Wednesday, May 08, 2002

The Dangers of Blogging

Mark Shea posted today an emotional tirade upon hearing news that a priest in MN is a suspect in the murder of two girls in the 70s. I certainly understand his emotions and desire to see the clergy rid itself of wrongdoers.

Speaking more generally (as Mark has already acknowledged he had the stove turned up too high on that one), what I don't understand is why so many bloggers feel the need (or that they have the right) to share every rant or frustration with everyone else on the globe. I understand and take no issue with those who speak out about known wrongs and known facts. It can be healthy and sometimes is desparately needed. But I am afraid far too many bloggers in fact tend to spread unsubstantiated allegations and rumors. At the very least, a number are guilty of making sweeping generalizations and cynical innuendos.

I don't understand the lack of restraint or prudence. (Set aside the murder allegation for a moment -- the article indicates that the sole reason the priest is a suspect is based on allegations of abuse. Let the investigators do their work to see if there is more reason for that priest to be a suspect.) We need to remind ourselves that it is sinful to steal someone's good name. Making biting comments about the clergy and insinuating that those of us not in the know would be shocked by what "happens behind closed doors", "if we only knew", may make you feel better, but it isn't helpful. Anyone who is being honest will admit that they don't know the scope or precise nature of the bishops' negligence or wrongdoing with respect to the scandal. Frankly, I wonder if some of you unconsciously are dreaming of a "pure" clergy. Well, things are going to change because of the scandal, but we aren't going to see the elimination of the possibility that a priest might commit a crime in the future or that a bishop may fail to carry out his duties as shepherd.

I think too many bloggers take comfort in the fact that they are commenting on published news stories. In my book, if you read the story and don't think the person who wrote it did his homework and checked out the facts, then you need to do that homework before you give the story legs by publishing your commentary on it. Personally, I'm just waiting for the day when some blogger crosses the line and originates the report of some unsubstantiated allegation against someone and gets slapped with a libel lawsuit. Just because you write for your own blog and not the New York Times doesn't mean you are exempt.

Besides, does anyone believe that the solution to this scandal or the restoration of the Church is going to be an overnight event? I suspect those who let emotion be their driving force simply are going to get burned out and become bitter. It will be left to the rest of us to see things through.

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