As I said, I don't even like to smoke cigars. I'll do it from time to time because others are and it's fun to hang out together in the activity. But at least for me, the activity has too high a cost.
Talking about Catholic faith on social media seems to be basically the same phenomenon to me. Lately, between the Viganò letters and various grand jury indictments and revelations, most Catholic discussions on Facebook are filled with anger, disgust, and outrage. Perhaps it's good to vent sometimes, but I for one am not particularly at peace with my fellow Catholics over it. Still, just like smoking another cigar despite knowing what it does to me, I'm a glutton for peer pressure-driven rubber-necking toward the slow-motion disaster of our hierarchies' leadership.
The solution could be to stay off Facebook, but I'll be honest: I enjoy inane memes and sharing pictures with friends. The solution could also be to altogether avoid the rotten conversations, but Facebook's feed doesn't really allow it. Either way, I know myself better, and it'd still be a near occasion of sin to think I could casually peruse what friends are sharing without being affected.
My problem is the same one that most of us lay people, and most priests, have: We cannot possibly be part of a solution to the current crisis. Thankfully, we are also not part of the problem. But, in truth, we see and understand very little of what is going on among the bishops in America and the curia in Rome. We have no direct access to the exact nature of the problem, let alone to its resolution.
Having and sharing opinions is a central, maybe even indispensable and especially valuable part of modern life. It helps us to shape our consciousness—and consciences—on important topics. But when we opine about things that simply aren't our problems, we are just being busybodies or dilettantes. On Facebook and other social media, that behavior breeds a toxic form of Catholicism—one that, in our present situation, divides by drawing out anger over crimes wrongfully covered up, but that further places upon those who are aggrieved the implicit weight of trying to become reconcilers, too. Our faith and witness is reduced to a struggle to have the right opinion on matters about which none of us really know to a full, or even moderate, extent.
Whatever the problem is, it won't be solved by more knowledge. Even if we knew the full extent of the truth of Viganò's accusations or of the crimes and cover up of our hierarchy, most of us aren't in the position to do a darn thing about it. We are resolutely confused about what good leadership is. We've been convinced that good leaders are the ones who give the best solutions to tough problems. But leadership and problem solving are human endeavors, ones predicated on forging the right habits of temperament and judgment, informed by the prudence of experience. And in areas where relevant experience is limited, even impossible, our standards fail and we're left grasping for something, anything.
The only thing left for me to do to deal with toxic Catholicism, like my bad idea of occasionally smoking cigars, is prayerful abstention. In other words, I've got to "offer it up." This might not be the most attractive resolution, but prayerful sacrifice through fast and abstinence is thoroughly, sanely Catholic. In fact, it's the only way we know that some possessive evils can be cast out.
Practically, it means that just like the next time someone lights up a cigar and offers one to me, I'll be happy to keep company but I won't participate. On Facebook and other social media, this will mean avoiding articles and outlets and people that thrive by trying to eek out the tiniest shreds of one-upmanship and points scoring. It'll mean acting contrary to my inclinations as a modern American, not having an opinion one way or the other on how to solve an incredibly important, paradigmatic crisis in the Church. And it'll feel like a really extreme sacrifice, but choking on and reeling from toxins is rarely less so.