Sunday, July 6, 2008

Fr. Michael Orsi in HPR: Calumny in the Blogosphere...

I have not been able to post to this blog with the frequency that I would like. In fact, I am rethinking the pattern I've laid out for it. I want to focus on the virtues, and related, already listed. However, I won't worry about sequence, necessarily. Rather, the topics listed will become blogger labels.

For now, I want to pass along a virtue related article available on the web. It was in Homiletic and Pastoral Review - a periodical I highly recommend for subscription. They always upload one article per issue, and keep them online. This is a highly respectable periodical, published by Ignatius Press and

The article is written by Rev. Michael P. Orsi and is entitled, Calumny in the Blogosphere. I'll start you out here, then let you finish reading at HPR.

Calumnious blogging is a serious offense against God's
law. Those who engage in it are
jeopardizing their immortal souls and the souls of others

Calumny in the blogosphere

by Michael P. Orsi

Calumny is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary (1992) as a “false statement maliciously made to injure another’s reputation.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994) places calumny as a serious sin under the Eighth Commandment, “Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” The Catechism states, “He becomes guilty of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them” (2447). The Catechism notes that calumny offends “against the virtues of justice and charity” (2479).

Calumny and its close relative detraction (derogatory comments that reveal the hidden faults or sins of another without reason) have been part of life since the dawn of time. But opportunities for breaking the Eighth Commandment have proliferated with the advent of the Internet, especially since the rise of the phenomenon known as “blogging.”

“Blog” is one of those punchy little contractions we live with today, an example of the technological shorthand so beloved in our culture of email and text messaging. A blog (short for “weblog”) is a personal website or online journal. Blogs perform a variety of communication functions, combining elements of both private conversation and broadcasting, usually incorporating a forum for interactive discussion.

Blogs are vehicles of global self-expression, something unprecedented in the history of human discourse. They are a means by which the average person—with creativity, initiative and the investment of time—can reach limitless numbers of readers anywhere in the world. They elevate the marketing presence of entrepreneurs and small companies to levels that used to be attainable only by major corporations. And they have transformed journalism, breaking the monopolies of resource and licensure that once restricted entry into the world of mass communications.

There are tens of thousands of blogs today: personal, educational, commercial, political, philosophical, religious—you name it. In fact, the presence of Catholics in what has come to be called the “blogosphere” is one of the great untold stories of modern evangelism and religious communication.

An especially compelling element of blogging is the ability to project one’s ideas, observations and opinions with near-complete anonymity. It is common blogger practice to adopt an online persona—usually some cute name or title with relevance to the main focus of the blog. Likewise, readers who comment on blog postings or participate in discussions can set their views before the world without revealing themselves. Service providers that host blogs routinely permit such anonymity, and the law has upheld the practice (in only a handful of court cases have providers been forced to unmask their blogging clients).

But the power to reach a wide audience while remaining in the shadows has proven a source of great temptation. All too many online commentators have been dazzled by this technology that magnifies personal identity and stokes the ego while providing a shield from the consequences of their words. Whole new avenues of calumny have been the result.

In the area of business, disgruntled customers have taken to the World Wide Web to vent their dissatisfaction with products, companies and providers of professional services—sometimes in the well-intentioned hope of helping others avoid real problems they encountered, but other times out of what seems mere peevishness. (Doctors, hospitals and other health services, in particular, find themselves increasingly the targets of online criticism.) Taking their cue from real customer outrage, some businesses have found blogging a perfect means of slamming the competition. They pose as dissatisfied buyers, denigrating or starting false rumors about competing firms or products.

Employees also see the Internet as an ideal outlet for gripes about their managers, their companies, even their customers—often doing their blogging on company time. In cyberspace (as in everyday life) it’s hard to separate justified frustration from mere grumpiness. What for one person can be the healthy airing of legitimate grievance, for another can be little more than high-tech bellyaching. But there have been instances where pokes at the boss or the airing of corporate dirty linen have become so severe as to cost jobs and spur lawsuits.

No area of life has felt the impact of blogging more than politics. Candidates and elected officials have discovered how quickly and effectively the flames of protest can be fanned by online opposition. Just ask John Kerry. One needn’t debate the validity of charges leveled against him by the Swiftboat veterans to see the potential of blogging as a political weapon. Depending on whose ox is being gored at any given time, blogs are either the ultimate expression of grassroots democracy or something close to populist chaos.

The essential problem with anonymous blogging is that masked comments can easily turn malicious, intentionally or otherwise. Growing concern about online threats and character assassination among teenagers using social networking services like MySpace and Facebook has spawned the terms “cyber-bullying” and “cyber-stalking.” There have been cases of violence—even suicide—attributed to blog campaigns launched against targeted individuals. The walking wounded are showing up in hospitals, psychiatrists’ offices and high school drop-out statistics.

Calumny does not exist apart from the other realities of life. Like all sin, it is nurtured by social conditions and the particular circumstances in which individuals find themselves, circumstances that can provide the rationalizations and self-deception that blind us to the seriousness of our words and actions. For instance, we live in a society that puts a high premium on winning. It’s easy to convince ourselves that anything goes, as long as we achieve the results we want and don’t get caught doing what we know in our hearts we shouldn’t do.

Continue reading Calumny in the Blogosphere at HPR...

Homiletic and Pastoral Review Homepage

Since this article came out in May, the Ignatius Insight Scoop featured a blogpost on this and some of the comments are well worth reading, as well.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Virtuous bloggers desire to understand....virtue!

How can one become a virtuous blogger without a deep understanding of virtue?

Virtue is built primarily through the graces of God in prayer. But it also comes from spiritual reading and study. In this post, we look a breakdown of virtues as compiled from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).

A series of posts will follow in the coming weeks and months which looks deeper at each of these virtues and how they relate to Catholic blogging. For now, just a list.

Article 7 of Part 3:1:1 of the CCC is on The Virtues:

1803 "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Phil 4:8)

A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. the virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.

"The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God". (St. Gregory of Nyssa, De beatitudinibus, 1: PG 44, 1200D.)

Virtues are broken down as follows in the CCC:


Cardinal Virtues
  • Prudence
  • Fortitude
  • Justice
  • Temperance

Theological Virtues

  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Charity

We will not limit our discussion to the actual virtues, but also to the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. The fruits, for example, are a kind of measuring stick. If all that we do is truly coming through the Holy Spirit, then others should observe in us, these fruits. We should pray to our Guardian Angel, that we are enlightened with observing these fruits in ourselves, most especially where we exhibit the opposite. It is through this kind of examination of conscience upon which we grow in holiness, especially when we use the Sacrament of Confession and receive graces accordingly.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

  • Wisdom
  • Understanding,
  • Counsel
  • Fortitude
  • Knowledge
  • Piety
  • Fear of the Lord

Fruits of the Holy Spirit

  • Charity
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Generosity
  • Gentleness
  • Faithfulness
  • Modesty
  • Self-control
  • Chastity

We ought to constantly measure our words against this list of fruits. How can we feel good about a post we make with new knowledge, if in that post we exhibit unkindness or lack gentleness? It does not mean that the new knowledge is wrong, but that we have work to do in the virtue department in order to be more effective.

Christ did not teach with a verbal baseball bat. There were very rare times that Our Lord showed anger or used firm speech. Angry and terse language, not to mention foul language, exhibits a desire to control others. Jesus respected the free will of others and used gentleness and kindness to teach. He put the message out for those willing to use faith and reason to follow and left others in their stubborness without making a scene.

Like Christ, Pope Benedict XVI, used gentleness and kindness in delivering his message of hope here in the United Statues. He did not avoid difficult matters, but went after them ever mindful of the dignity of those to whom his message is directed. He showed how effective this approach can be and we should work to emulate it.

Perhaps that is why the CCC has the virtues in a chapter called, "The Dignity of the Human Person".

I look forward to exploring the virtues, and the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit in detail with you. I hope to dig deep into the writings of the Church fathers, doctors and saints to see what kinds of quotable gems we may find. Feel free to contribute other resources in the combox, along with your personal experience and commentaries that may assist others, including me, in becoming more virtuous Catholic bloggers.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Virtuous Bloggers Pray First then Blog

I mentioned in my initial post here that there are several priests who have guided me in various ways since I began blogging. Most of this was indirect, through ordinary homilies and talks having nothing to do with the internet. Some lessons learned, were more direct. Who are these priests?

First, there is my pastor, Fr. Eduard Perrone, who is a diocesan priest and a third order Carmelite. He has been consistent in his advice to pray first and then blog. His advice was the same for engaging in discussion in Catholic forums. How can we be effective if we do not pray for our readers or people with whom we engage in dialouge? When discussing the challenge of maintaining charity on issues that are sensitive, he was emphatic that prayer must guide us. With a proper relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer, charity will flow.

He not only advocates Adoration and the Rosary, but mental prayer. The ancient practice of Lectio Divina, something promoted by Pope Benedict, can help us with mental prayer.

It is nice when you can find an adoration chapel near you, but if it is not accessible to you, there are other options. Find a church that is open and just spend time before the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle. If that is not available, then fall back on another piece of advice given to me by Fr. Perrone: Adore God in your heart. If there is a Catholic Church nearby, Our Lord is there - simply turn your heart to Him.

In addition to Fr. Perrone, I have been deeply influenced by priests of the Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross (ORC not OSC) who work out of my parish - Assumption Grotto in Detroit. The following key words describe these priests in my own words: Semi -contemplative, semi-monastic, and missionary.

Their contemplative nature goes well with all that Fr. Perrone has taught us at Grotto about prayer. So does their deep emphasis on adoration, especially with regards to praying for priests. Rev. Wolgang Seitz, ORC was the celebrant in the Missa Cantata which aired on April 6, 2008. His homily that day spoke volumes about the need for prayer. You can watch the Mass or listen to the audio homily on this page at EWTN.

I call them monastic because they live very simple lives. They do not have large monastery here in Detroit, but a simple home donated to them that serves their small numbers here at this time. I amtold there is no television in their little monastery and they do not concern themselves with the kinds of worldly things that we so often permit ourselves to get caught up in. They go about the country giving retreats, missions and days of recollection. They are among the finest confessors and homilists, always guiding us to live virtuous lives in a gentle way - the same way you see in the homily given by Fr. Wolfgang.

I am fortunate to have received feedback from one or more of them on some of my posts. Early on, I was told that it would have been better if I had spent an hour in adoration in reparation for sins committed against the Blessed Sacrament than to post on certain liturgical abuses giving them further publicity. This had me thinking back to prayer and how quick I was to post on those things, but how I had not bothered offer something to Our Lord in reparation for those offenses and for the conversion of those souls involved.

It had me thinking about something else: Do I believe in the power of prayer? If I do, then my first reaction should be to pray for those people and to make acts of reparation just as the priest had suggested.

As Catholic bloggers we come across all kinds of scandals which have been made public. Check the number of hours spent reading these things and posting on them, versus the amount of time actually spent in prayer on a given day. If you are reading and posting for an hour or two, or more, and haven't spent even 30 minutes in prayer that day, then something is terribly out of balance.

If we want to be virtuous bloggers, then we must look to a model of virtue. First, there is Christ who is the Light. It is in silent Adoration that we will encounter Christ. How can we hear the voice of God if we constantly surround ourselves with noise? That noise is not only in the form of television and radio, but in activity. Yes, too much activity can be a form of noise. Too much blogging without prayer is an even greater form of noise. When we spend time in silent Adoration, we can hear the voice of Jesus above all others. It should lead us to be gentle and charitable, not harsh towards the unbelievers, poorly catechized and even the arrogant dissenters. Pope Benedict has shown us that we don't have to give in to false charity by saying nothing. Rather, it is in how we say it. It is only through prayer that we will learn how to blog with total charity

The Blessed Mother is another model of virtue. She shows us not only the silence needed to be virtuous, but teaches us humility. She also teaches us obedience. This is a topic for a post which I will make at a later date. For now, suffice it to know that you should pray to Our Lady for assistance with virtuous blogging and there is nothing better than the Holy Rosary. Remember, the Rosary is scriptural and Rosary Confraternity's website has an online meditation for this purpose. As you pray a Hail Mary, you visually scan one line for each of the ten (click here for the sorrowful mysteries).

There are other models of virtue and we will get in to those later, as well.

If you want to be a virtuous blogger, then pray first and post second. Most of all, pray earnestly for your readers, especially those quiet souls lurking in the background exploring the faith through your words. Be a virtuous blogger and you just might pull them along with your good example. Show a lack of virtue, and Our Lord may someday reveal to you just how many opportunities were lost.

Through prayer, we can mirror the love of Christ rather than project our human weakness.

Experience is a series of mistakes....

I am initiating this blog because after more than two years of Catholic blogging I know that experience is a series of mistakes. I have made my share in my quest to share the faith with others in my main blog, Te Deum Laudamus! I am fortunate to be in a parish with a number of priests who have aided me in another quest: virtuous blogging.

I am far from being a virtuous Catholic blogger, but I can share some of the things I have learned through prayer and the priests who have guided me.

I invite dialogue on topics as I post. I won't hesitate to consult those same priests on virtuous blogging topics as needed.

The Blessed Virgin Mary exemplified the highest levels of virtue which are rooted in humility and obedience. May she guide us accordingly.