Pushing back against bullying on Catholic social media

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt and Light Television Network in Canada and an English-language assistant to the Holy See Press Office, speaks May 11 during the 25th annual observance of World Communications Day in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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.”

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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.

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Luis Gutierrez
1 year 6 months ago
Some traditionalist bloggers are ferocious, especially when dealing with matters of human sexuality and defending the male-only priesthood. Do they really believe that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is a dogma of the Catholic faith? But it is not entirely their fault. Patriarchal conditioning is deeply rooted and hard to overcome, even more so when it is reinforced by 2000 years of ecclesiastical patriarchy.
L J
1 year 6 months ago
I often have this discussion with colleagues and friends in the medical field. We are the physicians and nurses who see patients in our hospitals who are hurting, in pain, have medical illnesses and poor quality of life for the most part precisely because of their behaviors. To borrow from the great Dr Karl Menninger, MD, in his out of print classic, "Whatever Became of Sin?", most of the patients I see at my academic center are ill because of sins. Choices. Concupiscence. Carnal. Lower appetite. Steadfast refusal to change their behaviors. Pride. Gluttony. Slothfulness. Envy. Wrath. . I see these daily in patients and they do not even have to articulate them. They are demonstrated in obesity, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, renal damage, liver damage, high blood pressure in many cases, Type II Diabetes, Chronic Obstruction Pulmonary Disease, Addiction disorders (a plethora of them exist), many cases of Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia and many others. Very few are due to "genetics". Yet instead of seeking a better path to wholeness (i.e. Pope Francis speaks daily of "inner conversion"), patients seek quick remedies and pills. Few consider how they can change their behaviors to improve their outcomes. To suggest they do can result in false legal claims. . Thus when I "hear" someone bemoan or attack a priest, bishop, layman or public leader, I can not help but notice the outward signs and symptoms of medical illnesses that are rooted in sins: morbidly obese / gluttony and slothful; wrath and envy fuel them. Pride exits like smoke from their nostrils and ears. They choose to look at the splinter in someone's eye yet disregard the plank in their own eye. . Gluttony is never mentioned anymore in society. Yet our nation is 2/3 overweight or obese, a recent phenomena in America. These are tied to many chronic medical conditions. Slothfulness is the opposite of exercise, active lifestyle, which is much more than a "power" walk around the city park. To ask a patient to exercise, a physician has to make it palatable and plead with them to adopt exercise for only 30 minutes, 3 times per week. Pride is demonstrated in many measurable variables as is Wrath. Envy leads many people to self-medicate with a host of choices that kill the body. Many psychiatric symptoms are caused by a refusal to "let God and let it go". Professionals in mental health are moving away from pills and encouraging patients to explore "meditation". The Rosary comes to mind as does the Divine Office and Daily Mass. To suggest these to patients is practically heresy. Their illnesses persist years later but their Pride is firmly in place. . I think about this daily in my medical profession. Patient after patient confirms my findings. If Americans practiced self-control (or what used to be known as temperance), prudence, justice, courage and the three theological virtues of faith, hope and love, they would put physicians out of business. They would leave hospitals markedly empty, health insurance companies would close or find new industries to make money, and we would all get along so much better. The health care industry accounts for almost 20% of the Gross Domestic Product of the USA. There would be no Hillary or Trump because people would have never embraced them as an "answer" to their "problems". . Sin has conquered our nation, destroyed marriages, ruined families, injured children, and turned many of us, especially Catholic bloggers, into the demons of C.S. Lewis "Screwtape Letters". "...the safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts". - Screwtape
Molly Roach
1 year 6 months ago
Dr. Reyes, it is not enough to denounce the sins. We have failed in the business of adequately introducing our people to the virtues.

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