Sunday, August 21, 2011

Catholics in the Combox: Introductory Post

Sometimes the combox is like one giant pillow fight, and every now and then a fist lands in someone's kisser
Source: Pillow Fight in New York

I don't know about some of you, but it just seems like we Catholics in the new media and social media are always in one big pillow fight (or mosh pit).   I began to reflect on how we engage one another online and landed in the Summa for the first time in my life (here are some pretty good notes on how to read the Summa).  I got hooked.  I also got humbled.  Perhaps some day I'll be a Thomist; today I'm merely a new fan of the Angelic Doctor.  For now, I'd like to encourage you to join me on a journey to see what we can apply from his teachings, and the teachings of other saints and theologians, to our online activity.

I'd like to attribute this useful photo, so if someone knows the origin
please let me know.

This post series is not just for comboxers.  It's for bloggers, Facebookers, Tweeters, podcasters, vidcasters, and whatever else becomes popular in the next few minutes.  This is the first post in the, "Catholics in the Combox" series.  I hope to do one per week and I hope you will follow along and perhaps even share it with others.

Focus on behaviors  - not people, groups, sub-cultures, or organizations!

I want to spark discussion, but not just any kind of discussion.  I think one of the things that really gets us going is that we have lost the art of debating points and principles and are debating people.  We are getting quite personal in the process, expecting everyone to understand why we feel the way we do.   For that reason, this new post series I am doing will not point to people -  not even veiled.  The post series is strictly about behaviors.  Every one of us probably engages in these at various times without even realizing it, so there is no need to attach something to someone else.  Look inward as good Christians are suppose to do.   Therefore, in the combox for this series, I will not accept any comment which discusses people, groups, organizations or sub-cultures (trad, charismatic, progressive).  We aren't going to talk about specific events, news, or topics (liturgy, private revelations, etc.).  Rather, the focus must be on behaviors in general. 

Are we violating the 5th and 8th Commandments?

Many would agree that online, and perhaps offline, the 8th Commandment is being violated quite frequently.  I don't think it's willful as much as it is a manifestation of the lack of depth in our understanding of these things.  I wonder how many realize that there may also be violations of the 5th Commandment (see an Examination of Conscience based on the 10 Commandments here)?

Each post will feature a topic.  Here are just a few topics out of probably well over a dozen that are forthcoming:

  • Catholics in the Combox: Anger and Righteous Anger
  • Catholics in the Combox: Rash Judgment
  • Catholics in the Combox: Detraction

We will look closer at some other things that are applicable, as well, mainly in the area of the virtues which I think are not well understood.

Practicing the virtues moderates effects of our fallen nature

For those of us born after a certain year, we weren't really taught about the virtues and what kind of role they play in countering vices.  For those born prior to a certain year, those things may have been taught, but then not reinforced for the past 40 or 50 years.  They were further eroded within our culture which seems to value irreverence towards fellow humans amidst conflict than virtue.  Snark draws cheers and it becomes a contest to see who can tell someone else off the best.  We've lost them, and we cannot divorce our zeal for truth from them.  Catholicism is not just about facts and drilling them into others.  It's about passing along those facts in ways that others will best receive them.  This means knowing something about the various audiences.  Without practicing all of the virtues, we are somewhat feeble in our attempts to win the hearts of others to Christ.  Unchecked zeal is like a washing machine with all the clothes on one side.  It rocks and knocks out of control until you stop it and if you don't get there in time it will "walk" far enough away from the wall to yank the hoses off leaving behind one big mess.

If we truly believe that God's grace working in us is what changes hearts, then we must work towards a level of purity in ourselves that will maximize the graces we have to use in winning others.  Often times, changing hearts is like growing crops.  You prepare the soil, plant the seed, you water, and you wait.  There are many other stages that come before we get to see it all come to fruition.  Agitate the soil to aggresively and you kill the seedling.  Fail to water it and you get the same result.  It's a balancing act.  The most important thing is - patience.

I must admit that in the past few weeks that I've had my nose in the Summa, I've been quite humbled.  I've also been prompted to hit the confessional, perhaps more than once as I began to understand  certain things that have been largely hidden from my understanding.   This whole blogpost series is an attempt to get each of us to look inward, not at all those other people. We can't change them; we can only change ourselves. We can influence others in good ways or bad ways.  How we communicate our position has everything to do with how others will receive it.  I once had a math teacher who thought everyone who asked her questions wasn't paying attention.  I liked math, but her constant condescension whenever I asked for help or struggled with something made me hate it.   Years later, figuring I could never do algebra, I got a good teacher who was patient and if I didn't understand it one way, would find several other ways to explain the same thing.  He did not presume to judge my lack of understanding in the worst possible light and his patience payed off.  I discovered I was pretty good at math and enjoyed it.

Your Help Needed

I don't have all the answers.  I'm as prone to human fallen nature as the rest of you.  I want to learn and that is part of what this is about.  I need all of you to contribute to the discussion. When I discuss a certain topic I hope you will share your favorite quotes from various saints and theologians who have something to offer on the subject.  I'll bring St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Ambrose, St. Alphonsus, St. Francis de Sales, Fr. John Hardon, SJ and a few others to the party.  I'm hoping you will be able to find other quotes from these and others so that when people find this post series, they will have much more to feed on from the combox than in the body of my post. 

I'm looking forward to putting our heads together and appealing to the saints to help us raise the bar in how we discuss all things Catholic on the web, and in person.   I'm hoping to hear from lay people, as well as from clerics, religious, philosophers, theologians and others.  For those who are not into commenting, you can send me an email and specify if it is just for me (leads, points, etc.) or if it is ok to post and how you want it signed. Send it to

The ultimate goal is to raise the bar in how we interact with one another online.  As Catholics, we are on display for the world to see.  Will they see us engaging in discourse in ways that are mindful of everyone's dignity?

Does this sound like a worthy pursuit to you?

I'll try to get my first post ready for next week. I'm not going to pre-announce the topic. I'll let that be a surprise (read that, I'm still thinking about what should come first). 

EDIT: Here is the first topic post:  01 Rash Judgment

This Combox

For now, in this combox, perhaps you can tell me what behaviors you find problematic in new media and social media.  Ah-ah-ah... but describe behaviors without referring to any person, group, sub-culture or organization!  That's the challenge!!!  Humor is welcome, labels and name-calling are not.  Let's not open rabbit holes up by bringing in side topics that are prone to side-track the whole discussion.  If you don't see your comment posted within a few hours, you can email me and ask about it. 

One more thing.  Don't just think before you post; pray before you post.  Really! Say a Hail Mary or some other appropriate prayer.


I am opening up the anonymous option because not everyone wants to use an Open ID.  Please note, that if you use the anonymous option, the first thing you should do is sign your post with your name or a pseudonym, then proceed above that, to write your thoughts (this way you won't forget).  Hopefully, you can appreciate how difficult it is to respond to 15 different people all using "Anonymous". 

UPDATE: Here are my guidelines and rules for posting in the series.  Please read the post before contributing in future, Catholics in the Combox, series.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!
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