Saturday, May 14, 2011

Blogging: Fostering the diakonia of koinonia

In July of this year I will mark five years of blogging practically daily. Over the course of that time I have seen Catholic blogs come and go. I have also noticed that very often Catholic bloggers are drawn to controversial topics like proverbial moths to the flame. Flames, such as they are, tend to be inflammatory. Most of the time in addressing controversial subjects bloggers rely heavily on news reports, which do a poor job of framing the question most of the time. Reporters, after all, are not typically subject matter experts and so they tend to report on the matter under consideration in a flat, two-dimensional, and pruriently oppositional manner.

No sooner had I posted a bit from my on-going graduate work, in which I seek to demonstrate the thesis that by their full and simultaneous participation in the sacraments of matrimony and holy orders, the two sacraments at the service of communion, married permanent deacons make up for something that was previously lacking in the church's pastoral ministry, than someone posted a link to Dr. Edward Peters' website, where he addresses the fact that there is no explicit canonical exemption to Canon 277.1, which holds that clerics must observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of God's kingdom, for married permanent deacons. Of course, my opinion on the matter was asked for, despite the fact I had addressed it in the bit I posted. However, in the extract I posted, I dealt with the matter theologically, not canonically. What is important about this is that, in my opinion, theology has priority over canon law. Nonetheless, I am not going toe-to-toe with a respected canonist, a lesson I learned by posting an ill-conceived comment on another blog a few years ago.

It is precisely because theology, which, if it is good theology, is no more free to dismiss tradition with the wave of a hand than is canon law, enjoys this priority that dealing with the issues of the day via the media is so deficient. Unlike canon law, good theological work, which is always deliberative and never hasty, can move matters forward, resulting in what St. Vincent of Lérins called a profectus, which is a deeper, better, more correct understanding of the revelation of God in Christ pertaining to any number of issues, whereas arriving at certain conclusions hastily only amounts to so much activism, tantamount to the moth flying into the flame of the bug zapper.

It goes without saying that almost everybody has an opinion, sometimes even a very strong opinion. Strong opinions, especially ones that are not well-informed, tend to elicit strong emotion. Strong, conflicting emotions result the kind of arguments that are the anti-thesis of the koinonia we (hopefully) seek to foster. As with all media, when a blogger notes that things have gone a little flat in terms of readership and comments, s/he faces the temptation to stir things up by posting something that will draw people's attention and interest, especially if there is a news item on the matter hanging there like the fruit on the tree in the middle of the garden. The trouble with doing this is that you go down the same path as our once venerable fourth estate and cease to contribute anything of lasting value. Attempting to start rolling arguments are contrary to my stated purpose for blogging, which is "to foster Christian discipleship in the late modern milieu in the diakonia of koinonia and in the recognition that 'the Eucharist is the only place of resistance to annihilation of the human subject.'"

It may interest my readers to know that while I disagree both with Dr. Peters' canonical conclusion and his suggestions about the best way forward, I think he has performed a valuable service to the church by identifying the disjunction between the church's current practice of ordaining married men deacons without requiring them or their wives to relinquish their conjugal rights and the fact that canon law can be legitmately interpreted as saying they ought to, especailly given the post-conciliar history of what became Canon 277 in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. Along these same lines, Dr. Peters has been accommodating and generous in responding to a few queries I have had over the course of the past year, which correspondence demonstrates the kind of informed, civil, and courteous dialogue I think Catholic bloggers should seek to foster.

Though it received far too little notice in the Catholic blogopshere when it was released earlier this year, Pope Benedict's Message for the 45th World Communications Day, which will be observed on the fifth of June, is a great reflection for all Catholic bloggers. There is much of value in this timely message that is relevant to the concern I am addressing. The passage of the Holy Father's message that strikes me each time I read is the one in which he insists that those of us who take to the web in the name of Christ and identiy ourselves with His Church

"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. The truth of the Gospel is not something to be consumed or used superficially; rather it is a gift that calls for a free response" (underlining emphasis mine).

ADDED: One way to also discern is to discover whether and how a blogger makes money off his/her blog. This is not to say avoid blogs off which bloggers make money, but it is something to keep in mind when confronted with the pandering to controversy meme. No readers or commenters= income stream drying up. Even amomg those who make money, a distinction can be made between those who do so in mendicant manner (i.e., solicit reader donations) and those who make money commercially, meaning in a less obvious way (the presence of ads is a good indicator). For the record, Καθολικός διάκονος is now and will be for the duration of its existence ad free, commercial free, and, well, just free.


  1. As some friends of mine say, "Careful with that mic Weezy." :)

  2. Wise friends.

    Welcome to the Catholic blogosphere where every night is amatuer night!


A political non-rant

In the wake of yesterday's Helsinki press conference, which, like a lot of my fellow U.S. citizens, as well as many people abroad, left ...