Maronite Church: Stop the online “doctrinal brawls”

Maronite Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï: Those who use social media, writings, teaching and any other activity to spread content incompatible with the doctrine of the Church are sinning against Christ

The Maronite Patriarch Béchara Raï (image from La Stampa)

Intra-ecclesial online brawls on doctrinal matters are now spreading among Christians in the East. A drift that the Maronite Church is now trying to counter with a singular initiative: a doctrinal handbook, with pastoral instructions, which paradoxically is directed not to those who approach Christianity for the first time, but to all those – priests, religious, self-proclaimed experts and “insiders”, internet “gurus”, and lay “militants” belonging some ecclesial acronym or gang – who on traditional media and social networks are turning the contents of the Catholic faith into a relentless battlefield.

The document, signed by the Maronite Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï, is entitled “The truth that liberates and unites”: it was released on Monday 9 April, and presented as a doctrinal compendium to which all those who speak or debate on questions and issues concerning the Catholic faith and the teaching of the Church must adhere.

One of the declared objectives of the patriarchal pronouncement is to neutralize the spiral of controversy, personal attacks, poisonous doctrinal accusations launched against priests, bishops through small virtual doctrinal tribunals that are now multiplying even in the Maronite blogosphere, often using fake social media accounts. The patriarchal text tries to “set things straight” by claiming the magisterial function of ecclesiastical authority, represented “in the person of the Patriarch and the bishops”. The document calls on members of the clergy and religious communities to deal with doctrinal and ethical issues in the media only after obtaining the authorization of their own bishop or superior; it reminds all “web communicators” the canonical dispositions that would eventually affect those who misuse the media to transmit ideas and contents that are not compatible with the teaching of the Church, or those who slander others by acting far from any spirit of “fraternal correction”.

In Chapter VI, the one containing pastoral indications, the Maronite Patriarch reaffirms that those who use social media, writings, teaching and any other activity to spread content incompatible with the doctrine of the Church are sinning against Christ, “who taught the truth and handed it over to the Church”. In this regard, the document reiterates that under “Church laws and special Maronite law”, members of diocesan and religious clergy who wish to use the media to present programs or deal with matters of faith must obtain special permission from the bishops of their dioceses and superiors.

Already in June 2017, during their annual synod – as Fides Agency reports – the Maronite bishops had requested the drafting of a theological-pastoral compendium that would also serve as a reference tool to attempt to regulate online disputes over doctrinal issues. On that occasion, Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï denounced the weakening of the “theological, dogmatic and spiritual preparation” of the clergy, which he linked to the phenomenon of priests committed to self-applauding for their presence on the media.

It is still too early to measure the effects of the Maronite Patriarchate’ initiative taken in an attempt to counter the fierce controversy and personal attacks that loom over the ecclesial environment. Most certainly the pastoral concern and critical approach expressed in the document echo some of the considerations expressed in Gaudete et exsultate, Pope Francis’ last Apostolic Exhortation,“Christians too “ the Bishop of Rome writes in the text he signed last March 19 “can be caught up in networks of verbal violence through the internet and the various forums of digital communication. Even in Catholic media, limits can be overstepped, defamation and slander can become commonplace, and all ethical standards and respect for the good name of others can be abandoned”. Thus – the Pope adds – “ people look to compensate for their own discontent by lashing out at others”. While it would be appropriate to keep in mind, especially within the Church, that “ It is not good when we look down on others like heartless judges, lording it over them and always trying to teach them lessons “.

Full story at La Stampa.

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  1. William Roberts says:

    One has to wonder if the Russians are using their internet warfare strategies to sow conflict and dissension in the Maronite Church.

  2. Jim McCrea says:

    See these Christians, how they love each other!

  3. He’s obviously speaking to Fr. James Martin, S.J.

  4. Anonymous says:

    It is pretty clear that the internets are all aflame with people who claim to be more catholic than thou, who slander and defame priests, bishops and laity. It seems the hierarchies in the west and the east have had enough.

  5. Lou Varini says:

    When confused or in doubt —– look to the East. St. John Paul II the Great referred to the Eastern Catholic Churches as our “Lumen Orientalis” (Light of the East) and the “Other Lung” of the Universal Catholic Church.

    Unlike the Western Latin Rite, petty bickering regarding already established doctrine, is replaced with consistent teaching, which also embraces Sacred Tradition.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Maronites are part of the Roman Catholic Church.

      • Lou Varini says:

        Fraternal correction: The Maronite Catholic Church is one of the 22 other Eastern Catholic (not to be confused with Eastern Orthodox) Churches. The Latin (Roman) Catholic Church is often referred as the Western Rite. The Eastern Catholic Churches are in full Communion with the See of St. Peter, i.e., the Papacy. The Maronites, as well as other Eastern Catholic Rites are all equally “Catholic”, e.g., Melkite, Chaldean, Syriac.

      • Lou Varini says:

        Remember Brother,

        It is “one holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. It is NOT solely “one holy Roman Catholic Church. Refusal to acknowledge other Catholic traditions isolates and marginalizes our other brothers and sisters of the Eastern traditions who are equally as Catholic as the members of the Roman Rite.

      • Lou Varini says:

        Fraternal Correction:

        Maronite Catholics are part of the Universal Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Rite is only one of the other Catholic Rites.

        • Anonymous says:

          Thank you for the fraternal correction but it may need to be tweaked a little. I see now why I got confused by your post. You did write “Eastern Catholic Churches” but you refered to the Church’s other lung which John Paul II wrote of the Eastern Orthodox Churches that are not in communion with the See of Peter. “Orientale Lumen” is about the Eastern Catholic Churches.
          I do not think what I wrote was wrong but I understand your point. The terms usually used to distinguish the West and the East in the Catholic Church are Latin and Eastern, not Roman and Eastern. There is no Roman Catholic Rite. It is called the Latin Rite.

          • Lou Varini says:

            I believe I referred to the Roman Rite correctly.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes. The Roman Rite is one of the Latin Rites of the Church. So you are correct on that. It is not called the Roman Catholic Rite.

      • Lou Varini says:

        Brother Anonymous,

        Please look at this link to clear your misconception:

        https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/catholic-links/eastern-rite-sui.

        Fraternally yours in Christ,
        Lou

  6. They love one another but may not agree on all points. The love is trying to respect all.
    Some of this sounds like the Fifties: a Russian [Communist] under every rock.

  7. Joel Fago says:

    Pope Francis is the worst offender.

    • Anonymous says:

      Francis is the worst offender of what? You are accusing the Holy Father of offending something, yet you can’t even say what he has offended you by. Your is exactly what it seems the Maronite prelate was speaking about. If you have a case against the Holy Father, take it to him clearly and directly. But these unspecific bitter online barbs help nothing and hurt the unity we deserve as faithful catholics.

    • Joel, this is the type of comment that should be discouraged. You do not delineate what the Holy Father does with which you disagree. Overly generalization doesn’t help the discussion. Tell me your issues with the Hol y F ather and then we can discuss them.

  8. Faithful and True says:

    Could be trolls implanting into web to sew division. That should be properly investigated.
    Could be that “the sheep” are also tired of priests and hierarchy speaking falsities in the name of Jesus Christ.
    Perhaps both?!
    Whichever the case here, we know that division is not from the Lord. It will be nearly impossible to stop people from sharing their opinion no matter what method of communication is in use.
    The Body of Christ – His Church is ill! We pray for all.

  9. “It is not good when we look down on others like heartless judges, lording it over them and always trying to teach them lessons“

    Another case of psychological projection by Pope Francis.

  10. The Eastern Catholic Jesus Prayer is a good start. If the Maronites sell chotkis, one could buy one.

    “O, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

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