March 5, 2012
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

Colin Kerr has discovered his "initial assumption that Canadian Catholic bloggers are a bunch of cranks didn't add up" - but he has discovered a Canadian content problem.

The assistant professor of theology at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy (OLSWA) in Barry's Bay, Ont., has found more than 100 English language blogs in his investigation of the Catholic blogosphere in Canada.

The father of five said he is surprised at the quality.

"These blogs were not narrowly political, angry or philistine," he said in an email interview. "They were well-written, by people who seemed to be alive in their faith, in their families, in their priestly and religious vocations."

But he never thought he would be echoing the Canadian content prescriptions of mainstream Canadian media.

Kerr recently launched the Society of Canadian Catholic Bloggers (SCCB) (canadiancatholicbloggers.blogspot.com), a new site he created to capture each new Canadian post in a constantly updating blog roll.

The society's blog roll gives Canadian Catholic personalities a chance to shine. It includes blogs from Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith to homeschooling moms.

Many posts are veritable gems of inspiration, beauty and encouragement.

The SCCB also includes some blogs that might make people angry or upset.

When Kerr put the word out that he wanted to launch the society, he laid down some general standards. "I like a good debate," he said. "Too many people want to stifle thought and expression these days."

So some of the blogs he has included might raise eyebrows. "We'll develop our Internet etiquette eventually," he said. "It is a new forum. The thing is, acrimony is boring. People want good news, and I'd like to influence Canadian Catholic bloggers in that direction."

Catholic blogs have been criticized for setting themselves up as an alternative magisterium, and thus undercutting the authority of bishops as teachers, but Kerr said he did not find that.

SEXUAL ABUSE

One site Kerr did not add immediately was Sylvia's Site (www.theinquiry.ca/wordpress), which focuses almost exclusively on documenting the clerical sexual abuse scandal in Canada.

Blogger Sylvia MacEachern has developed perhaps the most extensive database on priestly abuse in Canada, with links to newspaper articles she has scanned from as far back as the 1980s.

"It makes for a hard read," Kerr admits. "No one wants to read this kind of thing for itself.

"But, I have to admit that love for the Church, love for the truth - which has to be the hallmark for every Catholic, especially every theologian - means looking in the face of evil at times."

Kerr said while some bloggers are "pre-occupied with single-issues" from the Latin Mass to abortion, "I nevertheless regard these people as legitimate members of the Catholic community.

"We have to get away from the 'Church of only the beautiful people.'"

MacEachern said the anger of victims against the Church is one of the hardest things for her to deal with. "I am a practising Catholic and I do love my Church."

UNDERSTANDABLE ANGER

But the native of Northern Ireland who converted to Catholicism understands their anger. "We shouldn't have these men in the priesthood. We shouldn't have cover ups. We shouldn't have people put willfully at risk."

Her site has uncovered three cases of convicted sexual abusers continuing in public ministry in other dioceses, she said, noting all have since been removed.

Kerr recognized the role blogs have played in breaking news on both sides of the border. He considers them a "boon to free speech."

But just as universities were supposed to be places for freedom of thought, the "PC thought police come along and begin to try and control what gets said there," Kerr said. "We need to resist these forces. It is a Christian duty."

Kerr agrees the Internet has opened up many forums for discussion. "Thought is no longer so easily controlled by CBC, NBC and whomever else," he said. "That is an unimaginably good thing."