May 3, 2011. (Romereports.com) The Vatican met with a group of Catholic bloggers of all ages, that come very every corner of the world. The Pontifical council in charge of communications accepted requests to attend and chose 150 bloggers based on their nationality, language, and the basis of their blog…The Vatican said it held the meeting with these bloggers not to try and control their writing but rather to develop a relationship with them and a code of conduct. In the end, both sides agreed that they would need each other.
I heard about this meeting after the fact, and was intrigued. My first thought was that the select few would be hand-picked for their conservatism and promotion of all things Vatican. I wouldn`t have blamed the organizers for taking this approach. Any organization would do the same – hand-pick your staunchest defenders, and gather them together in one room. Acknowledge their work and encourage them in future endeavours. After all, supportive bloggers can be a great PR tool. And, they work for cheap!
My second thought was that the powers that be had an agenda, to lay down the ground rules for Catholic bloggers. After all, some might fear the freedom of speech of the blogging world.
So, off I went to do some cyber-surfing to find out more. The best place for commentary and reports was – of course – blogs!
OSV Daily Take is an online newsletter from Our Sunday Visitor, and gave daily reports from the meeting. Elizabeth Scalia, a panelist and managing editor of the British blog, The Anchoress, stated that “Catholic clarity cannot be disseminated without a measure of charity. This charity can sometimes be difficult to find on the Internet.”
Spadaro began the panel by explaining that when it comes to blogging, “the Church needs to listen.” Blogging, in particular, is a medium used to get the message out. Everyone wants their voice to be heard, everyone wants to be known. But dialogue also requires a willingness to listen, to be open to new ideas. And that’s precisely what the Church and all the bloggers present are hoping to do at this conference. We are called, first of all, to listen.
One bishop described how he checks a number of Catholic blogs each day to gauge the grass-roots response to current issues and news. It helps him to know how others are interpreting recent documents and pronouncements from the Church. Has an issue been misinterpreted? Does anything need to be clarified? (I`m sorry, but I forgot where I read this…too much speedy surfing and not enough referencing.)
The fact that the Vatican had this meeting shows its ongoing openness to new communications and its acknowledgment that there is much to learn from the grass-roots. Bishops are encouraged to continue the conversation with bloggers on the local level. I hope that the goal will continue to be one of dialogue and mutual respect, and not a witch-hunt. Bishops who subscribe to the see, judge and stifle approach of leadership will soon find out that it is impossible to silence the growing cyber-space community.
As a blogger, I believe that responsibility comes with freedom of speech. My blog`s title reminds me each day to promote an inclusive dialogue. It requires a lot of discipline to walk that fine line between challenging and questioning honestly, and resorting to angry rants and tirades. But, none of us are perfect, and we all need a good rant at times. There will be times when we fail at charity. I pray that we won`t be judged too harshly when we do.