There is a list of topics that, if Catholic writers dare touch them, will get you immediate and strong objections and bitter complains from readers. In no particular order, unless you enjoy acquiring enemies and readers who associate you with Satan, the music (sic) of John Cage, and the legs of Phyllis Diller, the following 10 topics will generate the most heat and the least light in your com box:
1. Immodest Dress. You can’t win here. No matter how gently you phrase “please remember to dress appropriately in church,” or “please try and avoid thongs at the beach,” a brigade of ill-wishers will storm your gates accusing you of hypocrisy, intolerance, and – the worst sin imaginable: judging. The advice to dress with decorum (think Melania Trump) will always be met with responses that ritually shame you because you think all women are sluts, or, in the case of low-information Catholic commenters, that “Jesus is just happy she’s in church, and you should be too, Hitler.”
2. Melania Trump. Don’t go there. Anyone who invokes Mrs. Trump with any positive allusion or comparison (unless it’s negative and you’re attacking her) you will be written off as an obvious alt-right Trumpian enemy of humanity, especially of Pope Francis.
3. Pope Francis. Good luck. Our current Holy Father’s habit of off-the-cuff pronouncements along with his promoting and de-promoting of certain Church prelates make it awfully easy to see politics everywhere. All Pontiffs are called to be signs of contradiction and, in a certain sense, a lightning rod. Of all lightning rods, Pope Francis is the roddiest. Write about him and his teaching style at your peril.
4. Pornography. Here’s another one. While we can all (?) agree that porn involving animals, children, midgets, violence, BDSM, and D-list celebrities who’ll do anything at this point, are immoral, don’t bring up Game of Thrones or Fifty Shades of Grey unless you want otherwise practicing Catholics to fire when ready at your head. Clue: in today’s climate of mushy catechesis and zero evangelization, supposedly good writing and interesting storylines trump any problems with depictions of pointless nudity and sexual acts.
5. The word trump. See number 2 above.
6. Anything gay-related. Duh.
7. Canon 915. Another classic no-win topic. If you’re, say, a self-described Catholic politician, and you publically vote for abortion rights and the redefinition of marriage, Canon 915 states that you are forbidden from receiving Holy Communion because of the danger to your soul (see 1 Corinthians 11 for the reasons why). Well, it turns out, no one outside of the fevered swamps of the Catholic blogosphere cares much. The proof is in the pudding. Can you name a single person ever to be refused Holy Communion, apart from priests who were publically castigated for doing so?
8. Medjugorje: Oh, dear. While some of the bloom has been taken off the world’s most popular unapproved apparition in history (Pope Francis has made clear his lack of enthusiasm, and Pope Emeritus Benedict told one writer he has never thought Medjugorje was authentic), the phenomenon shows no signs of going away just yet. Every official pronouncement of every Commission and of every sitting bishop of Mostar-Duvno has been negative: non constat de supernaturalitate (there is no proof of something supernatural) and the personal view of Bishop Pavao Zanic and the current Ordinary Ratko Peric has always been constat de non supernaturalitate (there is proof that it’s not supernatural).
9. Islam. Duh.
10. Church music. Fools rush in where angelic choirs fear to tread. The music scene in the Catholic Church since, oh, about 1962, has been in crisis. Whether you crave Palestrina or the Marty Haugen/David Haas/St. Louis Jesuit monster, if you weigh in with an opinion about which music is best fitted to liturgical worship – duck!
I here keep breaking my own rules. When will I ever learn?