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When The Twitter Mob Came After Me

June 6, 2019 Frontpage 12 Comments

Image result for twitterBy FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

Twitter has a dark, demonic side, raging against God and the Church. That brood of vipers and braying, bloodthirsty hounds lurking in readiness was visited upon me with nearly unrelenting fury and incredible magnitude last week. Wave after wave of calumnious, blasphemous, and obscene memes, gifs, and messages were posted with comments, likes, and retweets ranging up to the tens of thousands. Those who styled themselves my enemies crowed with pleasure that I had been “ratioed” — when negative comments outnumber likes and retweets. Many called for me to delete my account when they weren’t wishing a more horrible fate upon me. Blue check mark accounts with nearly 200k followers piled on.

The vituperation descended even to the grave calumny of accusing me of pedophilia. The silliness included mocking my appearance and my Twitter handle. A self-described witch stated she put a “hex” or “curse” on me.

When my account disappeared on Wednesday, June 5, many wondered if Twitter had banned me, which was not the case. I was informed the previous evening that some of my account features would be limited for roughly twelve hours. That was not a factor in my decision, after prayer and discernment, to choose the high road as a Catholic Christian and a priest. Deactivating my account eliminated what had become the fulcrum for the demonic waves of rage targeting the faith. The good of the Church and the needs of the faithful must always come first, in particular for a priest. In the final analysis Twitter ain’t all that. It was entirely my own decision to deactivate and I was not compelled by anyone else in any way.

Twitter can be very superficial and that may be its strength. Headlines and pics can be reviewed rapidly for efficiently catching up on the news. Likes and retweets become a form of affirmation. Their lack can also do the contrary and affect our moods adversely. Twitter can also be problematic for the same reason: Rapid consumption of large volumes of data does not lend itself to reasoned discussion of sensitive subjects.

So, what was the tweet about? I touched upon a subject uncomfortable for many — modesty of dress for Mass, and my intention was to address only that: the decorum proper to praying together in the liturgy. However, regardless of my intentions otherwise, the tweet was taken to imply that I was placing the blame on women for men who cannot control themselves or telling them how to dress in general. I do not do either and never have. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The unfortunate turn of phrase, in which I implied that men’s chastity needed to be defended, was written with the best of intentions. In no way did I mean to say that men are not responsible for, or capable of, self-control. They are so capable and everything possible should be done to avoid implying otherwise. In the Church we have our own tragic history of failure to intervene and prevent crimes against the young and women. We must strive to ensure a consistent witness to the need to better protect individuals of all ages, especially children, from sexual predators. I always hope this goes without saying, but I am afraid we may not be there yet. Men and women both must exercise self-control and respect in their mutual relations.

Context is important. That was lacking in part due to the very limited number of words available for expression on that platform and my choice to not create a thread for expanding the discussion’s breadth. I was speaking only to the norms of dress within the Traditional Latin Mass community. I have absolutely no opinion on how women choose to dress. That’s their business. I’ve always felt that way. It would be very inappropriate for a priest to touch on that subject except in the one specific case I highlighted.

I can describe my parish situation best. The women at our Traditional Latin Mass have their own dress code which they have corporately decided upon for themselves without any direction from me. I prefer it that way. It largely involves having shoulders covered in exactly the same manner as expected for visitors to St. Peter’s Basilica and other religious monuments around the world. However, when new folks start attending the Mass, they might be working out of a different mindset based on previous experiences at Mass where different dress codes may have been in force. I think that may have been what was involved in the case I described. The person in question had been attending Traditional Mass for a few weeks while continuing to stand out in stark contrast to the pre-established norm for women in the congregation, a potential source of distraction for regulars at the Mass.

It is true that the priest was not “forced” to say something as described in the tweet. It might be better said that he felt impelled to address the matter because sufficient time had gone by for the individual involved to feel comfortable with the suggestion of accommodating the majority’s norms and she was not thus far making the adjustment unaided.

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I posted on Monday, June 3 and by that evening the swarm was already gathering. Even, sadly, Catholics on Twitter used the situation to draw attention to themselves with mocking jokes about shoulders causing distraction during prayer. One priest posted a pic of a gingerbread cookie sporting a bikini and asked, “Does this bother you because she has shoulders or because seminarians made it?” These divisive jumps into the fray only attract the Church’s enemies.

Which brings me to another less salutary aspect of Twitter. We are not converting those who agree with us. But we can be holding the faith up to ridicule when Catholics themselves try to wring a joke out of the most sacred things. At the same time I have been most edified by the many faithful Catholics on Twitter who beautifully and lovingly express faith and invite others to also experience our covenant love in Christ.

Will the demons howl victory? Will they be left unsated as they prowl around to devour more victims? Probably so. But we who share the faith know that this is merely a minor battle in a great war in which our triumphant Lord has already secured the greatest victory, over sin and death. We always have much more effective means at our disposal for disseminating the faith, converting and saving souls, than an Internet platform controlled by declared enemies of Christ.

I pray for all of those who choose to remain on social media. It can be advantageous, but at the same time often also quite dangerous when we are forced to encounter those suffering from Internet derangement syndrome. Perhaps with the ensuing conversation about shoulders the goal posts were moved into a more protective position of the human person in the ongoing war against Internet porn so deadly for souls.

Will the Twitter storm rage on? Unfortunately the next target of the Twitter mob may be even now pressing the “send” button which will unwittingly bring them out in malicious force. In the final hours of the account good people were coming forward as reinforcements in numbers that swelled to nearly 27,000 followers. I have received many more emails of support than otherwise.

Sincere thanks to all of you. Please pray for me as I do for you.

Editor’s  Note: Today Father Cusick celebrates his 27th year anniversary of his ordination. We thank him for all of the wonderful work he has done for The Wanderer. His column can be read weekly in https://thewandererpress.com/.  May God bless him and give him many more years in his service to God.

 

 

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  • Battle Royale

    “I have absolutely no opinion on how women choose to dress. That’s their business. I’ve always felt that way. It would be very inappropriate for a priest to touch on that subject except in the one specific case I highlighted.” REALLY….Fr. Cusick?!?!? Because the Church *used to have* opinions on the culture, clothing and appropriateness. It also used to have priests who didn’t *RUN AND HIDE* when they got a little (or even a lot of) pushback from the world. Women and men **NEED GOOD AND GODLY ADVICE** from holy priests like yourself. Re-engage your Twitter account. Stop acting like a wimp and *GET BACK IN THE GAME AND FIGHT BACK*, KID!! NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO THROW IN THE TOWEL!! What if, after admonishing the Pharisees for their errors and sins, Christ had said to the Pharisees, “Naw, JUST KIDDING!! You can keep on your merry way. No **REAL** problems. Bye for now!”?? We would say Christ did them no justice. You have done women no favors by saying that the Church has no opinion on modesty…whether INSIDE **OR** OUTSIDE OF MASS!!! C’mon!! You’re better than this. When I was a kid, my sisters had to have their skirts below the knee…because the Church said they should…for the same reasons you originally gave on bare shoulders!! Everyone deserves to hear the TRUTH, Fr. Cusick!!! His name is Jesus! His priests should be the vanguard. Don’t back down. Do you want the world’s approval…or HIS approval?!?!? Have fortitude!! Be courageous!! HE has your back. Go out and fight for LOVE’S sake!!!

  • rmichaelj

    Where we go to mass ( traditional) it is always up to the priest to correct those who dress immodest. This works well as 1. As the head of the parish it is his responsibility to ensure proper decorum in the chapel. And 2. It keeps certain people from either being overzealous in the modesty standards, or being jerks when correcting those who dress immodestly. Luckily it is a very rare thing where we go to mass, usually associated with newcomers who don’t have knowledge of the dress code.

  • Brigid Costello

    Well written piece and many thanks for your contributions.

  • D. Morgan

    Stand Fast Fr. Cusick.

  • Christian Martín

    Thank you Father, God bless you for your words. Keep fighting the good battle! Is for JC that we do it!
    Praying for you.

  • https://plus.google.com/110509803155980947144 Ana C

    Dear Father, as someone who goes to the Latin Mass and tries to dress modestly, I found your comment encouraging and I’m sorry that you had so many negative responses especially if they came from Catholics. To me this shows a lot about our society, and it’s sad, but I was glad to read your comment on twitter.

  • Matt C. Abbott

    Thank you for your witness, Father.

  • Brigid Costello

    Thank you Fr. Cusick for your contributions. God bless.

  • Brigid Costello

    Thank you Fr. Cusick for all your contributions. God bless.

  • Asbury Fox

    Twitter is absolutely toxic. The vast majority of people shouldn’t be on there especially priests. I applaud you leaving Fr. Cusak. I only wish you hadn’t done it so soon. I would have waited a couple of days or a week. Left another tweet or two about the faith or modesty. Left on your own terms. Instead of giving them the satisfaction of chasing you away.

  • http://www.therepublicanstandard.com/ Shaun Kenney

    Translation of the translation? “Basic truths offend worldly sensibilities. Fauxrage at 11pm.”

  • Fred Allen

    I understand why you felt you had to leave Twitter at this time, but I hope you will consider opening an account again in the future. It’s strange and sad that so few people seem to have any understanding of decorum and tone in dress and manner. People used to dress carefully for various occasions, and just as men would not show up to Mass in shorts and tennis shoes, women would not show up to Mass in sleeveless tank tops or sheaths. Frankly, wearing a sleeveless outfit to Mass shows a complete lack of class, and more importantly, a total disrespect for the house of Jesus.

    It has nothing to do with prestige or money: even those with the most money will dress in the most provocative and shocking manner, just to draw attention to their clothing (think movie stars going to galas, for example). Certain styles are timeless and classic, and while this is easier for men to achieve because fashion styles change less for men, women can never go wrong in Mass by wearing simple tailored clothing. By careful choice in dress, they can bring honor and dignity to the church they attend.

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