The possibilities of a Dutch CNMC

On Saturday 7 August, the third annual Catholic New Media Celebration took place in the Archdiocese of Boston. The one-day event was organised by SQPN, and saw several keynote addresses and so-called ‘tracks’ focusing on new media, mainly blogging and podcasting. The participants were, not surprisingly, mainly Americans, but there were some representatives from my side of the pond as well, among them my friend Inge, who runs the The World According to Taquoriaan blog and podcasts, and also the CEO of SQPN, Father Roderick Vonhögen. I wasn’t able to attend, although reading about the experiences and seeing the photos of those who did, make me wish I could have. Jeff Geerling has made an excellent summary with links to photos, videos and blog posts about the CNMC 2010. Watching the recordings of the keynotes and the tracks may well be interesting for any Catholic who is active in new media (whether they have just a Twitter account or a major media company with podcasts, radio shows, blogs and what have you). I especially found radio presenter Lino Ruli’s keynote and the blogging track run by blogger and author Rachel Balducci (with a panel including Thomas Peters (the American Papist) and Mark Shea) to be interesting and entertaining. I haven’t had a chance to listen to the first keynote, by Father Robert Reed, yet. Links to everything may be found in Mr. Geerling’s summary.

Following the closing of the day by Séan Cardinal O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, and Fr. Roderick, there were enthusiastic calls for something similar in Europe, not least from Fr. Roderick himself. Of course, in the Netherlands we’ll hopefully have a first Catholic Tweetup in October, and perhaps that could be a start towards something CNMC-like. I’m not very familiar with Catholic new media initiatives in continental Europe, but Catholic internet activity has certainly increased in the past year in the Netherlands. Getting some of the experience that exists together in one place so that people can both learn and be inspired by others would, I think, be a good foundation for a further expansion of the Catholic presence online.

But I fear there is a serious problem, at least in this country. Catholic interaction, on Twitter especially, has been consistently argumentative, and while that is no bad thing in itself, it is steadily dissolving in pointless fights. Person A says person B is not orthodox enough and therefore a heretic, person C say that person D is too focused on the rules and will therefore be ignored. People are lumped into perceived groups and personally attacked by others because of differences of opinion. There is a segregation taking place. I realise that this is online interaction, which is quite different from face-to-face interaction, but it is the foundation being formed now, and it’s not a good one. Not all Catholics online are guilty of this, but a fair number of the most vocal and influential ones are.

The Catholic Church, by definition, encompasses all of human life, in all its shapes and forms. It has certain important unifying elements, but there is room for many kinds of people and many kinds of worship, from the charismatic to the solemn. You may prefer the one over the other, but that obviously says nothing about the validity of any form of worship. The same goes for choices of literature and theological thought. But almost automatically writing people off because of differences in preference and opinion is simplistic and dangerous. But that is what is happening.

So, a CNMC in the Netherlands, with Dutch Catholic media experts, bloggers and podcasters? I doubt it will bear similar fruit as the American version. Maybe it’s Dutch mentality, something cultural, that we have the urge to be overly individualistic, especially when it comes to personal matters of faith and religion. I don’t know. But it worries me to see too many Catholics treat their fellow Catholics as second-rate people.

3 thoughts on “The possibilities of a Dutch CNMC”

  1. I am soooo tired at the moment, so I am switching to Dutch.

    Ik ben het met je eens dat de sfeer onder de “internetkatholieken” de laatste tijd om te huilen is. Zelfs mensen die bij elkaar in de parochie kerken vallen elkaar af online.
    Op Twitter vind ik het de laatste tijd echt stuitend, dusdanig dat ik al bijna op het punt ben om veel katholieke twitteraars uit mijn lijst te gooien. Met als dieptepunt dat de laatste dagen de bloggende priester “Schoppenkoning” ineens keihard aangepakt wordt, wiens stukjes ik juist wel weer waardeer.

    Ik merk ook dat ik mij de laatste tijd op “katholiek nieuws” gebied erg stil houd op Twitter en Facebook. Want anders komt er toch weer zon baklading gezeik van volwassen kerels, echt geen zin in.

    Ik hoop dat de sfeer snel omslaat en dat bepaalde katholieke internetpersonages zelf ook eens het goede voorbeeld gaan geven. Hoe kunnen we een lichtend voorbeeld zijn voor de wereld als we de vuile was op Twitter/Facebook enz maar blijven buiten hangen? Kibbelend als kleine kinderen, bah.

  2. I’m back in town after the CNMC and I have some ideas about a CNMC in Europe. These kinds of events are way too big to be held in a single country. The power of the current CNMC setup is the international scope.

    As for the atmosphere in the Dutch Catholic blogosphere (which also extends to Twitter and Facebook): my advise would be to ignore them altogether. People who have nothing positive to contribute should be ignored. Instead we need a group of people who build up a positive presence independent of the existing negative one.

    I think that the way people are treating each other is part of Dutch self-righteous culture. I witnessed exactly the same things among Protestants. I think people who have extensive contacts with Catholics from other countries won’t be as negative as these folks because they have a broader view, a wider perspective.

    It’s very tempting to watch the steps of those negative people, but I think that’s not fruitful for us, for our spiritual growth and also not for the Dutch church. If you blog about these people, you nurture them in their negativity. If you read their blogs, you encourage them continuing this path by awarding them pageviews. Just ignore it. Rather focus on positive things rather then negative things.

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