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Hall Shame

Catholic Answers-Part Deux

by Catherine Frakas 13 Sep 2008

Catholic Answers is inducted into our Hall of Shame for a second time for failure to properly moderate their discussion forums concerning heresies and heterodoxies against the Catholic Church. Catholic Answers Forum is the largest Catholic discussion board, with just over 100,000 users and nearly 5 million posts. It’s sheer size, though, seems to be contributing to a major problem with the forum: lack of moderation. Generally the Catholic Answers Forum moderators only intervene when a discussion becomes heated with name-calling, rule violations, or when a member becomes disruptive. This level of moderation is essentially that of a Hall Monitor. Moderation over substantive issues, such as proposals of heresies or other violations of Church teaching that could confuse or mislead people receive almost no attention from the Catholic Answers staff. It is up to the users themselves to correct one another. The problem with this model is that without some voice of authority to assert and to confirm Church teaching, often the truth is drowned out by several users posting opinions that are in opposition to Church teaching, or a single user persisting in error, leading to pages and pages of debate. A non-Catholic (or a poorly catechized Catholic) would have difficulty discerning the correct information, since the moderators do not take a leadership role as far as reinforcing the truth. Catholic Answers needs to have its moderators handle both issues of civility and truth. Instead of allowing such threads to go on for several pages unchecked, moderators should instruct the offender, and then close the thread if the person continues to defy the truth. Here are a some examples: A user posted a thread in Catholic Spirituality called Why I reject Jesus. The thread goes on for 13 pages with well-meaning people trying to help the poster, some people agreeing with the poster, and not one comment from a moderator. The thread should have been locked, and probably moved to the non-Catholic religions section since rejecting Jesus has nothing to do with Catholic Spirituality. A second example can be found in a thread titled, The Saint Within, also on the Catholic Spirituality board. In this thread, a Catholic posted a link to a website promoting a kind of spirituality that is not Catholic, but instead is a New Age site that promotes Christ Consciousness. The user titled the link to this site Christian Mysticism. Immediately two posters pointed out the New-Ageness of the site. This was followed by 6 pages of arguing among Catholics about whether or not the site was New Age. Once again, there is no moderator intervention, and the thread remains unlocked. The user posting the site now has a link to that site in her signature line. The link should have at least been moved out of the Catholic Spirituality Forum, but also the user should have been asked to delete the link from her signature and profile. Because of the way this thread was handled, (or not handled), the average Joe stumbling upon the post wouldn’t know whether or not the site is appropriate for Catholics. The Church teaches us in the Catechism: 1868 Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them: – by participating directly and voluntarily in them; – by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them; – by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so; – by protecting evil-doers. 1869 Thus sin makes men accomplices of one another and causes concupiscence, violence, and injustice to reign among them. As the owners of the discussion forums, Catholic Answers has a duty, responsibility, and obligation to hinder the promotion, or the appearance of promotion of notions that are anti-Catholic or not in concert with Church teaching and worldview. Instead, because of the lack of moderation, Catholic Answers Forums, which has a considerable reputation for giving Catholic answers, often allows information that is un-Catholic, and leaves it up to the users themselves to decide what is truth? Instead of a laissez-faire style moderation in which the inmates run the asylum, Catholic Answers Forum needs to adopt the approach of St. Augustine: Rome has spoken; the debate is ended.

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