The apostolate of the blog

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.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Church and Society, Moral judgment, Quentin queries. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to The apostolate of the blog

  1. Vincent says:

    I think that this is an excellent idea, and really rather an important one. I am as ready as any to carp about some of the things which go on in our Church, but that is nothing in comparison to what others, often with more bile than brains, are ready to say about us. Let’s just get the truth out — without trumpets, but plainly, firmly and politely – even, when appropriate, with a sense of humour. We are not nerds.
    It’s not for everyone, I accept. But we can get help from fellow bloggers, if we need it.

  2. Iona says:

    Agreed, it’s an excellent idea and sounds like the sort of thing I might well do, though am slightly intimidated by the advice to “keep a folder with user id and passwords…” I can string a few words together but am not very IT clever.

    • Quentin says:

      Thanks Iona. Let me clarify. You are likely to have 2 kinds of passwords. One kind, relating for instance to money matters, should really not be on your computer at all (especially if you take it round with you). But some people keep them in an encrypted file. The other passwords, usually consisting of a user identity and a password but with no security implications can be kept in an ordinary word processor file (I call mine Entry). And you can get to it when you need to. Supposing you make a contribution to “Daily Blog”. You will almost always have to register a name and password. You don’t need to remember this if you never use it again. But if you do use it again for a further contribution it’s handy to have it on a file. Hope that helps Q

      • st.joseph says:

        Quentin, I am really confused with all this. Sorry-I wouldn’t know where to start.
        I have tried a few time to make a reply on a blog but with no success.
        I think my computer is old.

      • Quentin says:

        St.joseph, I think your problems lie, not with the age of your computer (you have no difficulty contributing to Secondsight) but because your computer skills let you down. It is true that computers are very hard to learn if you don’t have someone experienced by you side to teach you — although I know your grandchildren help you mightily.

        But, if we can get the Apostolate of the Blog working you will certainly be able to contribute to our discussions here about it.

  3. John Nolan says:

    There is a blog, ‘Protect the Pope’, which attracts contributions from atheists, ‘rationalists’ etc. (unlike secondsight which merely has disgruntled Catholics and ex-Catholics) and it is noticeable that their contributions display a level of ignorance which can easily easily be refuted by a simple recourse to the facts. If the enemies of the Church are of this calibre, or of the calibre of Fry and Dawkins, it hardly needs a Chesterbelloc to put them to flight.

    • Quentin says:

      John, I would not like to think that this blog is peopled by disgruntled Catholics and ex-Catholics. If it is, it is surely my fault because I have encouraged people to be open, and to give reasons for their views. The blog has taught me a great deal about the community of the Church. I have understood better why some people angry at the Church. I have seen what simple and straightforward faith looks like. I have learnt many facts I did not know before — and I think I started off reasonably well informed.

      If no one else has benefited greatly from people’s willingness to share their thoughts on this blog, I certainly have.

      • John Nolan says:

        Yes, Claret quite rightly took issue with me on that, and I could have phrased it better. What I was trying to get over was that contributors to Secondsight do not simply indulge in a knee-jerk anti-Catholic response.

  4. st.joseph says:

    ‘Protect the Pope’ would be good to attract catholics who deny Catholic teaching on abortion and contraception and Pope Paul V1 Humanae Vitae .
    One would think that all ‘traditionalists’ and Deacons and EMs were in strict communion with the teachings of the Church. Both male and female.

    • Quentin says:

      Desirable though this may be, st.joseph, it is not strictly necessary if one is giving what the Church teaches, and the reason for that. For example, if blogs had existed in the Middle Ages you could have given the reasons why the Church approved of Crusades, and issued Indulgences to participants, without you personally accepting that they were a good thing.

      • st.joseph says:

        What I meant by my comment above Quentin-and that is, that there are a lot of catholics who will consider themselves to be traditional what ever that means who will Protect the Pope, but do no fully understand why abortion is wrong or abortifacants!
        Not only athiests,but catholics too.
        Even my late husband when I met him-he believed abortion was OK-until he understood it.
        He had the most peculier ideas of the Church.
        Some consider that the Novus Ordo Mass is invalid-only the Tridentine Mass is valid.
        I believe this is the danger that exists in the church-intolorence.
        I know people who would sooner not attend Mass if it wasnt a Latin Mass
        And if they were at a Novus Ordo Mass would be most rude at the sign of Peace!
        (When I used to go)One reason why I stopped. I dont like guitars either, but all instruments are ok when praising the Lord even the African Drums.
        How easy it is to say’how could they be so blind;they do so much damage because they get it all wrong ; But if we say . ‘Thank God I am not like them’ ,like it or not -we are like them. Thank you for your comment on the blog I will learn as I go along.

  5. claret says:

    One blog that would benefit from a Christian perspective is ‘Total Catholic. Com’
    Another blog which I consider I may have had a part in closing down was the messageboard for SPUC. It was dominated by pro-abortionists who even when taken off the site would simply change their name and register again. (Sadly it seemed that there were less than a handful of regular contributors who relayed the pro-life message.)
    Incidentally John Nolan’s sweeping analysis of ‘Second sight’ is less than charitable and is also inaccurate.

    • John Nolan says:

      Claret, you’ve missed my point. What I was saying was that the rabid atheists who post on ‘Protect the Pope’, no doubt because of its title, rarely bother with this blog. There are contributors who are less than happy with the current state of affairs who post here, and their point of view is usually well thought-out and they are receptive to counter-arguments. One would not wish it otherwise.

  6. st.joseph says:

    Quentin, I may have this all wrong.
    But reading your post on the use of condoms and their effectiveness.
    The last paragraph where you state ‘catholic organisations are working with Non Catholic partners, are doing massive work insuring that people are able to have anti-retrovirol therapy, and their newborn protected from perinatal infection’.

    I looked up Anti-Retrovirol Therapy and it said that it did not cure HIV infections but may hold it back.
    Is the HIV virus heriditary?Or only passed on through sexual intercourse and why only non-catholic partners?
    If the condom is so effective when having intercourse as they say it is, I wonder why the virus is contacted anyway. Is there proof that it is so safe? Hope this makes sense.

    • Quentin says:

      St. Joseph, some brief answers:

      1 The virus is not inherited; it is transmitted. HIV transmission from mother to child during pregnancy, labour and delivery, or breastfeeding is known as perinatal transmission. The normal routes are blood contamination and milk contamination. The risks can be substantially reduced with proper treatment; much of the work of Catholic agencies (and others) is devoted to getting adults and infants proper treatment.

      2 Typically, adults are infected during sexual intercourse, but intimate contacts are always a possible route. With circumcised males, the risk of infection is reduced by 60%. I assume that this is because the virus cannot be so easily trapped.

      3 There is always the possibility of a faulty condom, or a slipped condom. You will never get 100% safety.

      4 You ask why only non Catholic partners. I don’t understand the question. The whole universe is divided into those who are Catholic and those who aren’t. There is no third possibility.

      • st.joseph says:

        Quentin, thank you.
        The non catholic partners was a question to your comment.
        I thought by that catholic couples were not included and I wondered why!

  7. mike Horsnall says:

    Ok Quentin,

    You set it up and I’ll join in! I am a catechist after all (believe it or not) and I can still read! There is absolutely no chance of me engaging in all this blogging- set up password- activity-on-desktop business but if you set up a page and explain clearly,simply and precisely, what we are to do then I will help as half my reason for being on this blog is to gain a bit of fluency in the sort of ideas/ dissonances that Catholics have. You would need a seperate page somehow as I’m afraid all the erudite squabbling we indulge ourselves on here is a bit off putting to outsiders or newcomers. If the aim is to attract fire or interest then may I suggest that ‘Apostolate of the Blog’ is a bit rarified. It also reminds one of Monty Python and spoof saint names! Stig of the Dump as I remember was a kids story.

    • st.joseph says:

      All we have to do is stick to the teachings of the Church-which includesVatican 2, without all the mis-interpretations.
      Then there will be no reason to squabble- even on second sight blog!

  8. st.joseph says:

    Quentin, yes I understand it now- I am a little slow at times!

  9. Iona says:

    John – I’m not a disgruntled Catholic. I’m a gruntled Catholic.

    Quentin, following Mike’s post above, could you clarify what it is you have in mind? – I thought you were suggesting that we (or, those of us who feel able and willing) should follow and contribute to other appropriate blogs, not that a new blog should be set up in tandem with this one, called Apostolate of the Blog. Apostolate of the Blog is just the title of your article, yes?

    And, we wouldn’t have to keep passwords etc. on our desktop / laptop, would we? We could keep a paper copy, completely apart from the computer, and consult it when necessary.

    • Quentin says:

      Iona, I have clearly confused people over this password business. You’re right — you can make a note of passwords you might want to use again in whatever form is convenient. Because of my own untidiness if information isn’t on my computer I have lost it!
      The apostolate of the laity is, as you say, an idea not a blog. I do feel that it will be necessary to have some kind of record — to exchange ideas and build up some answers which people can incorporate. A secondary value is that it will be a resource for information on controversial subjects, including references to back up points. (That might be a page on Secondsight, or a link to a page elsewhere. We must think about that.)
      What I suggest at this stage is that we start with a small, experimental, group — which connects by direct email. We can start work quite quickly (indeed, I am of course already working). Mike Horsnall has volunteered (see above) and I think st.joseph would at least like to be kept in the picture. And I hope you want to be included. And we’ll try the others who have shown interest.
      Ideally I would like a couple more volunteers at this stage.
      I hope this small starting group will be happy to exchange email addresses; I cannot of course provide these without the owner’s permission.
      Of course we will keep Secondsight readers in touch with what is happening.
      Meanwhile I will prepare an initial email for members of our pilot group.

      • Rahner says:

        “And it is quite rare to find a Catholic response which corrects misinformation and demonstrates what we believe and do.” But Quentin, supposing there is no agreed Catholic response on a particular issue?

      • Quentin says:

        Thanks — yes this sort of thing is quite likely to arise. Suppose, for example, the question of obligatory celibacy for clergy is raised. And let’s suppose, further, that I believe, as many others do, that secular clergy should be allowed to marry. I would tackle it like this:

        First, I would give my very best shot as explaining why the Church takes the celibate view. Of course this is immediately available to me because I will have given the Church’s case the highest and most willing attention before I disagreed.

        In most instances I would leave it at that. In some cases, depending on context, it would relevant for me to say that I, and others, disagree, and perhaps give the reason why.

  10. mike Horsnall says:

    Yup I’m a bit gruntled too….er…er what does gruntled mean Iona? For me gruntled at this moment equates to puzzled to so lets have it again Quentin as I read your offer of adding a page etc differently than Iona…see, oh revered one, how your simply intended words have stirred up a disputatious spirit among thine followers…. (surely sum mistake here…editor)

  11. claret says:

    While I am able to type merrily away in a most sanctimonious fashion I feel like St. Joseph in the lack of the wider skills of computer technology. For example I have no idea how one raises a ‘Google Alert.’
    There is also the question of authentic Catholic beliefs. Is there a danger that one of us could struggle with this aspect too?
    I would perhaps welcome an identification of responsible sites that I could try to put across an alernative pro-catholic/ Christian view but I am undecided at this point if I want to be part of a planned organisation to be bring this about.
    On a strictly personal note I can foresee a situation where I would find it depressing to read blogs which I find offensive to my beliefs especially when these degenerate into blasphemy and ****** to block out swear words. (ie. irresponsible sites.)

    • Quentin says:

      Claret, I don’t want to push anyone beyond their comfort zone. I think the questions you need to put yourself is, first, do I think it important to provide proper information about the Church to those who have enough interest in the truth to want to hear it? Second, do I – Claret – feel that I could cope with this, and get some satisfaction from it? if the answer is no to either, then it’s not for you — at least not yet .

      With a yes answer the queries you put are easily dealt with. 10 seconds instruction will solve Google Alert. Difficult questions can be referred to the group for advice, e.g. How do I answer local councils who are refusing free travel to faith schools, and claim that to give it is unfair to other rate payers? (An important, if subsidiary advantage is that we build up a store of answers to difficult questions.)

      Google Alerts are helpful for tracking the news on any subject. 1. Go to the Google Page; 2. Go to options top left, click on news; 3. Put in words you want tracking, e.g., faith schools; 4. Click on search to see what’s new here on faith schools; 5. Bottom of page click on Create an email alert for faith schools; 6. Respond to request for email address; 7. Respond to email sent to you; 8. When you receive an alert you have the option to cancel further alerts on that topic, or to create a new alert.

    • Quentin says:

      Dear Claret I am beginning to send out information to the people who have said they are prepared to give the pilot a try. Do you feel happy to give it a go, or would prefer to watch and see? If you would like me to copy to you what I am sending out, I will need your say-so before letting them see your email address. Regards Q

      Quentin de la Bedoyere 10 Edge Hill London SW19 4LP +44(0)2089467166 quentin@blueyonder.co.uk http://www.quentindelabedoyere.com http://www.secondsightblog.net

  12. mike Horsnall says:

    Quentin,
    Please amplify steps 6 and 7 in simple clear English with full sentences. Thanks. For example 6, respond to who? 7 respond to who? who is the email likely to be from, is it Google,is it an article? Clear simple instructions please with context.

  13. Iona says:

    By “gruntled” I simply meant the opposite of “disgruntled”. John – back on 18th November – referred to “disgruntled Catholics and ex-Catholics” as contributors to Second Sight blog.

  14. mike Horsnall says:

    Iona:
    I think you may have started a craze.

  15. claret says:

    Quentin,
    I prefer at this time to ‘watch and see’ as you phrase it. Thank you for the invitation and I pray it proves to achieve the overall aims you have for it.

  16. momangelica says:

    This has been an idea in my head for some years now but that it would be priests who would be writing as the have Theological background. I had approached various priests in the past and put the plan to them which they balked at.
    Still, I think it an excellent idea and a worthy apostleship.
    Would you count me in?

    • Quentin says:

      That’s excellent news, momangelica. I will send you some more information on Friday, I hope. Meanwhile you may like to think about which topics you would be most comfortable dealing with.

      I don’t think it matters whether you are a priest or not, but whether you can communicate. But, as I recall, Vatican II emphasises the mission of lay people to bring the truth to the everyday world. And that’s what we are tryng to do.

  17. momangelica says:

    I will trust in God to be able to say the right thing in the right way. Funnily enough, our parish Priest said yesterday at Mass, that if we say a pray to God for help before speaking about our Faith,God will come to our aid.
    My husband (then boyfriend) became a Catholic before we married in mid seventies, and 5 of my six children remain good Catholics with Sunday Masses and confession a norm. They tell me it is down to my direct speaking (which may not have gone down too well back then but they say they appreciate it now).
    I marched into school a few times, I can tell you, to complain about the things that opposed the faith so, although nothing changed there, at least the family could see a battle going on and that meant something serious was at stake. Subliminal lessons?
    Good on you with this project.

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