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Invasion of the Catholic Bloggers | By Valerie Schmalz | May 9. 2005


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The world of Catholic bloggers is a window into contemporary and orthodox Catholic thought that takes Pope John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization and turns it into a worldwide discussion of faith, morals, politics, and plain old daily life.

One blogger said he and his friends were delighted to discover they were part of a wider range of orthodox Catholics interested in evangelizing the world, that they were "Catholic nerds!"

The movement is perhaps best summed up in the mission statement of CyberCatholics.com, the sponsor of The 2005 Catholic Blog Awards. Founded by Joshua LeBlanc and Chris Decker, on Dec. 8, 2000 —the feast of the Immaculate Conception--when the two were in the seminary together, the website states:
"The mission of cyberCatholics.com is simply to put into practice the call of Pope John Paul II to a new evangelization. Part of this new evangelization is to spread the Gospel by any means necessary, especially through the newest medium of the Internet. Through the cyberCatholics apostolate, any individual can respond to God’s call to evangelize at a very low and reasonable cost."
Of course, there is a downside. As Jeff Culbreath, of Hallowed Ground and El amino Real notes, "Blogging and blog reading can become an incredible waste of time. I think it is for most people, myself included." And the disadvantage of all blogging, as college student and well-regarded blogger Andrew Cusack writes: "Any halfwit can start a blog, and the potential for disinformation is massive.

As blogs have taken off, so have Catholic blogs. This year was the second year of the Catholic Blog Awards, with a list of nineteen categories, chosen by on-line popular vote. CyberCatholic.com’s LeBlanc credits Fr. Bryce Sibley, A Saintly Salmagundi, with the idea, and says the categories were chosen after consulting other Catholic bloggers. A total of 550 people nominated blogs this year, using open source polling software, LeBlanc told IgnatiusInsight.com.

In The 2005 Catholic Blog Awards, several blogs topped the categories: Amy Welborn’s Open Book, Father Bryce Sibley’s A Saintly Salmagundi, Jeff Miller’s The Curt Jester, Shrine of the Holy Whapping, Catholic Ragemonkey, JimmyAkin.org, Being or Nothingness, Southern Appeal, and Catholic Apologetics of America.

Many Catholic bloggers belong to St. Blog’s Parish, self-described as "home to a varied congregation of Catholic weblggers located around the world. The webring links together their weblogs, which must conform to Church teaching but do not have to be constant commentaries on Church issues.

IgnatiusInsight.com interviewed a cross section of Catholic bloggers. We contacted blogs with the most votes in the cyberCatholic awards and others who made the top five as well as a few who didn’t. Here are some of their answers. Unfortunately, we couldn't talk to everyone–if we did, this would be a book (hey, there's an idea!).

Over the next 2-3 weeks we will post answers given to these questions: Why do you blog? What other blogs do you read regularly and why? What can a Catholic blog do that others can’t? What are criticisms of blogs?

WHY DO YOU BLOG?

Rev. Bryce Sibley, A Saintly Salmagundi. Winner of most humorous blog, best blog by a priest, most bizarre blog, best blog by a man:
I have three main reasons why I blog. 1. As a hobby 2. To try and help Catholics to laugh a  little when it seems that the world and Church is collapsing around them. 3. As a means of evangelization.
Jimmy Akin, JimmyAkin.org. Winner of best apologetics blog.
I was put under a Gypsy curse when I was seven years old. Seriously: I blog because it's fun. In enjoy interacting with people, writing up kooky or informative pieces, throwing them out on the 'Net, and then seeing what the reaction is. Despite the obvious problems with our world today (I'm still waiting for the upgrade), I find the world we live in a terribly interesting place, and my blog is a way that I can share with others my own experience of exploring the world. I enjoy answering folks' questions, as well as typing up things that I find interesting for amusing, and I enjoy seeing folks get into the spirit of it. On my blog we have a number of running jokes, and folks send in links of things they've found that they think other blog readers might want to know about. The more, the merrier!
Jeff Miller, The Curt Jester. Winner of most creative blog:
"Punditry, Parody, Polemics, Politics, Puns from a Papist Perspective": To blog is to first think that you have something worth saying. In my case I fall back on G.K. Chesterton when he said "if something's worth doing, it's worth doing badly." I had started listening to talk radio towards the end of the eighties. I would mentally go over the stories and opinions I heard and would think what my replies to questions would be. Yelling back at the radio is rather fruitless when you hear something you disagree with and I would think about what it would be like to have my own talk show. In my conversion from atheism to the Catholic Church I had read as much as I could because I was like a dry sponge hungrily absorbing the faith. I was now pondering the responses to the news stories I was hearing and reading in light of faith. Finding the medium of weblogs was for me the perfect way to exercise what I had learned.
Amy Welborn, Open Book. Best blog by a Woman, most Informative blog, best overall:
I blog for several reasons: as a long-time columnist in the Catholic press, I was accustomed to having a personal relationship with readers. This is an extension of that. It's an opportunity for me to write in a venue unhampered by editors' or publishers' concerns and restraints. It's a place for me to work out ideas. And it's PR – keeping my name out there, publicizing my books.
Barbara Nicolosi, Church of the Masses:
I am a writer, in my soul.  And writers write.  I blog because it allows me to put my ideas out there, without having to submit them to the commercial structures imposed by conventional publishing.  Sometimes I have small ideas that I can say in 250 words.  It is very liberating to be able to just put it out there.  I very much value the bloggers who are surfing the Net and providing links to interesting stories, but that's never been the intention of my blog.  I only can justify blogging if I have some kind of developed idea to put out there. 
Tom Kreitzberg, Disputations:
My nobler motives are to make what contribution I can to the public conversation of American Catholics; to learn about my faith and its practical implications by talking things over with others; and to share with others such "fruits of contemplation" (in St. Thomas's phrase) as I have to share (which, frankly, are usually plucked straight off the tree of some book I'm reading, rather than home grown). My ignobler motives include pride, envy, anger, and sloth. (Not avarice, alas.)
Dominico Bettinelli Jr., assistant editor of Catholic World News and managing editor of Catholic World Report. Blogs at Bettnet.com:
I blog because I have to or I'd explode. Just kidding, but only a little. I used to complain incessantly while watching televison about the biases and the lack of full disclosure. After awhile I started to talking to my friends and family about topical issues, trying to undo the damage the mainstream media was doing to their understanding of how things are. After 9/11, I wanted to discuss more of those sorts of issues and I realized my web site would be a good platform. Technically I started blogging in July of 2001, before 9/11, but I didn't begin doing it daily until after 9/11. (I guess that makes mine one of the oldest Catholic blogs out there.)
Christopher at Against the Grain:
I used to participate in the 'Great Books' program in college. I've found blogging to be a way to continue my post-graduation education. It's not only an opportunity to hone your writing skills, but to think as well, and as a Catholic convert, learning how to grow and think AS a Catholic. It's good intellectual (and, in its better moments, spiritual) stimulation.
Steven Sanchez, Being or Nothingness: Winner of best new blog:
I blog because I stand in front of the faces of teenagers who have been taught that there should be no judgments made in front of life, in fact they have been taught that judging something is somehow a negative position. Things happen that are horrible, 9/11, the Tsunami, or the decapitation of Nick Berg and their response is to make jokes, or to react ideologically. These are Christian kids who are writing cynical songs under the guise of humor about the death of 100,000 people from the Tsunami.

The result is that Christianity becomes a retreat from the world or an ideology that is for them because it makes them happy but that everyone has their own truth, their own happiness, their own path. My teenagers slip into the nothingness of life, unwilling or afraid to say that their heart desires more than what life is reduced to.

I blog to challenge the position that judging the things that happen in life is somehow a negative position. I blog to help educate my kids to a new humanity, one that sees life as positive and the Christian claim as attractive and true. I blog to help my students see that the desires of my heart fill life with a positivity, fill life with a hope and goodness that I long to see realized, not because I do a million things, but by just being a presence that says "No, there is one way, one truth, one life and it has a name: Jesus!"
Mark C N Sullivan, Irish Elk blog:
I have pronounced opinions, and I come from a newspaper background, as well as from a family of inveterate article-clippers. The blog offers a forum for commentary, a cyber-filing cabinet for items I find interesting, and the ability to be my own newspaper editor or pamphleteer, which has its Jeffersonian appeal. A famous painting of the artist and museum-keeper Charles Willson Peale has him opening the curtain on his cabinet of curiosities. That's the Internet to me.
Jeff Culbreath, El amino Real. Best devotional:
My motives are mixed. I do a lot of reading and enjoy disseminating ideas from my reading. As a traditionalist, I think the greater Catholic community benefits from exposure to Catholic thought that has been neglected or forgotten since the Second Vatican Council. But it is also true that I’m something of a controversialist and enjoy "dusting it up" once in a while.
Micki, one of the Summa Mammas, a group of Catholic convert mothers.
I find it therapeutic and encouraging. It gives me a "safe" forum to rant and it affords a wonderful opportunity to reach out to like-minded Catholics, but it's also a reminder how diverse and varied we Catholics can be.
Nicole DesOrmeaux, Notes to Myself. Third place, most devotional blog:
Over the last year and a half, I have taken the "risk" of sharing my stories of faith with St Blog's in hopes of bringing greater glory to God.I’m not a thinker, I’m not a reader, I’m not a writer. So what am I doing blogging? Since blogging has its origins in journalism.My answer is that I am a lover. A lover that want s to express the love welling over inside, in as many ways possible. I continue to post, today, because I am a lover. On my side bar I have posted my purpose "The inspiration behind my blog is my personal belief that memoirs which pertain to our church have unique power. Sharing these stories of faith plant seeds of God’s love…lives can be touched, God can be greatly glorified.
Steve Dillard, one of the bloggers writing for Southern Appeal, winner of best political blog, best social commentary"
I blog because I am passionate about the subjects that permeate my writing: Catholicism; "culture of life issues"; preservation of traditional marriage; the genocide taking place in Darfur; originalism, federalism, and judicial restraint; and Southern history and culture. 
Next week: What blogs do bloggers read?



Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight. She worked as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, and in print and broadcast media for ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University of San Francisco and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is the former director of Birthright of San Francisco. Valerie and her wonderful husband have four children.



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