In 2002, the Boston Globe published a series about five Catholic priests being prosecuted for sexual assaults on minors. Practically overnight, similar stories were being printed and broadcast across America. Countless Catholics felt betrayed, alienated, and very angry.
Up in Canada, we’d gone through an almost identical crisis in the 1990s. I’d been working at a Catholic newspaper at the time, so I’d had my fill of these disgusting tales.
Nevertheless, as the proprietor of a blog called RelapsedCatholic, I couldn’t avoid posting about these new stories coming out of the States, and adding my own reflections tempered by the Canadian experience.
Soon I was getting emails from American Catholics. They wanted to thank me (or take me to task) for posting on the topic.
I encouraged the former to start their own blogs, to express their thoughts on the scandal and debate what had gone wrong and what could be done to fix things.
(Meanwhile, their insightful blogging and patient personal correspondence — in the face of considerable petulance on my part — moved me from being de facto pro-choice to pro-life, so I got the better part of the deal.)
Eventually, I coined the phrase “St. Blogs” to describe the organic, pixel-roots Catholic blogosphere that grew up out of that 2002 bombshell.
At it height, “St. Blogs’ parish” boasted dozens of sites run by priests, nuns, parish music directors, theologians, canon lawyers, professors, and laypeople from all walks of (Catholic) life.
No doubt other affinity groups could tell similar stories about how their online communities grew and evolved.