Gunpowder Plots and a Few Damp Squibs

When I turned on the Mac this morning and looked at the comments on yesterday’s post, I felt like giving up. The way in which some of the off-topic argument was conducted is so contrary to everything this blog stands for that I felt like saying ‘A pox on both your houses’. It is not the first time I have had to deal with difficult comments. Clearly, I ought now to devote more time to moderating comments on the blog. I’m not sure I can afford that time, so I am now thinking about what form (if any) this blog should take in the future.

It is ironic that today in England we are remembering Guy Fawkes and the unsuccessful plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. The temptation to short-circuit an argument is always there, and there are many ways in which we can do so, especially where religion is involved.

Take Guy Fawkes himself, for example. He has always seemed to me muddled and misguided and really rather pathetic. His end, however, was horrible, and the number of people dragged down in his wake was horrible, too. Far from achieving anything of value, he merely re-stoked the fires of antipopery. His Gunpowder Plot proved to be yet another damp squib; and I’m sorry to say, we seem to go on with our damp squibs even today.

To continue the analogy, the problem with damp squibs is that they let off more smoke than fire. There are very real divisions among Christians today but we shall never overcome them unless we are prepared to let go of old hatreds and work to clear up old misunderstandings. To do that three things are necessary: prayer, study and dialogue — prayer, because anything we try to do by our own efforts is doomed to failure; study, because only true learning can overcome ignorance and fear; dialogue, because we shall never resolve our differences unless we talk about them with charity and courtesy, seeking to understand as well as seeking to be understood. Charity and courtesy can be difficult to maintain at times, but we must, because anything less is unworthy of the God we all serve.

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16 thoughts on “Gunpowder Plots and a Few Damp Squibs”

  1. I second Macrina, heartily.

    I also apologise, because I was one of yesterday’s commenters, and should have restrained myself to the last part of my first comment – congratulating you on the milestone blog entry, and wishing you “health to write”. I might add to that, “peace to write” as well.

    Genuinely, though – I was (clearly, poorly) attempting the third point of your analogy. In the future, I’ll go back to only replying to your entry!

    Sincere apologies again, and blessings on your day,
    Danielle

  2. Catherine, I follow your tweets and episodically read this blog as time permits. Only now have I read this entry and the one before it to which you refer. A couple of clear things come up for me: (1) Keep it up! This is good stuff (an Australian technical term) (2) You cannot be held responsible for the comments of others (3) What is the worse thing that could happen when others make polarized or negative comments? (4) A health cup of dis-association and a pleasant moment to ponder other things might help. Much love and encouragement to you. Tim

  3. Please don’t give up. There is an awful lot of barmy religion on the web and it’s important to have at least a few havens of sanity – of which your blog is a shining example. And I say that as a Quaker who doesn’t (obviously) share your theological perspective at all.

  4. I would like to re-iterate all of the previous comments by asking that you please don’t give up.

    What you are doing is vitally important. Not only as a direct witness to our Faith but in showing us how to respectfully discuss issues (whether we agree on not).

    You are teaching us all a great deal and leading the way on how this may be achieved in cyberspace no less than through face-to-face discussions.

    Long may we continue as a group.

  5. Thank you very much for your encouraging remarks.

    Danielle, I have emailed you as my comment was not directed at you. In general, I’m quite happy for comments to go off-topic as doing so often enriches us all. What I’m not happy about is using the blog as a vehicle for a private agenda and not observing the basic disciplines of respect and courtesy.

    Some people have been put off reading the blog by the tone of the comments. Some have even assumed that, if I don’t explicitly condemn something, I agree with it, especially when discussion of Catholicism is involved.

    I have had to do a lot of behind-the-scenes work to ensure that some of the most objectionable or potentially misleading comments (by no means always from Catholics) don’t appear on the blog, so I’m pondering what to do in the future. I may have to insist that all comments are moderated before appearing, but that would be a pity because it would remove spontaneity from the discussion. I shall think — and pray. 🙂

  6. I too would like to re-iterate all of the previous comments by asking that you please don’t give up. Your blog and (most of) the associated comments are a source of inspiration, enlightenment and support.

  7. I too have taken strength and insight from your blogs, although I rarely comment. Please do not give up. I will hold you and this issue in my prayers.

  8. I wholeheartedly agree with all the comments above. I marvel at how you find the time to write such articulate, wise and relevant comments.

  9. I too would be sad to lose your blog on my daily reading list.

    There is much to commend about it and it has been instrumental in helping me to update myself on many areas of Catholic belief and theology that I had misgivings about.

    Where else would I find such clear sighted, loving and often humorous content which is both inspiring and educational at the same time?

    Please, please, don’t give up.

  10. Sister, I think that I owe you an apology. It seems that my question, a genuine inquiry to Eva yesterday, prompted the discussion which followed.

    Please accept my heartfelt apologies.

    • Thank you, Ernie. I value your comments, and I know that when we disagree we can do so agreeably. In recent months I’ve had to do more ‘policing’ of the blog and I find distressing the way in which the odium theologicum is often expressed, particularly as it’s putting some readers off.

  11. Dear Sr Catherine ~ just sending encouragement … your contribution to blogland is hugely valuable, long may it continue. You are the first person in my experience who has presented the truths of Catholicism in an accessible way 🙂

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