#CatholicTwitter is a cesspool. Twitter has countless subgroups of people (and bots) that tweet about topics that interest them. So it’s no surprise that #CatholicTwitter exists.
The issue is not its existence. The problem is its character.
#CatholicTwitter does not represent the views and opinions of most Catholics, not does it represent the majority of Catholic people on the social media platform.
Neither is #CatholicTwitter the aggregate of all of the tweets about Catholicism or from Catholics on any given day. #CatholicTwitter has little to do with the tweets of the Pope, the Vatican, or most of the bishops — except to villainize them.
#CatholicTwitter consists of a variety of accounts. Some are ordinary people zealous for their faith. Others are anonymous accounts with ominous sounding names and crusader avatars. Authors, scholars, and reporters appear on #CatholicTwitter.
Even bishops make occasional appearances on #CatholicTwitter.
No one would characterize #CatholicTwitter as a community; it’s more of a free-for-all food fight where the food being thrown is the body of Christ.
Catholic people and well-funded Catholic organizations show up on #CatholicTwitter to tweet inflammatory statements and conspiratorial gossip in the name of “true Catholicism.”
A central focus of #CatholicTwitter involves defamation of Pope Francis. The usual suspects ridicule him by claiming that he’s not the real pope, that he is subverting faith and morals, or that he belongs to a centuries-long conspiracy intended to bring down the Catholic Church from within.
Many people behind the #CatholicTwitter accounts continue to stir up unfounded allegations by discredited and disgruntled members of the papal curia such as Cardinal Muller and Archbishop Viganò.
Some of the more extreme tweets accuse Pope Francis of heresy and even devil worship. One person recently caused a stir by inviting other Catholics to pray for the death of the Holy Father.
Various #CatholicTwitter accounts oppose the magisterial teaching of the successor of St Peter. They target papal documents like Amoris Laetitia and Laudato Si, and they reject the updating of the Catechism’s stance on the death penalty.
Attacks of this kind often advocate for a shadow magisterium headed by Cardinal Burke, a vocal critic of the pontiff. The cardinal himself has suggested that the Bishop of Rome is a heretic and that the updating of the Catechism reflects the pope’s private opinion and therefore does not qualify as official teaching.
Of course, the cardinal has a Twitter account.
Allegiance to the exclusive celebration of the Latin Mass and loathing of the Second Vatican Council are key ingredients of #CatholicTwitter. Denizens of this realm sometimes tweet as if Satan himself presided over Vatican II, and the way of salvation runs through the papacy of Pius X.
Another feature of #CatholicTwitter includes trolling Catholic voices they disagree with. Father James Martin, S.J. is a frequent target because of his approach of welcoming LGBTQ Catholics in accord with the Catechism.
Getting lured into arguments with #CatholicTwitter is insidious. You might see a tweet making a ridiculous claim, so you want to refute it. Perhaps you scroll across a tweet misrepresenting Pope Francis, and you try to correct it. But once you have engage in the argument, you will experience difficulty in getting out.
Even looking at #CatholicTwitter can be dangerous to your sense of well-being and an occasion to sin. I admit that I have taken my interaction with #CatholicTwitter to confession.
I often pray the Prayer of St. Ephraim:
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me a spirit of laziness, meddling, love of power, and idle talk.
But give to me, your servant, a spirit of prudence, humility, patience, and love.
Yes, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother, since you are blessed forever and ever.
That entire prayer encapsulates#CatholicTwitter. For me, the answer to this prayer requires disengaging from #CatholicTwitter.
I’m starting to think of #CatholicTwitter as a form of neo-gnosticism — a bunch of disembodied accounts debating who has superior knowledge. The early church addressed Gnosticism, and even St. Paul wrote, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”
Because I cannot love intangible social media accounts, I bid adieu to #CatholicTwitter. Arguing with the incorporeal generates frustration, not love, in me.
I will continue to interact with my Catholic social media friends, and I will tweet about my journey with the Catholic faith. I refuse, however, to get drawn into fruitless arguments, intense disagreements, and rabid name calling on social media.
#CatholicTwitter does not offer a culture of encounter, nor does not enable me to accompany people, as Pope Francis calls us to.
Being on Twitter gives me an opportunity to meet and get to know others. But this takes time and patience. It demands dialogue, and dialogue includes listening more than tweeting.
There is a subtle difference between #CatholicTwitter and Catholics on Twitter, and I pray for the grace to recognize it so that I may act accordingly.