Pope’s message on internet used to criticise ‘conservative’ Catholic bloggers

Pope Benedict’ XVI’s message on the internet has been used by sections of the media, and Church, to attack so called ‘conservative’ Catholic bloggers.

Nichole Winfield of the Associated Press puts words in Pope Benedict’s mouth, sadly with the aid of Archbishop Claudio Celli, saying that the purpose of the message is to correct  extreme ‘conservative’ Catholic blogs:

‘Echoing concerns in the U.S. about the need to root out online vitriol, Benedict called for the faithful to adopt a “Christian style presence” online that is responsible, honest and discreet…”The proclamation of the Gospel requires a communication which is at once respectful and sensitive.” Benedict didn’t name names, but the head of the Vatican’s social communications office, Archbishop Claudio Celli, said it was certainly correct to direct the pope’s exhortation to some conservative Catholic blogs, YouTube channels and sites which, with some vehemence, criticize bishops, public officials and policies they consider not Catholic enough. ”The risk is there, there’s no doubt,” Celli said in response to a question.

This spin to Pope Benedict’s message completely ignores the fact that part of Pope Benedict’s message focuses on the problem of those Catholic bloggers who fail to witness to the fullness of the truth out of a desire for popularity, which is certainly not a criticism aimed at ‘conservative’ Catholic bloggers:

‘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.’

Furthermore, Winfield is obviously attempting to press the Holy Father’s message into the current attack on right-wing commentators and bloggers that the liberal media have manufactured in the wake of the attempted assassination of the Democrat congresswoman. Winfield writes:

‘The Vatican’s concern comes at a time when incendiary rhetoric — in the media and online — has come under increasing fire; even U.S. President Barack Obama has urged greater civility in political discourse following the attempted assassination of a U.S. congresswoman.’

Protect the Pope comment: One of the great things about the blogsphere is that it gives ordinary people independence from the liberal media, and the liberal media can’t bear it. Any opportunity they get the liberal media attempt to portray ‘right-wing’, ‘conservative’, ‘republican, bloggers as ‘hate-mongers’ and inciters of violence and prejudice.

The same goes for the liberal ‘Catholic’ media, and their allies in Bishops Conferences, who get really uptight when Catholic bloggers criticise, and at times, ridicule, their editorials, dodgy theology or mismanagement of the Church.

What’s wrong with asking the question, is that bishop, is that official, is that policy ‘Catholic enough’? I’m sure it was a question on the lips of many during other crises in the Church, such as the Arian crisis, or the Protestant crisis! It seems just the right question to ask during this Relativist crisis, and the Catholic blogsphere gives us the medium to feely ask it.


48 comments to Pope’s message on internet used to criticise ‘conservative’ Catholic bloggers

  • I have spent my life as a Socratic gadfly asking the questions which irritate the status quo while exposing fallacious arguments. Socrates was put to death for “corrupting the youth.” In actuality, he was encouraging them to think, to reason and to challenge conventional wisdom.

    Often the status quo feels threatened when its ideas are exposed as inadequate.

  • Karla

    The Pope did not attack Catholic blogs in his speech. The mainstream media is trying to divide Catholics. They hate that through Catholic blogs we have debunked a lot of their lies.

  • SpeSalvi23

    Miss Winfield has left a trail of fabrication, manipulation and plain lies all over the news for as long as I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ to read her pieces on any Church related topic.

    We nned conservative bloggers!! Who else is going to challenge those professional catholic bishops into actually doing their duty?? Their staff or their cozily situated pastoral commissions, committees and councils?? No. No way. Not.
    After decades of soft-wash, people have the right to be informed, children have the right to be taught the fullness of their faith – including the not so pelasant topics, and people have the right to demand to be led by real shepherds, strongly grounded in their faith, and not by a bunch of bureaucrats who are comfortably placed, eagerly chasing public opinion and don’t want to ‘upset anybody’.

    But!! Conservative does not equal nutty, sedisvakanz-obsessed, racist extremist!

  • Joe

    But is it not the case that those Catholic blogs that seem to specialise in the critique of bishops, officials and policy are also those that thereby gain a “status” (ie a popularity) among their fellows, precisely through doing so? I doubt that Pope Benedict’s words were directed specifically at conservative Catholic bloggers, but I do think that they should prompt an examination of conscience by any Catholic who blogs.

  • Chris M

    I recently subscribed to the Vatican Information Service email updates, which is sent out 5 days a week by the Vatican Press office and gives a direct account of what the Pope and the Vatican actually say about an issue, without being fed through the paper mill first (by either liberal, conservative, or ‘other’ commentators). I would fully encourage signing up to it so you see first hand (or close to first-hand) what is being said.

    • John

      I’m looking forward to the new Vatican website, which I believe might be going online in the few months. Hopefully it’ll be a clear and well-presented resource that regularly updates news items, so that the laity can read up on what is actually going on in real time – and not simply what the media are narrating to us.

  • Pedro

    Before anyone else gets round to any off topic replies. Can we just take the following as read.

    1) Homosexuality is a sin and gays shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children, send them to Catholic schools, enjoy the rights of married couples or indeed have any sexual relationships whatsoever, but are otherwise deeply loved by the Catholic Church.
    2) Abortion is always wrong and foetuses are actually the pre-born.
    3) Atheists just deny the obvious Truth of Catholicism because they want to run around practising their self indulgent vices all over the place.

    There. No need to discuss any of those topics now.

    • Pedro

      p.s. And 3(b) Atheists are all communists and are worse than Hitler.

      • Toby


        Your 3(b) is an excellent illustration of the sort sweeping, rash and untrue generalisations we should not be making if we are to spread the Gospel in a way “which is at once respectful and sensitive, which stimulates the heart and moves the conscience”

    • Karla

      1. Any sexual act outside of marriage is a sin, when it is heterosexual or homosexual. The Church was founded for sinners, to lead them to repentance from sin. But what the Church does not do is lie about sin. Christ did not do it. The Church welcomes all sinners.

      2. No. Catholics accept an abortion as a last resort in the incidence of an ectopic pregnancy or when the mother’s life ins in danger.

      3. Not entirely true. Atheists have various reasons for rejecting Christianity, mostly to do with the fact that God can not be tested under a microscope.

      4. Not all athiests are Communists.

    • James H

      “There. No need to discuss any of those topics now.”

      Good. Now will you please get back to the topic?

      Oh, and regarding your point 3(b): No – but atheist political systems were.

    • sam

      pedro gays shouldn’t be allowed to send kids to catholic schools? no adoption? enjoy the rights of married couples or engage in any sexual activity but apart from that they are loved. Well at least you don’t want to slaughter us, so we essentially for you shouldn’t be allowed any rights to display our affection for one another even in our own home? I am an atheist but i am not a communist, communism is a good idea but it never works, it either goes totalitarian or the state collapses or both.

  • SpeSalvi23

    4) sarcasm is the last resort in a lost agrument

  • Tim

    There are plenty of right wing blogs, plenty of left wing blogs, plenty of catholic ones and plenty of atheist ones (and every combination of the above). That is the whole point of the blogosphere – If individuals want to critise the vatican for being too liberal or for being too authoritarian – then I would encorage both groups to go for it. Ultimately the ones with the best arguemnst with win.

    • I think the point he’s getting at is that the extremely vociferous way some people express themselves may make them look unChristian and people outside the Church dont always see a difference between what the Pope says and what Father/Layperson/Bishop/Cardinal X’s blog says. Particularly when those persons in question use the Pope’s own image, logo or flag. There doesn’t exactly seem to be a lot of brand control going on.
      I really think some sites using the Papal logo and flag shouldn’t as it is confusing. You have to protect your trade name in promoting and the Catholic Church is just a huge promotional organisation really.
      I’d have the hump if people were using my logo without permission even if I didn’t actually disagree with what they said.

  • John

    The media have an agenda and they’re trying to crush dissent by calling those whom they disagree with “vitriolic”, “extreme” and so on. A perfect recent example is how the media, literally moments after the Arizona shooting, were blaming Sarah Palin and conservatives in general, even though it had absolutely nothing to do with them. Indeed, the shooter was a Marx-reading, atheist nutjob. But the truth doesn’t matter to the media, only the narrative.

    Likewise, the media dislike that the Catholic Church exists and defends human life and authentic marriage. Thus, they try to divide the Church into political terms, such as “conservative Catholics”. So being pro-life is to be a “conservative” Catholic, but in reality being pro-life is simply “Catholic”. The AP, being a source that many other news outlets use, is particularly powerful and unfortunately particularly anti-Catholic.

    • Tim

      “Likewise, the media dislike that the Catholic Church exists and defends human life and authentic marriage. Thus, they try to divide the Church into political terms, such as “conservative Catholics”. So being pro-life is to be a “conservative” Catholic, but in reality being pro-life is simply “Catholic”.”

      When the media talks about “liberal Catholics” and “conservative Catholics” it isn’t trying to divide the church. The fact is that the church IS DIVIDED on many issues (a majority of UK catholics use artificial contraception for example and just talking to teh Catholics I know, I hear a range of views on homosexuality). The terms used by the media are a shortcut to describing the different views within the church. They migtht not be absolutely accurate (because we are describing complex individual huamn beings) but you can’t expect the media to ignore the differences in the church and pretend that the Catholic church is a monolith because it is not.

      • Karla

        There is no such thing as a liberal Catholic or a conservative Catholic. A Catholic is somebody that believes in the teachings of the Church, including the teachings on human sexuality. If somebody goes against these teachings knowing that they are against the Church, I do not understand why they would call themselves Catholic.

        • Tim

          “there is no such thing as a liberal Catholic or a conservative Catholic.”

          You might not like the terminolgy. but some langauge is needed to differentiate between what I suspect you regard as “true Catholics” and “not real Catholics”.

          One of my good friends calls herself a “liberal Catholic”. You might say that she isn’t a real Catholic (and you would probably be right by many criteria as I am sure she hereself would admit), but there are plenty of people like her and it makes no sense to pretend that they don’t exist.

          SpeSalvi is right that the church’s offical teaching is clear and not divided, but it seems to me that among people you call themselves Catholic (and support the church in terms of attendance and gifts of money and time) there is a continium of people who are in varying degrees of communium with it. It is very useful to have terminolgy that refers to where people are on that continium and terms like “traditional catholic”, “liberal Catholic”, “conservative Catholic” are useful because they do have real meaning.

          It is like Baroness Warsi, objecting to the term “moderate muslim”. I think that she is wrong and that it is completely necessary to have some language that enabled us to differentiate between Bin Laden and Baroness Warsi.

          If we can’t apply labels to groups of people, we loose the ability to talk meaningfully about them.

          • Karla

            Terms like ”liberal” are political terms, for sections of opinion which are for the most part outside of Church teaching.

            I do not think those most Catholics that use contraception go to Church reguarly.

            Catholic commentator Michael Voris has said, The contraceptive mentality had led not only to the acceptance of contraception, cohabitation, pre maritral sex. These moral degritations weaken Catholics beliefs in admitting personal sin etc.

            We faithful Catholics are going to take back the Church from a culture of permissiveness of sin that destroys the very concept of family.

            The same Catholics that use contraception probably support cohabitation, homosexual marriage, pre marital sex, abortion too.

          • Karla

            Another reasons why terms like ”liberal” do not work is that the truth in the Catholic Church is not relative or subjective, it does not rely on popular opinion. You either accept the teachings of the Church, including the teachings on sexuality, or you do not.

          • Tim

            “I do not think those most Catholics that use contraception go to Church reguarly.”

            Well I can only speak from my personal experience. Of the three Catholics who I know most well and who are deep and sincere in their beliefs rather than just being “cultural Catholics”, one follows Church teaching on contraception (and has 5 children), one does not (and thinks that the teaching is wrong) and the other thinks that the teaching is wrong but as he is unmarried and not in a relationship so this is only on a theoretical basis. All of them attend church at least once a week and give me the impression that they have a fairly strong faith.

            statements like “You either accept the teachings of the Church, including the teachings on sexuality, or you do not.” are fine if all you are doing is saying how things ought to be, but they are not an accurate description of what many many people actually think.

          • Karla

            If they think it is wrong, why do they continue to stay in the Church?

        • “If somebody goes against these teachings knowing that they are against the Church, I do not understand why they would call themselves Catholic.”

          Have you tried Humanism – Making reading a religion because there’s no customer base for Atheism
          Non Conformism – Have more democracy but abolish all Icons so its like praying in a hospital waiting room
          Quakerism – Actually listening to other people
          Wikipedia – Lets make encyclopedias a religion
          Star Trek – lets make Sci-Fi a religion
          Scientology – No, let’s really make Sci-Fi a religion
          The Church of England – Lets Nationalise religion
          Islam – Let’s actually pray and fast

          It’s a bit of a cheek given the hundreds of years during which Catholicism made a complete pigs ear of European forigen policy – remember when the whole of Germany went to civil war over what form to take communion under? for the Catholic Church to expect people to take everything it says completely seriously.

          Also the Church and State overlap in England so if you dont donate to the/a Church then you’re not funding the education system and when you look at countries like France which had a complete separation of Church and State they’re not exactly great arguements for Secularism making everyone more tolerant.

          There are many people in the Labour Party who treat it as a religion. If it is a religion then there’s a hell of a lot of Simony and other ecclesiastical crimes that have at least been purged from Catholicism.
          You dont have to agree with all the political aims of an institution to give it support. The narrower you make the customer base of religion the more difficult it is to promote it. If the Church only consisted of those who have the gift of faith it’d be very very empty.

          • Karla

            I think your underestimating Catholicism. It is the liberal Churches that are losing members, the more Orthodox Churches around the world are the ones that are growing.

            What is this war over communion?

            Have their been bad people in the Church? Yes. Does that mean we should not listen to the Church? No.

          • SpeSalvi23

            Catholisim is not to be blamed for individuals who abused it for their own gain – including clerics of all kind, this also includes Mr. Luther and Mr. Hus, who represented a rather unusal version of it, which led to quite some bloodshed.
            Another reason why an official Magisterium is needed – also today.

            But! At least in Luthers case: what local duke would not want to take over several nice buildings, filled with art and literature and the attached land? All you had to do was change allegiance.
            Now that’s a lot easier than going to war with the ‘tribe’ next door.

            In any case: the division of Germany in Lutheran and RC certainly was based on very worldly gound.

            An another note: Germany was at war with itself for a looong time for many different reasons – before the Holy Roman Empire and after…it was forced into submitting to the Prussian Empire under Bismarck – in retrospect, not a good choice.

      • Karla

        I think that people who call themselves Catholics but use contraception have not been taught in the faith correctly, because otherwise they would know that there are other alternatives such as NFP.

        • Tim

          I think that is a condesending attitude. I am sure that they know what the Church’s position is and I am equally sure they know about NFP (even I as a non-Catholic, know a reasonable amount about these things). The Catholics I know who use contraception, know full well what the church teaches and deliberately decide to ignore it. Some, will have even admitted it to their priests.

          • Karla

            Then they need to work out some things in their life, because contraception is against Catholic teaching. They can not be Catholic and use contraception.

          • Tim

            “They can not be Catholic and use contraception.”

            If that is the definition you are using only 0.4% of the UK population is Catholic (10% self identify as Catholic and 4% of UK Catholics agree with church teaching on Contracption). That makes you a very small minority (0.8% claim to be Jedi) and neatly demonstrates the need for a descriptive term in our langauge to refer to the 96% of UK catholics who disagree with the teaching of the Vatican on this matter.

            I’ll stick with “liberal Catholic” until such time as a better word comes along.

          • Toby

            I think you’re right Tim, that they know what the teaching is, but they know only in a superficial way. They do not understand, and often nor do they seek to understand it. It’s must easier to reject something that you have not considered properly.

          • Karla

            0.4% of Catholics are not using contraception? What? Where are those statistics from? And how could you possibly know that?

        • Not everyone’s married to another Catholic you know since Pius X decided to allow inter-faith marriage so you can be Catholic and use contraception. Also it just doesn’t work for everyone. Even Pope Paul VI so. I think the principle is fine in principle, but in reality it depends on circumstances.

        • Karla, the war over Communion was the Hussite Wars which were over the now abandoned doctrine of Utraquism. Of course, really the wars were over power within the Church as it was inter-mixed with the state and also Germany was then a coagulation of small states under the umbrella of the Holy Roman Empire so really it was just an excuse to go to war. The Hussite wars and Crusades were a sort or dry run for the Reformation. They followed the Western Schism when we rather amusingly had two Popes at the same time – although only one of them is now official. So there was little control over what the Church as a whole was getting up to at the time.

      • SpeSalvi23

        The Church is not devided! It’s rather clear and unmistakable in whatever it teaches. The catechism is avaialable for reference.

        If you don’t believe in all that, or, if you might find it hard to apply those norms, you have an easy choice: convert to whatever protestant denomination you’re most happy with – there are plenty to chose from!
        Most of those ‘left wing, social club, pro-everything but dogma, cafeteria catholics’ are only nominally Catholic.

        • Yeah, say that now this side of the Reformation, innit?
          Is Regnans in Excelsis still dogma?

          I cant help noticing that the more fervently some people purport to support the Pope or Cardinal Burke the more likely it is that actually they’re from the SSPX or a schismatic society like The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. From which I have concluded that actually they’re just as disagreeable and bad as me – I’m just openly naughty instead of cloaking it.

          I seldom listen to the ramblings of the type of person who needs to ban Sheryl Crow and basketball coaches anyway – I do not believe that his true concern is the pro-life lobby. I think it is political power …just as in the good old days when we were all encouraged to get publically disemboweled for Phillip of Spain’s forigen policy ambitions.

          • SpeSalvi23

            Hmmm is it possible that might be a bit obsessed with history and political power games? Maybe?
            Not possible anymore – clever politicking has been doomed toothless due to leaking documents all over the place.
            Behind the scenes power games are OVER! At least when they belong to a certain side of the political spectrum – politcally correct leaking, so to speak.

            Sure, I can see dominant, autrocratic, power hungry BXVI in his study brooding over a map of Europe, wondering which country is next in his evil masterplan – it’s in his genes… he can’t help it!

  • Peter Santos

    I don’t think it’s Catholic bloggers who need to “examine their conscience” as much as liberal clerics – and this includes Bishops – who have apostasized.

  • Lionel (Paris)

    “One of the great things about the blogsphere is that it gives ordinary people independence from the liberal media, and the liberal media can’t bear it”
    This is completely true

  • Arnd

    So here You can see, how important the doctrin of the Pope really is for “catholic bloggers”. Instaed of thinking about the style of their blogging, if it is really christian (catholic) and expressed in a christian (catholic) way, they explain that the bishop presenting the words of the pope to the public must have misinterpreted the popes words and that the liberal media is trying to use the words of the pope for their own interests.

    so, how catholic are you ?

  • Arnd

    I hope moderation has not collapsed ? I´ll pray for you…

  • Tim

    @ Karla,

    “0.4% of Catholics are not using contraception?”
    You have that wrong. The figure is 4% of UK Catholics agree with the Church’s teaching on contraception (it is about what they THINK, not what they DO, there will of course be Catholcs who diaagree with the Church on contraception, but are not using it because they are not in a sexual relationship or because they are trying for a baby). 0.4% is the fraction of UK citizens who are BOTH Catholic and agree with the Church’s teaching on contraception.

    “And how could you possibly know that?”

    The 4% figure comes from a 2010 poll reported at:
    http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/?p=558 (which is a great resource for this kind of stat’). Essentially, the researchers called Catholics and asked them.

    A figure of about 9 to 10% of the UK population self-identifying as Catholic is fairly well established and appears reasonably consistantly in statistics from polls, the census and claims made by the Church itself. I chose 10% because it makes the maths easier.

  • Tim


    “If they think it is wrong, why do they continue to stay in the Church?”

    That is a very very good question and one which I have asked my liberal Catholic friends on occassions.

    One answer was, “it is only one of two things that I disagree with the Church on. I agree with them on everything else so I am closer to Catholicism to any other denomination which I why I stay”. I can see the logic of that position.

    For other people it is habbit, loyality to tradition (and family), the spiritual nourishment recieved, and the laxity of the local clergy which allows them to forget about official teaching. None of those reasons whould be sufficient for me.

    • Karla

      Well Catholic teaching is not relative or subjective, and that is failure among the Clergy if they say it is fine for them to use contraception.

  • Tim


    “I think you’re right Tim, that they know what the teaching is, but they know only in a superficial way. They do not understand, and often nor do they seek to understand it. It’s must easier to reject something that you have not considered properly”

    It is not true that it is simply a lack of understanding that keeps people from accepting official teaching. Plenty of people do understand the official positions and reject them because they conflict with their own inate sense of morality.

  • SpeSalvi23, I dont think I’m anymore obsessed by history than the CTS with its multifarious and gloriously gruesome but one sided books on how hard done by Catholicism was historically which kept me amused as a child and taught me important lessons in how to put forward completely one sided arguements which have helped me so much in adult life.

    The point is you can’t go round preaching a hard line implementation of Canon Law and expect satirists not to point out the enormous difference between your behaviour and the documents that you purport give you power.
    The central message of Christ’s ministry is not “How do we alienate ourselves from sinners and those who cannot live to difficult theological ideals”.
    It is possible to believe in a theological ideal but not be able to put it into practice.
    It is not unChristian to have empathy with people’s individual situations.

    Politics never goes away. How come if the Catholic Church really believes in its Canon 915 it is so shy to put it into operation in the UK? Does it really think we dont know what it gets up to on other Continents in which case it is hugely misinformed?
    Or does it instead pursues Policy A on Continent A and Policy B on Continent B in the hope no one will notice its becoming more authoritarian.
    In which case it is either applying a set of rules to one group of people unfairly which it does not apply to others or it is trying to woo people by cloaking its real agenda. Both positions are ridiculous.
    If heros of right wing Catholisism like Cardinal Burke have only the interests of the pro-life cause at heart why do they seek to sack people for the public expression of their private views even when those people have never even actually claimed to be Catholic?

    If the Catholic Church thinks it can place an interdict on Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, Tom Vilsack, Joe Biden, and Arnold Schwarzenegger while pretending that it does not matter politically that say Ruth Kelly was a member of Opus Dei then it must think that its audience are mentally thick? It should cut the twaddle and put an interdict on the whole of the UK like under Pope Innocent III.

    And if the Catholic Church doesn’t do any scheming any more what is it doing ressurecting the Index of Prohibited books through Opus Dei…?
    It would not be human nature if there weren’t some people in the Church up to bad stuff…?

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