Chaput on Vitriol, E-mail, and Being Lambs, Not Wolves Print
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 30 March 2009 14:28
I found this very interesting in light of what I heard Archbishop Chaput say in Detroit about the e-mail he often gets and how strongly he urged his listeners to be charitable when they write:

From the Boston Globe's website about a meeting between Chaput and journalists on St. Patrick's Day in Washington, DC.

Another exchange that caught my attention came between Chaput and Patricia Zapor, of Catholic News Service, who asked the archbishop about the vitriolic nature of so much e-mail about Catholic issues -- something I experience in the comments on this blog.

This is what Chaput said:

"I used to get some hate mail before I was online, but not nearly as much as I did afterwards. I think the way that we have immediate access, which means we immediately speak out of our emotions rather than write a letter, send it the next day, you might change your mind. Instead you write it and you push the button to “show them,” you know, that kind of thing.

So I think our immediate ability to communicate has led to a coarsening discourse for one thing. I gave a talk recently – I think it may have been when I was in Toronto, where I said that the Lord reminds us that we are sheep among wolves, but it’s important for us not to become wolves ourselves because of our experience, and I think that often happens.

Some of the worst emails I get are from Catholic conservatives who think I should excommunicate and refuse communion to Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. of Colorado and to former-Sen. [and now Secretary of the Interior] Ken Salazar of Colorado, and why aren’t you doing this? I mean, just awful kind of stuff that they write. Sometimes, I must admit, that when I write back, I’m not as friendly as I should be. But I try not to be mean."

And then, reflecting on the difference between e-mail from liberals and conservatives, he said:

"The left mail I get will use terrible words but be less vitriolic. They use the F-word and things like that, call me names like that. But the right is meaner, but they’re not as foul."