Monday, June 21, 2010

Catholic Answers Forums: A lot of jugmentalism

I enjoy visiting Catholic Answers Forums (CAF), at There's a lot of good information. But beware, there's also plenty of judgment. Here's some of the stuff I've noticed:

1) The blame usually gets put on the original poster
A lot of people will go on CAF to recount a troubling incident or occurrence in their life. They may be having trouble with a spouse, a sibling, or with a co-worker. They may be suffering from some issue and may be seeking some guidance or reassurance. Many times though, the responders will seek fault with the poster. If the poster says his brother is very mean to him, the responders may say something like "you don't sound very nice to your brother yourself!" or somehow shift the blame to the original poster (OP). In fact, sometimes it's downright ridiculous. Someone is clearly suffering at the hands of someone else, and the others then nitpick at something the OP might have done.

2) Any deviance from Catholic dogma is honed in on and amplified
Another example is someone will bring up an issue and somewhere along their way to explaining it, they will mention a small point that is irrelevant to the topic at hand but which represents some small deviancy from Catholic teaching. Many posters will pick up on this small thing and only talk about that, ignoring the actual issue. For example, someone may say they are having an argument with their mother and she is being quite rude and basically shunning her. Along the way of telling this story, the OP will note that one week they didn't attend Mass. The responders will zero in on this transgression and ignore the issues with the mother. In fact, they may even say the reason the mother is mad is because the OP didn't attend Mass, even if that clearly isn't the reason.

3) Lots of rudeness and meanness
Most of the responses people receive seem to lack a considerable amount of charity. The responses are mean, abrupt, blunt, and tactless. If the person feels bad about somethign they did, the posters will try to make them feel even worse. Someone who is clearly struggling is only made to feel worse. The explanation for the lack of kind words is that they are giving "tough love", and that they need to let the person realize how they're doing something wrong. I totally think this is the wrong approach. Obviously if someone is posting their struggles in a public forum, they already feel bad, and they don't need major emphasis on this point. Just because you're right doesn't mean you can voice the "truth" in any way you see fit. To be a good Christian, you must show empathy, understanding, love, and compassion. Many people seeing this will probably accuse me of caring too much about "feelings" and being soft on truth. But that is not true at all. If the OP is not shown compassion and understanding, there's a good chance he will leave with a worse feeling or impression than he started with.

4) Ego-centrism
A lot of the advice seems to focus more on the advice giver than the receiver. Many responders will basically say what they did in a given circumstance and condemn every other course of action as wrong. They will even go farther than the Church does. For example, someone might talk about a TV show they watch, and others will then respond by saying they only watch EWTN. They will imply that anyone who watches anything other than EWTN is doing something wrong or bad. But it comes down to the advice giver simply telling what he does and making that the standard. There is little effort made to understand the OP's position. Rather they are immediately held to an impossibly high standard and any less is considered unacceptable.

5) One poster builds off another
Another phenomenon I notice on the Catholic Answers Forums is that one poster will often build on another. This continues into a snowball effect and generally everyone ends up against the OP. One might start off by saying something relatively mild like "Maybe you should speak with a trusted priest about this". This escalates to "How could you do something like that? I have never done something like that" to "No wonder your mother won't speak to you. You seem very rude and unrepentent. I'm surprised things aren't even worse!" Sometimes a poster will stand up for the OP, but this is not the norm. Again, a small fault is usually picked out and continuously added to.

I still visit Catholic Answers Forums and much of the time the information is really great. This is especially true of factual information, rather than subjective information. If you are looking for reference material, they usually do a great job. I just find the forum often lacks compassion and charity when dealing with various issues.


  1. My experience has been very different. It is an open forum, so you get all kinds of personalities chiming in, but I have found that the posters there are generally very intelligent and are understanding and helpful. I have had very long PM conversations with the smartest people I have ever talked with online or offline. Certainly, far better community than a lot of Christian communities, which tend to be very fundamentalist and rigid. Better still than the secular/atheist forums, which are generally very snide and unintelligent.

  2. In my experience, it's been a combination of both. They strike me as a very studious but sometimes perfectionistic bunch.

  3. That forum is THE WORST possible place you could go if you're looking for "Catholic Answers."

    You'd be better taking a trip to Hell to consult with the Devil. He has more compassion and less pride than the "Catholics" on CAF.

  4. Amen to that Anonymous. "Many shall come in my name saying Lord". There are many other apostate sites :

  5. I can personally attest from hurtful experiences at that forum that you nailed it.

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