Sunday, April 21, 2013

Why the Catholic Blogosphere matters

Being busy right now, I've not had that chance to keep up with things, though I appreciate the steadily increased traffic, and some new folks commenting.  Keep up the good work, reading my stuff can't be easy! Anyway, I was thinking on the post about 'three types of Catholics', and the comment that I needed to get out more.

Here's the thing about the blogosphere.  And any communication for that matter.  The post itself was an afterthought.  Basically it was setting up for a discussion on the rise in prominence of the Catholic blogosphere, and the ascension of Catholic bloggers into positions of instruction and leadership within the American Catholic community (can't speak for other countries).  The 'below the waistline/above the waistline' was just supposed to be a humorous way of saying conservative/liberal.  The Church, like Protestants and any others in Western culture, is divided by this new revolutionary approach to the universe.

My point wasn't that all Catholics fit neatly into one of these scientifically established categories   My point was that while you have the two big divisions that everyone knows, there is a new approach emerging, obviously common across the blogosphere.  That approach seems to see fealty to the Vatican as above all whenever convenient,  is often willing to play fast and loose with how Church teaching is interpreted, and tends to fall into that Internet pit of basing morality on lofty issues not connected with ourselves, not on how we as individuals should act in our own personal lives (including how we treat others on the Internet).

Certain trends seem to emerge: I could be a sexually active homosexual and who's to say?  But take the wrong position on what our policy should be in Iran and poof!, it's off to Hell I go (assuming Hell still exists, another debate on the Internet).  Voting?  Just because it appears the Bishops go with a 'you should vote' perspective, clever bloggers have been able to show that we shouldn't vote for either major party, or vote at all, because that jeopardizes our souls (that's what the Bishops really secretly meant to mean).  And so on.

The reaction across some Catholic blogs to the Boston bombings is a good example.   Of course a strong anti-Americanism has emerged in some of the Catholic blogosphere.  Sad to say, there have always been Catholics who see opposition to America as a fundamental Catholic teaching.  The blogosphere, gathering bad ideas like a locker room gathers fungus, has become a breeding ground for encouraging this.  Just watching some of the conversations shows what hollow, almost deathly rotten, spiritual and ethical life this blogosphere can encourage.  From focusing on the bombers to the detriment of the victims, to ensuring it's all a vast government conspiracy, to mocking the methods used to apprehend the perpetrators, to boldly declaring our righteousness for a willingness to forgive the bombers when they never did anything to most bloggers anyway, all show very, very dangerous forms of Christian morality and spirituality.

It's not unlike what one gets in little isolated churches in the back hills of Kentucky.  As I've said before, the Internet, far from broadening our horizons, can actually isolate us if we're not careful, and can become exclusive communities of incestuous thinking.

Now, all of this matters because, over the past couple years, there has been an effort by Catholic leaders to point Catholics to the glories of social media and the Internet, including the blogosphere.  Many of these bloggers have become little celebrities in their own rights.  And they are being endorsed by Catholic leaders. From Pope Benedict to the USCCB, there have been moves to get the Church up with the times.  This includes bringing many bloggers in as bona fide experts on Catholic Faith.  I've seen pictures, and read accounts, of these bloggers being given the high five by Bishops, Archbishops, even a Cardinal or two.  The UCCSB has included discussing ways to open up Catholics to the blogosphere in particular  and the Internet in general.

Either this means that the leaders are unaware of what these bloggers teach.  Which is a possibility  since sometimes various bloggers are quite different when they speak to a parish, conference or meeting with Church leaders.  Or they know exactly what they teach, and the Church is moving into a phase of spiritual living whereby the above qualities are exactly what the Church leaders advocate.  I hope not.  I hope it's the former.  But in any event, as Catholics are encouraged to go to the Internet, Social Media, the Blogosphere, and other forums, it's worth taking a long look at what is out there.  Not all are this way of course.  There are many great blogs that are inspiring and hit that balanced path that seems to reflect what the Church has actually taught.  But the bad are hardly the rare exception.  And sadly, not all were that way to begin with, but have become that way due to the increase of fans who cheer them on, encourage them to judge and declare Raca, and assure them that this 'let it happen to others as long as it doesn't happen to us' ethic is just what Jesus would have done.

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