I responded to Brandon’s email and never received a reply. I’m convinced one day we will find a fossilized remains of a Lincoln-Douglas Debate and civilization with think it was an ad for Old Spice because it will seem ridiculous.
(See what I did there?)
Brandon,I don’t really have much to say in response as you haven’t addressed the majority of my concerns, either here or publicly.1. I vehemently disagree with both Catholic Speaker Month and Free the Word. My reasons for disagreeing have been aired publicly and privately. I refuse to lump in the “I’ve had conversations with…” and then talk about nameless faces, but you aren’t winning any friends by doing these things. You’ve created, by posting these things publicly, division within the evangelistic community of the Roman Catholic Church. That isn’t slander. Stick to the ministry that you do and stop pitting people against the USCCB, the Vatican, and Catholic Speakers against each other.2. I’m calling you out because despite all the good that you do, your actions with these two activities seem on the surface to be completely self-serving and narcissistic. Both of these activities show either deep cunning and knowledge of social media, which you claim to have, or complete stupidity. You are not stupid. My brother is a mechanical engineer and despite being mostly insane, he is quite brilliant. You need to understand how these actions come across. Maybe I’m jaded because I live in New York, but what I see is a passionate young man who is desperate to get attention for himself and what he does. It doesn’t matter where your income comes from, enhanced publicity in this arena gives you an aura of the expert and that gives you more street cred. Period. All the other good that you do is being overshadowed by this air of narcissism.3. Nothing I have said or written is untrue or unfair or unfounded because most of it is subjective. That is how your actions are coming across to me. You have loaded your original post with exaggerations and hyperbole (100’s of comments? Your post on Lumen Fidei had 95!) that are tools for manipulation of the audience. I’ve pointed these out. I’ve checked again and on your home page there are exactly ZERO links to the documents you so desperately need to get out to the public that they “cannot find”. The link to Lumen Fidei is buried in a post that talks about your downloads first. Those actions indicate someone who wants the focus on them… not the USCCB or the Vatican. Again… this isn’t slander, it just is what it is.4. My point was not that I wanted to print “as many copies as I liked”. It was that I was printing one copy for myself to read. It was perfectly acceptable. I didn’t distribute it. I found the documents easily and used them for study 13 years ago. I disagree with your interpretation of that rule because you are lumping in full scale publication and distribution with printing one copy for personal use. This is the like saying the person who burns a copy of a CD they purchased to play in their car is the same as the guy who is distributing those CD’s. This is you making a controversy where there isn’t one.Why am I so horrified at the concept of “Free the Word”? I’ve thought about this and had a conversation with a dear friend who is much smarter than me this morning over coffee. He agrees with me that there really isn’t a lack of access to these documents. Your own site, Strange Notions quotes liberally in a guest article from the encyclical and none of the readers seemed to have a problem reading it or commenting in a debate. (225 comments to date)1. It is a controversy that doesn’t actually exist, except among people who do not want to do the work BEFORE publication to get permission.2. CCnonDiv would simply allow people to do things like “Buy my book for $5 and I’ll include Lumen Fidei for FREE!” Yes… technically they are giving away the writings of the Church. But if you can’t see the problem in this, then I simply don’t know what to tell you. The Church has very specific rights and interests in dictating these things and if you fight to take those away you rob those rights from all authors. You write things like “haven’t we paid enough?” and “we shouldn’t have to pay for…” and you have no idea about these issues. I would agree with the USCCB that you have not immersed yourself into the issue enough. One year of work is nothing. You have no sense of how the Church or its structures work and in the end your petition is sound and fury, signifying nothing. In fact, you have mostly likely made things more difficult for yourself in the same way that Matt did with his emailing of the CCC without asking permission. The Church is full of humans with egos who take their authority seriously, never forget that.To sum up…Stop playing the victim card and grow a thicker skin. You put yourself out in the public and this type of criticism comes with the territory. If you respond, address the issues.Your actions and their consequences are contrary to your stated intent and that incongruity itself is an issue…I take issue with two things that you do and I happen to disagree vehemently and I will continue to state the case that you are wrong to continue to foster dissent and division. The fact that I have nothing to lose by speaking out most likely motivates a louder voice.I feel badly that you are hurt but I will not apologize for standing up for my conscience.
The next day, (five hours later) I had a response from Brandon. In keeping with his pattern of never addressing actual issues, but instead claiming every disagreement is a personal attack (Should have expected this) I received the following:
Todd,Thanks for the email! I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting a 3,500-word treatise. I read the whole thing, but unfortunately I don’t have time to respond point-by-point. However, I’d like to offer a few thoughts in reply:
- You continue to slander me, both privately and publicly. I’m not sure why you’ve chosen to attack me so viciously online, but I know you’re better than that. Even if you had good reason for disagreeing with me, you could do so without sinking to personal attacks and incessant sarcasm. It’s mean, potentially sinful, and simply unbecoming of any Catholic. I’ve received multiple messages from people questioning your tone and intentions, and it saddens me because I think you ask good questions. However, your substance is being drowned out by your tone and slander. People don’t take your points seriously because they seem little more than slanderous. I hope in the future you can treat me with at least little more charity and “speak the truth in love.” A good first step would not to assume, without basis, ignoble intentions.
- You’ve repeatedly accused me of starting this campaign to make money. Besides being a completely unevidenced assertion, and the ironic fact that changing the policy won’t make me any money, the accusation is clearly designed to attack my character. It’s a textbook case of an ad hominem attack (as most of your tweets have been), one that has nothing to do with the points I’m making. I should note, also, that:
- I work full time as a mechanical engineer and don’t rely on any money from writing, speaking, or my websites. You keep insinuating this online work is my primary source of income. It’s not.
- I don’t make any money off of my websites. In fact, they cost me hundreds of dollars each month.
- I pour all of the money I make from writing and speaking back into the websites and other evangelistic projects. I have away 100% of the royalties from my book, and I’ve given away almost 300 free books through my blog.
- Therefore, when you say things like “On the periphery, your enhanced publicity gives you more “street cred” and more advertising dollars” it’s simply wrong.
- Beyond money, you’ve accused me (and others) of seeking attention or desiring controversy. This is untrue, unfair, unfounded, unneeded, and again unbecoming of any Christian brother. You’re better than that.
- You admit to illegal activity. When you say, “I printed every Church document from 1930 on that I could find on the Vatican website”, you admit to violating the Church’s copyright policy. The Vatican’s ”Law on the Protection of Copyright and Related Rights”, Article 4, §3, clearly states: “Reproduction in another format is considered, to all legal intents and purposes, to be a new publication of the work.” Unless you get permission for that new publication, it violates the law. Now, I think you were doing a noble thing and that sort of thing should be encouraged, not restricted. We should be able to print these documents off and, if we choose, distribute them to others. But the fact that such activity is illegal exposes how misguided the current policy is. If the policy added a Creative Commons license, there would be no problem with you (and others) printing as many copies as you would like.I’m not sure why you seem to have a personal axe to grind with me, and why you continue to pound my character over the months. I don’t know what I’ve ever done to you, but if I’ve hurt or offended you in some way, I’m sorry. I’m just extremely saddened and disappointed in the way you’ve constantly attacked my name and reputation.I’ll pray for you and hopefully you will for me—Lord knows I need it!Grace and peace!
After voicing concerns on Twitter, and admittedly when I try to be funny it isn’t taken very well, Brandon asked that I email him my concerns.
I am including that email in its entirety below:
Brandon,Forgive the length of this email. Please feel free to publish as you see fit.To begin:I will try to be as succinct as possible.1. I believe that since your conversion in 2008 and most likely before you have been noble with truly admirable intentions. You most likely are like every person I have met in ministry either professionally or on a volunteer basis… they sincerely want what is best for the human soul. I believe this about Matt Warner as well.2. I believe that the concept of the “professional Catholic celebrity” is a dangerous road to walk. I have seen far too many fall to the sin of pride and destroy the faith of many in the process due to the fact that they cannot handle the idea that their particular “celebrity” has fallen away from the Church. In short… that celebrity replaces Christ and the Church.3. I am biased in that in 2010 I stopped doing ministry because I became terribly conflicted. That is the topic of another email, but one of the elements that is unique to Catholic ministry is this idea that no one is allowed to promote themselves. While I think it is a dangerous road, if you can make a living and support your family while doing it, more power to you. It is apparent from your website and the work that you have done that you know how to leverage the media to get your message out. I don’t have a problem with this. In fact, I would encourage you to be as transparent and honest about it as your bio is on your website.4. I still maintain that the “Catholic Speaker Month” was and is divisive because it pits people against each other. Good intentions or no… that is simply what happens because human beings are sinful and it is what we end up doing to ourselves when we focus on something other than Jesus.5. My hope with this email and even with all of my tweets is to get you to renounce this movement of “Free the Word” because it is also divisive, subversive, and unlikely to produce the desired result. (I will explain these points later) If in the end it just provokes a further discussion other than a simple “manifesto” which people provide free advertising for through tweets, then so be it. It’s the Holy Spirit’s Church and if tomorrow the USCCB and the Vatican decided to go with your idea, fantastic.When reading this… I went through your post point by point so some things are redundant because they are revealed later. I didn’t memorize the manifesto before I wrote this.To your points:Your title (Free the Word: Why the Church Needs to Release Her Teachings to the World) is deceptive. This paints a picture initially of the Vatican and the Bishops hold the teachings of the Church hostage, under lock and key. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I just went to the Vatican website and within four clicks of my thumb on my ipad mini was reading the new encyclical in iBooks.For free.In English.In the format the publishers dictated they wanted the work presented in.Who are these people that want to read the teachings of the Church who somehow can’t figure this out, yet will only read it if the “word is free”.It is supported by a quote from Pope Francis. I have a problem with this because the Pope did not say this in response to your concerns. You are misquoting him and applying it as you see fit, not within its original context and as intended. Furthermore, you are borrowing the celebrity and the likeability of this Pope to support a position that at this point he has not shown himself to support. This is like interviewing Tom Cruise about Mission Impossible and applying it to Jack Reacher. Yeah… it’s about movies, but it isn’t about Jack Reacher."Yes, but if only the Pope knew how this was handled he would not have a problem with what I was trying to do…"This is a dangerous thought pattern because it only states what you would do if you were pope, or if you were Pope Francis. People do this with Jesus all the time."The Jesus I read in the Gospels didn’t say anything about…."Moving on to the rest of the text:The problem: Right now, many of the faithful are being restricted from fully sharing Scripture and other teachings of the Church in the most effective ways. We need to be flooding the world with the lumen fidei—the light of faith—yet there are current Church policies preventing this from happening.This statement is a matter of opinion. I have been involved in Church ministry for most of my life and have never ever heard someone express this problem. “Many of the faithful”? What are the “many” examples of faithful Catholics who can’t get a Bible into someone’s hands if they need it? You use the phrase “most effective ways.” This is entirely a 1st world digital bias. And completely wrong since I was able to get a perfectly decent copy of the encyclical on my ipad in less than a minute. What are the “most effective ways”? This is your opinion and who is to say that you are right? The bishops are tasked with instructing the faithful. If they dictate that the current method of distributing texts is effective, then that is their call.You go on to give advice as to what the reader should do, including bombarding the USCCB and directing them to your website.What have you done to contact the USCCB, the Vatican, or even your local ordinary to see what can be done about changing this policy? Have you ever seen the Church change its practices because of grassroots action like this? Parishes closed all over Boston despite people literally living in the pews for months at a time. You have been to the Vatican for a media conference according to your bio. At what point do you think the hierarchy of the Church responds to this type of action? The entire idea of you presenting a digital petition (or 200 comments in your comment section) to the USCCB or the Vatican when your entire argument is that they do not understand the digital world seems on the surface to be self-defeating.On a tertiary level, what are you doing with the comment section? You now have an elevated hit count, much like what occurred with the Catholic Speaker Month. Earlier today when I visited your website, a massive life insurance ad splashed across my screen. The entire page is an advertisement for the ministry work that you do, the speaking, the writing. This was my argument with Catholic Speaker Month. If it was completely altruistic, you would remove it from your site and host it on a separate entity. On the periphery, your enhanced publicity gives you more “street cred” and more advertising dollars.If something looks like a duck and acts like a duck, it ain’t a goose.So what we have is a “controversy” that doesn’t exist. A solution that won’t solve anything. To me… that is straight out of the internet marketing handbook. It’s effective. Congratulations on that. The problem is that you aren’t selling internet marketing. You are selling ministry and that comes with a heavier responsibility.On to Lumen Fidei and the Mea Culpa (which wasn’t really a Mea Culpa)
I was particularly excited to share the document with others. I wanted to discuss it with friends and invite unbelievers to read it, too. To that end, I had an idea: when the encyclical was released, I’d convert it, free of charge, to other popular formats like Kindle, Nook, iPad, and more. That would help thousands of people immediately engage the text, many of whom would otherwise never check it out (like people who exclusively use e-readers).
Let’s break this down:1. It’s easy to share:Those little buttons at the top share it across social networks. You can also download a PDF which you could then email to someone. You can also simply send them the link.2. Free of charge… As it is you ARE profiting from the conversion through an increased hitcount, increased publicity, etc. You also encourage people to go to YOU rather than to the Vatican website. But perhaps you want that…3. That would help thousands to immediately engage the text, many of whom would otherwise never check it out… Thousands? I just downloaded this onto my iPad mini in a minute. My Kindle reads PDF files when I email them to my Kindle address. Who are these people that only use e-readers and don’t use computers? Who are these thousands of people chomping at the bit to get their hands on a papal encyclical but only through your channels? Why can you not simply post a link with a recommendation to “read this so we can discuss…”?This entire paragraph that you posted above is pure hogwash, not backed up with facts at all. You make sweeping generalizations in order to emotionally convince the reader that you have these massively great intentions and their lack of ability to free the texts is keeping thousands from crossing the Tiber. Maybe your intentions are good, but your exaggeration does you no good.You then go on to state how you put in a grand total of 7 minutes to convert the text to a format that was easier to read because the Vatican website didn’t do it fast enough for you. You claim to have received “hundreds” of comments and emails thanking you.To be blunt, I don’t believe this claim.Why?Because to whit your viral post on #FreetheWord received merely 225 comments. Technically that is a plural “hundreds” but I didn’t hear anything about these easy to read formats that were only available through your website so I find it hard to believe that you received the same amount of attention. I also do not believe that there were “hundreds” of people who a week ago would never have read the encyclical because they couldn’t navigate a computer, buy a copy, or wait a few days for the downloadable PDF.You go on to explain that you were wrong. Which is encouraging. Then you go on to explain that while you are apologizing, you really shouldn’t have to because you are not the problem. It’s the big bad hierarchy and administration that is suppressing the distribution of these documents!Question at this point: Why did you not contact the Vatican and the USCCB ahead of time to ask if you could do the conversion of the documents for them so that they could put the information on their websites? You have been to the Vatican for a media conference, surely you know someone who could post your work? What about the USCCB? Could you not help them with the 7 minutes of work that you did? You have testimonies from Bishops endorsing you on your website, surely they would be happy to have the work that you did posted at the USCCB?If you would have done this I would have taken your intentions a little more seriously.Except that you didn’t contact them ahead of time because you did not want the public going to any site for these resources other than your own.You were caught with your hand in the cookie jar using another source’s materials to promote your sites and the work that you do and now you want to change the rules so that you don’t have to apologize any more rather than working from within in order to help the Body of Christ. The worst part is that you are enlisting faithful Catholics to seemingly posture themselves against the Vatican and the Bishops in a public format.Again, this is divisive.You go on to quote Scripture and other documents (one wonders how you are able to do so with such prohibitive licensing) in an effort to support yourself, but these are simply quotes that you feel back you up.I think Dawn Eden has the most level head about this. Her post is excellent.You then talk about a generic “several Catholics” who were shut down because of this policy.You describe some situations and I really have to say that I don’t blame people for using source material without going through the proper channels. It’s hard to fill space, to be original, to provide something inspirational on a regular basis.Listen to the Catholic Channel on Sirius radio if you want an example of people who can’t fill space and be original. There are shows there that have no original thought whatsoever and can only fill space by reading the readings of the day, praying a rosary, etc. THAT IS NOT TO SAY THAT ANY OF THESE ARE BAD OR THAT THEY SHOULD NOT BE SHARED. What I am saying as an author myself is that it becomes to easy as a Catholic in ministry to claim that we are authors and giving away or selling something creative when most of the time it is a rehash or a direct copy of something that came before.For example, you cite what Jeff Miller was doing. As evangelization that is great. As an author that horrifies me.Why?Look at your quote from Pope Francis earlier. You took something he said and applied it to something he wasn’t talking about. You took it out of context to reinforce and endorse YOUR argument.That is simply wrong.I don’t care if everyone does it. I don’t even care if I have done it in the past. If I did then I was wrong. The Church as the teacher and the Pope as the author of those homilies and audiences has the right to dictate the context of how that information and literature is delivered and in what format.You don’t have that right except over your own creation.It is the duty of the Bishops to take the “Word” and the “Spirit” and oversee those treasures and protect them and utilize them to build the Kingdom of God.Can you imagine the Theology of the Body being interspersed with erotica and there being no recourse because “the Word is free!”?What about liturgical abuses utilizing the liturgical texts?The problem with “unleash all of this on the world and see where it lands because it will all work out in the end” is that this has never been how the Church has functioned. Maybe it will one day but that is for the Church to determine.Mark Shea is fond of saying the following in regards to increased lax moral laws regarding sexuality:"What could it hurt always becomes how were we supposed to know?"All I hear in this argument is “what could it hurt?”You seem to be more concerned with people doing whatever they want without any need to ask permission rather than understanding that even in obedience to things we may not agree with or understand, God works for our salvation.When someone advertises that they have their versions of Church documents, it grants them certain authority that they do not have. This may be my biggest beef with the entire movement. When Matt wanted to share the CCC by email for a year, did anyone think that Matt was officially sanctioned by the Church to do so and that this was a recommended method for teaching from the Catechism? The authority is implied. When there is a clear separation, when someone is able to say, “I think you should read this and you can find it at this site or in this publication, now go read it…” there is no mistake about who the authority is.To your questions:Q1: The Church makes money off her publications and the licenses to use them. Maybe Catholic publishers need to address this with the Bishops. I don’t know enough about Catholic publishing or the inner workings of the Bishops to say. I don’t presume to know enough to say that it should be free or cost “x”.Q2: This I agree with.Q3: There IS free and open access to Church teaching. I am interested to know at what point you think is enough to be “on the hook” for. What led you to that point? This is dangerous territory to start drawing hard lines.Q4: Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it is impossible. That may be the point of this entire thread. Stop being lazy and jump through the hoops everyone else has to. If you don’t like it, work to change it without some internet uprising. You cannot on one hand say that the USCCB and the Vatican are holding the Word of God prison while at the same time say you respect their authority.Q5: You worked on this “problem” for one year and then you decided to take it public? The Church has been around for 2000 years. It’s slow. Get VERY used to it.Q6: I’m not a Canon lawyer and neither are you.Q7: If there are all these talents “in” the Church then why are they not offering these things through the source websites? There is the Pope App. iMissal. iBreviary. I have the Ignatius RSV on my Kindle. I tend to think that the reason these things are “suppressed” is that either the authors have not shown the need sufficiently to the USCCB and the Vatican or they simply do not want to work within those structures. I can’t speak for the Bishops, but the message that I am getting from this is that they want the documents to be unified in their source site. Maybe the role of evangelization is not to bring the water, but to lead people to the well. Your subjective opinion on the quality of the well is immaterial.Q8: In the year 2000 in a fit of rage against the environment, I printed every Church document from 1930 on that I could find on the Vatican website and put them in 3-ring binders in my office. It was for my personal use. Vistors to my office could freely read them. I had no problem doing this. I think your interpretation of this (printing is another format even for personal use) is wrong. I don’t think that is the issue at stake here either.Q9: Fr. Z’s audio version is the best argument that you have. It is a great one. If you could expand on this inconsistency and try to find some sort of leveraged point, that may work for your argument as you deal with the hierarchy from the inside. In regards to Matt, I don’t know what your experience is, but mine is that as soon as you seek to do things “outside” the structure with no regard for how the structure works, it is difficult to be labeled anything other than a rabble rouser and problem child. It’s political. It really sucks when it happens to you. Ask permission first next time.Q10: Because paying for something keeps people honest. I don’t know why that is, but when someone pays for the right to do or use something, it just seems to mean more.Q11: You get closer to the point here and you may not realize it. First, there may not be a problem. You may think there is, but in the minds of those who “pull the strings” there isn’t. If they don’t think there is a problem, then there isn’t a problem. If you “haven’t studied the issue at length”, then that is a hint to shut up and study it to find out what is really going on. It may simply be an issue that they don’t trust YOU or the other evangelists to be faithful to the texts.Q12: Stop with the hyperbole. Hundreds becomes several within one sentence. Then they aren’t really restricted, they are just using non-Catholic texts. What you set up here is the idea that if only the Word was Free THEN it would go viral! You cite a protestant Bible app as an example. I keep hearing about how Protestants know THIS or THAT better than Catholics. I’m not impressedThis is why… Catholics have been around for 2000 years and at the end of the day, it is the Holy Spirit’s Church. An app isn’t changing that.ConclusionYou wax poetical about the unbelief and then dangle the carrot that the solution is MORE TEACHING and MORE WORDS.I don’t buy that.The solution is to love each person around you with the sacrificial love of Christ in such a way that they want what you have. Then point them to Jesus.A person can be brought to Christ without reading a dang thing. And statistically, no one really reads anyway.http://nces.ed.gov/pubs93/93275.pdfIf you read this far then you get a bonus sticker.