Being new to the world of blogging, I am still learning many "virtual life" lessons. This fact has been made abundantly clear to me over the past day or two.
I was reminded that it is difficult to comprehend the line that separates our private from public lives. I have chosen to take the position with my own life to use my proper name and life situation in the public forum. Others have made different choices. Neither is right or wrong but it brought to mind the fact that there ought to be some sort of etiquette that applies to these internet exchanges. To date, I have not found such an item.
In one case, I had posted a request for prayers for a person that I have come to respect who had made know to me a particular prayer need. Alas in doing this I inadvertently crossed over the line where the private and public are divided. While he was (as always) gracious in pointing out my error, he did help me to see that whatever is posted on the internet lives on for a very long time.
This same lesson was taught again in another way when one of the posters on this site (and others as well) who repeats ad nauseum various charges and allegations about the Catholic Church was "outed" as a possible purveyor of child porn sites. I have always enjoyed my debates with the man I call "O/C", for amidst the nonsense he posts, he often demonstrated a keen mind which can bring elements to the topic that we are discussing that I had not previously known or considered. For this reason, I chose not to take offense at his allegations and personal insults and continued to participate in conversation with him.
However, a comment posted by someone else pointed out again the lesson about the permanence of our internet footprints by showing that if one were to google his online handle, one could see that there are incidents when someone with this same handle has visited and posted comments on various child pornography sites.
This somewhat shocking revelation put before me something to hurl back at him in the threads of the National Post's religion blog ("Holy Post") when he pushed on further with his insults and insinuations against the Church, its clergy and its practices.
He has subsequently challenged me to bring the matter to the Police, and this I have done. However, given the prevalence of aliases and on-line handles throughout the internet there may be little if anything that they can do. This being said, the scourge of child sexual abuse demands that we do all that we can to fight it in every way possible.
Yet, having done so in as clear and charitable manner as I could think of (asking why a search of his handle produced such disturbing results), I cannot help but feel "dirty" by participating in the exchange.
This is I fear not what the internet was intended for.
If anyone is aware of a site that publishes any form of etiquette or rules that one can follow which permits the free exchange of opinion while remaining unsullied in the process, I would appreciate knowing about it.
Until that day comes, I will try to follow two simple rules:
1. not to post any information that identifies anyone without first asking permission to do so, thereby respecting their right to privacy, and
2. I will use any information that I discover about fellow commentators in the most charitable manner possible.
The internet seems to be a muddy road to travel. It is difficult to journey without being sullied by the dirt thrown by others. I pray simply that I might be able to continue this virtual ministry I have undertaken in a manner that is right and proper as a representative of the Church, and of Jesus the eternal high priest.
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