The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Let’s talk: comments return

keyboard.JPGAlrighty. After two weeks of relative peace and quiet, I’m bringing back comments.

The past several days have been both restful and instructive – and I’m profoundly grateful to the various bloggers and readers who have offered advice, counsel, support and prayers. The Anchoress, Googling God, Deacon Scott Dodge, the Concord Pastor and Jim Lackey at Catholic News Service are just a few, and I remain in their debt. The responses they’ve elicited have been encouraging – and very often, humbling and instructive. It’s all given me enough food for thought to feed a small village in Romania.


Anyway…to resume this exercise in bloggery, I’d like to make plain a few ground rules. Rather than making them a list of “don’ts,” I’d like to lay them out as a series of “do’s.”

DO treat those who gather here with charity and decency. Even if you want to strangle them. Especially if you want to strangle them.

DO believe in the power of grace to change minds and hearts – including your own.

DO exercise restraint before commenting. A deep breath or a short walk can do much to turn aside anger and help you think more clearly and discuss issues more compassionately.

DO recognize in all who come here the humble image of Christ our brother. Mother Theresa used to see him in the “distressing disguise of the poor.” Well, he may also come before us in other distressing disguises – and you may be surprised at how you might encounter him, even here.


DO avoid sweeping condemnations, especially when it comes to consigning someone to the furthest reaches of hell. Similarly, DO avoid deciding unilaterally who is or is not an authentic Christian or a Catholic. (Likewise, outlandish statements like “All Democrats are baby-killing cretins” or “You can’t be a Christian and be a Republican” are guaranteed to be deleted.)

DO disagree, if you must, but DO so with respect, civility and – yes – love. DO work to understand what others are saying, and what others are seeing, without dismissing them out of hand. It may help to remember that respecting life entails more than protecting and defending the unborn or the infirm. It also demands that we defend human dignity – and that includes defending it here in the blogosphere.


DO accept that every one who wanders into this space is a beloved child of God. As the Father loves us, so we should strive to love others. Especially those we would prefer to hate. “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

DO remember that we are all imperfect, broken, seeking to be whole, born to be holy – even if you are convinced that such a concept could not possibly apply to you, because the cause for your canonization is already underway.

I won’t tolerate Catholic-bashing (or any other religion-bashing), racism, sexism, homophobia or petty name-calling. (In short: this isn’t the place for any sort of expression of hate.) I’d like to think there is room for everyone here at The Bench. I don’t want people pushing each other around. Bullies will be sent packing.


I don’t want to have to start censoring comments before they are posted. But I will if I have to.

Oh: and, of course, all these rules apply to yours truly as much as they do to anyone else.

That’s about it.

One final thought. In my home office I have a plain wooden plaque bearing a famous phrase that’s been attributed to Carl Jung: “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.” Maybe that’s something we too easily forget. The author of life is among us — abiding with us, hovering by our keyboards, glancing at the furtive tap-tap-tap that hurls letters onto an electronic screen, where they eventually find their way into e-mail boxes and homepages and bookmarked websites, to be read by countless others, who may then pass them on to others still.

We may not always know who reads what we write. But we may think of those words differently, and give them more weight, if we write them with the certainty that one of those readers is, in fact, God.

Bidden or not.

Okay. Let’s blog.

Comments read comments(14)
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Deacon Norb

posted May 10, 2010 at 6:22 am

OK Greg:
You got a deal. I have avoided commenting after I received some totally “troll-like” reaction that was more appropriate for a political or sports blog than a site given to enlightenment and wisdom.
Only the very best of blessings!

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Holy Cannoli

posted May 10, 2010 at 7:49 am

I don’t know if this is allowed but I’ve been wanting to caption this picture since I first saw it posted at your site. (April 27, 2010)
“I know you’ve been here for 40 yrs Grasshopper, but you know the rules. You must snatch the pebble out of the Master’s hand before you can leave the Shaolin Temple.”
[Heh. Funnily enough, somebody else saw that and remarked at how old John Michael Talbot is. He’s 56. I’m 51. Go figure. — Dcn. G. ]

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posted May 10, 2010 at 11:01 am

What exactly is your definition of homophobia? I remember discussions of homosexuality sparked many contentious remarks. What limits are you placing on the subject, respectfully?
[Chris…any comments that are hateful will not be tolerated. Dcn. G.]

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posted May 10, 2010 at 11:25 am

In my humble opinion the word homophobia is a misnomer to begin with. A phobia is an intense fear, eg. fear of heights, water etc.
Discussions on homosexuality have nothing to do with a fear of it but rather what the Scripture and the Church have had to say about it.

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posted May 10, 2010 at 11:26 am

with all due respect, ” all who wander ; beloved children of GOD “. two scriptures come to mind : john 1 : 12 & 2 cor. 5 :17. christians are ” begotten by the blood of CHRIST ” IT’S NOT A GIMME ! . you must be born again !! correct me if i’m not on the right track ! thanks ! jim
[Thanks for the clarification, Jim. My point is: please treat those you meet here with respect, as a cherished part of God’s creation. (Col. 1:16). Whether ‘born again’ or not. Dcn. G.]

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Paula Gonzales Rohrbacher

posted May 10, 2010 at 12:17 pm

It’s been a nice break Deacon Greg! Thanks for the much needed list of ground rules. I’m hoping that people reading this blog will say to themselves: “See how they love one another”!

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Paula Gonzales Rohrbacher

posted May 10, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Kathy in Missouri

posted May 10, 2010 at 12:55 pm

I also have a motto on a plain wooden plaque in my kitchen which might apply in this situation: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!

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posted May 10, 2010 at 1:26 pm

On another board I frequent, the rule is “No Hitting”. Put positively, “Do refrain from hitting”. Fair to attack the position and argument, but not the person, character, or motivations.

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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted May 10, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Good list of ground rules. I’m glad you are allowing comments again because many times other deacons add to your stories about deacons, yet most of your readers are not deacons.
And, even though we have been around as ordained ,married clergy in the Catholic Church, many, many years now (I was ordained in 1980) the media and very many Catholics do not even know we exist. It is particularly upsetting to see today, on a regular basis, the media say that all Catholic CLERGY must be celibate. This completely leaves out Eastern Catholic Church priests, convert priests,….and deacons.
The only caveat I have is the use of the word “homophobia” in your list of ground rules. No sinner should be hated, indeed we all are sinners, all imperfect.
However, historically the word “homophobia” was originally concocted to ridicule those who uphold traditional Christian morality on that issue and create in the public mind the image that this morality is nothing but a form of bigotry.
This can be seen in comments in blog after blog wherein, even the most respectful words used to defend Christian moral teaching are met with angry cries of “homophobia” frequently in the most insulting and derogatory manner.

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posted May 10, 2010 at 10:01 pm

This may seem out of place but I wish I had read Deacon Greg’s advice and taken it to heart earlier today. I hope I have never been inappropriate on this blog but I am becoming more and more intolerant of a certain newspaper. I have lost all control at their basic Pope bashing. Pray for me. I have gone to bad place with them.

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Clare Krishan

posted May 11, 2010 at 10:09 am

Mutual reciprocity is the theological principle that I attempt to adhere to, ie honor one’s host / dialog partners by respecting their integrity. Good commentors aren’t mere acolytes loaded with feigning praise, but rather spiritual athletes willing to wrestle honestly with reality. Poor commentators are to be pitied — and like poverty when encountered anywhere else — to be met with mercy ie a certain generosity of spirit.
For example, I sought out this post to make a calibratory remark on the – IMHO — OTT clip of the evangelical muralist. What does our host mean by “largest” – North American? modern? cast of characters? non-eccelesial? (Mary, his mother and the other women are absent, ie the scriptural model of church conceived by conjugal consummation on the cross is wierdly missing) There’s plenty of larger depictions of the resurrection: Italy’s San Marco Convent and Turkey’s Chora Church_in Constantinople painted by 14th century contemporaries, a fruit of the cross-pollination of culture and peoples that predates the discordant relativism of the Protestant Reformation, see
Only a US Christian would have the hubris to make such a claim, but that we Catholics would buttress it is pathetic… pathos = pitiful ( or perhaps if there were such a word, bathetic… bathos = low point ) that adds insult to injury to the already bathetic state of ecclesial art in California:
(very large resurrection mural in Mausoleum)
For more on ‘ANASTASIS’ ICON, TEXT, AND THEOLOGICAL VISION see Australian e-journal of theology here:

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Dominican Republic Villas

posted June 3, 2010 at 7:25 pm

My favorite one: DO exercise restraint before commenting. A deep breath or a short walk can do much to turn aside anger and help you think more clearly and discuss issues more compassionately.

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Deacon Kurt

posted December 5, 2010 at 11:15 pm

I just recently came across Deacon Greg’s site here and have found it very uplifting. It has been rare that I have found a Catholic page with such a variety of content. I look forward to reading more, conversing with all of you, learning more about my faith and growing closer to God. Happy Advent!!

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