How do you outwit a troll? Spread a little love.

The Mueller investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has introduced the general (and perhaps older) populace to online lingo. Just as every profession accumulates its collection of terms that only insiders understand, the internet has generated its own glossary of language. One vocabulary word in the public crash course is “troll,” which Urban Dictionary defines as “one who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.”

For those of us who came of age in the last century, trolls exist only in fairy tales. They are the misshapen troublemakers, usually male, who live under the bridge. They may be giants or dwarves, but they are ugly, and they have an ugly ax to grind with the innocents hoping to travel over the bridge.

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For those of us who came of age in the last century, trolls exist only in fairy tales.

This common noun for Russian disruptors also describes some of the online spite and malice that Catholic trolls have directed at Father James Martin, the Jesuit priest, author and editor at large at America. (Full disclosure: Father Martin blurbed my book in 2008.) Whether they insult, provoke, inflame, misinform or offend, just like haters gonna hate, trolls gonna troll.

Hence the aptness of this label.

Father Martin has written a treasure trove of spiritual books over the past decade or so that have enriched and enlightened his readers. But the groundbreaking book that has lately made him the target of the underground Catholic trolls is called Building A Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.

Oh, dear. Let the trolling begin. Many of us have learned the hard way that “L.G.B.T.” is a trigger for some Catholics to become very un-Christian, very rapidly. People have lost their ministries and their jobs with the church when they have come out or been outed. People have been driven from their parishes, denied the Eucharist, refused a Catholic funeral. In this black-and-white mindset, which is actually against the teachings of the church, L.G.B.T. = SIN. This equation has also driven many Catholics, especially young Catholics, to become former Catholics and to distance themselves from a church that, in their perception, offers more judgment than welcome, and more condemnation than love. As my lesbian daughter told me flatly, when she stopped practicing the faith in which she had been raised: “I didn’t leave the church. The church left me.” At the time, in 2003, I could only agree with her. I had no evidence that the church had not left her. If Father Martin’s book had existed then, it may have helped us.

Many of us have learned the hard way that “L.G.B.T.” is a trigger for some Catholics to become very un-Christian.

Of course, this book could not have been written 15 years ago because our Catholic concept of respect, compassion and sensitivity to our L.G.B.T. loved ones was still evolving, at least institution-wise. We Catholic parents have always understood that our L.G.B.T. children are loved and worthy in the eyes of God. This is actually affirmed by the 1997 pastoral message called “Always Our Children” from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, but we have often struggled mightily with our local church’s seeming blindness on the issue. In my case, I quit my church job soon after my daughter came out so that I could write about the church and L.G.B.T. issues without unleashing the Catholic trolls on my parish. Even so, several of the Knights of Columbus petitioned the pastor to ban me from volunteering in any ministry at the parish. All because I did not believe that God had made some sort of mistake in creating my daughter.

Needless to say, I am no longer involved in parish ministry. My ministry, the written word, is a little lonelier, but I am not alone. Many Catholic parents are so grateful for Father Martin’s book, which articulates what we have known all along: we are all God’s children, and our sexual orientation is also a gift from God. Father Martin’s image of a two-way bridge between the church and the L.G.B.T. community as a way for us to come together in dignity and love and respect is a powerful one.

The trolls are busy and threatening and loud. And they get results.

But under the bridge, the trolls are ever agitating. I am distressed to read about the scheduled talks by Father Martin that have been canceled or relocated due to pressure from these Catholic trolls. Amazingly, some of the talks being canceled deal not with Building A Bridge, but with the topic of Jesus. Jesus, for cripes sake. The trolls are protesting talks about Jesus by a Catholic priest.

Mother of God, help us.

The trolls are busy and threatening and loud. And they get results. They seem to have a lot more time for vilification than we regular folks who are pretty busy with jobs and responsibilities and balanced, normal lives. It is time, though, for us quiet Catholics, the ones who love our L.G.B.T. children and friends and neighbors, to answer the online crusaders. Not all Catholics are cruelly, completely anti-L.G.B.T. Not all Catholics want to silence loving voices like Father Martin’s. We agree with him. We learn from his talks. We love his book.

We basic Catholic parents don’t enjoy confrontation. We don’t relish the online spotlight. We don’t seek out arguments. We don’t keep a ready arsenal of glib tweets. But without the support of our voices, however halting or reluctant, other more prophetic voices like Father Martin’s are in danger of being silenced. We must challenge the trolls. The bridge must remain open to all.

The thing about fairy tale trolls is that, although they are intimidating, they are not very bright. Even billy-goats can outwit them. These online trolls are scary in their righteousness, but they are short-sighted. They are religious bullies. Even so, we must be as relentless in spreading love as they are in preaching hate. Trolls gonna troll, but lovers gotta love.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
J Cosgrove
8 months 1 week ago

It sounds like anyone who disagrees with you is a troll.

Let me make an observation which seems to be opposed to the author's point of view. There has been about 100 + articles on America concerning LGBT Catholics. Mostly implying LGBT people are being unfairly treated by the Church. I have never seen any priest condemn an LGBT person so I personally have not seen this unfair treatment but understand that it may be happening.

I have a question for the author or anyone who wants to respond.

If LGBT people engage in sexual activity, should the Church consider this sinful and a reason not to receive communion?

If one believes the Church should consider certain types of sexual activitby by LGBT people as not sinful then what are the sexual activities and what are the circumstances which the Church should allow?

I may not have stated it precisely but I am sure that most will understand what is being asked. Because this is the issue, not whether these people are being shunned or excluded somehow because they are born a certain way.

Final question, does asking such a question make one a troll?

Reyanna Rice
8 months 1 week ago

You ask:

If LGBT people engage in sexual activity, should the Church consider this sinful and a reason not to receive communion?

Let me rephrase that and ask you:

If any Catholic engages in lying, cheating on his hours at work, steals small amounts of money from a work related slush fund, gossips about fellow workers should the Church consider this sinful and a reason not to receive communion?

My point is that the state of one’s soul is for that person to work out in their conscience with the help if their spiritual guide. Why should LGBT folks be especially singled out to have their every move examined. I see a lot of people in the communion line at Mass. I don’t watch them and wonder about the state of their conscience. Also, I know the parish priest well. He is not inundated every week with people going to confession. Very few priests are. And I don’t recall in the Gospel Jesus taking any of the apostles off to a corner, including Judas, who he knew was intending something evil, to hear their confessions prior to giving them communion.
Take note of your own soul and back off from suspiciously examining the souls of others. To put it succinctly, mind your own business. It’s a healthier spirituality.

J Cosgrove
8 months 1 week ago

Take note of your own soul and back off from suspiciously examining the souls of others.

You ended up attacking and making it personal. I just asked a question that you did not answer. The question I asked is central to the issue and came from 16 years of religious education in Catholic schools.

Reyanna Rice
8 months 1 week ago

That was an “attack” to you? Your response to me ISTM is just deflecting.

Andrew Wolfe
8 months 1 week ago

Please, just answer the question.

We all know that many Catholics commit sins. We should know that one person sinning does not excuse any others' sins. So please, just answer the question.

J Cosgrove
8 months 1 week ago

My guess is that no author on this site will want to answer the question. Ten years of avoiding the obvious is obvious.

Beth Cioffoletti
8 months 1 week ago

Is this the question: If LGBT people engage in sexual activity, should the Church consider this sinful and a reason not to receive communion?
My answer: NO. The Church should not refuse anyone communion. How does an institution (the Church) know the state of an individual soul?

J Cosgrove
8 months 1 week ago

You did not answer the question I asked but posed a different question and then answered that question.

Related to the question you answered, the Church does reserve the right to not give communion to certain individuals but that is not what I asked.

Vince Killoran
8 months 1 week ago

An honest essay, one that goes to the heart of the matter.

alan macdonald
8 months 1 week ago

Father Martin should be excommunicated for openly promoting mortal sin.

Dolores Pap
8 months 1 week ago

Proving Valerie Schultz is correct..

Christopher Meehan
8 months 1 week ago

Alan, taking the time to read what Fr Martin is preaching would do you a lot of good. If you think he should be excommunicated, you should probably reflect on your understanding of your faith. Fr Martin's books are all fully consistent with church teachings. Give your bishop a call and discuss it or join a faith sharing session in your local parish. Would do you a lot of good to incorporate a little bit more love in your life.

alan macdonald
8 months 1 week ago

Sodomy is one of seven sins that cry to Heaven for vengeance. Fr. Martin doesn't need understanding or sharing, he needs to be excommunicated for unOrthodox teachings and opinions.

Reyanna Rice
8 months 1 week ago

He has not advicated any sinful behavior at all in his books! Have you even read any of them or listened to his talks to be able to quote where he says this? Or do you just blindly believe Michael Voris and his hateful utterances at “Church” Militant?

Harvey Milk, MD
8 months 1 week ago

Alan, There are indeed 7 Cardinal Sins: Pride, Gluttony, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Greed and Lust.

Lets assume lust is one you have under control. What about the other 6 big ones?

Your rant is, by definition, pride. So there is one cardinal sin for you to address. If you are overweight / obese, that means you have 2 other cardinal sins to address: gluttony and sloth. Wrath? Yeah, definitely. That makes 4 Cardinal Sins. Greed? We cant say for sure but trolls usually are freeloaders when it comes to posting on websites that depend on subscribers dues for survival. So if you arent giving financial support to America Magazine to post your trolling comments, then that means you have 5 Cardinal Sins to resolve in your life.

Get busy. How would it look if any LGBT got ahead of you while waiting in line to determine who enters Heaven vs Hell? Not pretty!

Here’s a Catholic tip. Pray “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” before entering the Confessional this week. Striking your chest optional but it might burn some calories.

Christopher Lochner
8 months 1 week ago

Wow!!! Nasty nasty nasty. Brilliant example of the aggressive hypocrite. Brilliant example of a TRUE troll. Love and compassion for friends but finger pointing and sarcastic mocking for others ( but this is OK only as long as you pay). If Alan spends an hour in confession I hope preparation is made for some to spend the day. THIS is exactly why people feel unwelcomed in church. Such a ludicrous and holier than thou attitude by someone attacking such attitudes. Bizarre!!! When, oh when, will we focus on treating individuals with respect and not so much on idolization of celebrity status? (Talkin' you, Jimbo)

Harvey Milk, MD
8 months 1 week ago

Christopher, you wrote, “Talkin’ you, Jimbo”.

That would be Reverened Father James Martin, S.J. to you, not Jimbo.
Hint: the name “Christopher” means “he who bears Christ”. Try it sometime

Anathema sit

Christopher Lochner
8 months 1 week ago

Oh, it's Jimbo. I don't worship at the feet of human beings unlike some and Father Martin's selective institution of Christ as a political pawn is horrifying but....he is adept at fighting to win. And I must understand that this is representative of the preoccupation of many with Status. Again, a beautiful juxtaposition of yours, telling me to honor my namesake by bearing Christ while excommunicating me in Latin. Again the hypocrisy!!

Lisa Weber
8 months 1 week ago

Alan MacDonald - And where in the Bible did Jesus say that sodomy was one of the seven sins that cries out for vengeance? You are not looking at anything Jesus said or did when you write that.

Andrew Wolfe
8 months 1 week ago

Father Martin is directly involved in ministry to same-sex attracted people. He writes a book about it. However, that book simply does not address what the CCC says about same-sex attraction (intrinsically disordered) and same-sex sex acts (inherently sinful). This is a flat-out refusal to deliver Church teaching to those to whom it applies.

However, I agree excommunication is a bit strong. He should have his faculties removed.

Rosemari Zagarri Prof
8 months 1 week ago

ALL are welcome in the Catholic Church. God loves all people and Jesus loved all who came to him. Only those who reject Jesus's most fundamental message spew hatred at LGBT people.

Andrew Wolfe
8 months 1 week ago

Every person is welcome. No sin is welcome. We all have to drop our sins, as best we can, if we want to join Jesus in Heaven. If I make my sins into my personal identity, I am crippling my spirit and stacking up a very painful clean-up in Purgatory. I cannot truly love anyone if I don't hate the sins that are hurting them. And so I refuse to accept same-sex sins as the identity of any LGBT person; these are people, not actions, not sins, not opinions.

Nancy Walton-House
8 months 1 week ago

Valerie, thanks for writing an honest report about what is happening in our American Catholic world on this issue. I experienced it also. I am deeply disappointed that this is going on. We must stop bullying everywhere it occurs - in schools, workplaces, communities, churches, etc.. We have the right to respectfully disagree with others, we do not have the right to force others to adopt our beliefs, decisions or actions.

Henry Brown
8 months 1 week ago

I would ask that no one call anyone a troll.
After all, someone you disagree with and who refuses to accept
your clear and brilliant postings is not inherently a troll.
They may just disagree with you via foundational principles.

After all it does say at the top of this comment section to
be charitable.

James Haraldson
8 months 1 week ago

You troll in unsubstantiated caricatures about people who have legitimate concerns about why it is that those who identify with and defend the silly acronym L.G.B.T are almost unanimous in their moral support for the crushing of skulls of preborn children and what this implies about the origins of their mindsets. Your attitude demonstrates you do not know much about what love means in the Christian life. Please stop your bullying.

Vincent Gaglione
8 months 1 week ago

The “lack of compassion,” (compassion being that which I construe as a sign of love), so often expressed in comments on this website, never ceases to amaze me. Whether “trolls” or just plain people “with blinders on” I can’t figure out sometimes.

Of one thing I am sure, while they may express a point of view with which I disagree, they seemingly do not care about the effects of their “tone” and “how they say it” on the reader or listener. It probably says something about both the family life in which they were raised and the church community in which they were nurtured. I taught for many years some children who were raised in neglectful circumstances. Ironically their “tone” and “how they said things” were no different than what I read in some comments here. So I disagree with the author on her comments about “love, love.” Sometimes, and most disturbingly to me, love is not enough to overcome the circumstances of one’s upbringing and nurturing.

I do not mean to imply that we stop the loving. I do mean to say that the desired results may never be seen, written or heard.

Christopher Lochner
8 months 1 week ago

A question: "denied the Eucharist" because they are LGBTQ. How would the Priest or EM even know?

Harvey Milk, MD
8 months 1 week ago

Christopher, the LGBT will be known to all during Mass because they will be surrounded by some screaming at them “sinner!” all the while carrying nooses, hammer, wooden stake, necklace of garlic and drum of petroleum with a match in their hand to light.

St Joan of Arc didnt have it this badly (nod to Bishop of Beauvais Pierre Cauchon)

Ryder Charles
8 months 1 week ago

Speaking of trolls....

Jack Carson
8 months 1 week ago

Valerie,

Your article was beautiful. I did not know you have a daughter who is a Lesbian. Thank you for telling us.

My husband converted to Catholicism last year. When he told me he wanted to convert to Catholicism, I told him I would have nothing to do with it. He found his own sponsor (I was not allowed anyways to be his sponsor as his husband) and the RCIA team embraced him. They all took to him enthusiastically because they knew he sought the face of God. They chose to show him love and compassion. I feared for him the rejection, the abuse, the villification and frankly the un-Christ-like behaviors of the modern day Puritans aka Sede vacantists, Pope Francis haters, wanna be Tridentine Rite martyrs. I know them all too well, have the scars to prove it. Yet he became Catholic anyways in spite of my telling him he would receive much rejection like I did for so many years as a cradle Catholic

Today my husband and I sit in the front pews (center of the row) of the cathedral every Sunday. The congregation accepts us, the Rector, Vicar General and Deacons embrace us, and the Bishop baptized and Confirmed my husband knowing full well I am a permanent fixture in the cathedral regardless of what the heathen say. I am a product of a Catholic education and I know enough Canon Law to know my station in the Church. So please be encouraged, Valerie, that some of us gays know that people are the same where ever we go. Whether in the Catholic Church or in the Democrat / Republican Parties, we all need the mercy of God.

May your daughter come back to the Church one day soon. She is welcome at our decidely Catholic Cathedral with a couple of homos ready to embrace her. God bless you Valerie!

Fr James Martin, keep up the great work!

Christopher Lochner
8 months 1 week ago

I am not at all condemning your experiences but it does concern me mightily when this love and compassion are directed primarily at certain elect groups and not towards all. I have never been to a church where there are "haters" of anyone, if anything it's typically benign indifference. We all realize who Father's favorites are and they tend to be the well moneyed and well connected. Might your happy acceptance be more along the lines of preferential treatment as opposed to the others in congregation? When I was a Sacristan, I worked hard to make sure everyone felt welcomed and excluded no one. But just as I was appalled by the situation of the Indian woman who left congregation because no one would shake her hand in peace nor acknowledge her presence or my being scolded for providing a bottle or water on a hot day to a needs person who was visiting , I was also appalled at Father's favorites, the individuals whom he would greet and always embrace but at the exclusion of others. Try not to fall into the trap of Status as it is much more earthly than Christlike. And beware, as we see far too often, you may be viewed more as a cause than a person, just don't do this to others.... ...And then you destroy my good thoughts by mentioning "a couple of homos ready to embrace her" which is Christian love as separate but equal as a guiding principal. This is precisely the problem I just mentioned... we're all Christian, just some more than others or maybe only Indians should embrace Indians. or I know some black parishoners who would welcome you, black person, because we know your kind like to stick together etc. etc..sigh. Sighhhhhhh. i wonder where acceptance ends and ego begins.

Charles Monsen
8 months 1 week ago

I have what I think is a simple question. Why in the world would anyone in the Church, other than their confessor, need to know anyone's sexual orientation? I have never been stopped at the doors of the Church and asked to identify the nature of my sins, and I have never seen anyone else asked. Please just come in, sit down, and join the rest of us sinners.

Šime Skelin
8 months 1 week ago

Let us not become hypocrites. No problem if it is a sinner, so there is confession, but a person must repent and admit that he(she) is a sinner and not impose on the Church sin as acceptable behavior. It's really that simple. Sorry for my bad English.

Andrew Wolfe
8 months 1 week ago

Ms. Schultz, do you really think that people who openly disobey Church teaching should have employment in the Church? In teaching ministries?

Dcn Cliff Britton
8 months 1 week ago

I suppose this is not the first tough issue issue in Church history to bring out polarizing language.

Ms. Shultz, the power of your argument is lost to me because you chose to write in language where I'm already the bad guy if I don't agree with you instantly. I'd like to read more about your experience with a daughter who has same-sex attraction when you take the time to write something with balance - that allows me to focus on the reasoning of your argument/truth of your experience instead of being drawn into a us/them battle of your making. Peace and joy!

Mike Theman
8 months 1 week ago

Huh. Reading the definition of a troll, the writer of the article seems to fit the description to a tee.

What's the name for a person who posts hypocritical comments? "Pot?" "Kettle?"

Greg Wood
8 months 1 week ago

Thank you

Lisa Weber
8 months 1 week ago

Trolls are engaging in the most basic of sins, which is seeking power. All of the cardinal sins are related to seeking power over others. Trolls engage in violence because it gets them what they want - a sense of power.

Sexuality and spirituality are both powerful forces, arguably the two most powerful forces in the human race. Any subject at the intersection of sexuality and spirituality will bring out the worst in people. Truth is the best rebuttal to those seeking power because power-seekers always lie to some degree. Their lies are the dry-rot in their power structure. Speak the truth to trolls. (But don't waste your time, either.)

If we look to the foundational authority of the Christian church, we look to what Jesus said and did. Everything Jesus said and did made sexuality private. Jesus defended the woman caught in adultery. He ended ritual impurity for menstruation and childbirth. He said nothing at all about homosexuality. Sexuality is not a concern of the community; it is a concern of the individual. Those who seek to make the sexuality of others a public concern are going against the teachings of Jesus.

If we consider why Jesus made sexuality private, it may be because issues related to sexuality are contentious and divisive in a community. If we look at how this applies to the Catholic Church, we might consider how many people have left over the issues of contraception, divorce, abortion and gay marriage. Perhaps Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed not because of their sins of sexual acts but because of their sin of making sexuality a public issue. The sex abuse scandals have also driven people from the church, but the underlying problem there is the failure of the church to protect its children.

If gossip about others' sexuality is considered a sexual sin, the trolls cannot claim any sort of superiority to those they gossip about. My experience with those who slander others with accusations related to sexuality is that the slanderers have not resolved issues related to their own sexuality.

Bill Niermeyer
8 months 1 week ago

If the Church ( Catholic ) bared everyone in sin from communion or a funeral etc there would be no Catholic Church around.

James Haraldson
8 months ago

I have a question for Ms. Shultz. Would the L.G.B.T. "community" organizing to intentionally target small businesses owned by Christians to have them produce products that explicitly endorse the concept of same sex marriage and sue them and their families into ruination if they resist count as "trolling?" Also would it be "unloving" to be unhappy about knowing that this sort of thing occurs?
Also does the fact that the L.G.B.T. "community" has achieved almost perfect unanimity in support of crushing the skulls of preborn babies and has been politically united in their support for this skull crushing, count as a form of political trolling on their part?

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