|He one holy roller....|
- Blessed James Alberione
Msgr. Charles Pope from the Archdiocese of Washington wrote a poignant article this week that reflected on painful divisions in the Church that become evident in online interactions.
He writes: The Church needs two wings and one heart to fly. Thank God for the diverse passions and actions of many in the Church on many and different fronts ... I’ll tell you what, perhaps the most discouraging thing about being a blogger and being out there is not the scorn of the secular. It is the death by a thousand cuts executed by some (thank God not most) fellow believers who nit-pick, and object that something I say is not said just they way they want it said.
Ain't it the truth.
Any Catholic blogger out there can definitely relate to this. I recently received a comment on a post that accused me of being a "modernist" for writing that we are all sinners, and encouraging forgiveness! Of course the comments on my blog are generally kind and rather tame compared to what some bloggers get.
But based on Msgr. Pope's insightful article, and my reflections on experiences I have had online, here are some ideas for how to create a better environment online and in our churches:
1. Remove the Personal Imprimatur Glasses: We often put on our own personal "imprimatur" glasses when we read online. Rather than reading with an open mind, we read with an eye for error or an eye for what aspects of the post we can critique in the comments. Are we concerned we will be subtly drawn into erroneous thinking if we are not constantly on guard? I think most of us will admit we are not that soft-headed and that is not the actual concern. Deep down, if we are honest with ourselves, when we see something that clashes with our understanding of the truth, our "righteous anger" has more to do with our desire to be right than it does anything else.
2. The Church is Like the Beatles...: A good band needs a John to write insightful lyrics, a Paul to harmonize, a George to lead with guitar and a Ringo to play drums, (and add levity). The Body of Christ needs everyone, even the people with wacky ideas, (sometimes especially the people with wacky ideas). We are a family. Everyone is invited, everyone is welcome and we are never going to agree on everything. That is why we have the hierarchy, and thank God that we do. Not everyone is going to love the hierarchy, just like not everyone is going to like Grandpa George, but that does not mean that they are not part of the family. (I know this is not a perfect analogy but you get the point right?)
3. Stop Fighting Over Liturgy, Just Do It: If there is anyone who is sensitive to liturgical abuse, it is me. I lived in the Bay Area for five years and endured some pretty questionable liturgical practices. Believe me, I understand. But how about rather than talking about it, writing about it, and arguing about it, what if we just did liturgy and did it well? How much do articles harrumphing about the right way to do things help prevent liturgical abuse and how much do they simply raise blood pressure and bring people's attention away from the Mass the next time they see people holding hands during the Our Father? I tend to think the latter is much more prevalent. And if this is correct, we end up wastefully expending energy that is better spent doing good liturgy, (we also could choose to focus our creative energy on other things that are in dire need of our attention - can anyone say the New Evangelization?)
4. Behave Online like Your Mother is Watching: (And she is, from heaven!) Anonymity online makes us think we have free license to rant, be nit-picky, rude and generally be a bad example to others. But how often do non-Catholics or non-Christians see our internal bickering and wonder what good our faith does for us? Instead of giving into our immediate feelings, what if we paused, got up, walked around, said a prayer and sat down again (perhaps even hours later) with the intention to write something that is inspired by God, not our human reactions?
Here's some inspiration, (ok this song is pretty unrelated, except the title, but I think the Beatles are appropriate any time any place):