What is the best way to deal with anti-Catholicism on the internet?
Here are a few things that I try to keep in mind:
BE INFORMED: You have to equip yourself. Read the Catechism. Read the Bible. Find some good Catholic websites that defend the faith. You don’t have to be a genius, just have some resources on hand. You can’t respond to anti-Catholic arguments if you don’t even know what the Church teaches or why She teaches it. Once you know your faith well, the ramblings of anti-Catholics don’t startle you as much because you know that there is always an answer to them.
BE PRUDENT: One thing I learned the hard way is that you can’t tackle every bit of anti-Catholicism that comes your way. I used to act as though the survival of the Church depended solely upon me and thus I had to respond to every attack. Over the years I have learned to just let things go and to concentrate my efforts on what will be the most fruitful. If you try to be a one-man army then you will burn out quickly and then you won’t want to defend the Church at all.
STAY CALM: Many people tend to get very emotional when they encounter anti-Catholicism. This hardly ever works out to your advantage. When you start calling people “bigots” and “haters” and say things like “how dare you!” and “who do you think you are!” all you do is come off as someone who has to use emotional appeals to prove a point, instead of logic and reasoning. You also show the other person that he has gotten under your skin. A lot of times, people aren’t looking for intellectually-honest discourse. They just want to make someone angry. Don’t make yourself an easy target.
When you’re “cool, calm, and collected,” you also create a glaring dichotomy between your disciplined reasoning and their hate-filled, vitriolic diatribes. Then, to the people viewing the debate, it’s easier to see who is there to actually debate and who isn’t.
STAY ON TOPIC: This is easily the #1 mistake that I see people make when they engage others in debate. You have to stay on topic. Be stubborn about it. You must simply refuse to discuss anything that is not on topic. If you don’t do this, then your discussion will go nowhere.
PRAY HARD: Finally, you have to make prayer a central part of your work in responding to people who attempt to discredit and refute the Church’s teaching. This is after all a spiritual battle that we are waging (cf. Eph 6:12). Pray that God will grant you the patience, wisdom, and above all, charity that is necessary to be effective in engaging these people.
Peace of Christ to you,
Nicholas Hardesty, WIMM Board Member Director of Religious Education, Blessed Mother Catholic Church
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