I thought I’d take the opportunity to list some of the rules that I use on this blog. Folks may have noticed some of them in operation, wondered about others, or simply been mystified. So here goes:
1. People are welcome to disagree with me in the comments boxes as long as they are polite. I don’t mind disagreement. I do mind rudeness. (Be sure and see Rule 20 for how disagreement should be expressed in certain cases!) Rudeness towards others on the blog is also out of bounds.
UPDATE: Commenters whose interaction on the blog consists principally of discussions of the same subject over and over (e.g., the writings of John Dominic Crossan, whether the pope is the pope, or the evils of Vatican II, the current rite of Mass, or a particular political figure or party–or any other single subject) are being rude. Conversation involves an ability to talk about more than one thing, not an obsessive harping on one subject. Say your piece and move on, per Rule 2.
2. Because of the format restrictions blogging involves, I can’t engage in sustained back-and-forth discussions with folks, either in the comments boxes or in the main section of the blog. Therefore, I ask that folks say their piece and then let the subject go (for now, knowing that it will likely surface again in the future).
UPDATE: This rule also may be invoked on discussions that, in the opinion of the blogmaster, are getting overly repetitious or unproductively long.
3. Also because of the format restrictions, everyone must be concise. Don’t go on at length about things. Pasting large amounts of text into the combox also counts as going on at length. Going on at length constitutes rudeness.
4. Comments violating the first three rules will be deleted.
5. Readers who repeatedly violate the first three rules will be banned.
(So far I haven’t had to do that.)
6. When I link to other sites, unless I say otherwise, I am only recommending that you look at the material on the page that I link. The way this blog works, I often have need to document what I am saying by linking to a very specific piece of information, and I cannot endorse other material on sites containing this information.
7. Related to rule 6, I hereby warn you that some material on sites I link may possibly be inconsistent with the Catholic faith or offensive. I try to minimize this, but doing apologetics–and living in the real world–means encountering material that is contrary to the faith or offensive. If you don’t want to take a “Test everything and hold fast to what is good” approach (1 Thess. 5:21) then you should avoid apologetics blogs (and the real world).
8. Except where stated otherwise, when I recommend a book, video, or other product, I am recommending it for individuals who are mature and secure in their Catholic faith. Such recommendations are not to be taken to mean that the material is perfect and free from every possible objection that could be made against them. Nor are they to be taken as recommendations for children or for people who are insecure in their Catholic faith. People falling in the latter classes are not the subjects of my recommendations unless the contrary is stated.
9. I reserve the right to delete comments that I don’t think are helpful for one reason or another (e.g., if someone who is converting to the faith asks for a book recommendation and someone in the comments box recommends a book that I haven’t read, I may delete the recommendation since I don’t know if it suits the person’s needs or not).
10. If you want to ask me a question not related to what’s currently on the blog, don’t use the comments box. Use the e-mail address listed on the blog site.
11. All mail sent to the e-mail address listed on the blog is bloggable unless you say “Don’t blog this” (or an equivalent) in the e-mail.
12. The same goes for e-mail sent to other addresses.
13. I can’t promise reponses to comments or to e-mail that is sent to me. My schedule doesn’t permit me to make this commitment.
14. If I can respond, it may be a few days before the response appears.
15. When I respond to comments or e-mails in the main blog section, I do not use people’s names. Instead, I say things like ” A reader writes . . .” This is not to be impersonal. It has a specific reason. Many people stumble across the blog and want to ask questions without having their identities exposed, particularly if they have a sensitive question (e.g., one involving family members or sexuality). To assure them that their privacy will be honored, I don’t use names when responding to queries in the main blog section. If people saw me responding to e-mail or comments with names in the main blog section, they might think that I would use their names or e-mail addresses and be afraid to ask their questions. I would rather have people ask questions and get answers than have them not ask their questions because they are afraid their privacy won’t be honored.
15b. Rule 15 will be suspended for bloggers, guestbloggers, and the senders of press releases. It will also be suspended for others at their request/with their consent.
16. I do use names when responding in the comments boxes since visitors have already seen (or can scroll up to see) that the person identified himself publicly.
17. When responding to e-mails, particularly e-mails sent to me at accounts not listed on the blog site, I take extra pains not to quote material that could give away the correspondent’s identity. The purpose, again, is so that people won’t be scared to ask their questions or feel that I have violated their privacy by exposing them in public.
18. Currently I am trying to do at least two blog entries per day, one of which goes up bewteen 7 and 8 a.m. (Eastern Time), and one of which goes up between 3 and 4 p.m. (Eastern Time). Individual days may vary, usually by having more blog entries than this. Since I have a job and a life, I can’t commit to more than this at present. I try to do at least this as my way of honoring those who support this blog by visiting and reading it, though it may not be possible on all days.
19. I very much appreciate your efforts to promote this blog by linking it on your own blog/web page or by recommending it in other forums. That is one of the key ways you can honor my efforts in producing the material that I research and write for the blog. Another way is by commenting. I love reading your comments.
20. When Jimmy is answering a pastoral question (i.e., for a person asking about an actual that they or someone they know is involved in, as opposed to a hypothetical situation) that can be phrased in the form “Is it morally licit to do X?”, do not contradict Jimmy in the comments box. People asking pastoral questions on moral subjects often feel very disoriented and confused if they get a debate rather than an answer on a sensitive question about a situation they, a friend, or a family member is involved in.
For the peace of mind of the person who asked the question, challenges to such answers need to be handled a different way. Instead of using the comments box to pose your challenge, e-mail Jimmy. If you win him over, he’ll make a correction and notify the person who asked the question. Comments violating this policy will be deleted. Widespread violation of this policy will result in the comments box being turned off for such questions.
Posts subject to Rule 20 will have a “20” at the bottom of the post.
21. Commenters in the combox are to use either their real name or a (non-offensive, non-spiteful) handle that distinguishes them from others when posting comments. They are not to post comments while leaving the “Name” field blank. It’s rude to expect people to interact with you and give them no way to refer to you.
22. When someone is under a warning not to ride his hobby horse, others on the blog are not to post comments tempting him to get back on the hobby horse (e.g., “I wonder what So-and-so will do to twist this thread onto his favorite topic”). That’s rude because it tempts another person to break a rule when he already may have trouble restraining himself on a particular topic.
23. The following terms are pejorative and their use as actual descriptors (as opposed, for example, to quoting someone else’s use of them for purposes of critique) constitutes rudeness: “Romanist,” “Romish,” “Roman” (when used to mean or as a substitute for “Catholic”), “Roman Church” (when used to mean the entire Catholic Church, as opposed to the Roman church sui iuris that exists within the Catholic Church), “Papist,” Papistic,” “Papistical,” “Popish,” and any cognate terms based on the terms “Roman” or “Pope.”
The term to be used on this blog is Catholic, without scare quotes.
This is a Catholic blog, and Catholics are to be called Catholics on it.
24. It constitutes rudeness to make inflammatory assertions that one is not prepared to back up by anything more than hearsay (e.g., “Mother Theresa prayed to Hindu idols. I know because my friend said so.”).
Inflammatory claims are those likely to inflame passions. An inflammatory claim can be true. But because of its emotion-stirring character, it requires concrete evidence (more than just hearsay) to back it up if the discourse is to be kept civil and not degenerate into an impassioned muddle.