In recent years some Catholic watchdog groups have led campaigns against church institutions and individuals who work within them that have had the effect of ruining careers, disrupting lives and generating unjustified tension within the Catholic community. Catholic service entities have been the frequent but not the only targets of these critics. These efforts have been typified by extreme rhetoric and relentless bullying on social media—ignoring beams, compulsively seeking splinters—and church bureaucracies have in some cases acceded to their pressure tactics.
Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., founding chief executive officer of Canada’s Salt and Light Media Foundation, delivered the keynote address during the Brooklyn Diocese’s observance of World Communications Day on May 11. He pulled no punches in condemning this unfortunate phenomenon and the broader problem of a Catholic web of anger and accusation. “The character assassination on the Internet by those claiming to be Catholic and Christian has turned it into a graveyard of corpses strewn all around,” he said. Father Rosica deplored “the obsessed, scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering virtual guardians of faith” who “resort to the Internet and become trolling pontiffs and holy executioners.”
His words will no doubt only provoke those he is criticizing. He should not have to stand alone in doing so. In this Year of Mercy, Catholic communicators have a special responsibility to model the merciful relationships they seek to encourage in others. Debate, even fierce debate, in the church should not be unwelcome; but charity and esteem for the person—not rhetorical stratagems bent on personal destruction—should typify our dialogue.