Ah, social media – the glorious invention that has allowed the world to be smaller, one’s own social circle to grow beyond our wildest imaginations and a place where like-minded people can come together and share opinions, ideas, news and the general frivolity of everyday life. From Facebook to Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat, social media platforms have, without question, revolutionized the way people work, think and interact around the globe.
As with all good things, however, there is a downside to this wonder of the interwebs. A strong case could be made that social media has caused more division and separation among communities than the Protestant Revolution in 1517. Of course, that’s an analogy because, muh Luther, but the comparison is not without it’s merits. Vitriolic mud-slinging, ideological shaming and political infighting seem to be prevalent in post after post, no matter what particular poison of social media one prefers and nowhere is it more obvious than Twitter. Those 280 characters vacillate between inspirational and basic downright not-niceness. One would expect this if they were following the various hashtag movements that have come out in the last few years – #MeToo, #Believeallwomen – basically anything touching on the zeitgeist of general woke-ness in our society but I’m referring specifically to one particular hashtag – one where people would expect a lack of hatred and a plethora of love, understanding and intellectual discourse.
Yes, reader, I’m talking specifically about the enigma that is #CatholicTwitter.
A seemingly benign hashtag that should open a gateway to a community of like-minded believers in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, #CatholicTwitter has become an all-out war zone. From lay faithful to tweet-happy priests, a quick perusal through this hashtag can render a faithful Catholic positively speechless, shaking their head in dismay or worse – cause doubt in the faith they’ve been given.
So why is this? Why is it that a group of people who profess to believe in the same things – the truth of the Church that Christ established on earth, a deposit of faith which has remained steadfast through the centuries, the dogmas and the doctrine, etc. – why is it that these people fight so much?
The answer is simple – we as the tweeting faithful are now ‘of the world‘. A group of Christians, supposedly called to be salt and light that will bring others closer to Jesus and who are to be ‘set apart’ as in the world and not of it have followed the example of political pundits, pot-stirring celebrities and basically anyone who uses the platform to foment their version of dumpster fire humanity. We log on and look for the most asinine post and let our fingers get to work. I will fully admit to falling into this trap – one particular priest with an SJ behind his name tends to stir my ire in ways that are borderline confession-worthy. But the Us vs Them mentality that seems to have gripped #CatholicTwitter is getting out of hand. It extends to lay faithful, theologians, even our priests.
One example would be a popular priest who had a run-in with a ‘Traditional’ Catholic. This particular person may or may not have said some anti-Semitic things. Obviously, said priest was appalled, and rightfully so because anti-Semitism or racism of any kind is just gross. Catholics are called to love everyone as Christ loves us. But rather than offering spiritual guidance or filial correction, this priest went through this persons follow/follower list and blocked everyone.
Everyone. It didn’t matter if he followed them or they followed him – he made a sweeping pronouncement that anyone associated with this person was horrible and he named names. A spiritual father was throwing @’s out into web-space like Asperges. He made a specific point to mention those with whom he did not agree – like popular Catholic news outlets, YouTubers, you name it. The posts went viral and caused a rock-throwing contest between factions of Catholics. It was Us vs Them, instigated by a successor of St. Peter. Let that sink in.
Another unfortunate example of this social media war is the rampant and frankly disturbing bomb-throwing that takes place between Novus Ordo attending Catholics and the Traditional Latin Mass crowd. (Full disclosure here – I attend both forms of the Mass and consider myself to be more Traditional). One person tweets they only attend the TLM and extols it’s beauty and a veritable bevy of responses inevitably follow. The TLM Mass-goer is called a rad trad, accused of being stuck in the Middle Ages, mocked and made fun of for choosing antiquarianism over the post-Vatican II changes. On the flip side, if someone tweets about a NO mass, you can bet the traditionalists come out, saying they aren’t even attending real Mass and are accused of being modernist.
Trad moms and stay-at-home moms are called white supremacists.
Novus Ordo Mass-goers are told they aren’t ‘real Catholics’.
Trad husbands are called over-bearing, misogynist and ‘rapey’.
Fans of the Francis pontificate are called heretics.
Is any of this the filial correction we are called to address, out of love for the Church and Christ’s mystical body on earth? No, it isn’t. Its “I’m right and your wrong. I’m pious and smart and you’re borderline heathen.”
#CatholicTwitter has devolved into Mean Girls on a loop.
It’s one thing to address heresy – and I mean real heresy – that contradicts the teachings of the Church, especially when there are so many Catholics on Twitter and a great many people new to the Faith who may or may not know what is and isn’t true doctrine. Bringing attention to these things is good and no one should stop. Heresy – on any platform, in anyway, deserves to have the loudest trumpet blasted towards it.
It’s another to completely disregard and berate someone else’s opinion because it differs from yours. The opinion may be wrong. Okay, address it in a way that shows you haven’t covered your lamp with a basket.
Ultimately, everyone within #CatholicTwitter seems to love the Church. They love Jesus and Our Lady. We can engage in debates without the vitriol. Discourse is great! Demolition of the opponent simply for the sake of superiority isn’t.
Basically, #CatholicTwitter, we need to reassess our priorities. Are we doing more harm than good with the things we say? Are the rebuttals we make proper correction or are we all being Regina George?
More simply put, this…