Pope Francis wants you to be holy online. Here’s how.

People take photos on smartphones as Pope Francis greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 12. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)   People take photos on smartphones as Pope Francis greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 12. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

Stop trolling, resist gossiping and consider putting down your device altogether.

That is Pope Francis’ advice for how to be holy online, snippets of wisdom from his new apostolic exhortation released on Monday, “Gaudete et Exsultate,” or “Rejoice and Be Glad: On the Call To Holiness in Today’s World.”

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The pope takes on “verbal violence” that is common on “the internet and various forums of digital communication.”

Stop trolling, resist gossiping and consider putting down your device altogether.

Pope Francis is no stranger to social media. He holds the record for amassing one million followers on Instagram in the shortest amount of time, and he is one of the most influential world leaders on Twitter, followed by more than 40 million accounts. His concern about “verbal violence” perhaps means that he has glanced at replies to his tweets, which are often filled with vulgarities, attacks on Catholicism or even condemnations from other Catholics. Or maybe he is still recoiling from when President Trump called him “not Pope-like” back in 2013? Whatever the cause, the pope wants temperatures to cool down.

Francis touches on more than just social media in his new exhortation, the third of his pontificate, critiquing some online outlets that purport to be Catholic in nature but that engage in unsavory activities.

“Even in Catholic media, limits can be overstepped, defamation and slander can become commonplace, and all ethical standards and respect for the good name of others can be abandoned,” he writes.

“It is striking, at times, in claiming to uphold the other commandments, they completely ignore the eighth.”

Francis refrains from offering specific examples, of course, but it is not difficult to imagine what he has in mind. In North America alone, there are many well-funded Catholic sites and numerous Catholic blogs whose aim is often to slander and malign fellow Catholics who, in the eyes of these writers, believe or live the Catholic faith incorrectly.

“The result is a dangerous dichotomy,” Francis writes, “since things can be said there that would be unacceptable in public discourse, and people look to compensate for their own discontent by lashing out at others.”

He takes special aim at online behavior that is misleading, either through innuendo or tenuous ties to suspect people or ideologies.

“It is striking, at times, in claiming to uphold the other commandments, they completely ignore the eighth,” he writes, “which forbids bearing false witness or lying, and ruthlessly vilify others.”

“Here we see how the unguarded tongue, set on fire by hell, sets all things ablaze,” he writes.

(Coincidentally, Francis invokes the image of hell to condemn misleading news or commentary. It was just a couple of weeks ago that a 93-year-old journalist who met with the pope without taking notes or recording the conversation reported that Francis had denied hell’s existence, leading to a flurry of condemnation from traditionalist Catholics who have repeatedly criticized the pope for sowing confusion.)

The pope warns against spreading gossip, which previously he called a form of “terrorism,” in a section on Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels.

“Here we see how the unguarded tongue, set on fire by hell, sets all things ablaze.”

Reflecting on the beatitudes, Francis says that when Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers,” Christians often think of “many endless situations of war in our world.” But, he asks, what are the more personal situations that could benefit from a peacemaker?

“I may hear something about someone and I go off and repeat it,” he writes as an example. “I may even embellish it the second time around and keep spreading it.”

Though Francis does not point to social media specifically, he writes that people who gossip seek to harm the target, which leads to the gossiper taking even “more satisfaction” in the slander.

“The world of gossip, inhabited by negative and destructive people, does not bring peace,” he says. “Such people are really the enemies of peace; in no way are they ‘peacemakers.’”

“The world of gossip, inhabited by negative and destructive people, does not bring peace.”

While the pope wants people to behave better online, he is also worried about the impact digital culture is having on our ability to discern, which he said is necessary to understand if something comes from God or from the devil.

“The gift of discernment has become all the more necessary today, since contemporary life offers immense possibilities for action and distraction, and the world presents all of them as valid and good,” he writes.

He said all people, but especially the young, “are immersed in a culture of zapping.”

“We can navigate simultaneously on two or more screens and interact at the same time with two or three virtual scenarios,” he writes. “Without the wisdom of discernment, we can easily become prey to every passing trend.”

According to Francis, constant distraction because of too much screentime is making us unable to reflect seriously on choices we have to make in life. And this leads to the pope’s advice about silence.

Francis does not endorse silence full stop. He thinks it is sometimes an excuse to flee “interaction with others, to want peace and quiet while avoiding activity, to seek prayer while disdaining service.”

But, he said, people should not ignore “the need for moments of quiet solitude and silence before God.”

Which, he writes, is in short supply thanks to the “presence of constantly new gadgets, the excitement of travel and an endless array of consumer goods” that “at times leave no room for God’s voice to be heard.”

“We are overwhelmed by words,” he writes, “by superficial pleasures and by an increasing din, filled not by joy but rather by the discontent of those whose lives have lost meaning.”

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J Cosgrove
1 month 2 weeks ago

My wife and I were just having a discussion on how these new digital electronic instruments have affected our behavior. Mostly because they are so easy to use and provide much quicker information. Though it can often be wrong or misleading information.

But what has not changed is the underlying human being. We are still governed by the natural law. At varying points in the history of humans, new environmental changes have changed outward human behavior but the internal human has not changed.

What people are doing online is the same as they did a thousand years ago. Just that they can do it quicker, more wide spread and more anonymously. Does anyone think there wasn't gossip in ancient times or that people didn't put others down with verbal slights.

“It is striking, at times, in claiming to uphold the other commandments, they completely ignore the eighth,” he writes, “which forbids bearing false witness or lying, and ruthlessly vilify others.”

I wonder if calling someone a "racist" or a "fascist" would be an example of this?

Maybe our discussions should be based on evidence and reason and not emotions or pejoratives.

Anne Danielson
1 month 2 weeks ago

JMJ
Our Call to Holiness, has always been a Call to be chaste in our thoughts, in our words, and in our deeds.

" is speaking the truth about a bad situation ... gossip?'

"1. gossip
casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.
"he became the subject of much local gossip"
synonyms: rumor(s), tittle-tattle, whispers, canards, tidbits"

" is speaking the truth about a bad situation ... gossip?"

Not if the intent is to rectify a dangerous situation.

fore·warn
fôrˈwôrn/
verb
inform (someone) of a danger or possible problem.
"he had been forewarned of a coup plot"
synonyms: warn, warn in advance, give advance warning, give fair warning, give notice, apprise, inform;

"True peace demands a means to defend order against those who want to destroy it - Prof. Plinio "- January 16, 2018

"Cardinal hosts prayer service in Cathedral featuring notorious drag queen", "Holy Cross Professor Liew", blasphemy against Our Lord And Savior, Jesus The Christ...

As the veil is being lifted, a Great Apostasy is being exposed:
"When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man." Pope Benedict Christmas Address 2012

Luis Gutierrez
1 month 2 weeks ago

Pope Francis should rescind Inter Insigniores, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, and the Responsum ad Propositum Dubium, which are subtle forms of LYING in support of ecclesiastical patriarchy.

Anne Danielson
1 month 2 weeks ago

Christ Instituted The Holy Sacraments.
"ON THE SACRAMENTS IN GENERAL"

"CANON I.-If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by Jesus Christ, our Lord; or, that they are more, or less, than seven, to wit, Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order, and Matrimony; or even that any one of these seven is not truly and properly a sacrament; let him be anathema.
CANON II.-If any one saith, that these said sacraments of the New Law do not differ from the sacramnets of the Old Law, save that the ceremonies are different, and different the outward rites; let him be anathema.

CANON III.-If any one saith, that these seven sacraments are in such wise equal to each other, as that one is not in any way more worthy than another; let him be anathema.

CANON IV.-If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not indeed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema.

CANON V.-If any one saith, that these sacraments were instituted for the sake of nourishing faith alone; let him be anathema.

CANON VI.-If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law do not contain the grace which they signify; or, that they do not confer that grace on those who do not place an obstacle thereunto; as though they were merely outward signs of grace or justice received through faith, and certain marks of the Christian profession, whereby believers are distinguished amongst men from unbelievers; let him be anathema.

CANON VII.-If any one saith, that grace, as far as God's part is concerned, is not given through the said sacraments, always, and to all men, even though they receive them rightly, but (only) sometimes, and to some persons; let him be anathema.

CANON VIII.-If any one saith, that by the said sacraments of the New Law grace is not conferred through the act performed, but that faith alone in the divine promise suffices for the obtaining of grace; let him be anathema.

CANON IX.-If any one saith, that, in the three sacrments, Baptism, to wit, Confirmation, and Order, there is not imprinted in the soul a character, that is, a certain spiritual and indelible Sign, on account of which they cannot be repeated; let him be anathema.

CANON X.-If any one saith, that all Christians have power to administer the word, and all the sacraments; let him be anathema.

CANON XI.-If any one saith, that, in ministers, when they effect, and confer the sacraments, there is not required the intention at least of doing what the Church does; let him be anathema.

CANON XII.-If any one saith, that a minister, being in mortal sin,-if so be that he observe all the essentials which belong to the effecting, or conferring of, the sacrament,-neither effects, nor confers the sacrament; let him be anathema.

CANON XIII.-If any one saith, that the received and approved rites of the Catholic Church, wont to be used in the solemn administration of the sacraments, may be contemned, or without sin be omitted at pleasure by the ministers, or be changed, by every pastor of the churches, into other new ones; let him be anathema."

Anne Danielson
1 month 2 weeks ago

Christ Instituted The Holy Sacraments.
"ON THE SACRAMENTS IN GENERAL"

"CANON I.-If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by Jesus Christ, our Lord; or, that they are more, or less, than seven, to wit, Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order, and Matrimony; or even that any one of these seven is not truly and properly a sacrament; let him be anathema.
CANON II.-If any one saith, that these said sacraments of the New Law do not differ from the sacramnets of the Old Law, save that the ceremonies are different, and different the outward rites; let him be anathema.

CANON III.-If any one saith, that these seven sacraments are in such wise equal to each other, as that one is not in any way more worthy than another; let him be anathema.

CANON IV.-If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not indeed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema.

CANON V.-If any one saith, that these sacraments were instituted for the sake of nourishing faith alone; let him be anathema.

CANON VI.-If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law do not contain the grace which they signify; or, that they do not confer that grace on those who do not place an obstacle thereunto; as though they were merely outward signs of grace or justice received through faith, and certain marks of the Christian profession, whereby believers are distinguished amongst men from unbelievers; let him be anathema.

CANON VII.-If any one saith, that grace, as far as God's part is concerned, is not given through the said sacraments, always, and to all men, even though they receive them rightly, but (only) sometimes, and to some persons; let him be anathema.

CANON VIII.-If any one saith, that by the said sacraments of the New Law grace is not conferred through the act performed, but that faith alone in the divine promise suffices for the obtaining of grace; let him be anathema.

CANON IX.-If any one saith, that, in the three sacrments, Baptism, to wit, Confirmation, and Order, there is not imprinted in the soul a character, that is, a certain spiritual and indelible Sign, on account of which they cannot be repeated; let him be anathema.

CANON X.-If any one saith, that all Christians have power to administer the word, and all the sacraments; let him be anathema.

CANON XI.-If any one saith, that, in ministers, when they effect, and confer the sacraments, there is not required the intention at least of doing what the Church does; let him be anathema.

CANON XII.-If any one saith, that a minister, being in mortal sin,-if so be that he observe all the essentials which belong to the effecting, or conferring of, the sacrament,-neither effects, nor confers the sacrament; let him be anathema.

CANON XIII.-If any one saith, that the received and approved rites of the Catholic Church, wont to be used in the solemn administration of the sacraments, may be contemned, or without sin be omitted at pleasure by the ministers, or be changed, by every pastor of the churches, into other new ones; let him be anathema."

John Wren
1 month 1 week ago

I've ask for feedback in light of Pope Francis' comments on Internet sites on my https://Facebook.com/2WayPrayer Please check it out and let me know if 1) anything is amiss, and 2) if it has helped anyone. It may be time for me to pass the torch. If you have a Jesuit centered ministry that would like to take it over, please let me know and I'll pass it on to you as a donation. I'm moved by this article, see the need to cut way down on the amount of time I'm spending online. Thanks!

Theodore Seeber
1 month 1 week ago

I find it ironic to find thos article in one of the two most verbally violent publications on the Internet today, and coming from a Pope who is infamous online for verbal violence against faithful Catholics.

Steve Magnotta
1 month 1 week ago

The Pope gently chides gossip and slander. The response? Gossip and slander. Sad. Very sad. It seems the ability to listen, really listen, and to quietly reflect is in disturbingly short supply. God bless.

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