“Gain a world of followers and lose your own soul…”

Pope Benedict XVI famously urged Catholic clergy, religious and laity to get on to the web, learn how to use it and then “give the internet a soul”, and it’s certainly gratifying to see the many fervent Catholic folk who have taken his words to heart, here at Patheos and elsewhere.

But working, even catechizing, online comes with its own spiritual dangers — sins so easily fallen into that they almost don’t seem like sins at all; they become “just a thing that happens on the ‘net.” Sort of like, “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”

If we don’t see the sin, or we rationalize it away because, “it’s just the ‘net” we run the risk of doing true spiritual damage to ourselves, and to others. Sitting alone on one side of a monitor, we tend to forget that every word we utter, every tweet we send or “like” button we hit acts like a kind of pebble tossed into a pond — it reverberates outward to edges we can’t even see, affecting others’ way of thinking, their moods and morals.

When we are uncharitable, for instance, our polluted little pearls — flung outward into the net and into the path of all of those people “following” and “liking” and reading — give our readers tacit permission to be uncharitable, too; the filth, the waste, spreads outward. We can’t even see what sins we are encouraging or contributing to when we’re indulging our mean little snarks or more overt instincts to hatred. Even if we cannot see them, though, we have had a hand in it; we’ve contributed to the sins of others and to the overall stench invading what should be a place of plenty and — for people of faith — of charity and peace.

I’m as guilty as anyone — hence the trips to the confessional — and while I am failing too often, I really am trying to do better, a little better, every week, and that is why I was so happy to see this really useful, really clarifying Examination of Conscience for the Internet coming from the pen of Deacon Greg Kandra. It seems to me it belongs near the confessionals along with the usual examen prompts to be found there:

I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange Gods before me. Have I treated people, events or things as more important than God? Have I elevated the Internet to a deity? Is commenting on Facebook, Twitter, or blogs supplanting my prayer life?

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Have my words, actively or passively put down God, the Church or people? Have I inflicted wounds on the Body of Christ by showing disrespect, dissent or disdain? Have I mocked online the leadership of the Church—whether it’s my pope, my bishop or my pastor?

Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day. Do I go to Mass when I should? Do I avoid work that impedes worship to God? Do I spend too much time on Sunday surfing the Internet and chat rooms and forums, when I could be spending time with my family or with God?

Honor your father and your mother. Do I show my parents due respect? Do I maintain good communication with my parents? Do I criticize them to others, or online?

You shall not kill. Have I harmed another through physical, verbal or emotional means, including gossip? Have I destroyed another’s reputation online? Have I used comments to mock, disrespect, slander or attack? Have I gleefully ridiculed another person’s failings online and enjoyed their setbacks? Have I resorted to petty name-calling to score points or make another person feel bad? Have I robbed another of basic human dignity online?

You shall not commit adultery. Have I respected the physical and sexual dignity of others and of myself? Have I used the Internet to visit porn sites or engage in sinful conversations about sex?

You shall not steal. Have I taken or wasted time or resources that belonged to another? Have I spent valuable time at my job on the Internet when I should have been working?

Read the rest, here, and weep, because most of us have broken too many of these. Print it out and keep it at your desk, where you can let it prick your conscience a bit. Show it to your kids.

For what shall it profit a blogger — or social media maven — if he shall gain a whole world of followers, and lose his own soul?

Image courtesy of shutterstock.com

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Victor

    (((where you can let it prick your conscience a bit)))

    There YAS go again! YA Pup pets, “I” mean YA animals, no, no, YA good human who just don’t know what YAS are all doing is all now but we alien gods can help YAS all if YA just listen to U>S (usual sinners) “I” mean us 96% godly cells of “ME”, “ME” “ME”, “MYSELF” and “I” have been sent to help YAS all and not those four per sent age cells of Victor’s Kingdom, “I” mean “Body”, no, no Vi “R” us or do they call “IT” viral on the internet these days.

    Listen Anchor, “I” mean Anchoress, there’s only so much that we gods can do to help YAS all out on the in her net, “I” mean the internet these days when YAS don’t listen to our advise. Don’t be like Victor’s so called four per sent age retardo cells and don’t short change YAS self and long story short, we gods are getting tired or trying to educate YAS all and truth be told, we gods are the only help that Victor will be getting in this twenty first century http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2011/12/03/chuck-colson-calls-himself-an-envious-soak-the-rich-socialist/ cause his imaginary GOD (Good Old Dad) does not exist and……………

    END YA SAY imaginary changing godly cells of sins? DON’T BE LIKE THAT! BE NICE NOW!

    I hear YA brothers and sisters in Christ! STOP CREATING RIPPLES VICTOR!?

    Go Figure folks! :)


    God Bless Peace

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Warning well taken. I too have confessed on some of my bad behavior on the internet.

  • Victor

    (((“Gain a world of followers and lose your own soul…”)))
    From what “I” can read from the com box, “I” mean comment box, “IT” looks like your soul is in no danger Anchoress! :)
    God Bless Peace