Elizabeth Scalia ("anchoress")
The Internet is a place without genuine boundaries. Unlike a magazine, its ideas are not contained between two covers with defined limits; unlike a television or radio broadcast, it is not subject to the constraints of time, or, for that matter, reliant upon sponsorship and underwriters.
Such expansive freedom is both a gift and a terrible temptation to our egos, a force for disorientation and therefore a true battleground for souls.
Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said Pope Benedict XVI
is a person who does not Tweet or have a personal blog, he is very attentive and knows well what is happening in the world.
Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications:
We are here, therefore, for a dialogue: a dialogue that shows on our part a belief in the concrete, particular and important consistency of your presence in the world of communications, and also wants to communicate to you our desire to encourage and foster an already established relationship -- and is it too much to hope for? -- a certain familiarity.
This is not just a meeting of Catholic bloggers, even if many of you are inspired by Gospel values, but should be a particularly animated moment -- Pope Benedict repeatedly invites us to this - to a respectful dialogue: a respect for the truths of others while being aware of what we carry in our hearts in the committed and passionate adherence to Christ the Lord.
Organizer Richard Rouse
It went really well. I’m really glad we had this meeting. It was completely uncontrolled and uncontrollable so I’m glad that it’s taken place. I thought the best thing was the meeting face to face of different bloggers. That was great.
After a series of trash talking tweets posted throughout the meeting on the virtues of blogging platforms, a Vatican official strode to the microphone and said "My brothers and sisters in Christ. We must stop this squabbling and address this right now." He then ordered mystified bloggers using the Blogger platform to move to his right, and the WordPress users to his the left. As everyone stood around, feeling somewhat naked without their laptops and IPads, he came back with a long piece of rope and announced solemnly, "Tug of War."
Mollie at GetReligion.org covers the most recent nasty coverage of the Catholic Church at the New York Times. Archbishop Dolan has taken them on for some very insulting photographs. I don't keep track of all these assaults, because we've been told to expect such. But she asks an interesting question in relation to how Islam is treated vs. Christians. And it's not irrelevant to the controversies going on today.
I would love to hear an explanation of why, as this August 2009 New York Times article states, The Times banned images of the Muhammad cartoons that helped spark one of the biggest news stories of 2006.
I wonder if it’s simply that The Times is scared of Muslims but not Christians? Or what?
We cannot continue to speak in our categories to a population that is increasingly distant from them... We are talking not just about instruments but about a real culture created by a communicative complexity that has never before been seen in history.
For the Church, blogs can be an incredible boon because their reach extends far further than that of the traditional Catholic media. Whispers in the Loggia has between 90,000 to 100,000 visits a week, while the highly respected Jesuit America Magazine has a print circulation of 45,000 – it also has excellent blogs. While Whispers and other Catholic blogs can be stumbled upon while browsing on the internet in the privacy and comfort of one’s own home, access to traditional Catholic media often requires a visit to the local Church, an active subscription, a phone call.
Today the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in Snyder v. Phelps. Fred Phelps is the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Kansas. The Phelps family and the small WBC community have been notorious in recent years for their protests at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. WBC, as most readers are probably familiar, has radically anti-homosexual views (as well as anti-Catholic). WBC suggests that the death of American soldiers is just retribution for sin in America. Signs they bear include slogans such as “God hates fags,” “Thank God for dead soldiers,” and “Priests rape boys.”
The father of a deceased soldier sued after WBC protested at his son’s funeral. A district court ruled in the father’s favor and ordered substantial damages for his claims if intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) and invasion of privacy. At issue before the Court: Does the First Amendment protect WBC from liability under IIED?
It should be noted that both the IIED and invasion of privacy claims have little merit on their own. IIED would probably fail because WBC made hyperbolic claims that would not likely be believed by most, and WBC made claims that cannot have their veracity verified by a Court. Both would probably fail because the funeral was publically advertised, the father made news appearances, and the father didn’t even see or hear the protesters at the funeral… they were over 1,000 feet away from the church.
All of that, however, will be irrelevant if the Court validates WBC’s use of the free speech shield. Very likely, the speech will be protected because it is public speech about a public issue.
Obviously, I am not very sympathetic to the cause or methods of WBC. Yet the issue cannot be the merit of what WBC says or its popularity. While they are characterized as right-wing, free speech groups from all over the political spectrum (including the ACLU) have risen to their defense.
A concern for me, which extends beyond the Voltairian “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” strikes at where this case will lead if WBC’s speech is not protected. No doubt, the content of WBC’s speech would have to weigh into a Court decision against WBC’s position. If this happens, Christians would have to become wary of the future when we address issues such as homosexuality and the nature of marriage, for example. As our speech becomes more and more unpopular, we should hesitate to limit the speech of others with unpopular viewpoints… such a precedent could be harmful in the future.
Though we won’t know for many a month, I expect the Court to rule in WBC’s favor.