The following editorial comes from The Southern Cross, a Catholic newspaper in Southern Africa, and describes a situation that will be familiar to a lot of people:
Earlier this month The Southern Cross took the difficult decision to suspend the comments facility on its website. The comments section was intended to serve as a forum in which readers could exchange ideas on topics within the Church. Perhaps invariably, these discussions frequently became marked by intolerable levels of hectoring polemic; sometimes accompanied by calumny and distortion. This stood in direct breach of the eleventh commandment given to us by Our Lord.
The Southern Cross has for many decades encouraged robust debate on questions of our faith, but such discourse must be rooted in a spirit of mutual respect, even when the positions of disagreement are in conflict. When this quality is lacking, fruitful dialogue – a necessary condition for effective evangelisation – is impossible. Conversations that lack in basic human decency cannot be facilitated by a forum that is truly Catholic.
It is deplorable that the quality of discourse in the Catholic Church, at least in its Anglophone regions, has become increasingly nasty. Debates within the Church tend to resemble more the scorched earth partisanship of US politics than discussions between fellow disciples of Our Lord.
Often those with whom we disagree are regarded as enemies whose arguments must be mercilessly vanquished – all this predicated on a burning love for Jesus and his Church!
But belligerence was not Christ’s way. Jesus did not bully those who did not believe him; he persuaded and healed, and had compassion even for those who crucified him.
Some Catholics, it seems, are prone to ascribe the least charitable interpretation to the positions taken by those with whom they disagree, ascribing to them agendas that may not exist.
Those of us who toil in the blogosphere know exactly what they’re talking about.