An editorial from the UK’s Catholic Herald:
It’s not difficult to find evidence of our fallen nature online – the querulous, the obsessive, the paranoid and the uncharitable nestle alongside the illuminating, inspiring, persuasive and heartwarming. Perhaps some bishops have also come across blogs that were unjustly critical of them and therefore rejected the blogging enterprise out of hand.
But we believe that the emergence of the Catholic blogosphere is one of the most significant developments in the 21st-century Church. Blogs not only provide a new space for the free exchange of Catholic opinion but also take the Church deep into the online world in which increasing numbers of people spend most of their waking lives. Catholic blogs, at their very best, have a kind of prophetic dimension. Of course it’s unpleasant to be denounced by the Jeremiahs of the internet, but if they help us reflect critically on the way we use whatever authority we have in the Church they are performing an important service.
Blogging has proven to be more than a noughties fad. Throughout this century people’s views of the Church are likely to be shaped by what they read in the Catholic blogosphere. This presents a challenge both to bloggers and bishops. Bloggers need to up their game, striving to uphold the basic media standards of truth, fairness and accuracy, and reflecting constantly on whether they are presenting the faith appealingly to non-Catholics. The bishops, meanwhile, should consider embracing the Catholic blogosphere. The best way to do this would be through face-to-face meetings with bloggers in their dioceses. Misunderstandings could be resolved and bloggers encouraged to bring bishops’ messages to a vast new audience.
UPDATE: A bishop in the UK, meantime, has taken the trouble to write a pastoral letter on social media, and sees it as an occasion for sin:
An English bishop asked Catholics to use Lent as a time to repent of sins committed on social media.
Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth described the uncharitable use of blogs, Facebook and Twitter as a “grave matter.”
Using social media for abuse or to attack the reputations of other people was a direct sin against the Eighth Commandment, forbidding people from “bearing false witness” against their neighbors, he said in a pastoral letter released March 19.
“We must exercise discretion, respect others and their privacy and not engage in slander, gossip and rash judgment,” the bishop wrote in the document that was to be distributed in parishes the weekend of March 22-23.
“We must avoid calumny, that is, slurring and damaging people, and not spread abroad their sins and failings,” he said.
The bishop encouraged the faithful to ask themselves “How do I use Facebook or Twitter? Am I charitable when blogging? Do I revel in other people’s failings?
“All this is grave matter,” he said.