Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Wading through the Cesspool: Caveat Lector

Earlier today, Vatican PR aide, Fr. Thomas Rosica  bemoaned the catholic Blogosphere as a place where hatred, venom, and vitriol could be witnessed from  the hand of writers and bloggers claiming to represent 'true' Catholicism.  " The character assassination on the Internet by those claiming to be Catholic and Christian has turned it into a graveyard of corpses strewn all around,” said Rosica, who assists the Vatican Press Office with English-speaking media, on May 11 as he delivered the keynote address at the Brooklyn Diocese’s observance of World Communications Day. “Often times the obsessed, scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering virtual guardians of faith or of liturgical practices are very disturbed, broken and angry individuals, who never found a platform or pulpit in real life and so resort to the Internet and become trolling pontiffs and holy executioners!” Rosica said"  http://www.cruxnow.com/cns/2016/05/17/vatican-pr-aide-warns-catholic-blogs-create-cesspool-of-hatred/

Truth be told, he's right.  To be sure, though, it is not limited to those who consider themselves conservative or traditionalist; progressives and liberals can be every bit as venomous.  The Catholic blogosphere has many wonderful and uplifting sights.  It also includes sites that are little more than a catholic TMZ where salacious gossip, unfounded speculation, and character assassination are commonplace.  Furthermore there are some Catholic sites that make the 5th concentric circle of hell look like the the Von Trapp family.  Anger seethes from some of these sites like lava from a seemingly ever active volcano.  The latter sites and blogs are the hellish little hovels of ideologues who feel slighted that the Church has not swerved whatever direction they think it should.  Both extremes dwell here.

These sites and blogs exists because there are audiences for them.  Some of the writers are men and women of faith who seek to utilize the internet as a place for forthright evangelization.  Some are writers who are publicly sorting out their own faith struggles.  Some are writers who are pitching a fit in the public forum; an electronic temper tantrum for which they want an audience.  All will claim to be Catholic.  Caveat Lector/ let the reader beware!

How do we distinguish?  That's the hard part.  Most everyone who knowingly goes into a Catholic website or blog has some questions or love for the Church.   Many are confused.  Heaven knows that the secular media knowingly and  gleefully feeds that confusion.  What did Pope Francis say today?  What did bishop so and so do?  Did that parish in Middleofnowhere, Nolandia really do that during Mass?  Inquiring minds want to know! At times, the catholic blogosphere can look like a laundry line full of dirty laundry strung up down the medium of an interstate highway.

I offer a simple rule of thumb to distinguish good from bad:

A) What is the intent of the writer?  Is he or she trying to invoke an anger which corresponds with the writer's anger?  Is he or she making a call to arms on behavior that has to be corrected?  Is the writer trying to lead you closer to faith and virtue or is the writer merely stirring up an emotional reaction?  A bad writer will rely on the latter.  A man seeking to sow division will use righteous indignation as their calling card.   They will go nowhere with it, other than gathering a electronic lynch mob.  If this is what the blog or site does, it may call itself catholic but is not.

B) Does the writer need personal enemies aside of the devil?  Ideologues love personal enemies, in fact, will define themselves by their personal enemies.  We can and should expose what is wrong, however it is attitudes we expose that are part of the human condition.  Exposing a person's sins, be they real, is called detraction.  It is mortally sinful.  Exposing sins which are false is calumny.  It is also mortally sinful. If a person is in sin, then prayers of conversion are the Catholic answer, not a public pillory.  Because one is writing  a blog does not exempt them from the teachings from Christ Himself on fraternal correction (Matthew 18:15-18).  When reading this, recall Jesus' attitude towards tax collectors and public sinners.

C)  Does the writer provoke to a deeper holiness of the reader?    A call to arms or a spiritual reflection should make the reader want to grow closer in relationship to Christ and those around us.  If a writer promotes tribes, with his tribe being the superior tribe...run...don't walk...run away from such a person.  What is written should promote virtue even when the topic is hard.

Gossip is gossip.  Attach whatever adjective you want to it.  It remains gossip.   What is written in any venue is not without moral value.  We need to judge wisely.

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