Here is an idea – and I am inviting as many of you as possible to take part. I call it the Apostolate of the Blog.
Like many of you, I need to keep in touch with popular opinion, particularly in news items. In doing so, I come across many anti Catholic articles and blogs which express anti Catholic views. And it is quite rare to find a Catholic response which corrects misinformation and demonstrates what we believe and do.
I have often wondered how I could get across the message to non Catholics without appearing to be stuffing our beliefs down unwelcoming throats. But contributing to a blog is simply to respond to an invitation to participate. Why should we miss the opportunity?
Here are some tips. I offer these to you for comments. This will guide me further. If enough of you are willing to help I will put an additional page in – to be headed, The Apostolate of the Blog.
1) You will probably want to reserve a special email address for this activity. Use, say, Hotmail or some such provider and get an additional address for free.
2) If you are not encountering enough Catholic attacks, then ask Google News to send you news alerts on the subjects you would like to cover. Google “google alert” if you haven’t tried this before. You might practise with “faith schools” – and see what comes up. It’s fashionable at the moment.
3) Keep a folder (mine is on my desktop) to record userids and passwords for publications you may want to contribute to. You can also keep notes under relevant subject headings. While I was typing this my computer paged me with two new items: “faith schools” and “Pope heads for Africa where condom debate rages.”
4) I recommend drafting on a word processor before pasting into the blog. Mistakes in spelling or grammar are easy to make but they do tempt the reader into rejecting what you have to say.
5) Your target is not the writer of the offending article or of the contribution you are opposing. Even if you convince them, they won’t say so. It is the casual but interested reader, whose mind is open enough to take in new ideas, whom you want to inform.
6) Your contribution should always be polite and thoughtful. The clever put-down wins neither the argument nor friends. There are excellent examples on this site of good contributions on controversial matters.
7) Keep your contributions short and to the point. Don’t try and get everything in – just get your key message across.
8) Be honest. Where relevant, admit shortcomings. This willingness to prefer truth to comfort enhances credibility.
9) Be factual. You must be ready to produce evidence if you are challenged. (If you can’t support your points, don’t make them.). Do distinguish between your own view and the Church’s view, particularly if the views are different!
10) Be short. Two hundred words is too long; few will even start reading. Use paragraph spacing, if you can; it’s easier on the eye.
How do you develop good contributions? I think we would all be much helped if we asked our friends on Secondsight to critique what we use. I don’t mean that we should have pro-forma contributions but, if we have basic facts and phrasings on the main subjects available (and our critics are not known for their originality) we can use these time and again, packaged in different ways. It would be possible, I believe, that we could build up a useful armoury of answers which could be used by anyone who wishes.
So – to get the ball rolling, here is a comment I sent this morning in response to a claim that the Church was declaring that condoms were useless. (How many people by now have at least a better idea of what the Church contributes to the AIDs disaster, as a result?) But could this be improved, shortened, other points used, etc.?
Please come back not only with suggestions for my answer on the Pope and condoms, but with the whole idea of the Apostolate of the Blog.
It is true that the late Cardinal Trujillo, speaking in 2003 – after taking professional advice, said that the AIDs virus could fit through the pores of the condom. But every Catholic interested in such matters, knows that this is not true. Condoms (in good condition and used properly) give a high level of protection, on an incident by incident basis.
What the Pope did say is that condom promotions in societies suffering from epidemic Aids are counterproductive, while programmes which promote marital fidelity and avoidance of sexual relationships outside marriage have proved significantly effective. The evidence for this is quite clear, and supported by the secular experts.
Meanwhile Catholic organisations, working often with non Catholic partners, are doing massive work in ensuring that people are able to have anti-retroviral therapy, and their newborn protected from perinatal infection. You will perhaps find that they are being funded by people just like your Catholic friends next door. You might go round and thank them.