Monday, November 12, 2012

Catholic New Media Use in the United States, 2012


Inquisitor minds want to know...

Ha!  Just kidding.  Like Mark Shea wrote a few days ago - I write the way I speak in a conversation - this blog is a casual web log.  Dawn Eden calls me a 'diarist' - so you won't find great literature here - just a POV.  Catholic "New" media isn't so new - I've been blogging since 2006 - other old timers have been online ever since Al Gore invented the Internet.  New media is a term which works for conventioneers or Catholics with a mission, an apostolate to the digital continent, casting out into the digital sea.  I get it.

Nevertheless, I'm just a Catholic who has a blog.  I am a Catholic layman who writes about his life and his experience of life.  I'm a Catholic.

This past weekend in Baltimore Catholic bloggers gathered for “An Encounter With Social Media: Bishops and Bloggers Dialogue,” an event sponsored by the Department of Communications of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Not long ago there was a blogger convention in Rome.  Someday there will probably be a canonical recognition of the order of bloggers.
“The CARA report suggests many opportunities for the Church to engage with those who live on the ‘Digital Continent,’ as Pope Benedict XVI describes this new culture of communications,” said Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Communications. “We can approach this as missionaries, eager to find God already present among the inhabitants of this world and to engage them, especially young people, in meaningful dialogue about morals and values in this new public square.”
“In this context, the role of the laity becomes ever more central,” said Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, in a message to the bishops and bloggers gathered in Baltimore. “The ‘voices’ of the many Catholics who are present in blogs, social networks and other digital forums are reaching people who might not otherwise encounter the message of Jesus.” - Source

Works for me - but I rather think this all comes under the heading of ordinary life.  Unless you are a professional writer/blogger - but then I'm about as interested in you as I was in the local diocesan newspaper.  Not so much.  It's like EWTN - it falls into a formula. 

Being online is part of ordinary life.  When grandma blogs about etiquette and dad blogs about beer and your daughter Tweets fashion and your nephew is into sexting - it's ordinary life.  Right now, the digital continent is exactly what the first world was to the third world - I doubt many people in the slums and barrios of the world are reading Catholic blogs when they don't even have broadband. 

Evangelizing culture then, are we?  That's ordinary life.  If you are interested, St. Josemaria Escriva developed an entire spirituality based on the greatness of ordinary life.

So anyway.  There is an etiquette in development by Catholics who write books and appear to lead the way in the new evangelization online as well as on the Church-basement-lecture-circuit.

Blunt Commandments for faith bloggers....

We are one body...  Of course we are, and the proceeds go to charity and - never mind.

One thing about Catholic bloggers however is they are way too sensitive to criticism.  There is a real tendency to believe everything they write carries some sort of imprimatur or that their interpretation of what the pope said is absolutely the correct one - or that everything the pope says is infallible.  "Ok, let's suppose the pope said that he thinks it's going to rain tomorrow..."  Not a few seem to see themselves on a mission from God, especially those who studied theology and are pretty much under-employed, or simply like to pontificate. 

Yes the Holy Father did say “Without fear we must set sail on the digital sea facing into the deep with the same passion that has governed the ship of the Church for 2000 years.”   That's cool.

And here comes the Roman penchant for legislation...  the parochial system of approval and control... the Blunt Commandments:
As in the secular media, the social-media tsunami has rocked the old-guard religious publications.

For Catholics, diocesan newspapers long served as the official establishment voices, often clashing with independent publications on the left and right, as well as those produced by religious orders such as the Jesuits. Now, Catholic bloggers have emerged as a quick-striking source of alternative commentary and information — often from a sharply pro-Vatican point of view.

“The Catholic blogosphere is probably one of the most orthodox parts of the American church, in large part because there were so many people who feel like the church is being attacked and they want to defend it,” said T.J. Burdick, a Catholic educator who edited the new “One Body, Many Blogs” e-book.
First, said Marc Barnes of the Bad Catholic blog: “Don’t suck. There is a tendency within the Christian world to think the work we do will be good work, if only we do it for God.” Anything less than excellence “is no service to God, no matter how well we think we are witnessing, giving testimony, or whatever Christian euphemism we want to use to disguise the fact that we can’t be bothered to make something awesome.”

Never assume “everyone who reads your work has the same viewpoint on issues of faith,” wrote Lisa Hendey of CatholicMom.

com. “Find a Jewish, Protestant or even atheist friend or acquaintance and invite them to join you for a cup of coffee and a peek at your blog. While they view it, watch carefully how they interact with your content and what lasting impressions they have in reading your work.”

Along that line, but in pews, Deacon Greg Kandra advised: “Keep an open mind to the many ways there are of being Catholic. Not everyone loves the Latin Mass. Not everyone adores strumming guitars and liturgical dance.” When in doubt, he added, “Ask yourself periodically: WWJB?” - Source
Please, don't go making wrist bands or bumper stickers that ask WWJB.  Please don't go looking for a token Jewish, Protestant, atheist friend to read your blog. And Barnes is right - don't suck.  Don't suck-up, that is.  It's so Stepford, and sort of pathetic too.

I'm just a Catholic. 

Oh look!  I have a blog too. 



  1. Mm-hhmmm.

    Hey Terry! Were you invited? I wasn't invited - were you?

    Do you think Michael Voris was invited? He's New Media too, isn't he?

  2. Michael and I were invited, but we said we wouldn't attend unless you and Badger were invited. I blame you know who.


    Don't feel bad though - the greatest blogger of them all - Fr. Z - is never there either.

  3. You should have your own media conference.

    While attending the “An Encounter With Social Media: Bishops and Bloggers Dialogue,” would have been total boring misery, doing one's one media encounter could be highly entertaining.

    1. You can be the keynote speaker.

  4. Catholic bloggers should reflect that "by their fruits you will know them." It's hardly a witness to the Gospel when a blogger regularly engages in sarcasm, put-downs and crushing of opponents.

    In an attempt to show their reasonability and open-mindedness, some Catholic bloggers resort to excessive parsing of a given situation or issue. This is often a pitfall for overwrought and precious writing. The blogger should ask whether his open-mindedness might really be a form of self-indulgence and solipsism. When this type of writing involves a straw man (usually someone who doesn't "get it") it comes out sounding like "Thank you Lord that I'm not like these self-righteous, but that I am nuanced."

    In any event, I don't see these problems in "Abbey-Roads" which is a very nice blog with fine writing.

    1. Thanks much Frank - excellent points.

  5. Keep doing what you are doing Terry. It works for me. Aren't you glad Al Gore invented the internet? lol

    1. Thanks! Al Gore is one of my heroes... kidding.

  6. You have to enable comments to be a real blogger.

    1. Now I'm trying to figure out who doesn't enable comments...

    2. LOL, I thought that was you for a few days.

      I got a kick out of bishops not liking social media because they could face criticism. Most diocesan newspapers are not read because they are so blah.

  7. is it wrong for me to say this , but after almost a year of being Catholic( former bapt minister etc etc ... no book/cd/speaking tour or pending national interview to plug...odd I know :) but, its seems like many of the "top' catholic bloggers (many it seems found in one place)take themselves all too seriously. It appears to me that they have found a nice way to get noticed and make money or go on great trips all across the country by preaching to the crowd ...the catholic blogging ghetto .maybe I am wrong but I saw all of this before when I was a minister. I used to love reading many diff. blogs but honestly now many turn me off ( your blog and a few others excluded )

    1. Hi Jeff - thanks for the comment - no it is not wrong for you to think that. I agree. I'm sure you did witness the same stuff as a minister.

  8. Dawn Eden has a "donate button" on her blog. You can "support her apostolate". Good to know, huh?


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.