Thursday, September 28, 2006

Fr. Guy Sylvester on Catholic Blogging

Some of the other Catholic bloggers are much better at keeping up with the latest news stories. Since I don't have the time or inclination to report and comment on every current event, especially the most reported and discussed, I refer you American Papist and Domenico Bettinelli Jr, among others you may find in my sidebar.

Other interesting commentators you may find include Fr. Guy Sylvester, whose profile reads as follows:

A Roman Catholic priest involved in the research, design and artwork for ecclesiastical coats of arms for over two decades. Interested in all kinds of heraldry, his area of expertise is Roman Catholic heraldry. He is a Fellow of the American College of Heraldry and on the Committee on Heraldry of the NY Genealogical & Biographical Society. He is also a member of several other heraldic societies and organizations. In addition, he has worked for over 15 years in the field of liturgical study and formation.

In particular, there is a post all of us Catholic bloggers should read. I'll start you out here....

You know there's a lot out there in the blogosphere. More interestingly, there is an awful lot out there about the Church. Some blogs are more philosophical and others focus on matters theological. But all have that same quality in common that is true for any blog: that the opinions of the blogger count more than anyone else's. That is, after all, one of the fun things about having a blog. You get to share your thoughts, however deep or shallow with everyone in the world. If people are going to take the time to read then they must care somewhat about what you have to say. But, bloggers also need to beware. Lots of people like trolling the blogosphere for fun. It is a form of entertainment. They don't take it too seriously and neither should the blogger him/herself. The whole point of blogs is that they are for anyone, not just the experts. Having a blog doesn't suddenly lend more credence to your thoughts and ideas. In fact, from one perspective, given the proliferance of blogs in recent years it may even detract from your credibility.

Continue reading Guy Sylvester....

His blog is entitled Shouts in the Piazza

Integrity and Uprightness in Catholic Blogging

We could really use priests to discuss - generically and without finger pointing - some of the things they see in Catholic blogging circles which fly in the face of Christian charity, the CCC, and the ten commandments. We are a poorly catechized generation, and sometimes it is not easy to identify with the old definitions of certain sins, as they apply to our electronic world. I hope I can encourage any priests reading this blog to take up this cause to raise the bar in the "cyber parish" by making some posts periodically to address this issue.

If we are to imitate Christ, there are certain words and actions, including judgments cast publicly on others in what may possibly constitute at the least detraction, and at the worst calumny. In an era of gossip TV, gossip magazines, and gossip cloaked as "news", we need to understand how these two sins may look today in Catholic blogging without singling anyone out. Any one of us may have engaged in these things without even realizing it.

God created those humans who adhere to Church teaching and the Commandments, as well as those who astrange themselves from either or both. He created those who were born into other faiths and religions. All humans have a right to dignity - even the worst offenders.

In this Catholic blogger's opinion, it is fine to attack a person's position, with charity and for the sake of truth - in fact, we are sometimes obligated to do so when we see errors, or injustice. However, it is never ok to attack an individual through name calling and other unchristian behaviors as I've seen on a few well traveled blogs. Many Catholic bloggers are careful to not cross that line, while others seem oblivious to the line. I can only pray that we all stop and reflect about what we write when it concerns others and to be mindful, that in all things there must be charity.

Some interpret the actions of anyone who disagrees with their opinions, regardless of how charitable or skillful a debate is argued, as uncharitable. Then again, it is not much different than those who get up and leave because a priest decides to give a real homily instead of one that is full of banalities. Truth sometimes hurts.

A Testimonial and a Lesson Learned

Over a year ago, I had been participating in a forum with other Catholics when I berated a particular bishop, publicly, using scandalous information about him that I had found on the internet that I assumed to be true. A young man "hit me over the head" in less than charitable fashion, and my defenses went up. We argued back and forth for about a week as he persistently threw the Catechism in my face with regards to detraction and calumny. I got so angry at him and wanted to be right. I took a one month break and began to study the CCC and what he kept throwing at me - admittedly, setting out to prove him wrong, only to find he was right. Furthermore, I discovered that the information I passed along was FALSE. I had engaged in detraction when I spread this information about that bishop. That is, I assumed as true, the moral fault of another - the particular bishop - without sufficient cause (second hand, subjective information - or, gossip), and I conveyed that same information to others. With detraction, it does not matter if the information is true or untrue. Calumny is passing along a known falsehood. It is grave matter,nonetheless (corrections to these distinctions are welcome).

Example: If you learn the neighbor on your left is sleeping with an associate at work, you do not have a right to pass that information on to the neighbor on your right. Approaching the offender would be proper, and possibly that person's spouse, but not some third party who has no stake in the matter. That would be detraction: Telling a true moral fault of someone to another person. But detraction does not need to involve true moral fault. Just passing along something you believe to be true, even if it may be false, in such a manner can also be detraction. It's one thing to report a crime to the police, or for a child to tell a parent about another who is doing something that could endanger himself or others.

As much as that man angered me with his uncharitable approach, I finally reconciled with the notion that my anger was the result of my own imperfections and faults. Perhaps his uncharitable approach was less about bad intent on his part (giving him the benefit of the doubt as we should), than it was about lack of communication skill (read that, he did the best he could given his level of communication skill). The question for me then became, what to do about the anger? It became clear that I was not justified in my anger, especially after discovering he was the one who was correct. There was only one thing left - confession. This then led to one grace that came in useful, while not required - the courage to apologize to the man, and to tell him he was right and I was wrong. He turned me on to the CCC by challenging my actions. I thanked him through a personal email and he responded with much kindness.

We never know how God may speak to us. Hopefully, he will speak to some of us through other bloggers who encourage us to remain Catholic in our words and actions on the internet. Otherwise we become nothing more than pharisees with keyboards.