For a while now, I’ve been alluding to a new project that I have been working on. I want to tell you about that. But first, let me give you a little background.
I’ve written about my first impressions of Pope Francis, and how deeply disturbed they left me. Upon his election, I wrote a tentative piece, wherein I did my best to give him the benefit of the doubt. And though I ended the article on a hopeful note, as I go back and read it, I can see the deep concern I had seeping through my attempt at balanced tone.
“For the first time in over three decades,” I wrote, “we have a pope whom we do not know. I suspect that he will surprise us, and his will be a very different papacy in many respects than the last two that came before him, but also familiar.”
Seven months later, when I finally wrote my first post detailing my concerns about Pope Francis, I had a sense that it would touch a nerve, but I couldn’t have guessed the size of the door that I was opening, or where it would lead. Within days, I had inquiries from NBC News and the New York Times. I granted interviews to both, because I believed it was important to bring these concerns to light. More requests came in. CNN wanted me to go on live television to talk about my concerns. I heard from 60 Minutes Australia. I got a request to talk to a TV show in South Korea.
It was too much. I responded to the CNN producer:
I appreciate the offer, but I think I’m going to pass. Now that I’ve written on this topic and done a couple of media interviews, I’m quickly starting to be typecast. I haven’t really made it my mission to be “that guy who criticizes the pope.” The discussion is valid, and it needs to be had, but nuance is so lost in soundbites and short interviews. Further, my credibility as a commentator (I’m a “Catholic Blogger”, after all, and that’s about the only thing you could put on the chyron to give context) isn’t really much to stand on to a larger audience.
This is a grassroots conversation, I think. It’s happening on Facebook, in comment boxes, at friends and family get-togethers.
This blog was, for quite some time, not simply a repository of Catholic commentary critical of the papacy and the Modernist virus that spreads through the Church like spiritual Ebola, causing the Mystical Body of Christ to hemorrhage uncontrollably. I had other interests. I wrote about other things. I wanted to keep it that way.
But this was the thing. It was the thing that kept coming back. And since I’ve started posting on these topics, my traffic has skyrocketed. I’ve had over a hundred thousand pageviews in the past 60 days. I’ve never had a top Catholic blog. This place is literally where I publish anything I want to talk about that has no other outlet. I have posts about the paleo diet, barefoot shoes, social media platforms, my opinions on corporate communications strategy, and my little science fiction writing projects. None of those generated interest like this. I’ve heard from so many people, gotten so much encouragement (and no small amount of hate), and received lots of emails from people who want to speak up, but can’t, because they’re trapped in jobs that require them to toe the Catholic line. They ask me, “Please, keep writing what you’re writing. We need this out there. This conversation needs to happen.”
The level of interest in these posts tell me that people are worried about where the Church is going. That much is clear. Even people who want to pretend like they’re not. And I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past year, since this all started. Something isn’t clicking. The nature of what I’m doing here is essentially critical. I’m not building up, I’m tearing down. And that’s not good enough.
I’ve been feeling called to do something more. Something inherently positive and productive in nature. The criticism of error that I and others on the Internet offer serves a purpose, and it’s needed. But if it becomes our whole focus, what are we doing? We’re just having an argument about whether the titanic is sinking while the icy waters rise above the deck. And we’re inviting a tendency to become cynical and off-putting. We need to do better. We need to offer more.
So I’m starting OnePeterFive, a resource aimed at building Catholics up in this time of crisis. OnePeterFive is the grassroots effort I was talking about, but with a different focus: to rebuild culture and restore the faith. The website will launch on August 1st, the feast of St. Peter in Chains. It will feature commentary from Catholics of all walks of life, lay people and religious alike. We will work together, looking at the problems we face in the Church and in the world, and try to re-establish a sense of the Christian community that must exist if we want reform. How many times in the last year have you heard (or asked) the question, “What do we do if things in the Church get really bad?”
There’s a storm coming. More and more of us are waking up, raising our eyes and seeing it gathering on the horizon. We have families, jobs, parishes, dioceses. We need to patch our roofs, check our foundations, and batten down our hatches. It’s like preparing for a hurricane.
There was a time in the Church where the average Catholic in the pews had no idea what the pope was saying in Rome. It had no impact on them. They had the sacraments, their pastor, their daily work, their family life, their devotions, and the Deposit of Faith. The pope was like a far away star in the night sky, shining ancient light from across an unfathomable distance. If he had a message for the faithful, by the time it reached them, there was no certainty that his star was still shining. He could be dead and gone, even if his message lived on. The Church was always bigger than any particular pope.
The immediacy of communication in the modern world forces us to confront messages in real time. If something troubling comes out of Rome, we know within hours, and the world at large has already begun forming an opinion of what was said, and whether it has changed what the Church teaches, or what we are supposed to believe.
This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. It’s incredibly disruptive.
It is my purpose to help my brethren in Christ to turn our eyes to the permanent things. We will draw strength from that which cannot change. From the Church’s timeless teachings and treasures. We will talk about the traditions and devotions we find beneficial in our lives and families. We will discuss those parishes and pastors who are doing things that are invigorating the faithful. We will examine those religious communities experiencing real growth in vocations and seek to understand what makes them special. We will talk to artists, musicians, writers, architects, and others living in the world about how their faith informs their work, and how we can come together to begin rebuilding culture drawn from a Catholic ethos. We will examine the form of liturgy and sacraments, and how these nourish the life of faith. We will seek to understand and promote the proper relationship between the Church and the world.
We will not run from the crisis. We will lock arms and lean into the storm, gathering everyone we can along the way. We will pray for each other. We will encourage each other. We will not face the darkness alone. We will build our fortifications to weather what comes. And when the land has been ravished, we will take what we have learned and use it to rebuild. Our forefathers in faith built Western civilization. We have an obligation not to cede it to the enemy. If we have no choice but to start again from within the ruins, that’s where we will begin, placing stone upon stone. We are the Church Militant. This is our battle. A battle that starts at home, together with our families in prayer. A battle that wields Our Lady’s rosary as a sword, and draws its nourishment from the Blessed Sacrament. We — you and I — were chosen by God to live in these days. It’s no accident. We each have a role to play.
The Church and her teachings are for all men, throughout all time. Our age and its toxic zeitgeist seems overpowering, but it has no particular advantage or control over what is divinely revealed and immutably true, only over those of us willing to be seduced. Modernism is a vile disease, and it will winnow Holy Mother Church in ways we have never seen, but it will not kill her, even if it scatters many of her children.
I cannot build something like this without God’s help, and yours. I am, in so many ways, an unsuitable instrument, but despite my fear, I am a willing one. I believe this is something He wants me to do, so I’m taking the plunge, despite not being able to see very far down the path ahead. I am so excited to bring together so many amazing people who have so much to offer and bring their unique gifts to bear for the good of the Church. I’m excited precisely because they offer so much that I can’t.
The advice of St. Peter to the early Christians applies to us as well:
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory. Likewise you that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you. To him be the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
If you would like to stay up to date on our progress, you can subscribe to our mailing list, join the 200+ other fans we already have on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. If you can, do all three! We’re building this from the ground up. We need all the support, prayers, and yes, financial assistance we can get. (For now, if you want to help out, hit my donate button on the sidebar. I will be paying the costs associated with starting the site directly until we grow big enough to take the next steps.) If you, or someone you know, should be writing for us, send me a note through my contact form. For the time being, this is an entirely volunteer effort, so I won’t be able to pay writers at this time. I sincerely hope we can change that in the not-too-distant future.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get started. See you at www.onepeterfive.com on August 1st!
Steve Skojec is a storyteller, writer, blogger, photographer, designer, and sci-fi fan. He is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. He lives in Arizona with his wife Jamie and six of their seven children.