Denver, Colo., Sep 25, 2016 / 02:45 am America/Denver (CNA).
If you’re a Catholic on Facebook, or the internet in general, chances are he has made you laugh. Or he’s made you angry.
If he’s done his job the way he wants, he’s done both.
We had a chance to talk to the man, the myth, the legend behind the Catholic satire site, Eye of the Tiber. Catholic News Agency had a chance to sit down with the Californian writer and professional smart aleck to talk inspiration, excommunication (well, his nightmares of it), and of course all those people who think it’s actual news.
1: What first inspired you to start writing Eye of the Tiber?
I've loved satire for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, anyone who loves the Church recognizes that satire, like most everything else that's good in this world, like literature, poetry, music, the sciences and so on has been secularized. Heck, even Judeo-Christian symbols like the rainbow and the thunderbolt were taken by those typically most hostile to the Church. The rainbow, of course, represents God's covenant with Noah. The world now sees it as a symbol representing man's covenant with another man. The thunderbolt, I understand, never really represented anything for the Church, but I kinda wish it did, because thunderbolts are pretty awesome, and I'd love an excuse to get one of them tattooed on me.
Where the heck was I? Ah yes, what inspired me? Love for the Church and love for good satire. The Onion is wonderful. Their ability to poke fun and to reveal truths with sometimes subtle, sometimes absurd headlines is breathtaking. But there were so many times I thought, and still do think, that they could tone down the sacrilege a notch or ten. And so, cue light bulb, and the idea of a Catholic satire site was born.
2: What is your goal for Eye of the Tiber?
To piss off every Catholic at least once. If you're not happy with that answer, please delete and insert this: to shed light on the absurdity of some of the things going on in the Church while giving people an opportunity to laugh at themselves. And also not getting excommunicated. You think the last part's a joke, but it's not. I've literally had nightmares of being excommunicated because of an article. But the nightmare's always followed by a happy dream about me being handcuffed and led to a tribunal during the Spanish Inquisition, and realizing that Toquemada is the Grand Inquisitor for my case, and he sets me free because Torqumada wasn't as bad as he's been made out to be.
Anyhow, that's my goal for EOTT. Not the weird dream part per se, but letting readers know about random Catholic facts that I find interesting, while poking fun on important things like liturgical dancing and the other 7 Deadly Sins.
3: Are you a one-man team? Do you take submissions?
I've written most of the articles on the site. I've had a couple submissions from readers, and about ten to fifteen from friends. I don't really accept articles from readers anymore because I found it difficult to deny someone when I didn't think their article was a good fit for the site. It always made me feel bad to say no. It especially made me feel bad when that one guy I denied told me to shove it. I didn't want to shove it, that's the thing. I wasn't telling him that it wasn't funny...just that it simply wasn't a good fit. I remember that I had had a long work week, and I was tired and had so many things going on, and shoving it was seriously the last thing on my mind. So I didn't. I just decided that I'd no longer take submissions.
4. Where does your inspiration for articles come from?
5. When you're not running EOTT, what do you do?
I love hanging out with my family. I love reading, writing, praying, and working out. That last part was a lie. I hate working out. I have no idea what I was trying to pull off with that lie.
6. What has been the most popular EOTT article?
Peter Jackson Announces Plans For 72-Part Movie Series of the Silmarillion is the most popular EOTT article written. It got like 100k+ Facebook likes, 600+ Twitter reposts or whatever you call them, and a bunch of other relatively impressive stats as well. Actually, there was a while there where if you googled "Silmarillion" it was the top post in Google News. That was kinda awesome.
Best part about the article, though, is that it wasn't even written by me. It was written by a priest friend, Fr. Andy Younan (Twitter: @Jonah_3001). The thing with many of these articles, as Fr. Andy (Twitter: @Jonah_3001) would agree with is that the ones you think are gold will typically suck and the ones you think will suck, will typically turn gold. It's an odd thing that neither I (Twitter: @SCNaoum), nor Fr. Andy (Twitter: @Jonah_3001) can figure out. So if you ever see an article that just absolutely sucks, it's because I (Twitter: @SCNaoum) thought it was genius. Don't be frustrated. It was an honest mistake.
7. Which EOTT article has cause the most controversy?
I can't remember exactly which article caused the most controversy, but I know that the ones written about the Mass typically get the most heated. If I write an article titled, Report: Some 2nd Century Roman Christians Hated Latin Mass Because It Was Said In The Vernacular, I know I'm gonna piss off liturgical traditionalists. If I write one titled, Clown At Circus Mass Reprimanded For Honking Sanctus Horn At Wrong Part Of Consecration, I know it's gonna piss off whatever the complete opposite of a liturgical traditionalist is. I think they're called Protestants, actually.
8. How often do people think EOTT is a real news source?
Very often. [Awkward silence]. Is there a follow up to the question?
9. How can satire speak truth in ways that news sources or other media cannot?
Satire is an interesting art form. It's not only the greatest form of passive aggression there is, but it is, at the same time, the most direct form of criticism and examination. While proper journalism takes the issue at hand and attempts to reveal the fact of the matter, proper satire takes that very same matter assumed to be factual, beats it to a pulp, dissects it, finds the inaccuracy in what the media is reporting, siphons off the inaccuracy, beats it to a pulp once more just for good measure, waterboards it to make sure it has all the details, and represents it in a way so that the average reader can truly understand the fact of the matter without the spin. It's in this way that satire is passive aggressive and at the same time direct. It takes a round about way of delivering direct truths. You know what I'm saying? Good, cause I sure as heck don't.
10. What is your favorite liturgical dance?
My top three are The Catholic Carlton, Walk Like an Egyptian Coptic, and of course The Cha Cha Slide, Stand, Sit, Stand, Kneel.
This article was originally published Sept. 4, 2015.