Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity". Pope Francis/Pope Benedict

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Let us have a moment of peace: Civility, the internet, and reactions to Pope Francis' Interview

The past week has shown how dangerous a place the internet can be. The reaction by many of us to the Pope's interview, to others' reactions, and counter-reactions should be cause for us to re-access ourselves in the light of the Gospels. If we are not blogging - and I must place myself under such examination - for the love of Jesus Christ and His Church, then we should be silent. Have I been guilty of failings, or at least, have some of my posts been interpreted as such? Guilty on both charges and I must change. I hope, dear reader, that you will see a change in substance. We are all prone to making mistakes on a good many things. A refusal to take into consideration others good sense and correct reasoning shows a shallowness of mind. 

Blogging, as I see it, is a form of conversation. And what is conversation? It is, in the words of  Canon Raymond de Saint-Laurent: "an exchange of views between people of good breeding". This, implies civility, even amongst people who may hold very strongly opposing positions. Civility is, as we all probably have noted over the past week, severely lacking. 

A few years ago, we were all witnesses to a monstrous lack of civility following the Regensburg comments of Pope Benedict. The inability of Islamists to engage in the art of conversation, to believe themselves personally infallible, to deny others the right to an opposing opinion, to deny others the right to speak, all the while insisting that they have the exclusive right to do so, led them to behave as their ancestors did: "believe or die". A dreadful, and in that case, a deadly mentality. Do we wish to end up like them? Have we ceased to be the inheritors of western civilization? If we can no longer conduct conversation amongst ourselves then we are reverting to a form of barbarism. Frightening. 

St. Thomas More said - I am paraphrasing from memory - "dialogue exists when two friends of the truth, yield to the light and only the light". Note that dialogue (as the very word suggests) involves two people, two sides: it is not a monologue; it is also a sincere attempt by all to seek the truth of the matter. Did we see any attempt by the murderous and rioting Islamists to dialogue, to seek truth? Scimitar in hand, they indulged in outrageous acts of barbarism and murder. Shut the Pope's challenge for dialogue by mob violence. Sickening and depraved. 

The dust really needs to settle to see the full outcome of the papal interview. This is another grave danger of the internet: its immediacy; obstructing the necessary need to hold back, think, reflect and then to comment; to engage in conversation, to agree, to disagree, to agree to disagree... all signs of civility. As Catholic Christians, as children of western civilization, we have a duty before God and man to behave in a civilized manner, irrespective that all around us incivility (in its extreme form manifested by savage Islamists) rages.

St. Francis de Sales has a number of beautiful suggestions on the art of conversation and dialogue in his Introduction to the Devout Life. I strongly urge each and every reader to refresh him or herself. 

In conclusion, incivility will sadly continue to rage. Let it not be said of us.


NL_RC said...

Great post! If we are to be followers of Christ let us follow his example! Your example of the Muslims is spot on...

Freyr said...

This pamphlet by Canon Raymond de Saint-Laurent sounds interesting. I would love to read it some time.