Some of you may have already noticed that comments on all of our posts are closed. This is not a glitch. I decided it was time for a break.
Just since May 1, our website has received 7,502 comments on 112 posts. That’s an average of almost 67 comments per post, though some have none and others have hundreds. Regular readers know that some comments are short, but others are as long as a blog post themselves.
And lately, as Pope Francis and his chosen advisers have deviated further and further from the duties of their offices, the comments have become increasingly inflammatory. Words like “antipope” and “heretic” are thrown around with great abandon. Words like “antichrist” show up less often. “Clown” is a favorite. I’m sure a word-cloud analysis of our comments would be telling.
We are all upset. We are all frustrated. We are all looking for answers. We look to Rome and we ask ourselves, “How could a pope be doing such things? How is it possible that a Vicar of Christ seems so intent on destroying Christ’s Church?”
I have considered, time and again, just ignoring the news. I’ve considered only publishing articles about what is good and true and beautiful in the Church. These are the things we all love about our Catholic Faith, and these are the things that draw us back to it no matter how frustrated we become.
But to ignore the invasion in our midst is a lie. I would never be able to live with myself if I pretended that all was well. If I talked to you about nothing but the beauty of the very things that are most under assault. It would be like staring lovingly at a photograph of my wife and children as they were savaged by men who broke into my home in the dead of night. Who can sit and do nothing? Who can allow it to go on without fighting back?
I want this to be a place of free discussion. I want it to be a place where we can work out the things that are going on. Where we can speculate and theorize and throw things against the wall. The kind of topics we cover here demand it.
But we need to recover our decorum a bit. We need to remember that for every comment left in anger or frustration, others are watching. Not only Catholics but non-Catholics. People considering joining the Church, and those who have recently done so and are experiencing regrets. Someone said to me today:
“While I find charity and clarity in your pieces, the comments can be harmful to those just opening their eyes to the reality of the crisis. I’ve not sent neophytes to your pieces in the past for fear of the harm potentially caused by some of the comments. For those just awakening to the mess, some comments can actually drive them to stick their heads even deeper into the sand.”
This problem extends to our reputation as a publication. People dismiss 1P5 out of hand because they’ve heard that we slander and malign the pope. Our readers — all of you — know the truth. We strive to be respectful but firm, to walk the line carefully, avoiding extremism but not shying away from the truth.
For my part, my time is best spent producing and managing our content. I often spend hours dealing with comments instead. Some readers complain that I’m too involved in the comment boxes. Others think I’m not involved enough. There’s no pleasing everyone.
This is why it was time for a break. A cooling off period so we could all stop and catch our breath. Things in our world right now are absolutely insane. But I don’t want us to be.
I have to consider finding help moderating comments, or not moderating them at all. I don’t want this to turn into Church Militant, but neither do I want it to be a vulgar free-for-all.
I’ll turn comments back on some time tomorrow, and we’ll try this again. But I’m asking everyone to take a deep breath and maybe say a quick prayer before posting. We’re now leading the conversation on the papacy and the crisis in the Church. We need to act the part.
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.