“With great power comes great responsibility”
This famous quote is from one of the great minds of the 20th century, Stan Lee. (Yes I know it is actually a paraphrase of something Churchill said. Never mind.)
I find this particular quote coming to my mind today as I reflect back on the happenings of the past week. As you may know, a story of some notoriety last week in the Catholic news and on the blogoshpere was the report that a Jesuit priest at St. Joseph’s University used the occasion of a mass last Sunday to inform all in attendance that he is ‘gay.’
What you may or may not know is that this blog, Creative Minority Report, is the forum in which this story was initially reported. Yes we ‘broke it’ as they say in the biz. (At least that’s what I think they say.) Since Matthew’s initial post last Monday, the story has been picked up and carried by Catholic Online, Pewsitter.com, Lifesite News, Catholic News Agency, as well as many many blogs.
Now, the renowned and respected Father Thomas J. Euteneuer, president of Human Life International (HLI) has written an open letter to Fr. Brennan saying “”Holy Mass is not a forum for your self-expression. You chose the sacred liturgy and the pulpit reserved for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the launching pad for your personal testament to homosexuality, when by your own admission this was hardly a secret to anyone.”
Fr. Euteneuer’s entrance into the debate over Fr. Brennan’s choice of forum and the ensuing tumult has made me reflect on the “power” that bloggers yield and the responsibility that comes with that. For clarity’s sake, be it known that I have no illusions that this particular blog retains or exercises any sort of power, but rather I refer to the medium itself and collectively the people who use it. I am particularly concerned about ‘Catholic’ bloggers. At any given time there are thousands of us attending liturgy, a lecture series, or a church social who, at a moments notice, can put on their reporters hat in order to broadcast any perceived misstep by someone in authority. Most bloggers, myself included, have absolutely no formal training as reporters. That is OK. However, in these situations great care must be taken.
As it so happens Matthew, the author of the original story on Fr. Brennan and CMR co-founder, is a trained reporter. Matthew was formerly a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer for years and is also an alumni of St. Joseph’s University, where this story took place. Matthew occasionally makes the 30 minute trek from his home to the University for mass, which is why he was there to hear Fr. Brennan’s homily.
Matthew loves his alma mater deeply and when he called me last Sunday to tell me what had occurred, he had very mixed feelings about writing on what had transpired. Calling upon his experience as a reporter, he endeavored to write this story with all the objectivity possible and to keep it fair and balanced while reporting the facts. I think he accomplished this very well.
Before posting it, Matthew and I had several discussions about the prudence of reporting what had occurred. However, we agreed that since Fr. Brennan made his statement at a public mass and since this is a topic that is very important for our time, that we should report the story. However, we remained mindful that the reputation of the University and of Fr. Brennan is at stake and we had to get the facts correct. Upon seeing how wide and far this story has gone in the last week, we are pleased that we took the extra time and care to try and get it right.
I think that it is important that whenever catholic bloggers act as reporters that we remember we are Catholic Christians first and bloggers second. It is alright to poke fun, it is alright to critique or criticize someones statements, positions, or activities. But there is a line we should not cross. This is also true for commenters.
Regretfully, I had to delete more comments on this topic than was ever heretofore necessary. Some of these were run of the mill Catholic bashers, however more were ostensible Christians needlessly insulting Fr. Brennan, homosexuals, and the University in decidedly un-Christian ways. The blogosphere can be the wild west sometimes, a new frontier with minimal rules and enough freedom to do a fair amount of damage. As Catholic bloggers we should try to civilize this frontier by Christian example, not by having the itchiest trigger finger.
This is a wonderful medium and I am truly grateful that I live in a time when ideas and information can be so freely expressed and viewed around the world immediately. I am grateful, but wary, ever mindful of the words of the sagacious Stan Lee, “With great power comes great responsibility.”