10 July 2011

Calumny in the Blogosphere

By Fr. Michael Orsi
[T]he power to reach a wide audience while remaining in the shadows has proven a source of great temptation. All too many online commentators have been dazzled by this technology that magnifies personal identity and stokes the ego while providing a shield from the consequences of their words. Whole new avenues of calumny have been the result.
Others recognize the evil in calumny, but see it as a compromise that must be made for the sake of a noble cause. They hope that by destroying an opponent’s reputation they will de-legitimize the position that opponent represents.
A recent occurrence in my own diocese serves as an example. Allegations of moral lapses on the part of a brother priest were circulated by interlinked blogs, magnifying the actual facts of the case being investigated, and layering on multiple rumors that featured a colorful variety of imagined illicit behaviors—all before anything was proven. While a ministry was seriously (perhaps fatally) compromised, no allowance was given for the political conflicts existing within the parish or the motives of those who spread the stories. What were little more than assumptions took on a life of their own when a chain of bloggers spread them within minutes throughout the diocese and well beyond.
-Responding to these calumnious blogs, even for defense of the individual or for clarification, only encourages the offender and prolongs the life of the calumny.

-Those who suffer calumny on anonymous blogs are, for the most part, better off enduring it. Seeking to correct misrepresentations usually has the effect of keeping controversy alive and adding to its interest value.

-While reading such blogs is damaging to its target (since it causes unwarranted negative speculation about another’s character), it also hurts the reader since it causes scandal, sowing pessimism and despondency.

-Calumnious blogging is a serious offense against God’s law. Those who engage in it are jeopardizing their immortal souls and the souls of others.

-For anyone to make a judgment concerning a person’s character based on what is read on a negative blog is to be a formal cooperator in the evil perpetrated by the blogger.