Reader Appreciation Post

Deacon Greg recently shut down comments on his blog, for an indefinite period. Posting part of an email he received about the increasingly ugly tone in his comments section, he added:

I know he’s absolutely right. I’ve sensed it. Loyal, longtime readers have sensed it. Some have written me about it. Even casual passers-by have taken notice, and quickened their step when they walk through the neighborhood. The atmosphere around these parts is beyond unfriendly and uncharitable. At times, it borders on vengeful and, yes, evil. . . .
I never intended The Deacon’s Bench to become a place for knees in the groin and brass knuckles to the jaw. God knows, I also never thought it would turn into a place for escalating violence, where one commenter pulls out a knife, until another whips out a pistol. Lively debate is one thing. Relentless, merciless hate is something else.

His readers really were getting out of control, and things had ceased to be fun. I am hopeful that the break will shake people back to their senses.

Reasonable boundaries are healthy things to have. In an email recently, the good Deac told me he has had mostly positive responses to his move, with one glaring (and predictable) exception.

Comments at this blog are nowhere near
where they were on Greg’s; I have often claimed, quite rightly, that I have the best readers in the world. Most of you are more interested in real engagement rather than drive-by shootings and intellectual muggings.

That’s not to say things are perfect around here, but wouldn’t it be boring if they were? I do get a wee bit weary of passive-aggressive anti-Catholics who pretend they are being courteous while dropping vials of poison all over the place. I find myself rolling my eyes and then just shrugging as I release comments from people who want to argue about how many angels dance on the head of a pin, getting increasingly bogged down in minutiae while losing site of bigger, and more relevant pictures.

But that’s all okay with me.
If you guys want to bog down, it’s your business. All I ever ask if you keep it civil, stay on topic, observe the very simple guidelines, resist the urge to name-call or to slander, or to descend into adolescent “shock” drops. You folks do all of that beautifully, and when the occasional troll wanders in because we’ve been linked to by a bigger blog, you folks know enough to ignore it. I am grateful.

I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you.

Now, no breaking out into a pillow fight when I turn my back!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Jeff Miller

    Can’t say I am surprised that he goes over to Beliefnet and finds trolls galore. But then again I am no fan of Beliefnet and only go there because of the good Deacon and previously for Amy Welborn.

  • Greta

    In some ways, I think Deacon posted some topics which provoked response. It seems at times as if he was throwing a red flag out in front of traditional Catholics who felt that as a Deacon on the Catholic Church, he should be more supportive of actual teachings. He seemed to simply post a topic without taking sides, but simply in posting the topics, could be seen to be supportive of them. When the fir started to fly, he often let both sides go back and forth without commenting. When you are a Priest or Deacon, it seems like you should be trying to educate with what the Church actually teaches, not to throw out a topic that in some cases you know is a potential hot button. I also think his coming from CBS, the liberal bastion of Rather and Couric made more than a few conservatives antenae rise.
    I think you watch and post adm comments at the right time and you also pretty well let people know where you are coming from on a topic. You also have a strong record of supporting the various religious groups that are in obedience and support actual church teaching.

    So my feelings on Deacon on this topic are mixed and believe he is as much responsible for the posts fire as those leaving comments. There is no doubt of his talent.

  • Maureen

    Donation done – not much, but I wanted you to know how much I appreciate your approach to your blog and the fundamental kindness and thought that you put into all of your posts.

  • Lori

    Did someone say PILLOW FIGHT??

    (feathers flying everywhere) Whee!

  • johnny b


    I could not agree with you more! I followed his blog for a while and then had to leave because my blood was boiling so often. I specifically left (and never went back) when the blog-post had a picture of Barack and Michelle Obama’s hands on the Bible at the inauguration…….and the title said “Worth a thousand words.”

    These hands will be the downfall of millions of babies ripped from their mother’s womb. Hundreds of thousands of people had been (and still are fighting) day and night for the unborn and specifically against this man’s policies against the unborn. My comment which said exactly this was not accepted on his blog.

    I guess I was racist. I guess I did not swoon for this “hell-bent on forcing abortion on the world” president. My prayers are daily for our president but I will not submit to the passive acceptance of this president.

    Anyways, I’ve said way to much. Greta nailed it for me. [Edited]

    [Believe it or not, this was supposed to be a fun and relaxed post. I did not post the link to Greg's place so that this could turn into a "Bash-the-Deacon" thread. The occasion of the first African American president taking the oath of office (even if it got screwed up) was certainly "worth a thousand words" even if you don't like the guy or anything he stands for. What those words might be were up to the viewer, which is why it did not need input from the blogger.

    I certainly can't speak for why your comment did not make it out of moderation. I know sometimes comments get lost in my spam filter, and they simply do not appear, and if they are in the middle of a spamming deluge, I am disinclined to go looking for them and subjecting myself to 35 pages of porn ads. Perhaps something similar happened to your comment at Greg's. It seems to me charitable to give someone the benefit of a doubt.

    As to your objection and the reason for you "vacating" the blog, since you brought it up, I feel invited to respond.

    Our passion for life is not supposed to blind us to each other's humanity or make us unable to meet people where they are, which is what Jesus is all about. Our pro-life activists are heroic and inspiring, but sometimes they become so caught up in their righteous defense of the elderly and the unborn that they do not even realize that there is another way to address their concerns, besides rage. One way might be to see a post like the one you cite, take a moment, breathe, and say something like: "this is the most anti-life president we've ever seen in this White House, and that annoys the hell out of enrages and grieves me, but yes, this is a historic moment."

    THAT would have been meeting the Deacon where he was, while still making your point. Moreover, rather than letting lose with a torrent of anger and an internal scream, suggesting prayers for the president's soul (and mentioning that you pray for him daily) might have been more in order, more constructive, and more in keeping with what Our Lord has asked of us.

    Greg is an exemplary deacon (I've seen him minister, first hand) and a dedicated servant of the church and his parishioners; he is an inspired homilist, and I am willing to bet that if you have read his homilies you have learned something, and seen your Savior and your church lifted high. If you cannot agree with a "worth a thousand words" picture, that's one thing; we are all entitled to our viewpoints, but to suggest (as I believe you are doing, here) that the Deacon is not as committed to the pro-life cause as you seems to me to be presuming an awful lot, and lacking in charity.

    Finally, as I said, this thread is not meant to become a Deacon Bash and I won't hesitate to close it if it trends that way. If you have an issue with the Deacon, why not pray for his good, rather than contribute to the miserable atmosphere of hate and denunciation that has made so much of the blogosphere so toxic? Wouldn't that be more pleasing to God, and more constructive?

    Btw, I edited your last line because I am uncomfortable with that sort of praise, and also because you may not feel the same way after reading this! :-). -admin]

  • NanB

    I am glad, but sad that Deacon Greg shut down the comments. Some of the comments weren’t very nice; they made me cringe at times. It’s a shame that grown people are compelled to act worse than children. That darn “perpetual adolescence”!

  • Charles


    It is getting close to summer time here in the Northeastern US. How about we have a water ballon fight instead? It will be more fun and a good way to cool down.

    Anchoress, I pinky-swear that we will not throw water ballons inside. (cross my heart and hope to die, stick needle in my eye if we do throw water ballons inside!)

  • johnny b

    Thanks for your response. I did not intend to Bash-the-Deacon.
    What Greta said was exactly what I was feeling, right or wrong.

    I agree that Charity should lead with any discussion/argument. My apologies if what I said seemed uncharitable. I do give the Deacon the benefit of the doubt with losing blog comments and with HIS blog he is entitled to do with it as HE wants. Its not my blog.

    I am more than willing to meet people where they are at. There is no doubt in my mind that Deacon Greg is committed to serving others and committed to the pro-life cause.

    After further reflection, I realize that I wanted him to take a different approach to topics and politics, but that was not what he wanted for his blog. It doesn’t need to. It is what he wants it to be and obviously it is a great blog. A blog can’t be everything to everyone. Some people will like some things and some people will like other ways of saying or doing things.

    Anywho, for the record, I have no ill/mean-spirited feelings for the Deacon, or for anyone for that matter. Life is too short.

    What I do battle with, as I know many do, is the knowledge that we, with Christ as our Savior, have already won the fight. But daily we are bombarded with a culture of death that can stir the human emotions (good and bad) and make life seem so overwhelming.

    I understand your point in editing my praise in my previous comment, but I still mean it. It just doesn’t come across very well in this medium.


    [Pax bacatcha (that's Latin, you know! ;-) -admin]

  • Mr. Graves

    This is my first introduction to the Deacon, so I promise not to comment on him at all. :-)

    I often read Catholic articles but seldom post to the sites (including yours, Anchoress, to which I’ve subscribed via news feed). I offer the following observation in the spirit of charity and hope it comes across that way.

    One Catholic site, which used to be excruciatingly orthodox has been taken over by the “dissenters ” — not the authors but the commenters! I removed it from my news feed and read articles only by proxy (second-hand sources) these days. Seems like lots of folks have, and I bet their ad revenue is slipping as a result.

    And here’s what’s so hard to understand: The comments are moderated! Why does the moderator let through comments that disparage the writers, personally attack long-time readers, and question settled Church teaching? Maybe as someone who moderates comments, you have some insight?

    At any rate, it’s destroyed the site in my eyes, probably in the eyes of other, too.

    Anchoress does a good job of keeping things in check, but there is at least one commenter who constantly lumps together and disparages “you right-wing people,” and it raises my hackles to see his posts.

    Oh, to be a moderator! :-)

    [I can't speak for any other blog, but for me, I'm a tolerant girl and if people want to debate long-settled doctrine, as long as they keep it civil, I'm okay with it. Dissent and debate sharpens the mind, exposes one to new perspectives and sometimes even helps us to understand WHY we believe what we believe. Defending my faith to others has taught me a great deal! And wouldn't it be mind-numbing if comments around here all said the same thing? I admit, as a human being, I sometimes want to just trash someone's response (in fact I did just trash a troll; I'm long-past putting up with Jack Chick type garbage posts) because I'm in a bad mood and don't feel like dealing with it, but I realize that as a moderator, the hat sits a little differently, for better or worse. Sometimes I think I wrote the guidelines as much for me as for anyone else - it helps me remember what flies and what does not! -admin]

  • DaveW

    Internet comments can get rough. I worried when you moved over here that your comments section would become different but they seem to still be pretty calm. Often the roughness in comment sections causes me to not comment – because I don’t want to participate or risk being mis-read. There’s already a sort of inherent risk of coming off the wrong way for some of us that aren’t trained as writers.

  • Gayle Miller

    I sincerely believe that the Anchoress’ own civility has a powerful calming effect on our more obstreperous impulses! After all, in addition to her intelligence and wit, she is also the mother of two sons – and Irish as well!

  • Richard Clark

    One reason I read this blog is because the Anchoress tries to keep her own spirit and tongue under the influence of the Holy Spirit and she encourages that in the rest of us. A week ago in worship when the theme was speaking in ways that build up one another (Ephesians 4:29) we sang a delightful little song that made me think then and since of this blog. Written by Mauri Macy it says,

    Good speak is better than bad speak,
    but bad speaking’s easy to do.
    And if I had a dime for every single time
    bad speaking came from me, how rich I would be.
    Complaining makes me feel discouraged, exhausted and so often blue.
    So I’ll try to start good speaking;
    how about you?

  • gb

    “I sincerely believe that the Anchoress’ own civility has a powerful calming effect on our more obstreperous impulses! ”

    Gayle, that’s what I was gonna say! Not to make excuses for the unexcusable behavior of some comboxers but usually the person running the blog sets the tone…

    Oh, and…what other folks said re: Beliefnet…just IMHO!

  • Greta

    Anchoress, I could not agree more with you on your adm comment above
    “Dissent and debate sharpens the mind, exposes one to new perspectives and sometimes even helps us to understand WHY we believe what we believe.”
    However, I also think that if you are a Catholic University or a Catholic Deacon, Priest, or Religious, that you also have a responsibility to know actual Church Teaching, especially so on settled Church teaching, and to at some point come out to clarify that teaching so there is not the ongoing misunderstanding that is so rampant today. That was the reason that Pope JPII the Great wanted professors at Catholic University to have to go for a Mandatum with the local bishop. It is also why some bishops have pulled the right to teach from some dissenting persons in their dioceses when they are in open dissent on settled teaching. In a way, it is kind of like a medical school having someone dissent from settled medical knowledge such as the need for surgery saying any cutting should be stopped. We expect the medical schools to teach what is the latest and best practices to their students, and yet some in Catholic Universities want to argue that their main purpose is open dialougue with the teacher not at some point stepping in to say that this is settled teaching in the Catholic Church. Another example is of course when it was widely known that the bishops had said no one who supports abortion should be invited to speak or honored, some so called Catholic universities seemed to go out of their way to invite them as with ND and Obama. It is fairly obvious that the Catholic Schools are failing when you seen Universities supporting abortion and gay marriage which are both non negotiable positions of the Church.
    It is my feeling that often Deacon would post something that was outright supportive of dissent on settled matters from a left leaning source and then have no comment on it allowing those who were defending church teaching to be attacked without coming out and saying actual Church Teaching. This is something that you and many other Catholic Blogs do not support and he is in essence part of the Church through ordination.

  • Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    What a great post and thread – all very thought provoking. I am offering a class on faith and social networking at a catechetical event next week and had already told Deacon Greg that I would be discussing his situation in class. I might like to refer to this post and thread as well.

    My mother often said “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and I think that is true. As someone who got into more than one dust up at The Deacon’s Bench, I know that I did not intend to hurt or vilify and in good conscience, I hope to believe that was true of the majority of us.

    However, things often did get out of hand. While it could be said that the good deacon was a provocative poster, what else should he be doing? A blog is about many things and I think that the gift of social media is that it can be the “marketplace” of ideas and exchange.

    Greta makes some important points, but I am not sure that I would say that a blog and a university or a pulpit should have all the same standards.

    Good debate should always be welcome; civility is necessary as an element of charity and unity. I have been very fortunate to have numerous issues discussed on my facebook page by people of so many backgrounds, faiths and opinions. Once and only once did it get out of hand and I am always grateful for thoughtful and passionate conversation on topics that must be discussed and discerned.

    It is also interesting to be discussing all of this during this Easter season as we hear the Acts of the Apostles and consider the early (and not always so civil) discourse, discussion and debate of the early Church.

    Peace to all!

    [This discussion and Greg's move have all given me a new appreciation for the need for boundaries and how productive they can be. Children certainly need them; if you do not tell them how far they can go, they become lost. But perhaps in this borderless place called the interwebz, we need them too, to give a sense of proportion, and even to help blog moderators keep their own heads. As I admitted to Greg, sometimes a writer will just annoy the heck out of me, and my instinct will be to say "I have ultimate power" and bring the banhammer. Then I consider "are they within the guidelines, " and if they are, I kiss it up to God and let the comment stand. Although, to be honest, I have had to edit and refine the guidelines since coming to FT, but they likely should have been reviewed every year or so, anyway! -admin]

  • Paula Gonzales Rohrbacher

    Thanks so much for this thoughtful post, and for your comments. As a reader of The Deacon’s Bench, I too was sometimes disgusted by the uncivil tone the comments there were taking. I’m glad Deacon Greg took a break from posting comments at his blog. It was truly getting ugly over there. It IS his blog, and he can post what he wants. It makes us think, which is always a good thing. I see no evidence that he is anything but the kind, loving, faithful and Christ-centered deacon that I have come to know as a reader.

  • anthony house

    This is not a comment on the person, but it has become clear to me, that every blogger gets the comments that he invites/deserves. there are just too many blogs where out of control comments are not even an issue. most all of the blogs that i follow have never had this problem, because of the way the blog is set up by the person who runs it.

    one can turn off comments or complain or whatever, but if they want a different type of blog then it is up to the owner of the site. take responsibility then make the changes. it really is that simple!

  • Conservative

    I find it appalling that virulently anti-Catholic comments are made as well as mockery of the teachings of the Church and for the most part they go unchallenged. I think there are some who feel it necessary to challenge these comments. There are some who push an agenda there and I think they need to be stopped.

  • Lynn Thomas


    You may find it appalling, but any topical opinion civilly expressed should probably be permitted. Even the anti-Catholic ones. Especially the ones that question official teachings. It’s the only way to actually have a decent discussion. Fair enough to challenge the opinion, but civility is again required.

    Deacon Greg posts things that he thinks are of interest. Sometimes he remarks upon them, sometimes not. He’s under no obligation to only present ideas in support of the ‘official Church’ since his blog is not an official, institutional Church channel. And, he acted when the comments got way, way out of hand. One can argue that he ‘should’ have done so sooner, but in the end it’s up to him to decide where the line sits.

    Lastly, I think a determination to stop those who are ‘pushing an agenda’ is an agenda in itself. As such, it should be questioned, too.