Of Courageous Bishops and FaceBook

We celebrate Saint Stanislaus today (+ April 11, 1079), bishop and martyr, put to death by his own king, Boleslaus, for rebuking the monarch’s ‘immoral life’. The details are rather obscure and disputed, but the Bishop excommunicated the King, which weakened him politically, and so the King accused Stanislaus of treason, sending soldiers to kill him.  When the would-be assassins balked, their conscience blanching at the thought of murdering an unarmed, saintly cleric, the King himself took his sword and cut down the saint in the middle of Mass, in a church now dedicated to the Bishop, outside the then-walls of Krakow.

Need it be said that we should pray for a bit more such parrhesia in our bishops, indeed for all the faithful, ourselves included, that ‘boldness’ and courage to which Saint Paul urges us, not caring much what the world thinks, but preaching the Gospel and its truths, in season and out, with clarity and simplicity.

For a good initial commentary on the Holy Father’s exhortation, Gaudete et Exultate, see Carl Olson in Catholic World Report.  As Mr. Olson describes, there is mostly good in the Exhortation, but with some that is, to put things charitably, ambiguous and, on an initial read, misleading, not least the implication of the ‘seamless garment’ moral theory, that all sins against charity and justice are of equal import and gravity. Not so, for sin differs from sin, and especially intrinsic evils such as abortion, which must be avoided even to the point of martyrdom, as Pope John Paul makes clear in Veritatis Splendor.

On the other hand, deciding whom to allow within one’s borders is a decision of prudence, and refusing entrance to any given migrant is not an intrinsic evil, and must be left to the conscience; we cannot a priori assess when it becomes ‘evil’, without knowing all the circumstances (and even then…).

The privacy policies of FaceBook are oxymoronic, as any moron could tell you. That is, there is no real privacy on the social media behemoth, for you sign away any such rights in their densely-packed user agreement: Oh, it may be ‘private’ to some, those friends who are not really your friends, and creepers on the site, but everything you post ultimately belongs to Zuckerberg and company, that they can sell and re-post as they see fit. They may balk at certain uses of the data (as in, helping get Trump elected), but have no problem with selling your most private details to advertisers, which is why Mr. Zuckerberg is a billionaire, living in Hawaii (amongst other locales), behind a concrete ‘private’ wall.

This media monopoly now controls the flow of information, along with Google and one or two others: The YouTube ‘stars’, Diamond and Silk (Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson) were recently banned from FaceBook for having ‘dangerous’ content, that is, they supported President Trump and went on critical rants about his critics. One could (with some degree of irony) search the search engines for further evidence of such apparently arbitrary, but one can only conclude intentional, shunning.

How does one know what is true, and what truth is missing? The whole internet, once a harbinger of freedom, is descending into a tightly controlled echo chamber, with ideological atheists such as Zuckerberg at the helm.

Back to analog, perhaps?  The whole printing press, or pen-and-paper?  How about even a simple telephone call or, better yet, meet someone in person? In whatever way we use social media (and my recommendation is minimize), we should get back to some sort of non-digital communication, real face-to-face time, personal, up-close, even uncomfortable, so that we develop what Aristotle, Saint Thomas and Pope John Paul would describe as ‘friendship’, which requires a true giving-of-self, and not just a posting of memes and cute videos of your children (which Zuckerberg owns; the videos, not the children, at least, not yet…).

Life is there to be lived, in the world, in reality, in propinquity, and technology but a tool to help foster that.  And if it helps not in such real relations, but rather hinders them, then quite literally to hell with it, and cast that smartphone into the lava pit of Mordor, metaphorical or not. Just don’t jump in after it.

Saint Stanislaus, ora pro nobis!