I ran across this posttoday from an Evangelical Protestant commentator named Michael Spencer. He described how he spent the better part of a day recently listening to and thinking about Catholic radio and the greater and lesser degrees of effectiveness of the men and women who host shows on Catholic radio networks like EWTN.
Though I don’t agree with all his observations (in response to one particular remark, for example, I’d assert that Scott Hahn is every bitthe “intellectual heavy-weight Protestants make him out to be”), I found myself agreeing with some and, on a few points, agreeing wholeheartedly.
But even in the areas where I do not agree with Mr. Spencer, I can surely sympathize with his situation as a Protestant who admits to being “very open to what Catholicism has to say,” and I can see how he might come to some of the conclusions he reaches, even if I, a Catholic, might disagree with those conclusions.
One reason for my sympathy is that so much of the radio medium is really predicated on the Latin maxim: de gustibus non disputandum est, which could be somewhat loosely translated as “there is no use in arguing in matters of taste.” Another way to say it: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
His comments interested me in part because I myself host a Catholic radio call-in show called “Open Line” (Thursdays at 3:00 pm ET on EWTN Radio), so, I’m naturally curious to know what listeners think about such programming, especially my non-Catholic listeners. I was also fascinated by the fact that some of Mr. Spencer’s Catholic friends actually discouraged him from listening to Catholic radio, saying it presented a “distorted” picture of the Catholic Church. I find that tidbit very telling indeed. It’s not anything new, of course, but it says a lot about just how widely divergent some Catholics are when it comes to what they think constitutes an accurate portrayal of “The Catholic Church.”
Not knowing exactly what his Catholic friends may have meant by that warning, I can only conjecture. But I’ve heard that same claim before about EWTN-esque Catholic radio being “distorted,” and I personally don’t buy it. True, I play a very minor role in the larger Catholic radio enterprise, so I am biased, but I really believe that networks like EWTN are, far from distorting Catholicism, actually projecting the Catholic Church, at least in its American, Latin American, and European experience, as it really is, and has been, and should be, and could be. Of course, it goes without saying that there is far, far more to the Catholic Church culturally than its expression within an American or European context, but theologically, I would argue, what EWTN strives to purvey is historic, orthodox Catholicism. I know that for a fact.
The problem, as I see it, is that there has bee
n so much genuine distortion within the American Catholic experience over the past 50 years or so, with plenty of obscuring and redefining and outright denying of orthodox Catholic teaching and piety, that now, after looking through badly scratched lenses (or listening through ears badly clogged with the earwax of dissent and confusion), many today who are finally coming into contact with real Catholicism find, at least at first perhaps, that their eyes and ears hurt a bit from the experience.
But then, that’s just me. I’d be curious to know what you think, especially those of you who listen to Catholic radio.