I noticed over at Crystal's today that Mark Mossa SJ has decided to stop posting to his blog And I let Myself be Duped. That's a damned shame. Yet another reasonable voice in Catholic blogdom feels compelled to check out. Mossa wrote:
I began blogging after finding myself victim to a certain amount of slander for writing a not wholly complimentary review of a book by George Weigel. In my subsequent dialogue with the author of the post—who publicly apologized for making uncharitable presumptions about me merely based on that review—I thought I saw an opportunity, an opportunity to bridge a gap between people of different perspectives in the Church. So, I threw my hat into the fray and it was fun, for a while. It even appeared that I might make some progress in this endeavor and perhaps even accomplish some goals that I had set for myself in becoming aware of the various dimensions of the Catholic blogosphere—trying to encourage some positive discourse, and hoping to offer a counterweight to the negative and unfair caricature of the Society of Jesus which obtains in many a corner of that blogosphere. And, at first, there seemed to be some hope of success at this, and there are still a coterie of bloggers (you know who you are) that give me hope in this regard. Yet, I’ve grown tired of swimming against the tide. The most negative of Catholic blogs still continue to be the most popular and, like myself, the more positive bloggers seem to be posting with far less frequency.Now, I hate to sound like sour grapes, but I have to say that in regard to that last sentence I admit I've made note of the fact that the tenor and tone of the Catholicism I see in the day-in-and-day-out life of the Church in your average Catholic parish, among those who attend Mass weekly, in no way resembles what I see reflected among some of the perennial favorites in the annual Catholic Blog Awards. In some cases, fixations upon apologetics, or liturgical rubrics, or demonization and ridicule of the "other side" become a fetish to the point of idolatry. The disputations and poison-pen diatribes become substitutes for the Faith itself.
I suppose everyone who runs a blog is entitled to a rant now and then, but what is it with blogging that tends to lead us towards an utter breakdown in civility over time? I'm seeing more and more blogging weariness all around me. Do we all feel so safe behind a keyboard that we feel free to write things that we would never say face-to-face without coming to blows? I remember a high school teacher in our driver's ed class telling us something similar about the effect of sitting behind the wheel of a car. Cutting people off and flipping them the bird is a lot easier to do in a car than in a checkout-counter line, no doubt. Is the internet really a forum where the free exchange of ideas leads to mutual appreciation and understanding and lets the best ideas flow to the top, or is anger and resentment always going to be an easier sell? Does the internet bring people together, or does it divide them into smaller and smaller specialized segments where the tolerance of dissent from the mores of the particular group in question becomes a sliver of light that grows ever narrower?
Don't think that I'm saying there isn't plenty of this to go around. This happens regardless of ideology. I had to put banning software on this blog because of the outrageous incivility of one of the most (professed) liberal bloggers I've ever encountered. I noticed on Vox Nova a short while ago that some of the contributors were taking Gerald Augustinus of The Cafeteria is Closed to the woodshed (and rightfully so, IMO) for an egregious remark that had been left on his blog, and among other things Gerald responded:
Please get in line with the insults. There’s already a pitchfork-wielding mob outside because I am too ‘gay-friendly’ and advocated equal rights for gay folks. 325 comments. Some of which are far more troublesome than the one you quoted...So, there you go. Even there we see it. He's as conservative as they generally come, and he's taking heat. I have to point out, too, that even in the atmosphere of heady intellectualism on Vox Nova, the progressive contributors Michael Iafrate and Morning's Minion get hit with plenty of personal digs on a regular basis.
On the bright side, Michael, I’m getting really, really tired of blogging. Now excuse me while I keep an eye out for the Spanish Inquisition...
I took the Cafeteria tag out of my logo, btw, so spare me the umpteenth dig re: that. When I put it up, I a) meant it as a bon mot and b) had no idea that bishops would, eg, actively campaign against civil unions for homosexuals. Since I came out in favor of that and defended gay adoption (based on my wife’s prior work in the field and from the example of friends), too, my position as a ‘Cafeteria Catholic’ is firmly established and need not be brought up at every turn, as if it were a new insight. I freely admit it. The far-right and whatever you could be described as are correct in saying so.
Is it possible that some of us do this too long? Can we be in combat-mode for too long a period? Does that explain how a Stephen Hand, author of TCRNews Musings, one of the best Catholic blogs I ever saw on the web, chucked it and traded it in for The Bride and the Dragon, a launching-pad for attacks on Vatican II, Modernists, Jews, and Freemasons, because Pope Benedict happened to have a meeting with Hans Kung?
As much as I might be tempted to despair about the state of Catholic blogdom, I noticed it isn't much better with the Protestants. The Arminians and the Emerging Church have no truck with Calvinists, and Calvinists have nothing but contempt for everyone who isn't, well, a Calvinist... Including "Hyper-Calvinists". Makes me think I'm onto something with paragraph 3.