Unlike other Catholic websites, I have elected to keep our comment boxes open and free thus far. I encourage frank and forthright discussion. I allow opinions that disagree with us and our positions as stated in the articles and posts we publish, provided that those who hold them are respectful in their presentation. I understand that having the debate and working out our questions in an open forum is an important part of coping with what is happening in the Church.
But ladies and gentlemen, I am here to inform you that it’s housekeeping time.
At this moment, in 20 months of operation, 1P5 has accepted 19,976 comments on 995 posts. That is an average of almost 1,000 comments a month, of which I am the only moderator. I do not employ a small army of anonymous teen interns who pour over comments looking for reasons to ban people. I do not restrict comments to only those who pay (although, it’s not a terrible idea, and would help keep the trolls at bay). On the flip side, I do not give preferential treatment to donors. I am incredibly thankful for each and every one of you, but just because a person has donated money to support our work does not mean that they have carte blanche to conduct themselves however they choose in the comment box.
So as of now, I’m tightening up the rules. I created a comment policy last year, but I never took the time to advertise it. You may find it here, and forever in this place shall it reign. Please familiarize yourself with it before commenting further. It will be updated when necessary, but I think most of our bases are covered by its current contents. I will be working with a developer on a site plugin that will link it at the top of every comment box on every post, which is (strangely) not an out-of-the-box feature.
I have already begun removing people who violate the rules, or simply make doing my job a chore. I will continue until I conclude the necessary pruning is complete. This is not personal, but it is necessary for our discussions here to remain fruitful.
So, a few tips (which are more or less contained in the above-linked rules):
- If you come here only to vent spleen, to insult others, or to arrogate judgment to yourself about who is and isn’t a heretic and how things should happen if you were pope, I’ll remove you. Sedevacantists, I’m talking especially to you. We’re here to identify the problems in the Church, not to set ourselves up as the ecclesiastical authority that can solve them. If you’re really just sufficiently cranky that I find you singularly unpleasant…you may just get the axe. Life is full of enough stress without you piling on.
- If you leave long, meandering comments, off-topic comments, or comments so wordy and full of links that I can’t bring myself to read them, you’re not adding to the discussion, you’re turning it into work. Long comments are fine if they are helpful and well-written; brevity, though, is the soul of wit. If you’re leaving comments approaching 1000 words (or more!) on a regular basis, I’m coming for you.
- If you’re excessively negative, if you insult other readers and commenters, if you insult me as your host, I will remove you.
- If you come here only to pick fights, malign our integrity or our motives, or castigate us for whatever reason, I will remove you. (I expect and accept reasonable disagreement and criticism. But you know who you are – the people who come from other websites that trash our work, thinking that you’ll cleverly disguise yourself as someone “just asking questions” with no intention to actually entertain the ideas we’re offering.)
Free speech makes for a fantastic liberty (privilege, really) here in America, but I think of this more as a structured conversation in a place that is provided for like-minded people to talk about and work out issues of great concern. Anything that hinders that, distracts from it, or causes people to leave in frustration or not post from fear of what someone will say in response is…not helpful. This is not a free-for-all, it is a moderated discussion.
Some of you will no doubt find yourselves unable to post comments, only to become irate. If you are like others before you, you most likely will send me angry emails, questioning my integrity, calling me a coward, telling me that I’m unwilling to face the truth, etc., etc., & c.
I don’t care. I’ll just mark your email as spam and be done with it.
Some of you who receive the boot may feel that you were unfairly blocked. If you send a polite and reasonable email appealing your case, I’ll listen — but if I’m at the point where I have decided your commentary is a nuisance, you’re going to have to make a stellar case to get me to reconsider.
I just don’t have two or three hours a day to spend looking over comments, or replying to abusive ones. I want productive conversation here, but I need to not have to babysit.
In most cases, ladies and gentlemen, this really isn’t personal. I can virtually guarantee that if I met you in a parish basement over coffee after Mass, you’d be lovely and we’d chat with no problems. But the Internet does things to people’s brains, and comment boxes are where truth and civility, all too often, go to die.
I have too much on my plate, and this is an area where I can exercise some control. So let it be written, so let it be done.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.