Tone policing is the practice of calling people out for the tone they take when making an argument. This is most noticeable when difficult subjects are talked about, especially divisive ones that tug on the heartstrings or involve controversial subjects that conflict with a social sense of justice and fairness. In Catholic circles the best example of tone policing that I can come up with on the fly is that of Michael Voris and Church Militant, who are often criticized for their ‘tone.’ For year, Voris and company reported on the crises in the Church and correctly diagnosed at least part of the problem as having to do with sexual purity and conformity to Catholic morality, or the lack thereof.
As my social media presence has grown YouTube and Twitter I’ve suddenly been the target of tone policing by some. Most recently it was the case of Joseph Cardinal Tobin, who has been credibly accused of having a lover and housing him in his rectory for a period of two weeks, in absolute violation of his clerical vows and Catholic morality. That’s if the allegations are true. That’s not the point though. The point is this: tone policing is inappropriate and not supported by the long arc of Catholic history. Plenty of saints had strong words aimed at the sinners the Church confronted in their day. Just do a search of the words of St. Peter Damien, or St. John Vianney’s homilies, or the words of St. Paul in his various letters, and you’ll see what I mean. The use of strong-sounding language that doesn’t take people’s sensitivities and sensibilities into account is how groups like the SSPX and the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary have ended up on certain leftist hate group watch lists.
The core of the problem today regarding this is the issue of confusing charity with niceness. It’s Voris’s Church of Nice problem. Charity often requires us to speak in the strongest terms possible about the problems facing the Church today. If a prince of the Church is violating his vows and Catholic morality in plain sight and his superiors are not holding him to account, for the good of his soul and the souls of those he counsels he must be called out. I make no claim about knowing the state of his soul, nor do others. All I am saying is this: if he is in violation of his vows and Catholic morality then he needs to be corrected.
But perhaps I’m wrong. What do you think? I am always willing to be corrected.