Have You Hugged Your Professional Catholic Today?

squ1The new accusation to make against Catholics involved in the public proclamation of the faith, especially through media, is that they are professional Catholics.

The implication is that 1) you make lots of money from being Catholic, which is 2) a bad thing.

I got my first taste of this recently when someone accused me of being a professional Catholic, because I had written a book. I explained that yes I had written a book–the first one of which was self-published–but that I still had a secular job to make a living.

Interestingly, the person who accused me of this had been promoting a certain traditionalist Catholic media organization that itself is full of–by her definition–professional Catholics.

Circular Firing Squads Never Had It So Good

This accusation is the latest in what I call the polarization of the Catholic blogosphere. The internet (and especially blogs, youtube, and facebook) have matured to the point where even neolithic Catholics are able to find other like-minded ones and team up with them.

Maybe these are traditionalist-minded Catholics, liberal-minded Catholics, conservative Catholics, social-justice Catholics, pro-life Catholics, etc. Of course, when I present these labels it should be understood that all Catholics should believe and profess all that the Church teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God.

But, for instance, pro-life Catholics are those who feel called in particular way to the defense of human life, especially of babies in the womb.

Unfortunately, this polarization has led to circular Catholic firing squads forming and executing each other with greater frequency. This pro-life Catholic attacking that pro-life Catholic, because they support (or don’t support) graphic images, because they support X Catholic pro-life organization instead of Y Catholic pro-life organization.  I’ve seen this occur often and have even begun to be a target for it, apparently since I now have a book published with Catholic Answers.

Don’t cry for me Argentina. I’ll survive…somehow. In seriousness, the only way to win some games is not to play. I don’t want to return tit-for-tat. The glorious truth of our Catholic Faith means that I should see every Catholic as my brother or sister, that I should give each the benefit of the doubt, be ready to forgive, to think the best of them, to seek to understand first before condemning, and so on.

When You Say It’s Gonna Happen Now…

But the speed of the internet means that many Catholics are pressured to make a blog post or statement now about whatever event just occurred or thing they saw or headline about Pope Francis. Publish or perish, controversy sells, be the first to make a comment so you can get quoted somewhere. I’ve felt this same pressure, though not for monetary reasons, and several times have regretted that I posted something.

I’ve been fascinated by how this phenomenon has accelerated with the election of Pope Francis. Before I can even formulate a few coherent thoughts or read what the pope said, ten prominent Catholic bloggers have weighed in, clarifying, defending, accusing, or dismissing the pope’s words. I don’t feel I’m needed there, adding another voice to the multitude, so I largely stay out of it.

The internet is public. Facebook is public–don’t be deceived into thinking that you shared your post privately or with a select group–your post can be found, can be copy and pasted, and in any case is owned by a for-profit company that has one goal: increase revenue. I have seen things shared by Catholics privately that are inappropriate, vulgar, rude, derogatory, and they thought that I or others like me couldn’t see it.

Professional Catholics

Back to the original accusation. Is it wrong to make a living from work in the Catholic sphere? Say I make money writing apologetics books, or writing Catholic mobile software apps for smart phones, or speaking at conferences, or teaching at a Catholic university. Is that wrong? Should I do and give everything away for free?

I think there is plenty of room in the middle between trying to become a millionaire from such work and doing it all for free. In my case, I made some money from my self-published book that helped me 1) pay my friend and Catholic free-lance editor, 2) pay the graphic designer for the cover they made, and 3) buy some cows and a tractor for our farm.

Where one draws the line is subjective. $40,000 per year for a single Catholic person may be much more than the need. For another, it would put their family of 10 children under the poverty line. No matter how much we make, we are always tempted to want to make more and think that “if only I made as much as that guy, then I’d be set.”

I have no aspirations to make a living off my work in the Catholic sphere. But I don’t condemn people who have been called to do it full-time. Who knows, maybe God will call me to do that one day, and I hope I would answer. Not to become greedy or, through my flatteries and prevarications, make monkeys of the priest and congregation. But to serve others so that they might more readily accept the grace of God in their lives.

Can’t we all just get along? I think the trend toward polarization even among Catholics on the internet will continue. But we can and must be careful in how treat each other.

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21 Responses to Have You Hugged Your Professional Catholic Today?

  1. Carole says:

    Don’t forget that many “professional Catholics” paid for their own Catholic education, they make their own student loan payments, car payments, put gas in the car to go to work, pay their own mortgage and buy their own groceries, as well as provide for their own retirements. Priests don’t have to do any of that–but that doesn’t mean it’s free for the church.

    By paying someone a professional salary, the church gets the service of an educated, experienced and competent lay person, and reserves the right to fire them in a heartbeat.

  2. Nick says:

    I’ve seen the term “professional Catholic” used differently by different people. For example, Pope Francis made such remarks referring to clergy making a ‘career’ out of their vocation, focused on lavish living and being promoted to high positions.

    Another group that I’ve seen labeled as “professional Catholics” are laity who have embraced a business model approach to their apostolate, so that there is an unhealthy emphasis on selling and always having to come out with new stuff to sell. You basically nailed it with this quote: “Publish or perish, controversy sells, be the first to make a comment so you can get quoted somewhere.” Catholicism is about living at a normal-pace of life, not always striving for novelty (which is a Protestant-consumerist mentality). It’s not sustainable to have new things to post *every day*, which is why as soon as the spark or popularity of a blogger begins to go down, quite often the more desperate they become in their writing. Whomever called you a “professional Catholic” is completely on the fringe and clearly doesn’t understand the term.

    I could be wrong, but I see the opposite of a polarization of the Catholic blogosphere. I see Catholics starting to become more and more on the same page, and more in a “traditionalist” trend, even if only slightly. (e.g. Orthodox Catholics taking back Catholic Social Teaching from liberals who hijacked it.)

    There are a group of traditionalists who really disliked Francis becoming Pope and constantly bellyache, but I see their numbers as slowly dwindling as their “the sky is falling” mantra has consistently failed to pan out. I call them gloomy traditionalists who only assume the worst.

    As always, there’s the perennial ego-problem, where there are Catholics of all stripes who don’t like compromise, can’t stand when others disagree, would rather tear down fellow Catholics than permit an “in non-essentials, liberty” type attitude, and who don’t want to admit when they mess up (particularly because other big-ego Catholics will unfortunately spin an apology into an excuse to discredit them).

    • Devin Rose says:

      Nick, good point. Yes, I am not a big fan of the apostolate-as-business-model. Just not. I realize we need to make money to live in our modern economies, and that means selling something/providing services that are paid for, etc. But I think that there is a line there between seeking to live simply and sacrificially and seeking to increase revenue every year like a capitalist corporation.

      I hope we do head in a more traditionalist direction, without becoming volatile reactionaries, and I have seen some of that too. God bless!

  3. Devin, a big “amen” to this post!

  4. Lawoski says:

    I loved the line “the only way to win some games is not to play”. To which I respond “How about a nice game of chess?”

  5. I’m not making nearly enough money to be called a “professional” Catholic. ;)

    I agree with your points, although – much as I would like to – I do not think we can “all get along.” Not with original sin (as understood by Catholic teaching) in operation. We should all get along: and should, in my considered opinion, try to do so.

    Of the labels you mentioned, “conservative” has been pasted on me more often than the others. I explained why that’s not accurate a few years back: “Conservative? Liberal? Democrat? Republican? No, I’m Catholic.” (November 2008)

    That bit of shameless self-promotion done: kudos. In a post/article of mover 900 words: you made sense. :)

  6. Sherry Weddell says:

    “I think there is plenty of room in the middle between trying to become a millionaire from such work and doing it all for free. ”

    Hahahahahahaha! Haha! Hah! Let wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes before I try to comment . . .

    You are safe, Devin. No one who had ever done this would ever think of you as a “professional” if you still regard becoming a millionaire via lay Catholic ministry as even a distant possibility. You have either confused us with Joel Olsteen or a Jesuit.

    What a *real* “professional” lay Catholic would say is something like this:

    “There is plenty of room in the middle between trying to actually make a modest living wage from ministry and living in your parent’s basement with the help of the local food bank.”

  7. I think it was Michael Voris who first popularized the term “professional Catholic”. He used it some time ago to slam Karl Keating and a couple other people at Catholic Answers for their six-figure salaries, contrasting it with his own $40,000/year. So if it wasn’t Voris himself who slapped you with that term, it was likely one of his followers.

    I must admit, Devin, you’re much calmer than I would most likely be in your shoes. The appropriate name for it is envy, one of the seven cardinal sins. “Do we not have the right to our food and drink?” St. Paul asked the Corinthians. “… Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? … If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits?” (1 Cor 9:4, 6-7, 11) Obviously some jobs in the Church — I’m not thinking strictly of the institution here — will pay better than others, but that should never be an occasion for backbiting or envy. Some may choose to do their work in the Lord free of charge, as did Ss. Paul and Barnabas. That doesn’t create an obligation for every Catholic to do so, especially when their work leaves no time for a secular job.

    Reading 1 Corinthians reminds me that polarizing people have been present in the Church since the beginning, when St. Paul rebuked his readers for creating divisions: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor 1:13) Plus ça change, plus ça même chose, I guess ….

    • Devin Rose says:

      Thanks Anthony, helpful thoughts.

    • Boy, isn’t this right; when i posted a comment about Jesus “Know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free” I was accused of “Protestant bashing.” but I immediaetly thought of this point on St. Paul; he was pretty tough on any wavering from the flock.
      God Bless

  8. Bravo. Excellent writing and thinking, as always.

  9. “Professional Catholic” was used as a derisive term years before Michael Voris was ever heard of. He made a splash by posting peoples’ salaries, but it’s not his invention.

  10. “Haters gonna hate.” Don’t sweat the heat which inevitably will follow success such as yours. Please do not feel like you have justify your efforts to follow God’s Will. Keep living the faith and share it.

  11. Bonnie says:

    I wholeheartedly agree, Devin. Especially on being careful about how we treat one another. To disagree and discuss is one thing, to be sarcastic and mocking is quite another.

  12. Congratulations on your new book, Devin. I’m just starting to self-publish Catholic spirituality. I’ve actually been called a professional Catholic in a derogatory way just for posting to a Catholic group blog. I don’t think I’ll ever have to worry about being a millionaire, but I wouldn’t mind making enough money so my husband (who works for the diocese) can retire before age 75. “The worker is worth his hire.” We have to feed our family–and ourselves after the kids are grown–too. If we spend all our time furthering the Gospel, what’s the problem with earning a moderate amount of money doing it? I believe in living a moderate lifestyle, but we can’t just go by people’s incomes. Maybe those earning 6 figures are giving a large portion back to the Church.

  13. Devin I saw the interview with Catholic Answers (looks like a priest–he is on Answers staff) but could not find it again?? I was taken back since you had the exact same emotional problems my son has now. I am looking forward to reading your book and I did post this on another site about comments on the book:
    Jesus quoted often from the OT, but never from the NT; since it did not come in until the Council of Nicea in 325 AD; up to this time Christians were “underground.”
    Also, Bibles were rare in a Home, Christian or non-Christian, so are we saying all of those Christians who had no “sola sciptura” were lost; (Sola Scriptura is found nowhere in Scripture which Scott Hahn found out as he ran this question through a multitude of his Christian Minister friends.) Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide are inventions of Marin Luther; you will find non of this so called “pseudo theology” even mentioned by the early Church Fathers (the Christian and non-Christian historians and theologians prior to 1500. While there is nothing in the Bible that says “What is the pillar and foundation of truth,” it is not the Bible, but St. Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15 “it’s the Church.” Period. (Thank you Scott Hahn) The problem is that Protestants look at the time of Jesus with “today’s eyeglasses on.” We might as well see Jesus driving a Volkswagon.
    I talk to other religions every day and am proud to say that last week alone I was condemned to hell 2 times and had the Mark of the Beast put on me 2 times; thus I have had a wonderful and successful week working for the Lord.