Fr. Z unloads on Catholic blog commenters, and explains why he moderates the comments:
I want to provide a space for open discussion, I really do. But I cannot allow the sort of savagery that anonymity and a lack of consequences seems to bring out from people. I am sure that were I to have an open combox again, as other sites do, my traffic here would skyrocket far beyond what it already is, which is pretty darn high.
The spiritual cost would be too great. I would be cooperating in evil.
That’s what Fishwrap [National Catholic Reporter] is doing. And they invite it and provide occasions for it.
We see horrific violations of charity and reason all over the internet in comboxes of blogs and on media websites. I try to tamp that down here, though some of it filters through. Far far less than what you see at Fishwrap, however, and for that I am grateful.
Conservatives and traditionalists certainly have their wickedly vicious commentators, who, emboldened by anonymity and a lack of immediate consequences, puke their bilious dreck into public view. It is one of the greater concerns I have in my life and work here.
But I have to say that what you see from liberals outstrips the bile of conservatives by orders of magnitude.
Let me remind you of something. When you post something on the internet, there are consequences, both for you and for others.You may be a matter of scandal to others, weakening their faith. Direct ad hominem attacks are horrid and unfair, especially when lobbed into the arena with cowardly anonymity. You endanger your immortal soul when you do these things. I sincerely fear that many of the commentators in the combox at the Fishwrap are in danger of going to Hell. Anyone who can write some of the things you see over there has to be spiritually sick in dangers ways.
Good advice—but conservative commenters are often more than just “wickedly vicious.” I don’t want to quote some of the stuff I’ve read from supposedly faithful, orthodox Catholics—commenting on Facebook, Twitter and blogs— but it’s pretty awful. This stuff is rife with references to murder, violence, physical brutality—summoning all sorts of suffering to be visited upon the pope or those who are close to him. I’ve lost track of the number of “devout Catholics” who have made no secret of the fact that they want this pope to die, and soon. These people are sick. Pray for them.
To Fr. Z’s other point: I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the U.S. Catholic bishops to demand action against NCR. A lot of them are subscribers.
Meantime, it might be time to take another look at something I posted a year ago—An Examination of Conscience for the Internet. It’s something we all need to consider from time to time.