Thursday, January 21, 2010

A few reflections on Catholic blogging

Blogging is always a worthy topic to address, especially for a blogger who is conscious of the perception many people have of blogging and the low regard they have for bloggers. I readily admit that given the vastness of the blogosphere, even when you break it down into discrete parts, like the Catholic blogosphere, to which I belong, it is still vast. This vastness contains blogs of many different flavors, from the well informed and informative, to the ignorant and narrow. I also recognize that a fair portion of the Catholic blogosphere is a quasi-traditionalist echo chamber, which is not say that there are not quite a few well-written and insightful blogs composed by thoughtful Catholics of a more traditional bent. I am one of those who is considered to be liberal by those more conservative that me and conservative by those who are more liberal. Frankly, I find this gratifying largely due to the fact that I find both labels practically meaningless and adhere to Archbishop Niederauer's position that to ask me if I am a liberal or a conservative is like selling me a car and asking me if I want either a brake pedal or a gas pedal. As a Christian I judge things according to a criteria that differs dramatically by those proposed by secular ideologies.

I am not really certain that there exists an equally large number of blogs that take the opposite point-of-view and that are more what Fr. Timothy Radcliffe called "Kingdom" Catholics. Of course, Catholic publications have entered the blogosphere in a big way. There is dotCommonweal, America's popular In All Things blog and the less well-known, but equally good, The Good Word: A Blog on Scripture and Preaching. First Things is host to a number of blogs, including On the Square, The Anchoress, and Postmodern Conservative. As long as this list is, it does not come close to exhausting even the blogs that exist in conjunction with Catholic print magazines. It doesn't even exhaust all the blogs you can access via First Things!

At least two archbishops, Cardinal O'Malley and Archbishop Dolan maintain blogs. One can hardly mention Catholic blogging without mentioning Deacon Greg Kandra's The Deacon's Bench, hosted on Beliefnet, Rocco Palmo's Whispers in the Loggia and Amy Wellborn, the true pioneer of Catholic blogging, who now composes Charlotte was Both. John Allen's All Things Catholic is another worthy on-line institution and anchor of the Catholic blogosphere.

I am enthusiastic about blogs that chart their own paths, like my friend Kim's Faith, Fiction, and Flannery and Image's Good Letters blog. These blogs are a refreshing break from the overly earnest Catholic/Christian commentariat, to which I belong. While not necessarily part of the Catholic blog ghetto, I loved Alice Bag's autobiographical blog Violence Girl, where she old her story. It was a compelling exercise in blogging! My dear friend Sharon, who seems to always be one step ahead when it comes to communications technology, has a truly remarkable thing going on over on Quaerere Deum.

My little endeavor pales in comparison to all the blogs mentioned above. Nonetheless, I believe that Catholic voices from the West and from smaller dioceses need to be heard and not just those that emanate from New York, Chicagoland, D.C., Irondale, et. al. I like thinking it a bit subsversive to use new media, which often has the effect of homogenizing instead of diversifying, to inject a different point-of-view, to express views from the local level and from those of us who live and move in a unique milieu. Being a Catholic in Utah and being a permanent deacon, I believe, qualifies. I am firmly convinced that those of us who venture into the public domain as Catholics have a responsibility to act like Christians, which at a minimum means being civil, but it also means being thoughtful, creative, and informed. Writing is an opportunity for the one who writes to find his/her own voice and to make a unique contribution. The last thing the church and the world needs is an echo chamber made up of either "Communio" Catholics or "Kingdom" Catholics. Being civil does not prevent one from clearly, logically, and creatively expressing strong opinions and insights, or from engaging and arguing with those who may not agree.

Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, for whom I am praying as he battles cancer, recently wrote about his experience of a day spent listening to Catholic radio: "there are some embarrassing and ignorant goof-balls who have managed to corner an hour of Catholic radio. If anyone thinks that evangelicals or fundamentalists have a corner on this market, you are quite wrong." Consider how much easier it is to set up a blog! A blog should be judged by its content and its layout, but content trumps appearance, just as substance trumps style. Holy orders certainly does not confer the charism of clear thought charitably expressed, or the gift of being informed, or of being able to make logical arguments. It certainly does not make you infallible. Accuracy when it comes to facts, making clear and logical points, expressing experience creatively are, at least to my mind, the hallmarks of a good blog. For a good Catholic blog we must add charity: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" (1 Cor. 13:1). Do we go bong, bong, clank, clank, or make a beautiful and symphonic sound, or, more aptly, that of a jazz combo?

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