Vicar General rejects abusive and divisive language, calls for online respect and charity

By Very Rev Peter G Williams AM, 2 June 2023
The Catholic Church in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.


The Holy See’s Dicastery for Communications recently issued a warning to all Catholics to avoid uncharitable and abusive usage of social media as a serious problem. Unfortunately, this has become a problem in the Diocese of Parramatta as shown by recent actions of some extremist individuals and groups.

The Vatican document “Towards Full Presence: A Pastoral Reflection on Engagement with Social Media” wisely advises all Catholics to avoid “hostile interactions and violent, degrading words, especially in the context of sharing Christian content, (which) cry out from the screen and are a contradiction to the Gospel itself.”

In recent months, the Diocese of Parramatta has seen a rise in certain lobby groups, who claim to represent parents and other members of the faithful, conducting quasi-political social media campaigns marked by slander, abusive and violent language directed against the integrity of our Catholic School System. This abuse and vitriol are also directed towards individuals – teachers, Principals, carers and clergy. This will not be tolerated.

What is worse these same small but vocal groups have persisted in refusing to engage in the opportunities for civil dialogue with appropriate diocesan officials to discuss their perceived grievances. Instead of accepting the sincere offer for authentic dialogue, they engage in rude demands and promote propaganda on their social media.

In this regard, the Universal Catechism statements on slander are worth our renewed attention:

Catechism of the Catholic Church (2478): “To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as his neighbour’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favourable way: Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favourable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.”

Particularly concerning is the aggressive online behaviour of some groups especially their malicious use of gossip, hearsay, misinformation and slander. They have also refused to accept written assurances that their fears are misplaced – given to them by church authorities.

Certainly, there is room in the Church for free speech and much encounter and dialogue. But that does not mean tolerating abusive and slanderous language.

The faithful of the Diocese needs to be aware that the Diocese will cease all communication with any groups that threaten, harass and use ‘warrior’ language to intimidate their fellow Catholics.

The recent Vatican document[i] calls on us all to be Good Samaritans and “to make social media a more human and relational space.”

As urged by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, let’s become a Synodal church and firmly reject the extremism and anti-Gospel aggression of isolated misguided groups on social media.

Very Rev Peter G. Williams AM
Vicar General & Moderator of the Curia


[i] See:


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