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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Blogging, Gossip, and True Intent

When I first began my blog, I was still a recent revert, and very sensitive towards dissent in the Church, that very dissent that had pulled me off the rails. I was angry, because I felt I had been deprived of the Truth for so long, and truth be told, I am still resentful, however, that resentment is abating. Why? Because God is good and he has brought a greater good out of my having fallen away.

Yet it was fresh in the beginning so I focused more on snarky topics condemning certain local practices and the like. Not a lot of people read me at the time, and as I've matured as a blogger, I've gotten away from that stuff and tend to focus on things more positive and spiritual.

My regular readers have become somewhat acquainted with me and my style, and I'm guessing they know I'm an opinionated person. However, I hope they also all realize that it has never been my purpose to defame, or gossip, or do any such thing. I will simply state an experience from my perspective, good or bad, but I pray that people see that ultimately, I am only providing a snapshot.

As I've started school again and will be continuing, God willing, I have also become more aware of citations, which, as some have noticed, have become more scholarly. If I have internet links, I like to use them but I'll admit that sometimes if I perceive that something is common knowledge, I get lazy and don't post the link, just summarize what I have to say. I shot myself in the foot with that one a couple times recently and got called on it. Not because of any issues with plagiarism, but rather because using a simple citation would have answered the concerns of some people who became offended at what I said, leading to a misunderstanding. A misunderstanding that could have been prevented thorough a couple minutes' work.

I also will admit that sometimes I am unclear in my intent, perhaps, in spite of my typical long-windedness, because I am again lazy and don't do a clear enough edit. Sometimes I have other things going on when I write and don't phrase things properly, and of course, if a key word is the wrong word, it severely can change the meaning and intent of a topic. And boy, was I deservedly taken to task for THAT error!

So I would like to humbly apologize for any hurt I may have caused at any time by my laziness in editing. I would like to request the forgivenss of those I have offended, and to please understand that I write from a total context that is not always clear in an individual post.

Sometimes I become so comfortable with my regular readers and commenters that I forget there are those out there who may happen by for the first time and have no idea where I'm coming from. Perhaps part of the standard in blogging is to remember that we never know who will be sent to us, who will happen by, and we must all consider what impression we will make.

I will confess to often being overly sensitive, and it is human nature to read into things or even grasp a particular thing within someone's work, then worry it to death. We are fallen creatures, and we can be easily offended. Because we are reading the written word apart from knowing the person who wrote those words, it's all too easy to depersonalize the author and become offended at his or her words. I have been guilty of that and I have made comments to other bloggers for which I now regret.

I have also been on the receiving end of such comments, and never fail to feel a sense of consternation that my words were taken badly, or somehow insulted someone, and I do try to repair that damage which was not intended.

There was a combox conversation in one of my older posts in which this was brought up; it is one of the dangers of the internet and email. We cannot see expressions, we cannot observe feelings and sentiments, and sometimes such things are impossible to convey by the written word. It's way too easy for all of us to both miscommunicate and to feel slighted or insulted when someone has simply misspoken.

In a live coversation, when someone mis-speaks, the question can be immediately addressed and corrected, and as we can see expression, we can observe sincerity, and even ill-intent. Not so in blogging and in other popular written media. And sometimes, even with a careful edit, some things are not caught and can lead to controversy. I've been on both sides of that and all too often I've been guilty of causing the offense.

Some time ago the Catholic Spirit, our diocesan paper, completely villified bloggers, making a blanket accusation of "gossip". I agree, blogging can be a form of gossip, but as it has been said before, our local Catholic bloggers and most, if not all, of the blogs on my link list have a high standard and work from a perspective of personal integrity. But we are all human and sometimes we err, and then it's time for damage control.

I think we all need to remember that even when someone posts something controversial, before we accuse, we should pray, question, and if there is truly an insult present, then we can address it appropriately in a charitable mannr. Perhaps we find that the person in question only misspoke, badly chose their words, and is ready and willing to correct the error. This goes not only for bloggers, but for commenters, for I do feel we truly enter into a conversation of sorts. But as it is in writing only, sometimes we forget that we are addressing a live person, someone with feelings, someone with sensitivities, and this can lead to a form of depersonalization and a denial of that person's dignity. If we don't use due care, conversations can deteriorate very quickly. People will say things to each other on the internet in chat rooms, discussion forums, and even in voice mail on the phone that they would never in a thousand years say to someone directly. Because we cannot see reactions, it is all too easy to spout off, and not realize that our words have consequences.

I had a lesson in that recently, and I deserved that lesson.

All that said, we are all also entitled to our opinions, and sometimes our legitimate opinions will be at odds with another person's opinions. I will continue to give my opinion on things, as I think we all will, and sometimes we will take each other's words personally. For example; if I say I can't stand the works of Marty Haugen and Andy Warhol, guaranteed there will be a fan of both who will come along and be personally offended at my condemnation of those persons' works. I will not change my opinion if I think something is trash. One of my pet peeves is bad church architecture, which I keep under wraps for the most part, for it is so common that if I let it get under my skin I'd never be able to go to Mass! Yet if I comment about such things in a negative manner, it should be understood from an impersonal context relating to a thing, not the people contained within the thing.

I think that we all have to remember, whether we are bloggers or whether we like to only surf blogs and articles and comment occasionally, we should all remember to be charitable, choose our words carefully, edit carefully, and consider how our words might be taken. It could be that a legitimate difference of opinion will cause offense; that can't be helped. In our world today, too many people are ready to cry "intolerance!" to quell actual discussion. We can all expect to be offended at one time or another, but our question should always be: is the offense actually intended?

I'm guilty of so much, but I do not go out of my way to cause offense. Please forgive my lack of tact which has been so apparent at times, and in turn, I will work harder to consider my words and how they impact others.

God bless you all.

21 comments:

tara said...

adoro:

You wrote from your experience--I did not for one minute think you were, "bashing" or gossiping. I think the priest was a bit oversensitve, as sometimes we all are. Regardless, you told your experience, as it happened, the way you felt--the moment of reflection of your visit.

Adoro te Devote said...

Tara ~ You are quick with the comment! I just posted that! LOL!

And thank you, but just the same, my original post had some poorly chosen words which I should have caught, but didn't. I edited and provided clarification as well as the citation from the book I actually had with me at the time, containing the novena I've been saying to OLPH.

Angela Messenger said...

I think this post nailed it. Very good! It is a reminder to all of us that we aren't just publishing our own thoughts but that as faithful and devout Catholics we also represent the Church.

uncle jim said...

bravo.
i hope we all exercise appropriate discretion and caution when postinga or commenting.
much of the world's misunderstandings probably result from misuse of the tongue / pen / keyboard.
james' letter cautions us as to the power posited in that small muscle.
i'm sure i've been as guilty as the next person. whether it be gossip or slander or calumny, it does its dirty deed and seldom looks back.
thanks for 'going there'.
maybe we'll all do a bit better.berhtd

UltraCrepidarian said...

Be aware also, that those who haven't got a leg to stand on will use the bluster tactic. Having nothing to say for their own position, no logic or source of authority, they will revert to arguing matters of form and call foul wherever they need to. I am not saying that anyone who accused "bloggers" in general was necessarily doing this, but merely that taking a wounded tone and alleging misconduct is not a guarantee that they have a right to their mud-slinging, just because they publish and and read by others in a different media. Snobery, smells like, to me.

W

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Well said, but I think folks should read around a bit before leaping to conclusions. After all, you have your blog archive right here.

But, you raise some good points here. We need to be careful.

Hey, wait a minute, I'M the only one who can accuse herself. :-)

Anonymous said...

The Redemptorists hold OLPH very close to their hearts. I was brought up in a Redemptorist parish in Michigan and am very familiar with St. Al's in Minneapolis, I can attest to their ardent devotion to her. Privately and publicly. There is a Redemptorist church here in San Antonio named after her.
I think that perhaps some frustration is coming out on their part. They work incredibly hard to promote devotion to OLPH and sometimes it's met with a lack of interest by us. They don't stop tho. Our Mother of Perpetual Help is always foremost in their talks, retreats, and writeings.

It was nice of you to explain yourself today.

I lived in Minneapolis from '73 to '83. Retired now, with my wife, here in San Antonio.
I don't miss those winters!!!

Ron in San Antonio

anawim said...

Hello Adoro,
Thanks for your comments and explanations. I admit that I bristled, but because untrue assumptions were made. Namely that "Redemptorists are not doing their job..." You were, however, right about the sign for candles being hidden. I have remedied that problem now. Thank you. I want to clarify something that is not readily understood. That is, the fact that the devotion to OLPH is not promoted by the Redemptorists outside of St. Alphonsus parish. Our church is not a designated sanctuary, that is, not a shrine church. It is a parish church, with a shrine in it. Many parishes happen to have the same shrine. We are assigned to this parish and we work in this parish. In this Archdiocese we have no jurisdiction to promote our parish shrine in other parishes. Nor are we in the business to do so. In some dioceses we are allowed to do such things; in this one we do not as we are parish priests, and not assigned to a sanctuary. Maybe that helps to clarify that point. During Lent we few Redemptorists worked in 24 parishes in the Archdiocese. It was "backbreaking" work with Masses and confessions, but it is part of our missionary charism to assist the diocesan clergy, even though we have a full schedule at the parish. Until recently we were 4 parish priests and 4 retired, and one retired religious brother. One retired priest recently died. His funeral is tomorrow in Missouri. Of the 4 of us parish priests two of us do English work, one with Spanish speaking and another with Vietnamese. We have a Pan-African Ministry here with people from 21 African nations. There are many Asians and Afro-Americans as well. I was a missionary in the Amazon of Brazil for 13 years, another was in Brazil for 45 years and another in Thailand for 30 years. So that is the picture of St. Alphonsus Parish. Rich in diversity and united in diversity. All are welcome to visit us.

Ma Beck said...

Well, I for one am glad everyone is getting along again.
That's just how we roll on this blog.
;)

Adoro/Father,
Sounds like an interesting place. Thanks for the background. I'd love to visit.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Ma: I agree. I feel better now too because I'm sure my sistah feels better.

I should visit St. Al's too. I'd never even heard of it until Adoro mentioned it! See, they will do big business in pilgrims now thanks to Adoro's blog!

swissmiss said...

Adoro:
As a new blogger, I read your blog and those of numerous others who post here, trying to learn about my faith and also blogging etiquette. I have found it hard to blog about things because I don't want to offend people. I guess it's good to have an opinion, but one shouldn't bash people about the ears. Reading your opinion on things is what makes your blog interesting, but then, echoing what was previously said, Catholic bloggers do represent the Church. It's a fine line I hope to always be wary of. Great post, well said. I hope to commit much of it to memory and practice.

Angela Messenger said...

Anawim, thank you for that post. I did't really understand how the parish/diocesan/priest hierarchy works but now I have a better idea!

May God bless you and your fellow priests abundantly in all your work for Him!

Adoro te Devote said...

Ron ~ I agree, they work very hard, and you must realize that what I wrote is not what I intended as I did not want to slam the Redemptorists. And obviously, OLPH is very close to my heart, as well.

Father (anawim) ~ Thank you. Hopefully more people will come to visit the shrine...I've been encouraging many to do so, both here on my blog and directly to people I know. You may see an influx of visitors...be ready! As far as what you call "untrue assumptions". Please...understand that I did not make any such assumption, although I can understand how you drew that conclusion. It was a simple keyword mistake, I hold the Redemptorists with great esteem and did NOT mean to slam in any way. I feel very badly that this is the impression you got, and yes, it was my fault for not taking more care when I publihed the post. I realize you work very hard, and I thank you for explaining more about your charism. I'm sure a lot of people will come away with a greater understanding.

Adoro te Devote said...

ma beck ~ If you ever make your way up here I'll personally escort you to OLPH and to my parish's shrine, Our Lady of Fatima. And of course, to the Perpetual Adoration chapels in both of these churches! (St. Alphonsus also has perpetual adoration)

swissmiss ~ That's exactly it. Sometimes people vent, though, and say things they don't really mean. i've done that...and then took the post down, realize it wasn't want I wanted to portray. Other bloggers I know have done the same thing. We're human, but sometimes I think our fallen nature gets the better of us. All too often, in fact. I've gotten away from the snarky side, although sometimes it creeps out even when I don't intend for it to. Some of it in my case is my temperment....I get passionate about things I believe in, and so that enthusiasm sometimes carries me away. Don't be afraid to have an opinion. You're never going to keep everyone happy, and some people look for things to argue about. Just take it with a grain of salt, be charitable, and if you find out you really were wrong, own it.

I'm not always good at that myself.

So don't do as I do, do as I say! LOL!

Cathy ~ You'd better believe I can accuse myself just as well as you can accuse yourself And if you want to go visit OLPH, I'll go with you. :-)

anawim said...

thumbs up to you all. I have learned that the little OLPH history I typed up and printed has all disappeared! I see why you didnt find anything, Adoro. At Mass tomorrow I plan to quickly retell the story and then get those pages printed again.

Adoro te Devote said...

Thank you, Father. I'll look forward to reading what you print up the next time I go.

Ray from MN said...

Father "Anawim":

I know only of the name "Redemptorist." I sure can use "Perpetual Help" and Our Blessed Mother is just the person to do that.

It looks like I'll have to do one of my "Great Parish" visits up your way this summer. My last one was to St Louis King of France in St Paul in the Spring where the Marists have held sway for 150 years or so. They do a great job, and it sounds like the Redemptorists do also.

I like to publicize such things.

Do you have any Feast Days (I'm a geezer and don't believe in words like "Solemnity") coming up?

I'll check your web site. The daughter of one of my friends was Confirmed last year from your parish, but I never asked about it.

Anonymous said...

Ray, check the previous post, June 27 is feast day for OLPH.
~

anawim said...

Hello Ray from MN,
Just last night I gave our webmaster many things for our parish website which will be worked on this week....about the Redemptorist community, about Our Mother of Perpetual Help, about Fr. Shannon who just died. Here is the link. Remember we are in the middle of redoing the site: http://www.stalsmn.org/

the.real.trogdor said...

A new visitor, but an eager one.


I like what you write.

JZ

Adoro te Devote said...

Thanks for stopping by, and for commenting JZ! :-)