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ARE CATHOLIC FLAME WARS EVANGELIZING ONLINE? BISHOP BARRON SAYS ‘NO’

CNA Staff, Jul 8, 2020 / 07:00 pm (CNA) – A California bishop challenged Catholics online to “cut it out” and better represent their Christian faith through their social media engagement.

On Tuesday, Bishop Robert Barron, an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, issued a “pastoral cry of the heart” to encourage Catholics to stop tearing each other apart online and instead provide well structured and charitable arguments.

“I understand that people are passionate, especially about religious matters, but when it comes to this commentary we always must keep truth and love in the forefront,” he said.

Speaking of social media, Barron said that “I must admit the vitriol, negativity, personal attacks, and outright calumny that come regularly from self-professed Catholics is dismaying and disedifying in the extreme.”

The video message followed a June 24 article Barron had written, which he said the drew unhealthy criticism from mobs of Catholics who responded not with arguments, but with vicious insults. For four days, the bishop had to assign co-workers to assess and remove disturbing comments from his different social media pages, he said.

“In the wake of my article,” he said, “armies of commenters, encouraged by certain internet provocateurs, inundated my Twitter and all my social media sites with wave upon wave of the most hateful, vituperative, venomous words that you can imagine.”

“I was called spineless, gutless, cowardly, and that’s just to mention the most benign and unobscene remarks.”

In the article, “Why ‘what are the bishops doing about it?’ is the wrong question,” Barron noted Catholics had been calling for a greater contribution from the bishops against racial injustices, including the death of George Floyd.

He said bishops are lobbying politicians, encouraging legislative changes, and calling on community leaders. However, he said there must be footwork done by the laity as well.

“The crisis precipitated by the brutal killing of George Floyd is one that involves many dimensions of our society: law, the police, education, government, neighborhoods, families, etc. Priests and bishops, to be sure, ought to teach clearly and publicly,” he wrote.

“But I would argue that the lion’s share of the work regarding this massive societal problem belongs to those whose proper arena is the society and whose expertise lies precisely in the relevant areas of concern, namely, the laity.”

As a public figure on social media, Barron said in his recent video, he expects vocal opposition and even welcomes well-formed criticism. He said even the most finely articulated demonstration is susceptible to objections and new suggestions.

But the comments he received last week were a “moral outrage,” he said. Rather than challenges offered in love and truth, the comments were “calumny” – mean spirited accusations that violate both charity and justice.

“There is a sharp distinction between legitimate argument and calumny. A real argument, involving the marshaling of evidence, the citation of authorities, the fair and careful reporting of one’s opponent’s position, etc, is morally praiseworthy,” he said.

“For real argument fosters both truth and love. It seeks to shed light on what is really the case – truth – and to invite others to see more clearly – it’s a type of love. Calumny, on the other hand, is indifferent to truth and inimical to love.”

Among those with whom Barron has clashed in recent weeks is author and YouTube commentator Taylor Marshall, whose book “Infiltration,” claims to outline a plot by which “Modernists and Marxists hatched a plan to subvert the Catholic Church from within. Their goal: to change Her doctrine, Her liturgy, and Her mission,” according to the book’s website.

Marshall has said that bishops should lead defenses of sacred statues at risk of being torn down by rioters. After the bishop blocked Marshall on Twitter, the author has also criticized Barron’s response to criticism.

“What we see here is kinda tone deaf. We feel like we have been bullied, and pushed down and lied to by our bishops for decades,” Marshall said in a July 8 video.

In the face of attacks against Catholic statues, “we’re looking for the bishops to do something….So when we hear ‘that’s the laity’s job,’ that really ticked off a lot of people, Bishop Barron.”

Marshall said those engaging with the bishop disrespectfully should repent, but also that Barron seems not to understand the frustration of him and his supporters. “That is why you had to make a video yesterday.”

Marshall disputed the idea that he encouraged his supporters to attack Barron online, “but what you saw, Bishop Barron, were tens and tens of thousands of Catholics who want to support you outraged – is that too strong a word?-  confused, bothered, that the bishop who has the biggest platform and the biggest voice would say ‘that’s the laity’s job!’ or ‘Vatican II taught that the secular arena belongs to the laity.’”

In his video, Marshall subsequently criticized Barron because he said that the bishop did not condemn “the sin of idolatry” during the 2019 Amazon synod, and that he did not believe Barron had vigorously enough defended the institution of marriage at the time of the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision. He added that the reason “trolls” antagonize Barron is because he is not sufficiently accessible to answer questions about such criticisms.

Marshall and Barron have clashed previously over theological issues. Marshall has recently criticized other bishops for their response to the coronavirus pandemic, among other things, and is affiliated with the priestly Society of St. Pius X, a traditionalist group in “irregular communion” with the Catholic Church. Barron has reportedly described Marshall as an “extremist.”

In his video, Barron said that online mob comments and abusive reviews do not help promote change but are, instead, anti-evangelical. If non-Catholics who are curious about the faith were to observe such behavior, he said, they would be repelled by the insidious comments of Catholics toward their pastors.

Catholics should be examples of charity, and model respectful disagreement within the Catholic community.

“As Tertullian reminded us long ago, what first attracted many pagans to Christianity was the obvious love that Christians showed to one another,” he said.

“Catholics on social media,” Barron concluded, “you need to pick up your game.”

RESOURCE NOT RISK: POPE REFLECTS ON USING SOCIAL MEDIA FOR GOOD

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Social media are anti-social, anti-human and anti-Christian when they are used to increase differences, fuel suspicion, spread lies and vent prejudice, Pope Francis said in his message for World Communications Day.

The Catholic Church and all people of goodwill see great potential in social media when the “net” and “networks” bring people together, help them share useful information and educate one another, he said.

But, the pope wrote, people’s “social web identity is too often based on opposition to the other, the person outside the group: We define ourselves starting with what divides us rather than with what unites us, giving rise to suspicion and to the venting of every kind of prejudice — ethnic, sexual, religious and other.”

Pope Francis’ message for World Communications Day, which most dioceses will celebrate June 2, cites a passage from Ephesians, “We are members one of another,” and focuses on moving “from social network communities to the human community.”

Although the pope was in Panama for World Youth Day, the Vatican kept its tradition of releasing the pope’s message Jan. 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists.

Using social networks to form and promote “community,” the pope said, implies encouraging interaction, support and solidarity.

Pope Francis’ latest foray into social media aims to promote that. During his Angelus address Jan. 20, he launched a new mobile app and online platform where he shares his prayer intentions, and people around the world share theirs. Then everyone can “click to pray” with one another.

Jesuit Father Federic Fornos, international director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, said that in the first three days, 167,000 people downloaded the Click to Pray app, and the “click to pray” button on individual prayer intentions was clicked more than 1 million times Jan. 20-22.

The online and on-phones prayer community joins the much larger papal social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram.

Begun under Pope Benedict XVI, the @Pontifex Twitter account operates in English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, Polish, Latin, German and Arabic. As of Jan. 23, the accounts had a combined total of almost 48 million followers.

The Instagram account, Franciscus, opened in March 2016 and has more than 5.8 million followers.

On both platforms, the pope has a higher than average “engagement rate,” which goes beyond how many people see the posts to how many take the time to comment, “like,” “retweet” or share.

According to Twipu, a site that tracks Twitter statistics, each of Pope Francis’ tweets generates an average of 935 replies, 7,998 retweets and 36,750 likes.

In an early December article, the Twiplomacy website listed Pope Francis as No. 4 on the list of the “most followed world leaders on Instagram.” He came behind Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and U.S. President Donald Trump.

More importantly from the point of view of his Communications Day focus on community, Pope Francis is also in fourth place on world leaders’ Instagram interactions. Each photo or video posted by the Vatican, the site said, garners an average of 198,432 interactions.

On Twitter, Twiplomacy said, @Pontifex is the second most-followed world leader after Trump and comes in third — behind Modi and Trump — on the list of “most influential,” which is an interaction rate based on the sum of comments, retweets and likes divided by the number of tweets and the average number of followers.

“Twiplomacy Study 2018,” an annual review of diplomacy through social media conducted by the BCW international media consulting firm, said, “The U.S. president has also changed the tone of discourse on Twitter, frequently insulting his opponents and lampooning foreign leaders.”

Obviously, Pope Francis’ social media accounts do not do that.

In his World Communications Day message, Pope Francis said that forming strong communities, even online, requires people who are “animated by feelings of trust” and are pursuing a common objective. “The community as a network of solidarity requires mutual listening and dialogue based on the responsible use of language.”

And he cautioned that while social media can promote “encounter,” they also can “increase self-isolation,” a risk to which young people are particularly vulnerable.

Opposing cyberbullying, isolation and division, he said, Christians are called to use online resources “to invest in relationships and to affirm the interpersonal nature of our humanity, including in and through the network.”

What is more, Pope Francis said, when online “we Christians are called to manifest that communion which marks our identity as believers. Faith itself, in fact, is a relationship, an encounter, and under the impetus of God’s love, we can communicate, welcome and understand the gift of the other and respond to it.”

Virtual communities are worthy of the name community and of Christian participation only if they strengthen a personal encounter “that comes alive through the body, heart, eyes, gaze, breath of the other,” the pope wrote.

“If a family uses the net to be more connected, to then meet at table and look into each other’s eyes, then it is a resource,” he said. “If a church community coordinates its activity through the network and then celebrates the Eucharist together, then it is a resource.”

And, he said, “if the net becomes an opportunity to share stories and experiences of beauty or suffering that are physically distant from us in order to pray together and together seek out the good to rediscover what unites us, then it is a resource.”

THE (CATHOLIC) SOCIAL NETWORK

Emmanuel Villalpando seems to be a shy man, but he is the opposite. His interest in the salvation of souls and his God-given inspiration led him to create OMNIA, a website where he creates unity and a greater community of Catholics. So far the group has 1,405 members on Facebook, including one special follower: Auxiliary Bishop of Orange, the Most Rev. Tim Freyer. 

“Our intention is to make a network among young Catholics, so that they know each other, help each other and are motivated,” says Villalpando. “Thus, we make the Church where young adults can nourish their faith, grow in their faith and make our Church stronger.” 

One of the group’s goals is to ensure that when the youth of any parish –– or those who belong to any ministry of Youth and Young Adults within the Diocese of Orange or the Archdiocese of Los Angeles ––have been confirmed in the faith, that they can find the group and with it, a place with others who share the same religious values and faith in God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary, the Pope and the Church. 

“We promote events and place them on Facebook because there are people who study and work, and sometimes it is difficult for them to find out where they can go to feed their faith,” said Arturo Ortiz, a member of the group. “Faith is our life and our union as brothers in Christ.” 

A little over a year ago, Villalpando celebrated the debut of OMNIA Catholic –– meaning EVERYTHING in Italian. The group had been known as Connected Catholics, but a Facebook group already existed with that name. 

As the group grew, Villalpando was joined by Thang Pham and Alejandra Bolívar as the site administrators. The moderators in the network are Aldo Flores, Jacqueline Koh, Andy Sison, Nhan Le, Rigo Dominguez, and Jonathan Blanco. 

“A friend was inviting me to one or two Catholic events, but her texts came to me alone through Messenger, until I thought we could reach more people on another platform and shared the idea with Emmanuel,” recalled Arturo Ortiz. “I began to notice that many young adult Catholics did not have a place to go, and now they can figure out according to their schedules and flexibility, when they can or cannot go anywhere, by publishing the event on Facebook.” 

For his part, Villalpando expressed that, thanks to Catholic community, OMNIA’s mission is encouraging young people and young adults to experience Christ through enriching and up-to-date Catholic events with the purpose of fostering parish and inter-diocesan bonds. 

He said the OMNIA group members noticed that most ministries are dedicated to young people and preach the gospel message, but it only included and focused on Catholics who shared their common mission and vision; but in OMNIA they’re achieving global growth experiences in the faith. 

“It’s not about saying that a ministry says that this or that is the way to be Catholic; if the person does not feel identified with a ministry, he or she regularly leaves the ministry, and if there’s no follow-up on their needs, sometimes they leave the Church,” Villalpando said. “Through OMNIA we wanted to break that window of what it means to be a Catholic; we seek that young people recognize God and encourage the traditions of the Church, the charismatic movement or the biblical study, etc.” 

He said if anyone wants to learn more, “we have to encourage him/her to listen to the teachings of our Bishops, that they feel a collective embrace so that our current and future members of the Church can have a range of options and select what it means to be Catholics in different areas of Southern California.” 

For now, 21 parishes in the Diocese of Orange offer ministry groups and options for young people, from La Habra to San Juan Capistrano, and from Orange to Seal Beach. Groups include Fishers of Life (FLOCC), Singles for Christ, Canvas, OLG Young Adults, Secret Fire, Upper Room, Firelight, Holy Spirit Young Adults, Awaken, Search for Christ, Rooted/Young Knights, Journey Earthen Vessels, OC Catholic Brunch, Rise, Anchor, Thrive, Ignite, Theology on Tap, Gianna Club and Young Catholic Professionals. 

Villalpando added that being Catholic means fulfilling the sacraments of the Holy Mother Church and, through it, creating and training disciples to preach the word of God to men. 

“My passion is that no young or young adult Catholic is left behind in the teachings of the Church, and that is why we have asked parishes to inform us so that we can all see and perhaps attend their events,” he said. “We did not want to do anything without the permission of our Roman Catholic Church; we are growing, and the goal is to reach more than 50 parishes in Orange County, and especially those where there are no groups that provide space for young people and adults between 18 and 40 years.”  

CALL ME CATHOLIC: GUEST IS SHERRY HAYES-PIERCE

WE had fun launching our new Facebook live stream of Call Me Catholic; and, were so grateful to have the energetic and informative Sherry Hayes-Pierce to join us on this inaugural effort. Sherry shared some brilliant suggestions for keeping your parish ever accessible to its parishioners by using social media creatively and responsibly.

She suggests that parishes post five themes every day: 1. a message from the Pope or your pastor or associate pastor; 2. the saint of the day; 3. an inspirational quote; 4. behind the scenes images of your parish in action (eg. the altar boys robing in the sacristy or linens being placed on the altar); and 5. a picture from parish life. If you want to learn more about Sherry’s campaign to get all parishes on social media, check out her website: churchsocialtips.com

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 2/3/18

THE DOGHOUSE MINISTRY

 

Like other seniors who find themselves housebound due to illness or infirmities, Bruce MacVicar was bored.

Now, however, the 75-year-old’s quirky sense of humor and isolated hours at an aging computer has generated more than 9,500 LinkedIn connections and nearly 5,000 Twitter followers.

His remarkable social media affirmations are MacVicar’s tangible rewards for a homegrown evangelical Catholic ministry that combines unrelated topics – dog jokes and quotes from Jesus, news from the Church, and connections with Catholic outreach efforts.

“I am only an amateur humorist at best, but it is the sheer volume of jokes that come out of my head that fascinates me,” he says. And that his funny bone remains intact is rather remarkable, considering his circumstances.

Beginning in 2009, MacVicar’s wife Ann has suffered a series of falls and broken bones rendering her bedridden for most of the day. In spare moments, MacVicar turned to his aging computer and reached out for inspiration.

“There are definitely enough people to talk to,” he says, noting the burgeoning ranks of social media users. He knew he could use his background as a crisis and job counselor to assist others but wasn’t sure how to begin. Then he began remembering some key moments in his past and went to work.

Before Ann’s decline, MacVicar used to walk through their Laguna Niguel neighborhood early each morning for exercise. Once he was ‘locked in’ at home, those treks sparked his creative juices as he recalled the growing numbers of dog-walkers he encountered.

So, when he asked himself, “What could I do from home?” he recognized his new vocation. “I saw the niche and began writing dog jokes,” he says. To date MacVicar has published about 10,000 dog jokes, many of which have prompted retweets and personal notes from readers.

A recent joke that readers liked read like this on Twitter: “Know what happens when you put boxing gloves on 2 Boxers & put them in the ring? You get 2 dogs who can’t walk well.”

Still, he didn’t stop with canine humor; instead, harnessing his deep Catholic faith he began to evangelize to other lonely souls.

It’s safe to say that MacVicar is an online original, since his eclectic Tweets and LinkedIn posts are mixed in with dog jokes with Bible verses and other inspirational messages. “I began with the gospel of Matthew and worked my way through the book of John in my New American Catholic Bible,” he explains.

One quote from Scripture retweeted from his feed was this: “Jesus said, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man & drink his blood, you do not have life within you. John 6:53.”

Occasionally, an atheist or critic will shoot back against MacVicar’s spiritual postings. “Sometimes I take the bait, but that’s not my strength,” he says. “I try to do it in a kind way.”

MacVicar thinks his current online efforts have their roots in an upbringing amongst an evangelical Protestant family whose members were encouraged to continually witness their faith to everyone who crossed their paths. “The main focus was on saving people. I was very much steeped in that.

“I know the Lord more intimately through the Eucharist and the sacraments and I have hope,” he adds. “There are a lot of people out there without hope. How can I help someone else to find hope? I’ve got to go out and share the gospel, to get them right with God and give them hope.”

It comes naturally for him to link readers with what’s going on in the Catholic world and to write about the work of other ministers and friends like Father Joe Rodriguez, who heads the Salvatorians order in Milwaukee.

“I think it’s interesting that I’m connecting to an infinite God and created in His image, and somehow I can come up with an infinite number of dog jokes,” he says. “That kind of fascinates me.”

GET SOCIAL TO STAY CONNECTED TO YOUR FAITH

Social media, and in particular Facebook and Twitter, has changed our lives. We are connected to others like never before, thanks to the constant stream of information we receive through the news feeds we subscribe to. For some, it’s all about family and keeping up with relatives near and far. For others, news is the priority. But social media also offers us a chance to get connected, and then stay connected, to our faith community.

If you haven’t yet “liked” your own parish’s Facebook page, you should do so. Your parish’s weekly bulletin is full of news and information, but for daily updates you can’t beat the immediacy of social media posting. If you’re involved in a specific ministry, there’s a good chance that ministry has its own page where you can get the latest updates on its members, its upcoming events and more.

@OCBishop

@OCObispo

Keep up with our own Bishop Vann on Twitter in both English and Spanish. He’s very active and you’ll be able to follow him in his travels, see what is of interest to him as he retweets others’ posts, and just enjoy his good humor.

 

@orangediocese

facebook.com/dioceseoforange

Now, you can also find quick hits of inspiration through branded posts, produced by the Diocese of Orange communication team, that appear on both the diocese’s Facebook and Twitter pages. The compelling images, all paired with a quote from Pope Francis, or a scripture verse, or a news headline, offer us a quick touch from the diocese each day. Follow the diocese on Facebook and Twitter and you’ll enjoy news updates from around the world, local news and events and more.

 

@occatholicnews

facebook.com/occatholicnews

If you’re reading this column, you’re doing so either in print or on the occatholic.com website. Follow OC Catholic, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, on Facebook and Twitter to get updates from around the world, as well as from right here in our own diocese.

 

@newsva_en

For a global view, subscribe to the Vatican’s social media platforms. The Vatican’s Twitter feed is provided by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, in cooperation with the media offices of the Vatican.

 

@pontifex

Pope Francis communicates with Catholics the world over through Twitter. He posts regularly and often offers a simple message of hope and comfort.

 

Finally, most social media posts include links that, when clicked on, will take the user to a website. Here are important websites that can be bookmarked for easy access.

Diocese of Orange

www.rcbo.org

 

Christ Cathedral

www.christcathedralcalifornia.org

 

OC Catholic News

www.occatholic.com