So I went to this USCCB thingie in Baltimore on Bishops and Bloggers (basically a confab on how the Church can better engage New Media). There was a panel discussion with Mark Gray from CARA (a research organization), with additional discussion from Bp. Christopher Coyne, Rocco Palmo, Mary DeTurris Poust, and Terry Mattingly (Gray is out of frame on the right).
There was a lot of information presented and it still barely scratched the surface, of course. But the presenters did a fine job. What stuck out for me personally was twofold: First, the internet is the wild west and mighty difficult to run on anything but the honors system. This makes for a lot of intellectual ferment. One bishop (I’m sorry but I didn’t get his name, but I very much liked him) remarked that the internet is like the ancient system of Roman roads that made it possible for ideas, philosophies, spiritual fads, the genuine hungers of the human heart to move swiftly around the Empire. Lots of evangelism was done by anonymous laity simply going out into the marketplace and talking about Jesus there. Much the same is happening now and via a technology that can greatly amplify the human voice.
Another thing that stuck out, courtesy of Rocco’s remarks, was the need for Catholics to address the huge and growing Spanish-speaking demographic. This is the third time I’ve been knocked on the head with this by the Spirit. It was a very eye-opening experience this past week as various minority readers–Latino, Korean, African-American–all attempted to make the same point: we feel profoundly unwelcome in conservative–including conservative Catholic–circles. These were people who are basically orthodox serious Catholics, empathetic to conservative concerns about such issues as abortion, the family, marriage etc. Natural allies and co-belligerents for the Catholic faith. But when they tried to express the deep sense of unwelcome they all experienced (a sense shared by an awful lot of their friends, family, etc) a significant group of readers just. couldn’t. hear it. Nobody was accusing anybody here of racism, etc. But almost instantly the conversation turned to “Liberals do it too” and “Conservative give a lot to charity” and a whole fusillade of replies that made it clear that it was extremely difficult to just listen, hear the experience, heed. It was taken very personally by some. (Yes, a couple of people were out of line.) But what struck me was that, at the end of the day, people describing their sense of being outsiders were being told, pretty consistently that the didn’t or shouldn’t or couldn’t have that very broadly shared perception. One of the wrote me as the non-conversation died down:
I really was dismayed by what I read. I honestly didn’t expect that kind of response. I thought that this might be a real time of reflection for “conservatives,” but clearly it isn’t. Republicans are going to go the way of the dinosaur! Their rhetoric is alienating and offensive–not just for people of color, but for thoughtful whites as well (the largest group to vote for the president). My white friends would die before they’d be associated with the racial politics of the right–which reduces the cultural capital of Catholics when they attempt to reach them on issues like abortion and gay marriage. Ultimately, I’m not worried about getting my feelings hurt. What scares me is all the people who turn away from Jesus because this is the kind of mentality they think they would have to align with if they were to take the Gospel seriously. What most people see is a lack of compassion on the part of people who say they are following Jesus. But then I have to remember that the Lord is still in his temple and nothing can ultimately rob the gospel of its power. As for me, I’m going to stay close to the sacraments and try to be the best example I can be. At dismissal, I’ll do what we’re told to do. I’ll go out into the world and try to bring Jesus with me!
I was also struck by a conversation with Kevin Knight, who remarked on the question of amnesty for illegal aliens that they’re the ones who fill the schedule for Adoration at his parish. Every Christmas, they have to discontinue adoration at his parish because the Latinos go back to see their families in Mexico for the holiday and the Anglos don’t pick up the slack.
Prudence says that when you have a large, devout, Christ-loving, hard-working, family-loving community of Catholics who love the Lord and love their faith who have been integrated into the economy and whose children are culturally American, you should welcome them not make political hay about deporting them. Prudence also says that any online presence of the Church needs to address their needs and pay attention to what they are saying.
Anyway, that’s what stuck out for me. Lots of other bloggers will doubtless have other impressions. Check out the blogs of Deacon Greg Kandra, Fr. Kyle Schnippel, Kathy Schiffer, Leah Libresco, Brandon Vogt, Tom McDonald, Lisa Hendey among others, who will also probably be commenting on what they saw and heard in Baltimore.
Speaking of which, one of the real treats of this weekend was getting to meet all these people I’ve never met before as well as some I know a bit, such as Kevin Knight and Brandon (seen here shortly before Kevin and I went aboard the USS Constellation, a gorgeous tall ship that did service in the Civil War.
I also got to meet Tom McDonald, America Tallest Catholic Technology Blogger and Game Reviewer from New Jersey with a Beard (that is, he has a beard, not New Jersey)
In addition, when the meeting was over a bunch of Patheos bloggers, as well as sundry other folk joined us at the James Joyce pub, where I could only barely be restrained from ordering three quarks for Muster Mark. Here’s the whole crowd:
And here’s a Patheosi gaggle:
That’s Lisa, Deacon Greg, Leah, some fat guy, Kathy Schiffer, and Tom McDonald. Alack and alas, Elizabeth Scalia, who was the foundress of the feast, got stuck on a tarmac in Long Island and never made it. We hoist a brew in her honor.
Anyway, tomorrow I hit the road again, this time for Cincinatti, where I will record the audiobook version of Salt and Light: The Commandments, the Beatitudes, and a Joyful Life. It will be out in late January. I will stick an order form on my web site when I get a breather, for those who want to pre-order. Alas, it will not be out for Christmas but it will be here for Lent.
I loaded stuff in the hopper for launch while I am on the road and will try to pop in as I can. Meanwhile, you kids don’t put not beans up your noses. Home on Thursday!