Pope Benedict says Catholic bloggers must not put popularity above proclaiming the fullness of the truth

In his Message for World Communications Day Pope Benedict addresses the subject of Catholic blogs and social networking, welcoming the potential for new forms of communication and knowledge while at the same time giving advise about its authentic use.

‘The web is contributing to the development of new and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons, new forms of shared awareness. In this field too we are called to proclaim our faith that Christ is God, the Saviour of humanity and of history, the one in whom all things find their fulfilment (cf. Eph 1:10).’

The Holy Father’s basic advice is that Catholic bloggers must not put popularity above proclaiming the fullness of the truth:

‘First of all, we must be aware that the truth which we long to share does not derive its worth from its “popularity” or from the amount of attention it receives. We must make it known in its integrity, instead of seeking to make it acceptable or diluting it. It must become daily nourishment and not a fleeting attraction.’

Unsurprisingly but maybe necessary all the same, Pope Benedict also advises Catholic bloggers to be Christian in the way they post and respond to comments:

‘The proclamation of the Gospel requires a communication which is at once respectful and sensitive, which stimulates the heart and moves the conscience; one which reflects the example of the risen Jesus when he joined the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35). By his approach to them, his dialogue with them, his way of gently drawing forth what was in their heart, they were led gradually to an understanding of the mystery.’

Protect the Pope comment: On Protect the Pope I have attempted to encourage respectful but robust discussion between contributors to the site. Having said this, in challenging the falsehoods and vitriol directed at the Holy Father and the Catholic Faith I have felt it necessary to bluntly name prejudice, intolerance and discrimination and hold those responsible for it to account. When someone appears to intentionally lie, it is necessary to identify them as liars, when someone appears to intentionally promote prejudice, it is necessary to identify them as bigots. Why is it necessary to identify lies and bigotry against the Holy Father and the Catholic Church? Because pretending it’s not happening with a diplomatic silence is taken as weakness by liars and bigots which encourages them to greater outrages, and unopposed airtime and coverage by the media.

Pope Benedict’s advice to Catholic bloggers makes me ask the question, how can I be sensitive and respectful to individuals who post such dreadful lies about Pope Benedict and stir up such unjust hate and prejudice against Catholics?

I can’t help but notice that St Paul and St John are not models of sensitivity and respect when writing about heretics and persecutors. Is there no place for anger in being a Christian?

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/communications/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20110124_45th-world-communications-day_en.html

34 comments to Pope Benedict says Catholic bloggers must not put popularity above proclaiming the fullness of the truth

  • FidesetRatio

    “how can I be sensitive and respectful to individuals who post such dreadful lies about Pope Benedict”
    “Is there no place for anger in being a Christian?”

    I though this website was meant to protect the pope!! Anyway, in all seriousness, I do understand your feelings on this. There is certainly a place for righteous anger, as expressed by Christ in driving out the Temple money exchangers, but this must be controlled. After all in answering the questions of the Pharisees etc…Jesus himself was sensitive and gentle in response. Such sensitivity can only serve to strengthen your arguments. The truth can not be expressed in violent terms, since it is not itself of an angry and violent nature.

  • louella

    I think myself Christ was very robust at times. To be honest I was quite shocked the first time I read the Gospels for myself. But when facing the foes of Christ….we must be firm and strong as well as sentsitive. Because lies and sin deserve to be called out… But we must always hold out an olive branch to those who are truly seeking the Truth….and seeking to learn.

    Just because we are firm and angry at times ….does not mean we hate anybody.

  • Karla

    I think Pope Benedict would understand if people continue to lie, post hate etc. they should not have the right anymore to their point of view on the blog.

    Righteous anger is sometimes needed to oppose wickedness. Hate what is not good.

  • Karla

    I did not mean hate people, but hate what is not good. The Catholic teaches that we are to judge things that are contrary to the truth and harm the reputation of innocent others.

  • FidesetRatio

    The thing is, when hatred creeps into our language of argument, it just distorts the argument and the truth. For an excellent example look at this

    http://www.protest-the-pope.org.uk/2010/09/richard-dawkins-at-the-protest-the-pope-rally/

    and see what Mark Hanau has to say for himself! Hatred and emotive language obscures the truth, but it promotes any argument which is contradictory to the truth. Those trying to promote the truth should not use emotive, hateful language if they are to be successful.

  • There are bloggers who put popularity in the first place. And this is indeed wrong. But I would also like to hear our beloved Holy Father issue a similar statement regarding those dioceses which place popularity above the truth. Case in point, the Boston Archdiocese which has announced a new policy regarding children who come from homosexual households:

    http://lasalettejourney.blogspot.com/2011/01/boston-archdiocese-and-compromise-with.html

    The Catholic faithful have a right to receive Catholic doctrine in its purity and integrity (Veritatis Splendor, No. 113). And Catholic doctrine regarding homosexual acts is crystal clear: they constitute acts of “grave depravity.” Under no circumstances can they be approved.

    The new policy of the Boston Archdiocese amounts to a tacit approval of homosexual relationships. The Catholic school, if it is to be authentically Catholic, cannot partner with parents or guardians who are engaged in a homosexual relationship. This is what Archbishop Charles Chaput has said. And His Excellency is right.

    Tragic scenes such as this are occurring throughout the Church. In Ontario, one Catholic school voted to abandon Church teaching regarding homosexuality. Deacon Nick, it IS indeed possible to “be angry and sin not” (Ephesians 4:32). Like yourself, I believe in calling a spade a spade. This too is charity. And the spades are attacking from both within and without the Church. St. Francis de Sales said that it is a act of charity to cry wolf when the wolf slips into the sheepfold. The Church’s authentic peace is one which is ever at war with error and falsehood.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Pedro

      Wow. So it’s not only homosexuals that you want to treat as second class citizens, but their children as well. I can feel the Christian love.

      Fortunately, we’re getting to the point where narrow minded, bigoted views like yours are being seen for what they are.

      • Karla

        Where did Paul say homosexuals should be treated as second class citizens?

        Catholics believe homosexuals engaging in sex is a moral sin, why would a homosexual couple to send their children to a Catholic school? Children are taught that homosexual acts are morally wrong and go against natural law, but has parents that are in a relationship engaging in those very acts. It is in direct conflict.

      • louella

        Pedro….didn’t you do biology in school?! If you did you should know that homosexuals can’t have children….it’s a biological impossiblity. But I guess the standard of secular education is sooooo low these days. All children have a mother and a father somewhere! And someday those children will want to know their mother and father…..it is their right!

        • Pedro

          Perhaps you should explain that to the Archbishop of Boston.

          p.s. In case you haven’t figured it out, many homosexual couples look after children that they had as part of a previous heterosexual relationship. They can also adopt children, although obviously not via a Catholic adoption agency. What were you saying about biology?

          • louella

            Yeah…..but they are not ‘their’ children ie children of a homosexual couple…as you seem to think! Back to biology class methinks.

        • Tim

          Homosexuals cannot have children. Neither can post-menopausal women or men and women who are rendered infertile for any number of reasons.

          Your argument against gay sex is completely inconsistant unless you are also saying that it is sinful for a husband to have sex with his wife after she has had a hysterectomy.

          To focus on gay people rather than just non-procreative sex as a whole suggsts that your objection to gay sex comes not from logic, but from prejudice agaainst gays.

          The gays can’t have children argument is a red-herring

          • louella

            No….it is not sinful for a husband and wife….if they are married as the future passes by way of the family….the heterosexual family.

            For this reason contraception and abortion are also disallowed. So….the Catholic Church shows no favouritism….but understands and respects the natural law. A hysterectomy for reasons of health and not contraceptive motives is also acceptable. And post-menopause is not man-made but a natural occurence…so does not count as contraceptive. Just as a woman in her fertile years is also at certain times naturally infertile.

          • Karla

            The argument for gay marriage/non procreative hetrosexual marriage because of infertile/post menopause couples is talked about in an article that was printed in Harvard Journal called ‘What is marriage?’ and a chapter is on the difference between infertile couples and same sex couples:

            Infertility is no impediment to bodily union and marriage. This is because in truth marriage is not a mere means even to the good of procreation. It is an end to itself, worthwhile for its own sake.

            So it can exist apart from children, and the state recognize it in such cases without distorting the moral truth about marriage. Of course, a truth friendship between two men or two women is valuable in itself, but lacking in the capacity for organic bodily union, it cannot be valuable specially as a marriage: it cannot be a comprehensive union on which aptness for procreation, and distinctively marital norms.

            That is why only a man and woman can form a marriage, a union whose norms and obligations, are essentially shaped towards its essential dynamism towards children. For that dynamism comes from the actual or expected presence of children, which some same sex partners and even cohabitating brothers could have, and some opposite sex couples lack, but from the marriage or consummated in coitus, which is organic bodily union.

            http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722155

  • Pope John XXIII taught clearly that the Church’s authentic peace, “is not completely untroubled and serene; it is active, not calm and motionless. In short, this is a peace that is ever at war. It wars with every sort of error, including that which falsely wears the face of truth; it struggles against the enticements of vice, against those enemies of the soul, of whatever description, who can weaken, blemish, or destroy our innocence or Catholic faith.” (Ad Petri cathedram, AAS, 51 (1959) 517, PE, 263.93).

  • Errata:

    I meant to say, “Ephesians 4:26″ in my first comment.

  • FidesetRatio

    What are your thoughts on this Nick?

  • Andrzej

    yeah, show the other cheek. But once you get that second slap, it is time to defend your own.

  • Serge

    I would just say: let’s follow our Pope directives diligently and without any attempt to diminish his requests, his urges to follow Jesus Christ in evangelization, as He cares so much to see the maximum number of his creatures saved, everyone. Let’s NOT spoil his Holy Blood because of our hypersensitivity that leads us, sometimes, over the board and get angry at those he wants to save. Don’t get frustrated when someone rejects His Redemption, be patient, bring better reasons, shed the light of Christ, don’t obscure it! Be as holy as our Father in Heaven is. That’s exactly what Jesus orders us to be. He will provide the grace necessary, if we endure and are patient. Our Father lets the light shine on the good and the bad… Don’t try to unroot the bad herbs by yourself, before the time has come. You will probably end up in removing very good herbs in doing so. Someone talked about Paul. Well if the christians of his time would have been angry and scorned him, what would have happened of christianity? Christ had chosen him, the one who persecuted the newly born Church! Do you only read selected passages of the Bible and disregard some, or do you really take it all, with all its paradoxes? And endure the fact that the love of God is beyond comprehension of our own little and very limited human heart. I take all of what is in the Bible, not just one page here and there.

  • It’s high time we all rejected leftist, political “Vatican Speak” and demanded straight talk from Pope Benedict, as well as every other Catholic priest and bishop.

    The Pope is a past master at such things, having taught and written extensively, using that particular “dialect” for many, many years. And by now, he ought to know better! The same goes for his Curia.

    The real issue here is that at least some faithful Catholics have finally recognized the corruption that has been allowed to fester within the church, over the last 40 years. We’re mad as hell about it. We’re not going to take it any more. And we’re going to use all the modern media tools available, to disseminate the whole truth about the Catholic faith, while at the same time, praying for genuine, positive reform.

    There’s nothing uncharitable or in the least bit reprehensible about standing up for the authentic Catholic faith. That never presented a problem, in that past, since the Catholic Church has always been all about truth.

    The only guys who seem to have a real problem with this are the corrupt, careerist, demagogue, bishops and priests who have recently subverted the church, for their own personal aggrandizement.

    Those days are rapidly coming to an end. And there is absolutely nothing they can do about it. Bloggers or no bloggers!

  • FidesetRatio

    Doug, there has always been corruption of sorts in the church; it is in constant need of purification and renewal. So, the events of the last 40 years are specific to our time, yet there has been plenty of corruption before. The Pope has often talked about the “filth” in the church, and you can be sure that with the events of the last few years, most, if not all Catholics are acutely aware of the “corruption that has been allowed to fester within the church”. Catholics are human too, thus sin.

    I disagree with your choice of language: “mad as hell”?!! Also the gross generalisation “every other priest and bishop”.

    This seems to me to be precisely the type of language which is not geared towards a spreading of the truth.

    Also what do you mean by “political vatican speak”? What ought the Pope to “know better about”?

  • Toby

    My personal belief in comments is that “if I wouldn’t say it to a person’s face, then I probably shoulding be writing it”.

    Re, the Pope’s language, I do not understand the criticisms. I hugely respect the Pope that he does not speak sound-bite, and is prepared to be nuanced where necessary, despite the voracious appetite of the media to leap on anything that they can make capital out of in a headline or excerpt regardless of context. It gets him in trouble, but I much prefer this to a Pope who spoke in spin-doctor language.

  • RJ

    There are some who think they are latter-day St Pauls or St Athanasius or St Jeromes as they intemperately defend the faith (or should that be “defend the faith”?). Perhaps there should be a deeper exploration of the reality. One question that comes to mind: if St Jerome was prone to irritability, was this a sign of saintly virtue or was it a fault that the saint had to overcome on his earthly pilgrimage? Would it not be better to imitate that gentle and courteous saint St Francis de Sales, who won many souls (was it not through gentleness?). ”A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar.”

  • Father Felix Sarda Y Salvany, a noted philosopher in his own right, would disagree ith you. In his book Liberalism is a Sin, he writes:

    Liberalism never gives battle on solid ground; it knows too well that in a discussion of principles it must meet with irretrievable defeat. It prefers tactics of recrimination, and under the sting of a just flagellation whiningly accuses Catholics of (107) lack of charity in their polemics. This is also the ground which certain Catholics, tainted with Liberalism, are in the habit of taking.

    Let us see what is to be said on this score. We Catholics, on this point as on all others, have reason on our side, whilst Liberals have only its shadow. In the first place a Catholic can handle his Liberal adversary openly, if such he be in truth; no one can doubt this. If an author or a journalist makes open profession of Liberalism and does not conceal his Liberal predilections what injury can be done him in calling him a Liberal? Si palman res est, repetitio injuria non est: “to say what everybody knows is no injury.” With much stronger reason to say of our neighbor what he every instant says of himself cannot justly offend. And yet how many Liberals, especially those of the easygoing and moderate type, regard the expressions “Liberal” and “friend of Liberals,” which Catholic adversaries apply to them as offensive and uncharitable!

    Granting that Liberalism is a bad thing, to call the public defenders and professors of Liberalism bad is no want of charity.

    The law of justice, potent in all ages, can be applied in this case. The Catholics of today are no innovators in this respect. (108) We are simply holding to the constant practice of antiquity. The propagators and abettors of heresy have at all times been called heretics as well as its authors. As the Church has always considered heresy a very grave evil, so has she always called its adherents bad and pervert. Run over the list of ecclesiastical writers you will then see how the Apostles treated the first heretics, how the Fathers, and modern controversialists and the Church herself in her official language has pursued them. There is then no sin against charity in calling evil evil, its authors, abettors and disciples bad; all its acts, words and writings iniquitous, wicked, malicious. In short the wolf has done to the flock and shepherd.

    If the propagation of good and the necessity of combating evil require the employment of terms somewhat harsh against error and its supporters, this usage is certainly not against charity. This is a corollary or consequence of the principle we have just demonstrated. We must render evil odious and detestable. We cannot attain this result without pointing out the dangers of evil, without showing how and why it is odious, detestable and contemptible. Christian oratory of all ages has (109) ever employed the most vigorous and emphatic rhetoric in the arsenal of human speech against impiety. In the writings of the great athletes of Christianity the usage of irony, imprecation, execration and of the most crushing epithets is continual. Hence the only law is the opportunity and the truth.

    But there is another justification for such an usage. Popular propagation and apologetics cannot preserve elegant and constrained academic forms. In order to convince the people we must speak to their heart and their imagination which can only be touched by ardent, brilliant, and impassioned language. To be impassioned is not to be reprehensible, when our heat is the holy ardor of truth.

    The supposed violence of modern Ultramontane journalism not only falls short of Liberal journalism, but is amply justified by every page of the works of our great Catholic polemicists of other epochs. This is easily verified. St. John the Baptist calls the Pharisees “race of vipers,” Jesus Christ, our Divine Savior, hurls at them the epithets “hypocrites, whitened sepulchers, a perverse and adulterous generation” without thinking for this reason that He sullies the sanctity of His benevolent speech. St. Paul criticizes the schismatic Cretins (110) as “always liars, evil beasts, slothful bellies.” The same apostle calls Elymas the magician “seducer, full of guile and deceit, child of the Devil, enemy of all justice.”

    If we open the Fathers we find the same vigorous castigation of heresy and heretics. St. Jerome arguing against Vigilantius casts in his face his former occupation of saloonkeeper: “From your infancy,” he says to him, “you have learned other things than theology and betaken yourself to other pursuits. To verify at the same time the value of your money accounts and the value of Scriptural texts, to sample wines and grasp the meaning of the prophets and apostles are certainly not occupations which the same man can accomplish with credit.” On another occasion attacking the same Vigilantius, who denied the excellence of virginity and of fasting, St. Jerome, with his usual sprightliness, asks him if he spoke thus “in order not to diminish the receipts of his saloon?” Heavens! What an outcry would be raised if one of our Ultramontane controversialists were to write against a Liberal critic or heretic of our own day in this fashion!

    What shall we say of St. John Chrysostom? His famous invective against Eutropius is not comparable, in its personal (111) and aggressive character, to the cruel invectives of Cicero against Catiline and against Verres! The gentle St. Bernard did not honey his words when he attacked the enemies of the faith. Addressing Arnold of Brescia, the great Liberal agitator of his times, he calls him in all his letters “seducer, vase of injuries, scorpion, cruel wolf.”

    The pacific St. Thomas of Acquinas forgets the calm of his cold syllogisms when he hurls his violent apostrophe against William of St. Amour and his disciples: “Enemies of God,” he cries out, “ministers of the Devil, members of AntiChrist, ignorami, perverts, reprobates!” Never did the illustrious Louis Veuillot speak so boldly. The seraphic St. Bonaventure, so full of sweetness, overwhelms his adversary Gerard with such epithets as “impudent, calumniator, spirit of malice, impious, shameless, ignorant, impostor, malefactor, perfidious, ingrate!” Did St. Francis de Sales, so delicately exquisite and tender, ever purr softly over the heretics of his age and country? He pardoned their injuries, heaped benefits on them even to the point of saving the lives of those who sought to take his, but with the enemies of the faith he preserved neither moderation nor consideration. Asked by a Catholic, who (112) desired to know if it were permissible to speak evil of a heretic who propagated false doctrines, he replied: “Yes, you can, on the condition that you adhere to the exact truth, to what you know of his bad conduct, presenting that which is doubtful as doubtful according to the degree of doubt which you may have in this regard.” In his “Introduction to a Devout Life,” that precious and popular work, he expresses himself again: “If the declared enemies of God and of the Church ought to be blamed and censured with all possible vigor, charity obliges us to cry wolf’ when the wolf slips into the midst of the flock, and in every way and place we may meet him.”

    But enough. What the greatest Catholic polemists and saints have done is assuredly a fair example for even the humblest defenders of the faith. Modern Ultramontanism has never yet surpassed the vigor of their castigation of heresy and heretics. Charity forbids us to do unto another what we would not reasonably have them to do unto ourselves. Mark the adverb reasonably; it includes the entire substance of the question.

    The essential difference between ourselves and the Liberals on this subject consists in this, that they look upon the (113) apostles of error as free citizens, simply exercising their full right to think as they please on matters of religion. We, on the contrary, see in them the declared enemies of the faith which we are obligated to defend. We do not see in their errors simply free opinions but culpable and formal heresies, as the law of God teaches us they are. By virtue of the assumed freedom of their own opinions the Liberals are bound not only to tolerate but even respect ours; for since freedom of opinion is in their eyes the most cardinal of virtues, no matter what the opinion be, they are bound to respect it as the expression of man’s rational freedom. It is not what is thought, but the mere thinking that constitutes the standard of excellence with them. To acknowledge God or deny Him is equally rational by the standard of Liberalism, and Liberalism is grossly inconsistent with itself when it seeks to combat Catholic truths, in the holding of which there is as much exercise of rational freedom, in the Liberal sense, as in rejecting them. But our Catholic standpoint is absolute; there is but one truth, in which there is no room for opposition or contradiction. To deny that truth is unreasonable; it is to put falsehood on the level with truth. This is the folly and sin of Liberalism. To denounce this sin and (114) folly is a duty and a virtue. With reason therefore does a great Catholic historian say to the enemies of Catholicity: “You make yourselves infamous by your actions and I will endeavor to cover you with that infamy by my writings.” In this same way the law of the Twelve Tables ordained to the virile generati

    You suggest it would be “better to imitate” the “gentle and courteous” St. Francis de Sales. But here you engage in historical revisionism. For, as Salvany says, “with the enemies of the faith he preserved neither moderation nor consideration. Asked by a Catholic, who desired to know if it were permissible to speak evil of a heretic who propagated false doctrines, he replied: ‘Yes, you can, on the condition that you adhere to the exact truth, to what you know of his bad conduct, presenting that which is doubtful as doubtful according to the degree of doubt which you may have in this regard.’ In his ‘Introduction to a Devout Life,’ that precious and popular work, he expresses himself again: ‘If the declared enemies of God and of the Church ought to be blamed and censured with all possible vigor, charity obliges us to cry wolf’ when the wolf slips into the midst of the flock.’”

    Your dishonesty is showing RJ.

    • louella

      That hits the nail on the head….’We Catholics have reason on our side’! Every Catholic schoolchild should learn this by heart. Catholicism never opposes reason….just as it never opposes natural law, since all three have the same source ie God!

      • Tim

        If it is all based on reason, then surely faith becomes unneccessary. If faith is needed, then it cannot be based on reason alone.

        • louella

          No…..cos some of what we believe is taken on Faith alone…ie the doctrine of the Trinity. We could never come to that by reason alone…so it has been Revealed to us. Faith and Reason exist side by side and never contradict each other!

    • “that they look upon the (113) apostles of error as free citizens, simply exercising their full right to think as they please on matters of religion. We, on the contrary, see in them the declared enemies of the faith which we are obligated to defend”

      Bit of a cheek in that case to create a website that contends that everyone should use the CIVIL law to defend themselves? Having your cake and eating, isn’t it? Or does the civil law not matter? Is there no moral ambiguity in using a civil law of which you claim to not be happy to defend yourself? Or is it acceptable to use such laws as a sheild such time as it can be replaced with “God’s better law”? In your view the civil law is pointless unless it is in total obedience to God’s law? If that’s not extremism and incitement then I’m a potato.

      St. Thomas of Acquinas had some great ideas and some frankly awful ones, but it is good for the sake of entertainment that you are giving some of his sillier ideas an outing.

  • RJ

    Thanks Paul. May I say: I accept the Catholic faith in its fulness, as taught by the magisterium. If I said something wrong, then it was because I was not adequately informed but insufficiently prudent to remain silent.

  • Job says: “Anger indeed killeth the foolish, and envy slayeth the little one” – Job 5:2.

    Saint Jerome says that anger is the door by which all vices enter the soul. “Omnium vitiorum janua est iracundia”. … Anger makes a man act like a beast and a madman.

    Anger is an emotion of the soul, which leads us violently to repel whatever hurts or displeases us. This emotion, my children, comes from the devil: it shows that we are in his hands; that he is the master of our heart; that he holds all the strings of it, and makes us dance as he pleases. – St. John Vianney

    Yes, there is a time for ‘anger’ but when it’s merely a ‘temper tantrum’ then we would do best to ‘keep our mouths shut’ and be silent, as was our Lord, who had much more reason to obliterate us and be ‘angry’ with us all.

    There is no sin or wrong that gives a man a foretaste of hell in this life as anger and impatience.
    –Saint Catherine of Sienna

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