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A Herald blogger gets readers who wouldn’t be seen dead reading the paper’s print edition

This can be unnerving: how to proceed?

By on Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Many unlikely readers end up on CatholicHerald.co.uk thanks to Google

Many unlikely readers end up on CatholicHerald.co.uk thanks to Google

One of the slightly unnerving aspects of writing for cyberspace is that one’s readership is very much less well-defined than that for which one is used to writing. How does one focus one’s remarks? A journalist writes for a particular audience. Obviously, if you write for a secular newspaper, you write in a wholly different way from that in which you write for the Catholic press: that goes without saying. And you write for the Sun in a different way from that in which you write for the Mail and for the Mail than for the Sunday Times or the Telegraph (I know, because in different periods of my journalistic career I have written regularly for all of them).

But how do you write a blog for a Catholic paper? The comments show that some pieces one writes (though not others) are being read by people who wouldn’t be seen dead reading the print edition of The Catholic Herald. Anything about sexual morality picks up a huge amount of such comment, which is often very hostile. The fact is that some people are Googling, Googling, Googling all the day long: if their search terms pick you up, they read you, sometimes with incomprehension or extreme hostility. 

My recent blog about the Chilean miners, posted while they were still being brought up, picked up some very different responses. I had argued that the real question was how the miners had kept up their spirits and failed to respond to the psychologist’s behavioural stereotype, that men confined in a small space will always end up fighting each other. My answer was that the shrine they had set up, with the crucifix and the statues of Our Lady and the saints, must have had a good deal to do with their spiritual resilience and their solidarity.

One cross Protestant response (from mamasnookems) was: “It was all God that kept them alive and sane! It has nothing to do with praying to an idol or a statue or saint, it was all Jesus! Praise Him and give the glory to Him and Him alone for He is God!” Well, quite, and it’s hardly worth explaining that we don’t actually worship statues or giving tortuous explanations of the Catholic cult of the saints, all of which will fall on stony ground indeed: the best unwitting response to mamasnookems was that made after a long quotation from my piece on an American website called “Priests’ Secretary” (“useful and timely information, news and commentary for Catholic priests”): “I give God thanks for all of those men being spared. I thank our Holy Mother too for her intercession, she always comes to our aid. Thank you my Jesus for answering everyone’s prayers.”

But that would leave mamasnookems thoroughly confused, and probably even crosser than before. The point is that her irruption into the comments is absolutely par for the course. One correspondent protested to her: “What are you doing putting nasty comments on a Catholic blog?”

Well, one thing she’s doing is to demonstrate that there’s no such thing as a blog one can control without unceasing censorship, which would rather defeat the object of the exercise: the blogger proposes; the blogosphere disposes. Anyone can join in: whether or not they are open to changing their mind is another matter. Who knows? Not I.

  • Paul Williamson

    (1)As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (2)Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (3)Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (4)There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— (5)one Lord, one faith, one baptism; (6)one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4 v1-6

    I remember our priest giving a sermon, saying that one of the first gifts of the Holy Spirit is unity.

    Let us keep praying for such unity.

  • W Oddie

    Cor!

  • Ratbag

    God and His Most Holy Mother brought those miners, their families and their country through those difficult times. They are made of tough, strong, courageous stuff – plus, they 'do' God!!!!

    One columnist in my local newspaper (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) poo-poohed the fact that each miner thanked God for their deliverance and that it was down to the engineers. He forgets that even the engineers must have prayed and meditated for inspiration to get those brilliant feats of engineering in motion in the first place.

    Actually, one of those rescuers involved with the engineering to get the miners out is studying to be a Catholic deacon!

    Just a thought: wouldn't it be interesting to see how Z-lister “celebs” would cope in a Chilean mine version of “I'm A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!” ???

  • David Armitage

    “I have no doubt at all that it was their religion and that there weren’t that many Adventists or Evangelicals down there.” Whoops! Who spoke too soon? I Googled Priests' Secretary and found this piece of profound stupidity. Now we are beginning to read of divisions, fights and the kind off stressed behaviour among the miners one would expect. Not that Mary is to blame for that. I see that the Chileans' patron saint of miners is Saint Lorenzo. Seems to have fallen down his job or they wouldn't have been trapped any way. Here in Switzerland our miners have St Barbara. She doesn't get many calls to display her talents since we have very stringent safety regulations. What have all these Chinese miners done to upset one or both of these patron saints?

  • David Armitage

    Saint Barabara is also traditionally the patron of armourers, military engineers, gunsmiths, miners and anyone else who worked with cannon and explosives. Paul VI had her removed from the Canon because of doubts about her authenticity. I would have thought a better reason would have been her close association with arms manufacturers. Whatever. But she is still highly regarded in the Orthox churches.

  • W Oddie

    What, you silly man, does this have to do with the above blog?

  • W Oddie

    Ditto.

  • Dsavid Armitage

    Thank you for dittoing me.

  • David Armitage

    My blog was a follow up on a quasi-simultaneous comment: knowledge/nugget wrought from Googling St. Barbara, who has just presided the amazing exploit of the new 78km long St Gothard Tunnel. Rush to judgement ill-becomes an erstwhile editor

  • Priests' Secretary

    I think the real question here is: What have these bloggers done to upset you? May St. Therese toss a rose your way to calm your angst my friend. :-)

  • David Armitage

    My roses thrive on granulated bovine derivatives. Catholicism can do pretty well without them. It is tragic that people are leaving the Church in droves because of this pseudo-religiosity.

  • Gordon S

    The miners saved by God, Mary, the saints? What would we have said if they had died?

    Being men of faith, certainly they would pray. Most people do in a crisis. Yet did God and the saints spare these men and yet let countless others that prayed in the many terrible events throughout our history die?

    What about Haiti for example? What is the answer to all of this?

    The divine essence works in people. It works in the engineers, the medical people and so many others that selflessly give of themselves in these times of crisis.

    It isn't the intervention of God, Mary, saints or any other supernatural event from the heavens, but a extraordinary event of human beings that are often touched by the divine in their actions.