Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Are Internet Catholics Normal?

I have been a practicing Catholic all my life. I have been involved in several different parishes since my teens. I am married to a Catholic, I have friends and co-workers who are Catholic and I send my son to a Catholic school. My city is culturally Catholic. In short, I have reason to think I have some idea of what Catholics believe and think.

About six years ago I first discovered the internet, and found that internet Catholics seem to bear little resemblance to those I knew in real life. Internet Catholic moms all stayed home, and many homeschooled. IRL, about half the moms I know returned to the work force when their maternity leave was over. All but one of the other half returned when their children started school. The only homeschooler I know IRL only did it for a short time, and I met her on the internet. On the internet, natural family planning is normal. IRL, of reasonably devout Catholics I know well enough to know something about their family planning practices, most have used artificial birth control. On the internet, women priests are an issue--some are very against them, others support those who got themselves "ordained" outside the authority of the Church. IRL, people I know mostly think the rule against women priests is a little old-fashioned, will probably change one day, but isn't anything to get all upset over--or disobey. On the internet, nobody seems to like the music played in the majority of churches--but if nobody likes it, why is it played?

Why do internet Catholics seem so different from IRL Catholics?


  1. The difference with internet Catholics is that they are more vocal with whatever they believe. In other words, they are either more orthodox or more reformist than most. Otherwise, why talk about it?

  2. The people who are passionate about being Catholic are the ones who want to go online. Plus, the internet is the haven of all introverts, who are much better at expressing themselves with passion in anonymity (or even just from a safe, online distance). That's my take on it. But it's a good point. Maybe most Catholics are too busy living.

    I will say, though, that although I'm frequently disheartened by the lack of NFP users in the general public, I don't think it's nearly as bad as we fear. Those #s include everybody who self-identifies as Catholic. Not people who actually get involved in their parishes and show up every Sunday. The more time passes the more people I meet who used NFP and just never talked about it, and because their families aren't huge and they're private about it, people just don't know it.


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