A few days ago I did a survey of the Best Catholic Aggregator Sites, and concluded that they're all seriously deficient, but that Marrow, if it gets its act together, has more promise than any of them. As a companion to this, I'd like to remark on some of the Catholic writers on the internet whose work I find most valuable. Hopefully this list will be more useful than the last. Because I have a bit more to say about some of these than I did about the Aggregators, this list will take the form of a series.
Right now, and for much of the past year, the writer I have been most impressed with is Fr. John Hunwicke (the "w" is silent, I'm told), who keeps a blog entitled "Fr. Hunwicke's Mutual Enrichment". Fr. Hunwicke's blog has some of the ugliest web design I've seen. It's orange, the text is cramped, and he does not use hyperlinks. That said, I think he is probably the best. The best what? The best consistent writer of web-based Catholic reflections and analysis today.
Fr. Hunwicke's work combines several attributes that make him uniquely perfect (to my knowledge). First, he keeps a cheerful and optimistically aloof perspective on things. Elsewhere in the traditionalist Catholic web, one is made to feel like a rain of fire is breaking out over the earth every half hour or so. Not so with Fr. Hunwicke.
Secondly, there's the matter of his learnedness. Among American Catholics there is a fairly standard cursus which one follows in one's theological self-education (and most American Catholic traditionalists seem to be self-educated). This cursus includes on average a good deal of the JPII Catechism, some loose familiarity with the Fathers (especially Augustine), a bit of St. Thomas, a bit of Carmelite mysticism, and a smattering of anecdotes about major saints and historical figures. The knowledge of the average self-educated Catholic has certain advantages, but what it lacks above all is a sense of the historical color or depth of the tradition. If you go to one of these people to hear what they have to say, what you receive will be a reflection of what they've learned. And if you yourself have also learned many of the same sort of things, there will be a lot of redundant communication between author and reader. (I often imagine that my own blog suffers from that very fault.)
Fr. Hunwicke is a talented latinist (so far as I, an utterly puerile latinist, can tell). He knows a great deal about the liturgical history of the Church. He has an evident love of learning, and a talent for inserting his learning into what he writes. For someone who also loves learning, and knows next to nothing compared to this man, reading his blog is something like being presented regularly with little gift boxes of sweets. Each post is likely to contain a variety of surprising little, unanticipated delights.
Fr. Hunwicke's third perfection, though, is the most important, since there are no doubt many other intelligent and good spirited writers out there. Fr. Hunwicke has an excellent doctrinal compass (or "sensus fidei" as I think we're supposed to call it). He is so cheerfully orthodox and so unfazed by the drama and ideological suspicion of the times, that one almost forgets how wonderful it is that he doesn't ever (God preserve him) seem to stray from catholic truth.
Forgive me for gushing.
Anyway, I will offer two links to particular items by Fr. Hunwicke.
First, here is my favorite blog post of his to date.
Second, here is a wonderful series of conferences he did for a group of monks earlier this year.
I hope to continue with more good writers tomorrow.