We must strengthen our relationship with Christ, not just for our own sake, but for…
Editorial: How to succeed in our call to be evangelists
When we published our recent editorial on how Catholics should respond to pride month, the Our Sunday Visitor editors knew to expect a fair amount of backlash. This topic is, understandably, highly sensitive, as it involves real people and real emotions.
Despite the certainty of the fallout, we knew it was essential to do our job as Catholic evangelists. Our take — the teaching of the Church, plain and simple — is one of the most misunderstood and repudiated pieces of doctrine by Catholics in modern times. We knew we must boldly proclaim this teaching regardless of the consequences — and, as we know from the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, there can be serious consequences.
What we didn’t expect, however, was for that backlash to occur because individuals — many from anonymous Twitter accounts — would deliberately not read the editorial yet take it upon themselves to publicly misrepresent it by stating it was not faithful to Church teaching. This is what happened, unfortunately.
We need to acknowledge that some of the responsibility lies with us. The text and the image we used for our social media posts — particularly on Twitter — did not represent the piece well. The post’s text, designed to encourage readers to click the link to read the entire piece, was ambiguous at best and misleading at worst. What’s more, the image we used — one that contained a rainbow flag — was also misleading. We had used that image in the print edition of the newspaper to tease the Editorial. Following our normal processes, we used it online, as well. That wasn’t the right call in this case. In print, invested subscribers actually care about and read what is written. Online, where the practice of link-sharing without clicking has been well documented over the years, the content is judged by 280 characters and the accompanying image. We know that, so we should have chosen the text and image more carefully when promoting an editorial on such a sensitive topic. We accept our part of the blame and intend to learn from the experience.
But there is a larger issue at play here, and that is evangelization. The individuals who reacted to our social-media posts by misrepresenting and disparaging Our Sunday Visitor without reading the actual editorial could and should have been our valued partners in sharing the teachings of the Church, especially on such a topic. Instead of working together, we were working at odds. And that is not a good look for the Church.
In a talk recently to members of the Catholic Media Association, Word on Fire’s Bishop Robert Barron said that those in Catholic media can counter the negative aspects of social media by doing two things before posting: first, by asking if what is being posted is true, and second, by asking if it is loving — as in, does it will the good of the other? Such excellent advice can extend far beyond Catholic media. If every person who proclaimed themselves to be Catholic would make a point of asking these two same questions before interacting online — really, before entering into any kind of encounter — we would be much more successful in our mission of bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.
Bishop Barron offered two other particularly worthy observations. Imagine, he said, what an unevangelized person — someone who is curious about the Catholic faith but doesn’t know much about it — might think when he or she encounters Catholic infighting on social media and in comment boxes on Catholic websites. Would such a person be likely to remain interested in a faith that is lived out publicly in such a way by its disciples?
Finally, when asked how people in Catholic media could best keep the Faith amid all the frustrations and divisions within the Church, Bishop Barron’s answer was simple: Make a Holy Hour every day, preferably in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
That is the answer not only for all of us as a whole, but for each of us personally: more honesty, more love, more prayer. If we lived in this manner, perhaps we would have a real chance of succeeding in our call to be evangelists, no matter the topic.
Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, Scott Warden, York Young