Friday, October 30, 2009

Sadly, Fr. Rosica can't let it go

Fr. Rosica has again had another outburst against bloggers. He's taken his message on the road, this time to Rome, at the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

He made some good points about how the media tends to exhibit a moral bias. He also accurately pointed out how the media tends to "dumb down" the message and how form often becomes more important than substance.  People have lost intellectual rigor and are unwilling to pay attention for more than 15 seconds unless you flash some spectacular picture on the tube.

But he couldn't resist attacking bloggers - again.  Here's the relevant excerpt:

"On the Internet there is no accountability, no code of ethics, and no responsibility for one’s words and actions. [...]

"One of the challenges for the Church is that the Internet can destroy or confuse the hierarchy of information-providing that church agencies have worked so hard to establish. Web sites and blogs tend to concentrate on negative messages."

The result, Father Rosica contended, is that "Christians are known as the people who are against everything."

There is truth in his statements. The Internet is certainly open to everybody and accountability works only indirectly, through peer pressure and reputation.  But this freedom is also one of its great strengths, in that bloggers can't be fired or shut down if the powers that be don't agree with their message.

Honestly, I'm not too sure that "old" media has much accountability or responsibility either.  Radio, newspapers and TV stations can mislead people with relative impunity.  In fact, Salt & Light and the Catholic Register transmitted false claims made by Archbishop Weisgerber (Winnipeg) about the Vatican's support for UNICEF, and yet nobody in the Church hierarchy seemed to care.  Don't you remember?  Last summer, as Archbishop Weisgerber tried to defend Development and Peace's support for abortion advocates, he claimed that the Vatican was doing the same thing by supporting UNICEF.  Wrong!  The Vatican had stopped funding UNICEF in 1997 precisely because they were pushing abortion and contraception.  But neither Salt & Light or the Catholic Register did any fact checking, so they reported the Archbishop's statement as if it were a fact, thus leading people astray.  They are as guilty as anybody of lack of accountability, ethics and responsibility. Pope John Paul II must be rolling in his grave.  (Note that Salt & Light recently deleted Archbishop Weisgerber's statement about UNICEF from their website, so you won't find it there anymore, but the damage has been done).

As for his quote "Christians are known as the people who are against everything," that's nothing new and has nothing to do with the Internet.  The Church has had that reputation for a long time, in part due to the reality of the counter-cultural aspects of the Gospel (Christians don't just "go with the flow") but also due to deficient methods of teaching the Gospel.  Ask your parents or grandparents, and they'll tell you that this "negative" reputation of the Church has existed for decades.

It's a shame that Fr. Rosica has decided to ignore the message that bloggers are conveying and instead shoot the messenger.  Certainly, some blog posts go overboard.  I've done it on some occasions and I apologize.  I'm striving to find the right balance.  But most bloggers make very good points about the apathy in the Church and the need to return to authentic Catholicism in agreement with the Magisterium.  The solution isn't to shoot the bloggers, but to get rid of the apathy.

Painting everybody with the same brush is irresponsible.  If Fr. Rosica is accusing bloggers of sloppy reporting, he should perhaps look in the mirror sometime. 

Honestly, his rants are getting boring and old.