Bishop Gabino Zavala, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Communications Committee, recently spoke at the annual Catholic Media Association convention. He had a lot of really good things to say, particularly about what it means to be faithful Catholics in the media and what we can teach the secular media in the process. But he also had a message for Catholic blogs:
“There was consistent agreement [among brother bishops] that one aspect that is most alarming to us about media is when it becomes unchristian and hurtful to individuals. For example, we are particularly concerned about blogs that engage in attacks and hurtful, judgmental language. We are very troubled by blogs and other elements of media that assume the role of Magisterium and judge others in the Church. Such actions shatter the communion of the Church that we hold so precious.”
I think this was an especially important point and I’m glad he made it. I have probably spoken as if I was a little too like the Magisterium and judged others a bit too harshly in blog posts in the past, myself. One of the reasons I named my personal blog Fallible Blogma was to try and make it clear from the very title that everything that originates from me is the opposite of infallible and carries the serious and full authority of some guy with a blog - despite me occasionally forgetting that.
But what does it mean not to “assume the role of Magisterium”? It certainly doesn’t mean we can’t speak the truth with confidence. And if I am reiterating teaching from the Magisterium and trying to apply it to daily issues, I am not assuming the role of the Magisterium, I’m assuming my role as a practicing Catholic. However, by saying that, I may have just assumed the role of the Magisterium? Or did I?
Actually, all members of the Church, laity included, share in the three-fold ministry of Christ as priest, prophet and king. That is…to sanctify, teach and govern:
“The faithful who by Baptism are incorporated into Christ, are placed in the People of God, and in their own way share the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ, and to the best of their ability carry on the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world” - Lumen Gentium
Of course, our priests and bishops do so with a distinct authority and unique function that we must always respect and serve. So don’t forget that you are not the Magisterium (unless of course you are the Magisterium).
But I also don’t think Bishop Zavala is saying blogs shouldn’t try to teach the faith to the best of their ability. I think the key words in his criticism, in my interpretation, were the “and judge others in the Church” that followed. That doesn’t mean we can’t question, analyze, criticize and make judgments about certain actions. But we should remember that none of us know all the facts or the heart of the individual(s) involved. Only God does. And our bishops are tasked with an often difficult job of governing the Church despite all of this.
But the bishop’s overall point is one that many of us - bloggers, readers and commenters - can take to heart. And in doing so, work to build up the Body…not shatter it. It’s essential to The New Apologetics in this New Evangelization. And it’s how Catholic media will become a model of charity and truth for the rest of the world.
What do you think about the Bishop’s statement?