This month marks the one-year anniversary of my affiliation with CatholicVote. Over the past twelve months, I’ve published 103 blog posts, the lion’s share of which focus on defending marriage, evangelizing the culture and admonishing wayward Catholic politicians.
My experience as a blogger has been brief compared to others, but what’s stood out the most, and I suppose this applies to social media in general, is the preponderance of vicious bickering and ad hominem attacks. Indeed, what is it about the anonymity with which technology provides us that encourages people to calumniate each other?
Several months ago Westminster Archbishop Vincent Nichols felt that the tendency to speak ill of one another had metastasized across the blogosphere so much that he needed to say something. During one of his homilies in the weeks following Cardinal Bergoglio’s elevation to the papacy, the Archbishop said that bloggers who complain and gossip “should have no place in the Church.” They “sell newspapers and attract us to blogs because we love [to] hear complaints and to read gossip.”
“Complaining and griping about others,” he added, “is harmful,” and should be avoided.
At first glance, what Archbishop Nichols says is spot on. Upon further review, it seems that he has made a sweeping statement without looking at the matter carefully because a) in his homily he never mentions which bloggers he is referring to (Catholic or non-Catholic) and b) as blogger Pat Archbold has written, Catholic blogging (if that is what the Archbishop is referring to) has generally been a good thing for the faith.
With all due respect to Archbishop Nichols, he should have been more nuanced in expressing himself. What he should have said is that when we jump on our computers to take up arms in defense of Holy Mother Church, many of us forget that we are Catholic. Many of us gleefully enter what former President Bush refers to as “the swamp” and rely on personal attacks just like our enemies do. When we do this, we debase ourselves by stooping down to their level. When we do this, we fail to use the gifts God has given us in an honorable fashion. When we do this, we have a tendency to see human persons only in terms of their political orientation.
Of course, resisting polemics is easier said than done. I have been guilty of this sort of behavior on a number of occasions and will likely fall victim to it in the near future. And odds are that my ire may very well be directed at Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert.
However, just because Mr. Colbert’s flavor of Catholicism tends to be at odds with my own, doesn’t mean he isn’t a human person. Nor does that mean I can’t empathize with him and recognize the fact that he experiences the same trials and tribulations as everyone else.
One of the tribulations Mr. Colbert had to endure recently was the death of his 92-year-old mother, Lorna. Like any good son, Mr. Colbert took time off work to be with her during her final days. When he returned to his job at Comedy Central last week, he spent the first three minutes of his June 20th show eulogizing her:
When Margaret Thatcher died earlier this year, a number of rabid ideologues, many of whom were not even alive when Miss Thatcher was Prime Minister, were overcome with emotion when she passed. Their decision to celebrate her death was despicable. Sure, politics is a rough business. Not everyone is going to like you. But that doesn’t mean you have to hate those who disagree with you. Stephen Colbert, you might not be my political ally, but my prayers are with you and your family during this time.