Clarity and Charity: the Challenge of Blogging While Catholic
You are excused for wondering what the vagaries of Internet porn have to do with Catholic clarity or charity, but I use this extreme example in order to demonstrate something very common to the internet, which is the unintentional (and paradoxical) walling-in of our hearts and minds in a medium so vast, and how quickly the constricting of our views can diminish charity.
If you can convince yourself that the world is full of all the best sorts of people (the ones who read your blog) and that these best people all think the way you think, then you have created an illusion that there is an "us" and a "them"—the people like you are the GOOD Catholics, who accept every teaching unquestioningly and therefore feel entitled to cry "shame" at the rest of us, or they are the SMART Catholics who wouldn't dream of accepting anything out of Rome without first deconstructing it through the prism of the era; or they are the TOLERANT Catholics who will put up with any idea, as long as it is theirs, or they are the TRUE Catholics, who think they can right every wrong if they can just smack the bishops back into line with a sword of righteousness.
"They" are all of us. Catholicism contains fractious multitudes, and always has.
In a sense the church is as wide and deep as the Internet, but wisely constrained by the boundaries of 2000 years of well-wrought reason, and the Truth of Christ, which overcomes all of our illusions and pretenses.
Understanding that, bloggers and social media entrepreneurs have a duty to avoid the sort of narrowness of thought that is endemic to the echo chamber; we are fortunate to have a pope who has proved himself, in his book-length interviews with Peter Seewald and elsewhere, to be willing to put any idea throughout the wringer of Catholic analysis, because he is confident that a thorough discussion, rooted on the truth of Christ, will always lead us to the ends of Catholic orthodoxy, and so Pope Benedict is fearless and open, and in Christ's truth, we can afford to be, too!
We do nothing to speed glory to the Body of Christ if we are selective toward whom we will and will not reach out.
We have no business fostering factions and enemies among ourselves, and I say this while admitting fully to my own failings.
Let's face it, when the ego is ignited and the passions are galloping, we all too easily ignore our own better angels, and sacrifice charity for the satisfaction of a what we consider to be a well-deserved jab at some poor misguided "other" blogger.
Need I say, I go to confession a lot more frequently since I have been blogging. Bless me father, for I have sinned...it's that damned editor at Commonweal, again...
And so it is a true gift, and a very wise thing for our hosts today to act on the urgings of the Holy Father in developing a relationship with bloggers.
The church needs us, to assist in evangelization; she needs us to disseminate information and especially to correct information which can often become distorted in the press, as when Pope Benedict discussed a very specific instance of condom use and the headlines blared, "Pope says condoms okay!"
The church needs us to be where the sheep are grazing, so that we may help them find the better pastures.
But you here in Rome, we need you, too—to keep reminding us that there is a wideness in God's mercy; that conformity, if and when it comes, must always begin first from a place of freedom, because Christ freely died for us, and that faith wrought without freedom is worthless in the face of his gift, freely given. We need you to remind us that we are called, ultimately, to oneness, as Christ prayed that all may be one.
Yesterday at the beatification, Catholics from all around the world raised their voices and praised God in one joyful voice and language, "Gloria in excelsis deo, et in terra pax hominibus..." One need not be an advocate of the Latin mass to appreciate the power of that moment of demonstrated oneness and unity of purpose, despite our different backgrounds, our different economics, educations and perspectives.
Let us pray that as Catholic social media develops, that same unity, that same oneness may become its defining characteristic.