A timely reminder: calumny in the blogosphere

July 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

In a 2008 edition of Homiletic and Pastoral review Fr. Michael P. Orsi pinpoints one of the serious sins that is, sadly, rampant these days: Calumny. He reminds us point-blank that “Calumnious blogging is a serious offense against God’s law. Those who engage in it are jeopardizing their immortal souls and the souls of others.” As an (intermittent) blogger myself, I know I need to take these words to heart. I think we all do, don’t you?

I sincerely hope that I have not been personally guilty of this sin in anything I have written on my blog (or anywhere else, for that matter). If I have been, I ask forgiveness from God and for anyone whom I may have wounded. As St. Paul said, “I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Cor. 4:4).

Let’s consider Fr. Orsi’s admonishment, especially given the tumult of today’s new announcement about Fr. Corapi . . .

Calumny and its close relative detraction (derogatory comments that reveal the hidden faults or sins of another without reason) have been part of life since the dawn of time. But opportunities for breaking the Eighth Commandment have proliferated with the advent of the Internet, especially since the rise of the phenomenon known as “blogging.”

“Blog” is one of those punchy little contractions we live with today, an example of the technological shorthand so beloved in our culture of email and text messaging. A blog (short for “weblog”) is a personal website or online journal. Blogs perform a variety of communication functions, combining elements of both private conversation and broadcasting, usually incorporating a forum for interactive discussion.

Blogs are vehicles of global self-expression, something unprecedented in the history of human discourse. They are a means by which the average person—with creativity, initiative and the investment of time—can reach limitless numbers of readers anywhere in the world. They elevate the marketing presence of entrepreneurs and small companies to levels that used to be attainable only by major corporations. And they have transformed journalism, breaking the monopolies of resource and licensure that once restricted entry into the world of mass communications.

There are tens of thousands of blogs today: personal, educational, commercial, political, philosophical, religious—you name it. In fact, the presence of Catholics in what has come to be called the “blogosphere” is one of the great untold stories of modern evangelism and religious communication.

An especially compelling element of blogging is the ability to project one’s ideas, observations and opinions with near-complete anonymity. It is common blogger practice to adopt an online persona—usually some cute name or title with relevance to the main focus of the blog. Likewise, readers who comment on blog postings or participate in discussions can set their views before the world without revealing themselves. Service providers that host blogs routinely permit such anonymity, and the law has upheld the practice (in only a handful of court cases have providers been forced to unmask their blogging clients).

But the power to reach a wide audience while remaining in the shadows has proven a source of great temptation. All too many online commentators have been dazzled by this technology that magnifies personal identity and stokes the ego while providing a shield from the consequences of their words. Whole new avenues of calumny have been the result.

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13 Responses to “A timely reminder: calumny in the blogosphere”
  1. HCSKnight says:

    There’s deep ignorance regarding this topic that ties so much on the logo sphere together; intent, emotion, and bias.

    There’s a grave error in thought by many “evangelical catholic” bloggers (non-capitalization intended). It is well surmised by “Robert” – “The close relationship between calumny and anonymity is one reason why I do not frequent anonymous blogs or allow anonymous comments on my blog.”

    1st – there is no clear proof of his assertion, merely bias born of emotional attachment. Gen. Powell had a good saying, paraphrased – never hold your position of thought so dear that when it falls so does your ego.

    2nd – during the formative years of this country there were debates over the principal foundations of the government in the papers. These came to be known as The Federalist Papers”. They knew the wisdom of anonymous public discussion.

    3rd – Calumny can only exist if there’s a person wronged; anonymous blogging protects all from this and allows the focus to be properly placed on the ideas & points made.

    What I see going on are huge numbers of people who are far more Protestant than Catholic trying to gain fame, favor and financial freedom through a very Protestant behavior of “professional evangelization”. They place their faces prominently all over the place and praise, as well as revel in the praise of, their sycophant followers.

    Grave damage was done to the Faith before the Protestant Schism by large numbers of poorly educated priests, monks & brothers. Today the same happening at the speed of the Internet.

    More gravely, today most of the priests who during Mass turn their back on Our Lord Crucified, and look out upon “their parish”, have fallen in love with themselves and the great emotional effect they believe they create during the Mass.

    Smoke is made up of millions of tiny particles of ash. Likewise the Smoke of Satan has entered the Sanctuary the same way, by millions of tiny egos filling the space between man and Our Lord.

    They take many forms, but they all share the darkness of ego.

    Otherwise, they would be at peace and filled with joy to post the revelations the Lord has made annonamously.

    AMDG
    HCSKnight

  2. Bren Rogers says:

    Thank you for posting Father Orsi’s article. It’s a very good reminder of how we should behave as practicing Catholics.

  3. Lisa Graas says:

    I needed that…and medication…and more prayer. :-)

  4. Paladin says:

    :) A voice of sanity and calm! (I say that in all sincerity; sites that aren’t of the “Fr. Corapi, right or wrong” or “Fr. Corapi, dead or alive” varieties are scarcer than hen’s teeth!) Thank you, Patrick; God bless you and your efforts!

  5. Adele says:

    Hi Patrick,

    I find the fact that you posted it here terribly disturbing, on this day in question, when the truth about Corapi came out. You can accuse me of whatever you like. I accuse you of cowardice for not speaking out against Corapi when in the past, you added to the hero worship of the man. “The 10 facts about Corapi” and instead go on about charity. There is no Charity where there is no truth. It is not Charity to say nothing about an evil man who drags others down to Hell with him.

    Adele

  6. Jim says:

    I believe we should follow the example of our Blessed Mother, and ponder things in our hearts before we speak. This includes myself!

    Let us pray for all involved.

    Peace and Blessings!

  7. Derek says:

    Adele,
    I don’t think this post is any admission of guilt on Patrick’s part. I personally don’t believe there was any calumny or detraction on the part of Patrick for linking to the blog, or on the part of the blog for reporting the story, or on the part of SOLT for revealing their findings.

    However, this is the sort of thing where calumny and/or detraction can very easily work their way into the situation, and it’s therefore a good time for a reminder such as this post.

    Plus, reflection and honest self-examination are always prudent practices, especially where touchy discussions are involved. I commend Patrick for this reminder that we all need to be careful about what we say and why.

    Derek

  8. Adele says:

    Really, Patrick? I find this blog post of yours terribly disturbing and poorly placed in light of today’s revelations. What are you trying to say? I could almost infer that you are saying that Corapi’s Superior is guilty for revealing Corapi’s horrible sins. Silence can also be a grave sin, especially under the guise of a false charity. Remember the 9 ways of cooperating in another’s sin: By counsel; By command; By consent; By provocation; By praise or flattery; By concealment; By partaking; By silence; By defense of the ill done.

    Beware that you as a public figure who has the responsibility of speaking out against the wolves in sheepdog’s clothing, don’t sin by saying nothing and allowing all the poor Corapi lemmings to jump off the cliff with him. You are responsible to speak up. I’m really very underwhelmed with you in this situation.

    Let not your mind be troubled does not cut it. Yes, we should be troubled. Souls are at stake here. Would you have said that to Jesus in the Garden as he sweat blood? People are sad and upset and they should be.

    As a side note, not really having to do with you, but where’s the apology from all the Bishop bashing, Superior bashing and accuser condemning people out there now? How are they repairing for that horrendous calumny against the innocent parties or at least those who have been sinned against in this case?

    Adele

    • Adele, do you mean that you find the article by Father Orsi “terribly disturbing” or the fact that I posted it “terribly disturbing”? Either way, I am at a loss to know why you would feel so disturbed by either. Your reaction is way out of proportion to this post, and I’d respectfully encourage you to bring that to prayer to see why it unsettles you so.

      For the record, my choice of this article had nothing to do with Fr. Corapi’s superiors at SOLT. Rather, it had to do with people (such as yourself, to be candid), who leap feet-first into the blog-comment-box fray and start lashing out at people and about things that they don’t really know enough about. Or, in the case of those who do know more than others, they succumb to the temptation to engage in calumny, detraction, etc., just as Father Orsi explains.

      Given all the waves of tumult and turmoil and backbiting and accusations and acrimony that have been sweeping over Catholic Blog World recently, this article by Fr. Orsi (which I hope you will take time to read in its entirety) is an excellent and timely reminder on how to avoid the dangerous pitfalls that attend to blogging and commenting on blogs.

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