essential characteristics of a blog is that one person, or a limited number of people, write on a daily (or almost daily) basis, largely expressing their personal opinions. Here on dotCommonweal, it's more a limited number of people (a fairly small subset of the listed contributors) throwing out topics for discussion. It seems to me a blog is very much about expressing (and advocating) personal points of view, and while we get some of that from the listed contributors, often more of it comes from the people who write the comments. I wouldn't necessarily change this format, but I think it might be interesting to have another area in which anybody can start a discussion. (That wouldn't be a blog, either, though.) The great danger there is that discussion boards that are thrown open to the general public (or even registered users) tend to be taken over by small groups of crackpots who wind up destroying them.

Why should anyone give a hoot what the NYT thinks? This is, after all, the paper that gave us Judith Miller and Jayson Blair; that still publishes the reports of Michael Gordon, Miller's aide-de-camp in duplicity; and that still features on its op-ed pages the drivel of Thomas Friedman, David Brooks, and Maureen Dowd, three of the most shallow and over-rated columnists in the nation. Then again, knowing all that, it's no surprise that First Things gets mentioned.

Jean, you're very kind to mention my blog. I'm a big fan of Commonweal. Thanks very much!

I'm not sure what this list says about Catholicism in Britain. I'm a long lapsed second generation Irish Catholic (raised in East London and now back living there as a middle aged mother). I have a subscription to the Tablet and regard myself as a kind of Catholic fellow traveller - ie,. I don't have the belief but like some of the ideas and practice. I wrote my PhD on attempts by the Catholic Church to influence the British Labour Party in the period 1910-60. When I read the Commonweal blog and some of the articles it all seems pretty exciting over there compared to the level of debate over here. As a mother of three small children (not Catholic) who are being educated at a local state primary school for 3 - 11 year olds (42 different languages and many different faiths - though I guess majority Muslim now) I watch with some bemusement as parents start signing up their children as Catholics in order to get them into highly regarded state funded Catholic secondary (11-16) schools. And when I walk past my local Catholic Church on a Sunday morning I see bulging congregations, welcoming new immigrant communities of Africans and Eastern Europeans just as they welcomed my Irish family back in the 1930s. I'm not sure how much time anyone devotes to wondering about what particular Catholic camp they belong to. Although I'm sure it could be more fun if they did. I may, of course, have a particular London centric view on this and stand to be corrected by those with wider knowledge. I don't believe that it is that difficult to be Catholic in the UK - I mean you can't marry the heir to the throne but being Catholic won't stand in the way of your getting a job or mean that people abuse you in the street. And you get access to 'good' schools for free. All in all, not a bad deal.

I like this blog, except when people get argumentative.(Kidding.)I think that there should be an internet forum for Catholics with divergent ideas to really get together and discuss things, without any point of view being automatically correct or dismissable. Sort of like what Common Ground was supposed to be. Insofar as that's what this blog is about, I'm all for it and I'm grateful.Also: Dr. Kaveny gave the commencement speech at my school a few years ago. I read her essay on lawyers and time enthusiastically while doing research for one of Dean Hoge's books when I worked for him. I find it remarkable that I can participate in discussions with her and the other exceptional scholars here.

3 for consideration:Vox Nova ( Catholic perspectives on culture, society & politics.The Wild Reed ( which bills itself as Thoughts and reflections from a progressive, gay, Catholic perspective.Catholica Australia ( = an excitingly different way of looking at faith and spirituality... in (of course) Australia.

I wanted to be sure that Vox Nova got a vote from someone other than one connected directly to it.

My son was idly googling the names of relatives yesterday and came on this blog. He said, "I didn't know you wrote on the Internet and had a master's degree."I told him I also teach at a Big 10 university and can knit my own socks, and that he could have my autograph if he'd water the pumpkins and refill the bird baths.Which takes us back to a question raised on another post about the future of print magazines--to what extent do blogs that exist only in cyberspace without the back-up of an established print publication have credibility and influence? And to whom?And while we're at it, I think Fr. Imbelli's question about whether dotCommonweal fulfills readers' needs--readers of both the mag and blog and blog only--is a good one.

Peggy, your reminding us that Commonweal is a journal of religion, politics, literature and the arts edited by Catholic lay people is startling even tho we know it. Part of the problem is that you do not have any contributors from literature and the arts as contributors on this blog. This is definitely a lacuna. Professors like the one who interviewed Mary Karr at your Institute might be a good idea. Of course, the RCC religion is the common denominator for all of us. Secondly, we are in historic times. Years ago we asked the priest. Now we are more apt to challenge him and frequently know more than him.As far as defining a blog I would take the Commonweal model over any of the others. It is definitely more productive and fruitful to have more people contribute and comment. Wtih useful feedback this blog can only become better.

I have to agree withJoan Keating about the dearth of Catholic public discussion in UK. The Tablet content prompts serious written responses, at the cost of broadcasting one's email address and inviting a never-ending stream of "personal products."My own diocese used to run a dio paper each month but as very little was happening, it gave no news. And people did not debate. So the media rep puts news accounts on the Dio website. I have begged him more than once to open another site, a genuine intra-diocese discussion site where we of the riff-raff could debate, applaud, challenge, speculate and learn. He has not done so and gives no reason. I, for instance, would like to query the vast cost of supporting our local Cath mixed primary school which is in the wrong place, has a minority of Catholic chilldren, has only one Catholic teacher and a staff of 15 full and part-timers, all of whom are women. Our small parish has to contribute approx 20% of net income to support the diocesan schools. It's worth a debate, I feel. Quite apart from other current hot-under-the-collar topics.But for a bit of serious Catholic thinking, I subscribe to US blogs. Anyone else enjoy THE IRONIC CATHOLIC?

Peggy is on to something. Contributions to the Blog in the area of politics certainly draw fewer comments from readers than ones focused on current matters of concern to Catholics. But I think this means that for readers of the print journal and the Blog alike Commonweal is a precious resource for discussion of religious news and issues that the rest of the press rarely takes up in depth (or gets right when they do.) And speaking just for myself, I have often agreed with Peggys well-expressed concerns over the situation in Iraq and matters closer to home, in Washington. But I have simply said too much about these things to all who will listen in my daily round, and despair of keeping my temper on the subject, so I am grateful for the insights and information but hold my peace. Maybe others out there do the same.

The two "religious" blogs I most enjoy are both LDS, "Feminist Mormon Housewives" and "Times and Seasons," although the latter might also be considered academic. I will believe Dot.Commonweal has succeeded when there is the range of (usually polite, and this is a church that has had "issues" at least as stressful as the Roman Catholic) discussion fmh typically has and when our posters relate the discussion as much to their personal lives as Christians in the world as the posters on both routinely do. Specifially family life, which rarely comes up on DC except when people are being defensive.However, the one religious blog everyone should look at (it might double its readership!) is called Bad Things in New Hymn Books and Other Sad Tales by the British academic Catherine Osborne, who is apparently Anglican but seems to have both Catholic and Orthodox training in her youth. She really digs into the changes in the (usually Anglican I think) hymn book and tells just why they represent a retreat from an informed, experienced and intellectually serious faith rather than contenting herself with regrettng the loss of some ill-defined sense of the sacred, which for some DC posters at any rate seems to be an amalgam of Palestrina and Gounod.

Osborne's blog is excellent.

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