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Comments Gone Wild

When I first started this blog, I had a few ideas in mind as to how I would handle impending comments that were unbefitting of Catholics or just lacked basic common courtesy.

It seems that some feel that it is their right to post comments that are baiting, ugly, or simply add nothing to the discussion. They get angry when their posts don’t get through and they let me know in unsavory e-mails exactly what they think of me and what a terrible Catholic I am to not allow their comment through. In other words, they like to hide behind the “freedom of speech” thing with no regard for appropriateness or courtesy that the blog isn’t theirs to do what they wish.

Freedom of speech. What an American concept. The Catholic Church and Her beliefs are not American.

The reality is that today comboxes {comment + box = the place where comments are stored in response to the blog post} have become a breeding ground for sewer-like behavior. Otherwise fruitful conversations are reduced to what can only be described as virtual strangers (non-Catholics) watching family members (Catholics) fighting on a public corner, airing their dirty laundry. We are family, in the sense that we are bound by the Faith as family members in Christ. And those who aren’t Catholic don’t need to see such vitriol among Catholics who don’t know how to civilly disagree.

Further, comboxes have turned into modern day road rage in that people use a variety ways to get their point across: anonymous names, screen names, use of multiple names when one baiting comment doesn’t work, shouting {USING ALL CAPS} and this inexplicable need to point out how everyone else is consistently wrong {why people are drawn to blogs just to do this baffles me – my day is full just with the things I like!}

I’ve been online since 1994 and have been guilty of and seen a lot of what I’m writing about. One thing I wanted for Catholic Sistas was not to discourage readers to disagree with the writer, the content, or other commenters, but to discourage inappropriate tone or outright bashing of the writers, commenters, or the Church. I created a note on our website that outlined what was considered an acceptable comment and what would not go through. It reads:

The comments on this blog are moderated, so you may not see your comment post immediately. Comments are appreciated and discussion is welcome, but comments that are defamatory, obscene, crude, antagonistic, baiting or inflammatory will not be approved. We are simply asking that you use your manners. We appreciate everyone’s participation in making this blog a welcome haven of differing opinions and reflections of our unique faith walk. Thanks!

How can you make sure your comment does not get through? Try any one of the following!

1) Bash the Church.

  • talk about priests and pedophilia just to rile up the masses
  • disparage priests or the religious
  • say the pope is the anti-christ
  • say we can’t think for ourselves or that we’re following an outdated, archaic institution run by old men with funny hats

2) Comment about something unrelated to the discussion – example: someone wanted to post a comment that said that those who participated in the poll against contraception also turned a blind eye to the pedophilia in the Church. Huh? Yeah, no. That comment is so not going through, buddy.

3) Comment that gays will burn in hell while stating that our blog is promoting SSA. Really? I got an earful from a commenter whose comment didn’t go through so he sent me a long e-mail outlining things we already know to be true that the Church teaches. The difference? His tone was one of outright rage and condemnation of our blog for supposedly being in favor of SSA in response to this recent blog post. Where he got the idea that we support SSA is beyond me. Further, his comment was not open to discussion, just a rant. Why give people the airtime to spread their hatred?

4) Comments that try to convince others that our understanding of the Faith is wrong when talking about the following:

  • NFP is just as sinful as the pill
  • the pill is morally licit to use
  • moral relativism is acceptable within the Faith
  • women should be priests
  • women are priests
  • all priests are pedophiles
  • priests should be married

5) Condemning others to hell. No explanation needed. The fringes of the left and the right have more in common than not. It is one thing to lovingly correct the wrongs of others as the spiritual works of mercy calls us to do. It’s another to judge someone’s soul based on a few things you read. Neither you nor I have the ability or the right to judge where someone’s soul will end up.

I hope that I have given a better sense of why some comments don’t go through. It has been reasoned to me {and at one time I would have agreed with this angle} that allowing vitriolic comments through gives readers the opportunity to see the level of nastiness firsthand and to be able to discuss and change hearts and minds. I agree that this is possible. But I also agree there is a point where it becomes pearls before swine and, more to the point, there are only 24 hours in a day. If given the opportunity to bang my head against a wall trying to convince someone to dial down their tone OR scrub my toilet with a toothbrush, you can guess which one sounds more appealing.

Plus, evangelizing doesn’t mean  you have to engage in conversations with people who do not want to hear what you have to say in the first place. It all comes back to manners. It’s not difficult to use them. Promise.

ETA: a rough percentage of comments that don’t actually make it through is somewhere in the neighborhood of 2% {if that}. 


About Martina Kreitzer

I am a 30-something stay-at-home mom to six kiddos, 4/96 through 6/12. We recently decided to homeschool after many years in public school. In my "spare time," I served as the chairperson for the Pastoral Council at my home parish from 2010-2013. I currently help with our Adult Faith Formation program, from the planning committee to facilitating and mentoring incoming facilitators. I also enjoy photography as a hobby. I enjoy talking about all things Catholic and always look to infuse a little bit of humor whenever possible.

April 17, 2012 - 6:02 am

Spambot3049 - I suspect this will be my only comment here. Your rules seem designed to exclude people who disagree with you on matters of controversy of Church teaching.

“Comments that try to convince others that our understanding of the Faith is wrong” are prohibited? If you are intentionally trying to drive away dissident Catholics and non-believers, this policy will get you there.

April 17, 2012 - 7:07 am

Stephanie - I come here for ‘happy, reaffirming my faith and education. I can go out among the world for all those nasty comments. I appreciate the moderation.

April 17, 2012 - 7:44 am

Jeanne G. - That Serenity Prayer adaptation is awesome! Can I use it?
Jeanne G. recently posted..Happy Birthday!My Profile

April 17, 2012 - 8:25 am

Martina - Spambot::

I don’t understand where you’re coming from. You posted a partial quote from my post – I think if you had either continued to cut and paste the entire quote, which actually outlines things that are against Church teaching, you will see that it’s not just about telling us our understanding of the Faith is wrong, but rather you see that we uphold what the Church teaches through our understanding.

Further, I think if all you walk away is a feeling that discussion among those who are dissident is excluded, then you did not read the entire article. How odd to pull a half of a sentence and use that to make an entire statement about 1) the blog entry and 2) the blog itself.

I could easily counter with did you read the following that was written before the part you quoted?

**One thing I wanted for Catholic Sistas was not to discourage readers to disagree with the writer, the content, or other commenters, but to discourage inappropriate tone or outright bashing of the writers, commenters, or the Church. **

It’s one thing to disagree with an article in its entirety. It’s another to try to discredit it based on a partial quote that does not even say what you want it to say.

You just kinda proved my point. :)
Martina recently posted..Comments Gone WildMy Profile

April 17, 2012 - 8:32 am

Martina - Absolutely! One of our contributors created it and let me use it. :)

April 17, 2012 - 9:12 am

Benita C - I read your blog–I guess you’d call me a lurker, since I don’t comment much. This is your blog–you control it, and you have the right to moderate your posts as you see fit.

I don’t enjoy reading mean spirited comments, or rants, or comments that disparage the Church or our Holy Father, so I’m glad that you filter those out.

We are all entitled to our opinions. It’s fine to disagree, but we can disagree without being disagreable.

April 17, 2012 - 9:58 am

Martina - Thank you, Benita!

I had meant to add that it’s kind of like an open invitation into my home. While I don’t expect people who visit me to agree with me all the time {wouldn’t that be nice, though?? ;) }, there is a certain expectation that visitors will not trash talk or talk down to me or speak disrespectfully to me or anyone who lives in my house.

I really don’t think of the posting guidelines as anything meant to “suppress” readers from commenting…rather, I am simply holding all of us to a higher standard of respect and basic charity when we communicate. :)

April 17, 2012 - 11:45 am

Lea Stormhammer - As a Lutheran “lurker”, I have to say I appreciate this.

I come to this blog to learn more about the Catholic faith and the perspectives of devout Catholics, since I interact with several Catholics on a regular basis and my Lutheran faith has Catholic roots. My husband is studying to become a Lutheran pastor and inter-denominational dialogue is something of great interest to me. Thus, the desire to learn more.

This is a Catholic blog and I wouldn’t expect anything else from the content! I guess I don’t understand why someone else would either… Thanks for moderating the comments!

:)
Lea

April 17, 2012 - 11:54 am

Gina Nakagawa - Perhaps the only problem with the rules you have set up is that you call on posters to use good manners. Good manners have been tossed out with deference, consideration, politeness. Instead of self-respect, we have self-esteem. I don’t think you discourage dissidents from expressing an opinion. The only problem is that opinions are expressed with vitriol, and hatred for what is truly Catholic. A sincere, honest question question, or opinion, couched in terms worthy of a member of Christ’s own faith, will, I believe, always receive a respectful answer. I truly believe that you are only “holding all of us to a higher standard of respect and basic charity when we communicate.” God bless.

April 17, 2012 - 1:03 pm

Erin H - Very well said!! I’m so glad I came across this blog and get to hear the different perspectives from the wonderful Catholic women who write here. You have every right to decline comments that are inappropriate in the ways you described. I like that this a place of learning and listening and I don’t have to read any hate-mongering or insulting words as I scroll the comments (as I do in a lot of other spaces). It’s a shame you should even have to spell it out for people. Please keep up the wonderful work!! And thank you.

April 17, 2012 - 2:06 pm

Rebecca - Loved this whole article! You are absolutely right to moderate. FIRST: this is YOUR blog, you have a RIGHT to moderate it. If someone else wants to descend to the level of foul mouthed Catholic bashing they can go do it somewhere else.

I for one fell into the habit of visiting the AOL Catholic message boards years ago. The vileness found there was astonishing. It too was inhabited by Catholic bashers and left wing Catholics who were less Catholic than the Protestants there respectfully trying to lure Catholics away. It was a mishmash of spite, rage, deceit and the occasional faithful Catholic trying to set others straight.

I learned a lot on how to react by ONE Catholic priest there who was a model of patience and charity. Someone would ask a question or make a comment and he would respectfully answer, giving firm, solid, orthodox Catholic answers. If they persisted and one could tell they were a troll not there to learn but to cause trouble, he would simply post that he was shaking the dust from his sandals. Then he would not answer anymore. I found it much harder to not take the bait. As do so many others. Which of course led to some very contentious and unChristian arguments. I finally realized it was an occasion of sin to me to be there. I would get so frustrated and upset that I would post uncharitable comments. After posting there for almost three years…..I left. Anyplace that allows unmoderated commentary on subjects like religion and politics is bound to decay into a cesspool. Moderate away, I say.

April 17, 2012 - 4:18 pm

Martina - Rebecca,

You’re taking me down memory lane!! AOL was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience! I also remember frequenting another *huge* secular website where manners were tossed to the side.

I felt the same way about it being a near occasion of sin and walked away. What a freeing experience!!

I do feel a little differently about message boards because that can be Pauline work, in that I have seen many hearts and minds changed over the years and seen many people whose dissidence bordered outright arrogance. Over time they were loved into the Faith, not because we gave in and validated their choices that were in direct opposition to the Church but rather because we upheld it and encouraged them to keep seeking the Truth of the Faith. Many of us who write for CS have been in those poorly formed, arrogant, or dissident shoes. We are forever thankful to the ladies whose faith did not waiver and who encouraged us to have a true relationship with Christ and not settle for the moral relativism that plagues our society.

I completely understand why you left AOL since I did the same but I also have to commend the folks such as the priest and others who hang around seeking that one or two people who hear what is being said and aren’t dissuaded by the rest of the sewer-like environment.

They are truly a treasure!

I know when I get on message boards now, I can spot baiting pretty quickly and I say what needs to be said and then invite them to respond to me privately if they sincerely want to learn more. :)

April 17, 2012 - 8:52 pm

Cynthia - I am Greek Orthodox, and although I disagree with you on two main points (NFP being sinful, and priests being allowed to mary), this is your blog, and people who cant articulate disagreement without causing a ruckus should just keep their comments to themselves. I like reading what is posted on here, but I take what I want from it and dont feel the need the protest and argue every difference in opinion or practice. We are all (or should be) sisters in Christ, after all!
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