In a thread below, I'm accused of not being "pastoral" because of some response I gave. Since the one making that complaint didn't specify which of my responses she meant, I will not make any unnecessary assumptions.
Anyway, it occurs to me that things like this happen when folks interact with different expectations but don't realize that they have them, resulting in misunderstandings. So, maybe spelling out some notions of how I approach this blog, and what I think is courteous, regarding comments and discussions on a blog, rather than taking them for granted.
How about this:
1. If you comment, please use some sort of screen name, even if all you do is add, at the end of the post, a pen name.
2. If you ask for an opinion or an explanation, I'll do my best to give it to you. I don't object if you disagree, but that's an invitation for some back-and-forth.
3. I am a Catholic priest. I teach and present Catholic teaching, in its entirety, as best I can. I recognize that some parts of our Catholic Faith are hard to hear or hard to follow. I am genuinely sorry I am not smarter or more creative in being able to make the "hard teachings" not have hard, pointy edges that sometimes hurt. You'll have to take my word for it that if you feel hurt, that was not my aim. While allowing for all my flaws in presentation, nevertheless remember that sometimes the truth does hurt.
4. Everyone is entitled to a favorable presumption, until saying or doing something that calls it into question. I try to do that, and I may well fail and I'm willing to have someone say so. But I appreciate folks treating me that way. Example: I presume people are good and decent and trying seriously to follow Christ, and I expect others to presume the same about me--not lecture or condescend to me about how I ought to be a better Christian.
5. Part of the purpose of comments is discussion; if you post an argument for something, I think reasonable people presume you're fine with that being critiqued and responded to. If you post an argument for something that is at odds with Catholic teaching or practice, or--no offense--gives flawed information about a subject pertaining to the Catholic Faith, or Catholic history, please don't be surprised if I or someone else responds and corrects that. It's not personal. Example: someone posts arguments for ordaining women as priests. Sorry, that's directly contrary to Catholic teaching. I'm not going to let that go unchallenged. Particularly when it's not all that connected to the topic. And if someone claims to offer facts that are not facts at all, brace yourself for that to be pointed out.
6. I don't claim to be an expert on everything involving Catholic history, liturgy or teaching, and I don't claim to have read every document or be able to quote them off the top of my head. I don't have time to track it all down. I'm a parish priest and I post comments on my blog, about my day, or about homilies I've given, etc. I think I'm reasonably knowledgeable on these subjects, and I try to be transparent about what sort of information I'm sharing.
7. Let's not play games. If a poster chooses to be contentious, that is an invitation for a more vigorous response. Please don't then play the, "oh you should be nicer" card. If you don't want the give-and-take of a discussion, don't give and you won't have to take. There are other games: "bait the Catholic/bait the priest," being disingenuous about "questions" that really aren't requests for information but set-ups for a point you want to score, etc. Play it straight, and I'll do my best to respond in kind. Play games and I'll call you on it or just not take you as on the level.
8. This blog isn't the be-all and end-all of my life, and it shouldn't be for anyone else; meaning: don't take it that seriously. When sour folks show up and complain, picking on rather obscure "offenses" (such as complaining about me "telling" him or her what to pray for, when I said please pray for more priests)...without wishing anyone ill, I genuinely think you may do better not to read this blog, or any blog, if it upsets you. Seriously, and in all charity, if someone's feelings are really that tender, online blog discussions are not for you.
9. I do have a hard time digesting the "surprise" and umbrage that sometimes shows up in comments. I used to offer my political views, and these would generate howls of outrage from a few tenacious folks, as if I have no business telling anyone my personal opinions; and you would think I was advocating the death penalty for puppies, as opposed to views that--even if you disagree with them--aren't terribly unconventional. Well, I got tired of that, so pretty much no more political observations on the blog. Not worth my time and energy. Yet it remains very puzzling to me that folks can get so worked up. Speaking more generally, some so-called "outrage" just can't be taken with a straight face.
10. If you accuse me of something--such as attacking people "personally," or saying something it would dumb, or wrong, to say, please don't be surprised if I ask you to back it up.
11. This is my blog. I get to decide when someone is behaving badly or not getting into the spirit of things. My tools are extremely limited: I can respond to a comment, or delete it.
This took me a few minutes to dash off, so no doubt I could write it better with more time. And, yes, I'm giving you the option of offering comments.