Vatican reaches out to bloggers and discuss mutual relationship

Vatican reaches out to bloggers and discuss mutual relationship.

May 3, 2011. ( 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.”

Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J. moderated a panel discussion with five Vatican representatives. OSV Daily Take  reported,

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.

Australian priests offer support for deposed bishop | National Catholic Reporter

Australian priests offer support for deposed bishop | National Catholic Reporter.

It`s tough being a Catholic these days. A friend recently shared how she is ready to give up reading the National Catholic Reporter, a publication that we all respect for its commitment to reporting on current church events and issues. It`s not that the NCR isn`t doing a great job. But it seems that each day there is another story to get heated over. Another reason to sigh deeply. Another reason to wonder why we remain Catholic.

The latest news is coming from down-under. Bishop William Morris of the Toowoomba Diocese is being relieved of his duties and position by Pope Benedict XVI. According to the article, the reason is traced back to an Advent 2006 Pastoral letter from Bishop Morris. While describing the current priest shortage in his diocese, he stated that he would be willing to ordain married men and women `if Rome allowed`. This letter resulted in an apostolic visitation from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver. Bishop Morris was not allowed to see the results of the visitation or the report that was sent to the Congregation for Bishops. All he received was the personal letter from the Pope announcing his episcopal removal.

Granted, we do not know all the details of the situation. But it has raised a lot of questions and concerns about the judicial process and the severity of the punishment.

What brings some hope is that a national organization of priests in Australia has released a public statement of support for Bishop Morris. This is good news. We need priests, bishops and lay women and men to stand up for each other if they believe an injustice has been done.

vatican views

I have made ten trips to Rome. While the novelty has cooled somewhat, the city still has a strong, emotional effect on me. For better or for worse, it is part of who I am as a Catholic.

My feelings towards Rome reflect my feelings towards my faith in general. Deep down, I love the richness of the history. You can`t help but be moved when you turn onto the Via Della Conciliazione and take in your first view of St. Peter`s Basilica. To say it`s majestic is a gross understatement. The interior magnifies the scale even more. If bigger is better, then St. Peter`s is the best.

Tourist groups and individuals with guide-books and head-sets abound. But my favourite way to tour St. Peter`s is to simply stroll in silence, stopping every once in a while to take it all in; the natural lighting, the coolness of the marble, the beauty of the Pietà, the magnificence of Bernini`s baldacchino. For me, it`s a true experience of the heart.

But then the head kicks in. I ponder the history of how these monuments to human ingenuity came to be. How much sweat and toil? How much fleecing of God`s good people? How much injustice and outright lying with the selling of indulgences? Sobering thoughts compete with the soul-soaring grandeur. Where does this leave me?

Each time I go to Rome and visit the Vatican, I still feel like I`m coming home to my Catholic roots. Yet there is also a sense of discomfort. The fond memories are mixed with disappointment and frustration at the shadow side of our Church; both past and present. Ah, home, sweet dysfunctional home!