To clarify what I mean by Catholic Ghetto ...
- There are some Catholic children's television programs that are literally un-watchable. But Catholic moms force their homeschooled Catholic kids to watch them and be satisfied with them because they're orthodox and there's no Catholic alternative.
- There are Catholic audio CDs of orthodox Catholic talks where the quality of the recording is so bad it's sometimes impossible to make out what's being said. Many of these talks will simply end in mid-sentence, leaving the listener hanging. But they're distributed free, so who can complain?
- Every college on the Cardinal Newman Society Best Catholic Colleges in North America list is apparently theologically orthodox, but some of these colleges are so obscure, remote and understaffed that they can hardly be called good colleges.
- I've been to a Catholic family retreat center that is so poorly maintained (leaking roofs, chipping paint, dingy buildings) that one wonders how families can enduring staying there; there's also a creepy cult-like atmosphere among the counselors and staff. The patrons gladly put up with this and are thankful to be there.
- Some Catholic novels are hailed as brilliant by a very narrow but devoted group of readers. Such novels are at best pretty good and at worst pretty awful; some even contain moments of brilliance. But they are a far cry from the Catholic novels of a generation or two or three ago - O'Connor, Chesterton, Belloc, Waugh and even Greene could write and write well enough to be appreciated by a wide and secular audience. Modern Catholic writers write generally mediocre but always orthodox works which only a very small fan base appreciates.
All of these things are examples of an economic phenomenon as well as a spiritual one.
There's only a very small market for self-consciously orthodox products; consequently producers can't afford to invest much time or money into producing for this market, and the market can't afford to pay for true quality in the products they wish to consume. After a while, the vicious cycle does its work and the market forgets what quality is and becomes happy with the rats and cockroaches the slumlord provides for them.
But in no case would normal people who live in the real world patronize or appreciate the Catholic Ghetto.
So when we become inured to living in it, and when we start to shelter it defensively as a protective bubble, we do ourselves and the normal people living in the real world great harm.