Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Good Tweetman Speaks

November 7, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

This image from The Simpson’s provided the avatar (or avi) which Goodtweet_man used for his pseudonymous Twitter account.

Good Tweetman (Goodtweet_man) is a Catholic attorney in Kansas who, until recently, had a significant and devoted following on Twitter. There he would crack jokes, post others’ prayer requests, and offer sometimes salty commentary on religion and politics. But on October 27th, the same day that Elon Musk was completing his purchase of Twitter, Goodtweet_man’s account was ‘permanently suspended’ by the company for “violating our rules against abuse and harassment.”

Goodtweet_man had tweeted in reference to the Catholic bishops of Germany, whose ongoing “Synodal Way” drew a warning from the Holy See this July. (The Vatican statement clarified that “the ‘Synodal Way’ in Germany does not have the power to compel the bishops and the faithful to adopt new ways of governance and new approaches to doctrine and morals” and to do so “would represent a wound to ecclesial communion and a threat to the unity of the Church.”) The image below is a screenshot of Goodtweet_man’s suspension notice from Twitter which includes his flagged tweet and the policy Twitter found he had violated:

As word of his suspension spread throughout the Twitterverse, The Pillar editor and cofounder J.D. Flynn and others posted the hashtag #FreeGoodTweetman, and various tributes, satires, and jokes, were shared about the situation. The next day, the ambassador of Hungary to the Holy See and the Sovereign Order of Malta, Eduard Habsburg, tweeted: “This is a reminder that @Goodtweet_man is still suspended. Twitter, you don’t want all of us to lose faith in you, right?” Though the online clamor has since died down, many of Goodtweet_man’s former followers still hope for his account’s reinstatement.

This is his first public interview following the suspension.

What is your perspective on this suspension by Twitter?
While I should very much not have said what I said as it was uncharitable, it is completely silly that this of all things garnered a permanent suspension. I am aware that even people who aren’t particularly fond of me thought the same. It was likely just an algorithm.

Have you appealed your suspension? What are your hopes your account will be restored?
I have appealed the suspension, and I would have to imagine it gets restored if a human being at their offices gets some eyes on it. Of course, that may be the biggest obstacle I face.

What has your life been like unplugged from Twitter?
Well I do have an alt account which I’m slowly introducing. The name isn’t particularly vulgar but I don’t think it particularly would fit an interview from a priest we’ll say. Also, for now, it’s somewhat nice not having to deal with the people I don’t like knowing about my twitter. It’s been nice to have a little bit of a respite in any event.

Are you concerned that this other account might run afoul of Twitter’s ban evasion policy?
No, I made that account a couple years ago and the rules specifically state that only accounts made to evade the ban are subject. My account wasn’t made to evade the ban, therefore it is fine.

Any thoughts on Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, and the hot topic of content moderation on the platform?
As for Musk: I’m pretty indifferent overall, and I expect most people will find things aren’t terribly different once the dust settles. There’s advertisers and users to take into account after all.

What would you like to say to your friends on Twitter?
I’ll be back.

(Twitter owner @ElonMusk, @TwitterSupport, and @TwitterSafety had not responded to requests for comment on the @Goodtweet_man account suspension by the time of this interview’s publication.)

Catholic Twitter

October 16, 2019 is a social media website where both famous figures and less famous folks share their free thoughts of 280 characters or less. Pope Francis posts there daily (@Pontifex) alongside many other Catholics as well. There is a good deal of Catholic community, evangelization, and defenses of the Faith to be found on Twitter, depending on whom you follow. I recently came across a wonderful reflection by Fr. Dylan Schrader, a Catholic pastor in Missouri with a Ph.D. in systematic theology. @FrDylanSchrader wrote:

If the Catholic Church fulfills the figure of Noah’s Ark, then of course the Church is ridiculed and seems stupid, crazy, or like a waste of time to the world until all of a sudden we realize that it’s our only hope.” Like Jesus says in the Gospels, in the days before the Great Flood people were eating and drinking, marrying and given in marriage, up until the day that Noah entered the ark. They had disbelieved until the flood waters came, and it carried them all away. So it will be with the Second Coming of Christ.

Twitter allows threads of conversation and Fr. Schrader’s tweet was apparently replied to by a Protestant Christian who wrote: “CHRIST JESUS, alone, is the hope of a [C]hristian… if your hope is in a church, then your hope is misplaced.” Does the Church displace or minimize the Lord? To this, Fr. Schrader answered, “That’s like saying that it’s Noah who saves from the flood, not the Ark.” Indeed, Noah built his Ark and Jesus builds his Church. The Ark was God’s means to save a portion of humanity through Noah. Likewise, the Catholic Church is God’s means for saving the human race through Christ.

Some Recommended Catholic Websites

September 22, 2017

If the Internet had been around during the first century AD, I’m fairly confident that St. Peter would’ve tweeted, St. Paul would’ve podcast, and the secular Roman press would’ve misreported Catholic news far and wide. Times may change, but the Church and the world both use new advancements in communication technology to promote their often competing messages in the marketplace of ideas. As Pope St. John Paul II wrote in 2002:

“The Internet is certainly a new ‘forum’ understood in the ancient Roman sense… a crowded and bustling urban space which both reflected the surrounding culture and created a culture of its own. …Like the new frontiers of other times, this one too is full of the interplay of danger and promise, and not without the sense of adventure which marked other great periods of change. For the Church the new world of cyberspace is a summons to the great adventure of using its potential to proclaim the Gospel message.”

In the years since the beginning of this third Christian millennium, the Church’s online presence has blossomed. The pope tweets (@pontifex), most parishes have websites (including both St. Paul’s and St. John’s), and many faithful sites provide Catholic news and commentary and resources for evangelization and personal growth. Here are some of my most recommended, helpful Catholic websites:
I check New Advent daily for aggregated links to Catholic news and articles. This site also has online versions of the Catholic Encyclopedia, Aquinas’ Summa, Early Church Fathers’ writings, and papal documents.
This rich Catholic site presents feature films, documentaries, ebooks, audio books, video-based study programs, and more. This quality content is free for the families, youths, and adults of St. John’s and St. Paul’s parishes using our special code in the bulletin.
That acronym stands for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Their site is especially useful for viewing upcoming Mass readings (via the front-page calendar) and reading the complete New American Bible.
I have posted hundreds of my homilies and reflections here on this blog since 2009. Use the main-page’s “Categories” menu or the search box to find something by Fr. Feltes you’re interested in.

Pray for Politicians

September 19, 2010

Do you recall St. Paul’s words from this Sunday’s second reading?

First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.  (1st Timothy 2:1-4)

With faith in prayer’s power to turn hearts and do good, and recognizing the Catholic duty to act for the transformation of culture, I invite you to join in a new spiritual effort, to earnestly pray for our political leaders.

My new blog, Pray for Politicians, will highlight a different federal elected official each day. Pray for them and leave a note of your spiritual offering in the comments.  (If you prefer, you can click the subscribe button to receive the daily posts by email.)

I invite and encourage you to be a part of this effort.

Pray for Politicians Blog

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Hits

September 18, 2010

Today, the Parishable Items blog surpassed 10,000 hits.  In recent months, the visitor counts have been increasing exponentially. Are people flocking here for my preaching? Probably not.  I think it’s the pictures I’ve used to illustrate my posts. For example, internet search engine variations of the phrase “Solomon and the Queen of Sheba” have brought more than 350 people to the site; “Jesus (overlooking) Jerusalem,” over 190 hits. Below are what seems to be my three most popular images:

#3: Ruins of the Temple of Apollo in Ancient Corinth, Greece

#2: Jesus Overlooking Jerusalem

#1: Solomon & the Queen of Sheba, Pleased to Meet Each Other

A Weird Passage — Wednesday, 3rd Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

January 28, 2010

“Focus on the weird.”  That’s advice I heard that a homiletics professor once gave. “Focusing on the weird part of the readings in preparing one’s homily leads to the unlocking of mysteries. Besides, it’s what the people are most likely to be distracted thinking about during your homily anyways.” (This is a good rule of thumb for one’s personal Bible studies too.) So what’s the weird part about today’s readings? It comes in Jesus’ private answer to the disciples about His parables:

“The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.”

Does Jesus really teach in parables so that the crowd will not understand?  Why teach them if you don’t want them to learn? And why would Jesus want to be misunderstood by people “in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven”? Doesn’t He want all to be saved?

Jesus spoke in parables because it allowed those with open minds and hearts to understand Him, while serving as a defense against his hostile critics (who had appeared in Mark’s Gospel just before this scene.) Those who were open to the truth would patiently ponder His imagery and come to understand.  Those who chose to be closed off to Jesus would dismissively discard His stories without comprehending. Jesus did not want to be too clear too soon with His enemies, for if He had spoken to them plainly about Himself and His mission they might have moved to kill Him too early for God’s plan to unfold fully.

Did Jesus speak in parables with His enemies “in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.” Surely not, for Jesus wills the salvation of all. The choice not to be converted and forgiven lays at their own feet. They themselves choose not to be open, not to understand, “in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.”

Are we open to Jesus’ message and will for us? We sometimes say that we wish that Jesus would be more clear about His will for our lives. Could it be that the reason Jesus doesn’t lay out His will for us plainly is that He knows we would simply answer “No” to His wishes? If we want to understand and respond to Jesus’ will for us in big things, we need to practice responding to His will for us in small, everyday things.

We need to turn off the TV or internet when He tells us we’re wasting our time. We need to respond to His invitations to prayer. We need to show patience and kindness with all the people He has placed in our day-to-day lives. If we are faithful in small matters then He will trust us to be faithful in big ones; we will hear His words, receive them with joy, and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B

October 25, 2009

Return of Vampire. 1944.

Next Saturday, as the children here may know, is Halloween, the evening celebration involving crazy costumes, yummy candy, and scary stuff. But this evening was formerly popularly known as All Hollows’ Eve, for it is the vigil of All Saints Day, November 1, the Solemnity of God’s hallowed ones. oday, I would like to talk to you about vampires, that’s right, vampires. Now vampires are not real, but we can learn a lot from their mythology and bad example, for vampires are embodiments of the anti-Gospel.

For example, Christians are children of the light and of life, but vampires are creatures of the night, of darkness and of death. Vampires fear the daytime and they sleep in coffins. Vampires tempt, seduce, and exploit others. They manipulate persons as things to be used. Vampires steal others’ blood and take their lives. This is the opposite of Christ, who tempts, seduces, and exploits no one. Rather, Jesus calls, invites, persuades, and challenges with the truth, with goodness, and with love. He treats everyone as a person to be loved. Rather than taking, Jesus gives us His blood and His life, His entire living person in the Eucharist, so that we can share His life.

How do you defeat an otherwise immortal vampire? Traditionally, there are two ways: either drag him into the sunlight, or put a wooden steak through the heart. Why do these tactics work against them?      These things work because vampires are personified evil, and evil cannot overcome either the light of Christ or the wood of His cross.

There’s one more element of vampire mythology with something to teach us. Vampires can only enter a house, if they are invited inside by the people who live there. In vampire stories, the peasants don’t realize that the attractive, charming, intriguing person at their door is really a vampire, so they invite him in without realizing the threat he poses, or their own vulnerability.

Now comes the scary part of the homily, where we apply the lesson to ourselves. What have we unguardedly welcomed into the heart of our homes? What in our lives most resembles the vampire? It is, I suggest, the television and the internet.

Now granted, television and the internet are not digitized evil, like the vampires are personified evil. There is real good to be gained through these forms of technology, but we are kidding ourselves if we think that they can’t seduce us. More often than not, it seems that television and the internet suck our lives out of us. They are up to our necks, but we are too infatuated with, or hypnotized by, them to realize that something is wrong.

Ask yourself, when was the last time that you watched TV and came away thinking, “Wow, that was great.  You know, I really think watching television made me a better person”? Now consider this question: when was the last time you watched TV and came away from it feeling unmoved and unsatisfied? That dissatisfaction should tell us something. Television sucks our life from us, and the internet can be just as bad, or even worse. Not only do these forms of media tend to disappoint us, numb us, and give near occasions to sin, they can harm our families too.

TV Children

Imagine if there was going to be a public execution in Marshfield tonight and your son wanted to go and watch, would you let him go? Yet how much death, simulated and real, is there to be seen on TV? Would you allow a complete stranger into your daughter’s bedroom unsupervised? Yet how many of our children have a TV or the internet right in their rooms? If TV or the internet were a person, would you welcome that person into your home?

Again, I am not saying that everything on television or the internet is evil, or that every good Catholic should discontinue their cable and internet subscriptions. But I am convinced that we need to be more careful and discerning about their roles in our lives, and that our habits with them probably need to change.

It could be that the single greatest thing you could do today to strengthen your family life and to improve your life of prayer would be to simply unplug. Imagine how much more opportunity and motivation you would have every day for family bonding and quiet times with God, if you put all your TVs in the basement and hid the internet cables along with them. Why not try it for a week? Or, if you’re really serious, why not make this your Advent penance and see how much your life is changed?

Like the psalmist said,

‘Although you may go forth weeping,
you’ll be carrying the seed to be sown,
And you shall come back at the end rejoicing,
carrying the sheaves you’ve harvested.’

After your unplugged period is over, you can bring the TV and the internet back if you want, but you will be freed from any addictions to them and they will be less likely to seduce you in the future, into the life of the living dead.

In the Gospel, the blind man, Bartimaeus, threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and ran to Jesus. Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied, “Master, I want to see.”

Like vampires, change in our lives can be scary, but we should have the courage to see how much our lives could be better by following Christ in this way.

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B

September 6, 2009

Remember what it was like before the dot-com bubble burst? Maybe you heard about tiny internet start-ups having total stock values in the billions and you just knew that that wouldn’t last. Remember the time before the recent housing bubble popped? I remember watching a show on TV called “Flip this House” in which a couple bought a building, put two weeks of work and a few thousand dollars into cleaning it up, and then quickly sold it for several tens of thousands of dollars more than what they bought it. I remember saying to myself then, “This just can’t go on. This isn’t sustainable.”

The thing about economic bubbles is that while you can often read the signs of the times and see that the bubble’s there, you’re never quite sure when it will pop.

For years now, our country has been riding on a similar bubble with the unsustainable spending and borrowing by the federal government. We’re not quite sure when it will finally pop, but you can see that the bubble’s there.  Most of us here will witness firsthand the consequences of its bursting.

The Congressional Budget Office is a non-partisan, independent government agency that provides economic data to Congress. And for years, regardless of whether the Democrats or Republicans were in power, the CBO has consistently reported the unfortunate facts and grim forecasts of our present course. This summer, the CBO published its “Long-Term Budget Outlook.” And they tell us, quote…

“Under current law, the federal budget is on an unsustainable path—meaning that federal debt will continue to grow much faster than the economy over the long run.

Although great uncertainty surrounds longterm fiscal projections, rising costs for health care and the aging of the U.S. population will cause federal spending to increase rapidly under any plausible scenario for current law. […]

Keeping deficits and debt from reaching levels that would cause substantial harm to the economy would require increasing revenues significantly…, decreasing projected spending sharply, or some combination of the two.”

Some or all of the following things will inevitably happen: an increased federal retirement age, decreased retirement benefits from Social Security, decreased health benefits from Medicare and/or Medicaid, increased federal taxes, or (and this seems the most likely) a dramatically increased national debt.

Now understand that an endlessly ballooning national debt is no solution.  It has economic consequences for us. What happens when foreign countries finally decide they are no longer interested in holding any more of our debt (in the form of low-interest yielding U.S. government bonds?) One result will be hyper-inflation, which will negatively impact anyone who uses U.S. Dollars. Unpleasant changes are coming. And they will have real consequences our lives. We will feel their effects.

Maybe hearing me speak about these grim realities feels as if I’ve just spit on your tongue.  It’s unpleasant and a bit repulsive. But my hope and prayer is that you will “be opened” by it, that you will be motivated to prepare yourself for what is coming, to begin living now as we should have already been living as Chrisitians all along.

In the past we have lived beyond our means, just like crowd, just like the government made in our own image. We spent more than we had and we often spent wastefully. But we are called to live differently, to live out Christian stewardship, Christian poverty, or simplicity of life in our own lives. Let’s not wait to hit economic rock bottom before we begin living as we ought to.

We are called to live simply and within our means, free from debt-slavery. We are called to be both frugal and generous, generous and frugal. If we are frugal without generosity, we’re simply being misers. If we are generous without frugality, we are being irresponsible. But if you are both frugal and generous won’t God, who (as the psalmist says) keeps faith forever, who secures justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry, who supports the fatherless and the widow, won’t He provide you with what you need? On the other hand, if we are not frugal and generous, if we do not lovingly support our poor neighbors, those in our parish, throughout the diocese, and abroad, then how can we ask God to support us?

To quote St. James, “Act on this word.  If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves.” “Fear not, be strong.” “Be not afraid,” but prepare yourself. Prepare for the days when our accounts will come due.  For a day coming soon in our country, and for the Last Day, when we shall all appear before God.