Many who attended the Catholic Blogger’s Convention in Rome at the Vatican have been drawing attention to the Curia’s desire to facilitate and listen rather than to be heavy handed when it comes to blogging. A good example of this is the following written by Matthew Warner at the National Catholic Register’s website:
"The Vatican has been wise not to assert its weight too strongly into the blogosphere and the web. Authority on the social web can not be asserted anyway. It must be earned. It must be consented to. The Church has gotten rather good at this in general and it is wise to continue this approach online. Leaders listen first, then lead. This is even more vital online as followers have more power than ever before to connect or disconnect as they please. Church leadership has a great opportunity to listen and then lead in ways that the world desperately needs her to lead. And she’s in a great place to facilitate more of it as she did with this recent bloggers’ convention."
“Authority on the social web cannot be asserted anyway.”? Really, even if that authority is the authority of Peter who confirms his brethren in the faith and is the visible guarantee of Christian unity? One of the grave problems in contemporary Catholic thought is its fear of “authority”.
Authority is a God given gift to the Church to lead us to Christ and to bind and loose first and foremost apropos sin but also in the disciplinary matters of the Church’s life. The Christian act of faith is based on the authority of God’s Word and His witnesses and therefore we believe with the assent of faith not because of our own particular intellectual acumen to grasp the mystery of God but rather because it is He and His authority which guarantee’s the truth of the message. This is not voluntarism, as the Will of God is utterly Rational as Creative Logos. Jesus is the Eternal Logos [Reason] behind all things.
The Church and particularly the Bishop – whose sacred mission it is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the name of Jesus Christ – take extreme care and with the utmost vigilance guard the integrity of the Christian revelation when it comes to the proclaiming of this word and particularly when it comes to publishing the written word. This is the raison d'état of the imprimatur and the nihil obstat. The Code of Canon Law gives particular attention to the proclamation and transmission of the deposit of faith when social communications are used and there is no reason to suppose that these canons have no bearing on the internet, which obviously couldn’t have been forseen in the drafting of the ’83 Code of Canon Law. (Cf. Code of Canon Law, Book III. The Teaching Office of the Church, Title IV The Means of Social Communication and Books in Particular)
I don’t write any of this to attack the person of Matthew Warner or others in anyway but rather I want to highlight the God given nature of the Church’s authority and the vigilance of the Bishops with respect to their clerics and faithful's participation in their proclamation of the Gospel of Christ. We Bloggers, unless we are a Bishop, only participate in the one proclamation of the Bishops and therefore we don't enjoy autonomy. Only the Bishop enjoys "autonomy" properly speaking, and even he is bound to the word of Christ such that his words cannot be his own. Even he must proclaim the Gospel in a most strict fidelity to the Sacred Deposit. For this reason we must be extremely careful to weigh well the gravity of the things or persons we are speaking of (The Most Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, the Sacraments, etc…) and to proceed always in the most strict union with our Shepherds and, of course, in union with the Church’s visible guarantee of Unity, the Bishop of Rome. I, of course, believe that Matt Warner and others would completely agree with the need to be obedient to the Bishops and Magisterium but only want to highlight that we need the Bishops' authority when it comes to internet blogging; indeed, that authority alone will grant us the freedom we so desire. Whether or not the Church’s practical approach to dealing with the question and problem of blogging is correct or not is not ultimately the point; what is the point is that we do everything in greatest union with the successors to the Apostles and the successor to Peter. We need their authoritative guidance to be faithful to Christ.
In Saint Ignatius’ Letter to the Ephesians we read:
"4. Hence it is fitting for you to set yourselves in harmony with the mind of the bishop, as indeed you do. For your noble presbytery, worthy of God, is attuned to the bishop, even as the strings to a lyre. And thus by means of your accord and harmonious love Jesus Christ is sung. Form yourselves one and all into a choir, that blending in concord and taking the keynote of God, you may sing in unison with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father, that he may hear you and recognize you through your good deeds to be members of His Son. Therefore it is profitable for you to live in blameless unity, that you may always enjoy communion with God...."