LegalWorks Apostolate - Counsel for a Culture of Life

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge

The title of the classic 1966 movie, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly", provides an accurate description of what is happening in certain arenas located in what has become known as the "blogosphere." As a morally neutral agent, the blogosphere may be used for good or for bad?but, in some cases, it also can be downright ugly.

I would expect the Catholic blogosphere to be a place where bloggers and those commenting on posts would express themselves in line with the teachings of the Church. I would also expect to find ?at minimum? truth, charity, and civility. Sadly, this is not always the case.

When it comes to truth, it is lamentable that some bloggers and commenters seem to ignore facts and write about that which they only assume knowledge. Often, assumptions?made from serious leaps in judgment?are reported as facts. These supposed "facts" are then transmitted by others with the truth lost in the frenzy of electronic braggadocio.

Time after time I have read posts about people I know, events I have attended and articles I have read and I am shocked by the inaccuracies, misinformation, and sometimes out-and-out lies written by some bloggers and/or commenters.

As grievous as these assaults on the truth are, the lack of civility often witnessed on some Catholic blogs is equally, if not more, distressing.

Examples are often found in the "comments" section of the blogs. Hiding behind pseudonyms, avatars, handles, and the pervasive "anonymous," people calling themselves "Catholic" engage in all sorts of incivility ?ranging from merely being impolite to being a provocateur to being mean spirited.

It appears that if someone disagrees with another's comment, he or she becomes an enemy. Instead of engaging in civil discourse, the "conversation" turns ugly sometimes resorting to personal insults.

What I find most distressing on some Catholic blogs are commenters who, after making uncivil statements about another commenter, end with "I'm praying for you". Let's see, someone writes that another person is an "idiot" or "arrogant" or some other derogatory term and then they write that they are praying for them. In my opinion, that kind of promised prayer appears empty, lacking in sincerity, and may actually, in some cases, be an attempted put-down.

One particularly egregious example I witnessed recently was in response to a comment asking why a person had not answered a question directed at her. The person answered that she did not answer because "I long ago determined that you were not worth it . . . [but] do know I pray for you daily." It's hard to believe there is any sincerity in that claim.

So what can we do? The Catholic blogosphere can be a tool for sharing wonderful stories of conversion, authentic teaching, truthful commentary on current events in the Church and society. It can also be a place for differing opinions on certain topics. But certainly, we as Catholics can do a better job of keeping it truthful and civil.

We need to distinguish what is factual from that which is just assumed and "reported" by others. And, when it comes to commenters, perhaps we need to figure out a way to eliminate anonymity that tends to encourage incivility.

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