Several readers sent correspondence with concerns regarding Catholic Answers Forums, particularly pertaining to private revelations. Our first notion was to refrain from making any comments, as "its just a forum". Conversely, several of our contributing editors differed, pointing out that these people obtained influential website designations "Catholic.com" & "Forums.Catholic.com", and it could be significant if the sheep were not being fed properly, (such as when the Catholic University Notre Dame honored pro-abortion Obama and persecuted Pro-Life protestors to the event - Link). Giving a quick skimming of these forums, there does seem to be some noteworthy issues. We conducted searches with private revelation key words. It appears that CAF moderators are ban-happy, and for very problematic motives. For example; on the very first page we inspected, there was a fellow who was a CAF contributor for over six years with 8,839 posts who was banned. Nonetheless, all his previous posts were impressive, leading us to extrapolate that he might be a Catholic Educator or Theology Professor. In summary, there were too many comparable incidents like this to count. Commonsense would dictate that banning a member should be for infractions such as foul language, insulting other members, sexual content, etc., not minor debatable theological or ideological discrepancies. The gist of those who sent correspondence was that their CAF experience felt like they were walking on egg-shells. Subsequently, the following is a general reply to these emails:
Note: This Correspondence page will be ongoing, and we encourage others to communicate their experiences. If you (or someone you know) was banned or reprimanded at Catholic Answers Forums for what you (they) believe are dubious reasons, please contact our editors. If your saga is applicable to this correspondence topic, we will be happy to provide you a voice here, and you may contribute anonymously. God love you.
Response from Webmaster: We received correspondence from some alarmed contributors to Catholic Answers Forums (CAF), an online supplementary community discussion forum to Catholic.com. These communications expressed various criticisms of administrative policy, particularly in respect to private revelations. Unified objections appear focused on one particular rule. CAF regulations comprise a banned topics list that prohibits certain discussion pertaining to "unapproved" private revelations. The prefix "unapproved" preceding "private revelation" can be quite misleading, as it doesn’t necessarily indicate a condemned revelation. In most instances, the term pertains to a private revelation that has not yet been approved by the Catholic Church. Such private revelations may be on a backlist for consideration or review (1).
An example would be the apparitions of "Our Lady of Fatima" which commenced on May 13, 1917, and culminated with the Miracle of the Sun on October 13, 1917 (2). It took thirteen long years and a change of Bishops before a Church approval could be realized. Witness interviews, such as those conducted by Fr. John De Marchi, (Italian Catholic Priest & researcher) and Author John Haffert (founder of the Blue Army of Fatima) expressed serious reservations by the Local Ordinary. Immediately prior to The Miracle of the Sun, witness's accounts detailed how Catholic Priests from the local Parish attempted to disperse the crowd, declaring the apparition of Our Lady a hoax. When the crowd refused to leave, a Priest sought to physically pick up the children and carry them away, but the multitude of people prevented him. As this action by the Local Parish Priests seemed to be an orchestrated effort, some townspeople hypothesized that these Priests may have been under instruction of Pastor Ferreira (who was convinced the apparitions to the Fatima children were from the devil) or even the Local Ordinary (3, 4).
CAF rule 25 reads as follows: "Promoting unapproved apparitions and revelations (those not approved by the Church for private or public devotion) or alleged private locutions" (5). This statute may seem simple enough, but closer analysis reveals a fundamental flaw. It would be less reckless if the word "Discussing" was employed in place of "Promoting", as the statute wording unfairly allows for opposition while prohibiting defense. Often referred to as a "check-valve" policy (only allowing fluid flow one direction, but not the other). A CAF member clarifies; "Actually, the rule is that we are not allowed to promote these apparitions. We are free to be critical of them (and a number of threads have done so)" (6, 7). In essence, members are permitted to write adverse posts, but nothing defensive or favorable, even to correct blatant fabrications or falsehoods levied against the apparitions or associated visionaries. Both the Old and New Testament state that we are not to bear false witness. There are no examples in the Bible of Jesus condoning libel or slander. For generations, our mothers have always told us the old adage; "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all". Notwithstanding, the wording of CAF rule 25 instructs the reverse. Conscientious evaluation of the threads on CAF reveal how this disproportion has proven to be very volatile, as the exploited loop-hole has unleashed various pompous unrelenting CAF members into a feeding-frenzy of inexorable attacks, condemnation and criticism of unapproved private revelations, the associated messengers, as well as the CAF members compelled to write corrective posts. Email messages sent to us by banned and reprimanded members claim that some CAF moderators have specifically targeted members writing defensive posts against uncharitable attacks, which sequentially exploded into mass banning. Several claimed that this banning consecutively expanded to encompass those attempting to act as peacemakers, in effort to persuade stalking members and predatory moderators to ease up on members who were being "ganged up" on. One irritated CAF member expressed that it felt like "being expelled for being a good Samarian".
At the time of the Fatima apparitions, local Parishioners described how even after the Miracle, Priests sympathetic to the Fatima children were chastised and sometimes relocated to distant Parishes before the Official Church approval in 1930. Consequently, Our Lady of Fatima was an "unapproved" apparition from 1917 to 1930, when the Church finally recognized the events as "worthy of belief". If you take CAF administrator's philosophy on "unapproved" and apply it to that window in time (1917-1930), every single person who went to the Cova de Iria that day was in violation. Hence, permitting an open-season for derision by self-righteous critics. Witness accounts described their long trek through the town of Alburitel towards Fatima in the drenching rain. Some townspeople stood by the side of the road laughing, ridiculing and scoffing at the drove of people passing through their village. In a way, these scoffers can likewise represent those ridiculing people compelled to defend attacks on unapproved private apparitions today. Hypothetically, if CAF existed during the period of time when Fatima was an "unapproved" apparition, members would likely be permitted to fabricate all kinds of posts condemning the Fatima Apparitions, as well as verbally rotisserating the three visionary children. Those coming to the aid of the mocked children would likewise represent members being banned and reprimanded on CAF today.
When browsing CAF threads, the overwhelming number of banned members is a real eye-opener. These remnant posts are often referred to by CAF contributors as the "dead bodies", and they are all over the place. Most striking is that the bulk of remaining posts are very cogent articulations espoused by particularly conservative devout Catholics. Reading through various back posts of these banned folks can be somewhat distressing, as they are an unmistakable tell-tale that that something very ominous is occurring. Distressing because it appears to be another "Catholic" enterprise in the process of being subdued by the evil one, who seeks to severe our life line; God's apparitions, communications and revelations to His people. As terrorists attacking an Embassy would first cut the phone lines, wickedness seeks to denigrate God's messengers. The Scapular was given to Saint Simon Stock by a private apparition of The Blessed Virgin Mary. The Rosary was given to Saint Dominic through a private revelation of Our Holy Mother. Mary turned roses into a picture of Herself for Juan Diego in an apparition. Those who vented their frustrations in correspondence conveyed that the alarming number of banned members is the predominant topic of internal communications among CAF members. These wounded ex-members described how it began with handful of self-righteous predatory members with accumulated seniority. These members took to stalking contributors who previously exhibited interest in proscribed topics, attempting to "push their buttons". One of these prowlers with "Forum Master" status is sometimes referred to as "the kiss of death". It was explained that "if he addresses you in a thread, just log off and wait a few days", as any debate would eventually lead to a permanent ban. One banned member wrote that when this fellow engaged her in a thread, "I started getting bombarded with instant messages from friends warning me to keep away from this person, but it was too late". One would expect a "Catholic" forum to be Charitable, but quick surface skimming tends to indicate; apparently not this one. These bans are unlike most forums, which merely prevent a login. CAF bans are thorough, preventing the excoriated victim from viewing the site or reading past friend's comments and posts as a non-member could. Loading the CAF site in the browser displays "You are banned forever". Apparently the CAF site administrators eventually became concerned themselves by the heaps of remaining posts by banned members, and started mass deletions to clean house, and bury the skeletons. Several banned members conveyed that many months of posts disappeared, and in some cases leaving no trace of their previous CAF forum participation.
Rather than reiterating all the criteria supporting Maria Valtorta that can be found on this site, it may be more effective to expand the discussion to other relevant apparitions. On July 13, 2011, ABC's Nightline Prime featured the Medjugorje Apparitions on a Documentary entitled "The Miracle Mysteries". ABC reported that as of the filming, 40 million people made pilgrimages to Medjugorje. Nearly all of these pilgrims are Catholics (as Buddhists, Jews, Muslims and Protestants, etc. have big issues with Mary). And this just represents the Catholics who believed in Medjugorje so strongly that they flew halfway around the world to actually be there. It would be impossible for CAF site administrators to expect that members could make posts criticizing or condemning Our Lady of Medjugorje and the visionaries without others taking offence. Particularly when the Vatican website compares the Medjugorje Apparitions to Lourdes (8). Ridiculing unapproved and even banned visionaries can be an injustice, as St. Mary Faustina Kowalska's Divine Mercy was banned by the Catholic Church for dozens of years (9). People wrote many articles and editorials that surface to this day condemning Saint Faustina and asserting that her visions were from the devil (10). "In the period from 1924 to 1931 the Holy See made various statements denying the happenings in the life of Padre Pio were due to any divine cause. At one point, he was prevented from publicly performing his priestly duties, such as hearing confessions and saying Mass" (11). Yet on CAF, apparitions such as Bayside, Garabandal, Fr. Stefano Gobbi, Medjugorje, Vassula Ryden and Maria Valtorta are subjected routine criticism, while severely limiting effective recourse. An example would be how a member judgmental of Medjugorje touted audio tapes that proved the visionaries were lying (12). A former CAF member wrote in that he was banned for correcting this assertion with links illustrating that when the Vatican examined these thirty year old tape recordings (made when the visionaries were children), they contained cuts, deleted segments, doctoring, spliced conversations, as well as being undecipherable in at least 148 instances (13). He claims his post was quickly deleted. When attempting another post with additional links, he was banned. "The forum administers do sometimes allow posts supporting apparitions such as Medjugorje, as long as the members in opposition have a clear upper edge. But when the tides change, the thread is closed or deleted, and typically several members defending the apparition and/or visionaries end up banned".
When reviewing threads on CAF, we were surprised that some of the biggest fireworks were over an approved apparition in Japan, "Our Lady of Akita" (14, 15). According to very reliable Catholic sites such as EWTN, Akita was not only approved by the Local Bishop John Shojiro Ito, but also authenticated by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) (17, 16). "People on this forum (CAF) fight very hard against the Akita Apparitions, which is difficult to comprehend, it was approved by Cardinal Razinger Himself. The Cardinal's approval was verbal to Bishop Ito, who recorded this in His Public records of the events, and in a Japanese book he authored. Irregardless, it's highly problematic to contend that a Catholic Bishop could write something untrue that was permanently municipal, and could easily be reported back to the Prime Cardinal. Bishop Ito's personal and public records of the events was never challenged by the Vatican. However these people (CAF) have allowed members to contest the local Bishop and His account of the events. Something that is in complete opposition to every rule and regulation they have. They (CAF) ban people all the time for defending accusations against Medjugorje, because the forum administrators claim they are in contempt of Bishop Ratko Peric's judgment. Conversely, they condemn members for defending 'Anne a Lay Apostle', who has her Bishops complete approval, citing her wayward life before her spiritual conversion. Have they not considered Saints like Mary Magdalene who had a sinful past? They are so twofaced, you can't have it both ways. I partly believe Akita is so hotly contested because Mary reveals that the 'devil has entered the Church', and predominantly because they (CAF) reject anything and everything pertaining to the Great Chastisement; which is described in the Akita revelations as: 'fire will fall down from the sky and wipe out a great part of humanity'. One of the pack hostile to these Marian visitations wrote that the 'fire' proclamation proved that it was a crackpot apparition. I reasoned to myself, how did Jesus fight off the devil in the desert? He quoted scripture. Well, that's what got me booted. I was actually banned for quoting the Bible, I responded with: 'Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them On the day of the Lord’s wrath; And all the Earth will be devoured in fire' (Zepheniah 1 - 2). Once you outwit these people, dirty pool comes into play. That whole portion of the thread was pruned off."
These activities lead us to surmise that CAF managers have assumed the role of judge & jury, sometimes completely disregarding the local ordinary's verdict, and then run with their own judgment. The one-sidedness is a clear indication that CAF administrators have an agenda against certain private revelations, views that are not necessarily shared by Bishops, Cardinals or even the Vatican. The senseless banning, deleting and thread closings expose the inability to support these viewpoints. The bottom line is; If you can't support your contentions, maybe you are on the wrong side of the fence.
I really appreciate your writing this and analyzing it because it has been a constant source of frustration for me. I have not been banned, but I have been chastised with suspension several times, for, exactly as has been said, trying to correct injustice. The problem comes when I do a good job of it. Make too much sense, and you get banned.
The main thing that stands out to me is at Catholic Answers Forums is the broad tolerance and accommodation for those who want to bear vitriolic false witness. And it’s bad enough for Maria Valtorta, whom I have been suspended for defending, but also for Anne a Lay Apostle, who is a living person, a practicing Catholic, with full approval of her local bishop, who has in fact assigned her ministry a Priest. It’s all above board but CAF writers will quote and link a sleazy website detracting her in the most vile manner with innuendos. I find it shocking. But posts I have written to defend her and to defend Valtorta have been deleted, while the detracting ones are left. So, as these detractors have said, if anyone wants to do a search CAF that apparitionists, their detractor/accusor’s posts can be seen as the Catholic Answer!
It’s a great lack of justice and charity. It is so blatant. I have not been banned, but I have stopped writing there for the most part, or reading, because this discourages me too much. I have given it my best fight to charitably point out the injustice of this, but no matter how carefully and patiently worded, the “check-valve” policy and the CAF policy of generous accommodation to those who bear false witness still stands firm.
Thanks for an excellent job of analyzing the problem. I particularly like this:
“…the statute wording unfairly allows for opposition while prohibiting defense. Often referred to as a "check-valve" policy (only allowing fluid flow one direction, but not the other)...”
Yes, this is it exactly,. Thanks for explaining clearly why there is such unfairness and injustice at CAF. The policy itself is flawed, allowing wrong a free reign. And its well-taken advantage of!
“…Conscientious evaluation of the threads on CAF reveal how this disproportion has proven to be very volatile, as the exploited loop-hole has unleashed various pompous unrelenting CAF members into a feeding-frenzy of inexorable attacks, condemnation and criticism of unapproved private revelations, the associated messengers, as well as CAF members compelled to write corrective posts…”
This is true. And it cause me to wonder why its tolerated there.
“…Those who vented their frustrations in correspondence conveyed that the alarming number of banned members is the predominant topic of internal communications among CAF members…”
Thats true! There are many private emails about the bannings! It’s rather crazy. I have thought it would be better to just phase out of CAF rather than be banned out while I am pouring my heart out into correcting and injustice. It’s painful after you invest so much of yourself to be banned. Its crude and rude. I wanted to avoid that.
“…One would expect a "Catholic" forum to be Charitable, but quick surface skimming tends to indicate; apparently not this one. These bans are unlike most forums, which merely prevent a login. CAF bans are thorough, preventing the excoriated victim from viewing the site or reading past friend's comments and posts as a non-member could. Loading the CAF site in the browser displays "You are banned forever". Apparently the CAF site administrators eventually became concerned themselves by the heaps of remaining posts by banned members, and started mass deletions to clean house, and bury the skeletons. Several banned members conveyed that many months of posts disappeared, and in some cases leaving no trace of their previous CAF forum participation.…”
Wow! I did not know this, having not ever been banned. Yes, this is really the ultimate in uncharitable, cruel banning. Both the “You are banned forever” screen and the deletion of posts. Its just too uncharitable, too far from decent Christian behavior. I don’t want to be a part of that.
Thanks for this correspondence subject, there is such a need to vent frustrations with Catholic Answers Forum’s undue policy, but nowhere to go. My reprimands from CAF were not related to private revelations, but I experienced this “check valve” policy in a different manner. I had a few squabbles with moderators before the 08 US Presidential elections. At the time, CAF regulations did not permit dialogue on the candidates. I found this very loosely followed by CAF administration, in most instances moderators allowed comments praising then presidential candidate Obama to slide by. At that time, many Catholics seemed to be suckered in to his social agenda, while completely ignoring his position on abortion. And CAF site administrators were at the forefront. When I attempted to address these admiring posts with information concerning Obama’s abortion records, I was surprised to discover that my posts were being deleted by moderators. Inexplicably, the posts supporting Obama remained.
At that time, I was getting private messages from moderators warning that I was being uncharitable, so I limited my posts on this topic to direct quotes with watertight links. I came close to getting banned at that time for countering an Obama praising post, with how he fought against the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act”. There were so many indications that were a big red-flag concerning Obama. But when CAF finally loosened its regulations, it was too late. 54% of Catholics voted for this anti-Catholic pro-abortion operative. Catholics danced with the devil, and as expected, got burnt. How can anyone expect God to bless a Nation that murders its young? If Obama wins another term, the United States will certainly regress into another Greece. Yet, even now, after Obama's attacks on the Catholic Church (forcing us to provide free contraception and abortion inducing drugs), CAF is still protecting this guy by promptly closing threads exposing him (17). Threads challenging Catholic Dogma like women priests can go on for years, but say anything against Obama and its like walking into a wasps nest (18). We need to ensure that sites like CAF incorporating the name “Catholic”, uphold real Catholic ideals, traditions and values. From my experience, CAF seems to be run by left leaning Catholics in harmony with Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden & John Kerry, pushing a liberal agenda. Now the Catholic Church is paying the price for this incredible ignorance. Because of this, the USCCB may be forced to cut staff and close hospitals. These liberal Catholics are a real cancer, and need to be pruned off with excommunication, before they cause irreparable damage to the Roman Catholic Church.
It was generous of you to set up this dialog providing a voice to those who were unjustly banned on CAF. I was banned for reasons I still don’t understand. At the outset, this is off the private revelation topic, however I appeal that you please add my commentary. I see there are other comments posted here that relate to different subject matters. It’s a story that needs to be told, and please forgive the tone, but I am infuriated. It began with a post describing how my wife and I brought our daughter to an open house at Mount Saint Vincent’s University (MSVU) in Riverdale NY (founded by the Sisters of Charity). There was a small informational picket (no signs, just giving out cards and flyers), making people aware that MSVU employed a very liberal sociology professor Bianca Laureano, who was using a pornographic image of the Virgin Mary entitled “The Liberation of Mary” in the classroom. They claimed she openly supports abortion, and told the kids that abortion is safer than giving birth. She should add that its not save for the baby being killed. Some of the evidence on the handouts were web addresses to Bianca’s own personal blogs, which I pulled up on the computer when we got home, and was mortified (19, 20).
I felt it was important to start a CAF thread on this encounter, supporting the contentions with a link to Bianca’s blog. The next time I logged onto CAF, I was greeted with a pop-up warning from moderator Michael Francis (this moderator uses a creepy islamic warrior avatar brandishing a muslim sword, which most would deem unbefitting for a Catholic website). My thread was deleted, and the problem cited was that the forum rules don’t allow starting a thread with a link to a blog. Well, I’ve been on CAF for several years and know that this rule is very loosely followed and members do it all the time. In addition, I explained that the link to Bianca’s very own personal blog is the best way to confirm what she is teaching these children, it’s all laid out plainly in her own words. Michael Francis wrote back that if I had any issues with the warning, I could appeal to the Forum Administrator. I politely apologized, but replied I was certainly going to write to Therese Martin (the Administrator) because I felt this infraction shouldn’t have incurred a warning. He responded by telling me to make sure I mentioned that it was just a warning, that it didn’t incur any points. I was concerned anyway, because these warnings are listed in the user profile. Therese Martin answered with a rubberstamp response how she supports the moderator's decisions and how members need to comply with their direction. I realized that contacting her was a waste of time, and as I found out later, only made things worse.
Under the circumstances, I felt I could repost, as long as I used bona-fide links as I was directed. Doing some Google and Yahoo searches, I found that popular Catholic Pro-Life sites had good articles on the Bianca Laureano situation. So I started a new thread, using a direct quote (none of my own words, to be extra careful, because I knew I was under the spotlight) from well known Pro-Life sites with several sound links (21, 22, 23). You are quite right in your introduction, that being at CAF is “like walking on egg shells”. The next time I logged on to CAF, I was greeted with a page stating: “Your account has been locked for the following reason: Failing to follow moderator direction. - This change will be lifted: Never”. I was in total disbelief, there was no second warning, no suspension, it was immediately escalated to a permanent ban! I wrote several times to Therese Martin, but received no response. I have a second computer and was able to make a new login, I keep checking, there is still nothing to this day on CAF concerning Bianca Laureano. I also discovered that my posts were deleted up to four months before my ban date. My previous posts were mostly innocuous chit-chat and had nothing to do with this situation. I think that there are so many banned people, that they try to clean it up, so other members don’t see tons of posts by banned members. I don’t know if I was banned because these are liberal Catholics who consider a conservative dad a nuisance. Or more likely, that I went over Michael Francis’s head to Therese Martin. Or maybe someone at CAF was a student of Bianca Laureano. Or any combination of these reasons. I have no idea, but I have come to realize that these people at CAF are complete nut cases.
Through the years I seen all the remaining posts of banned members thinking they must have done something wrong, now I know better. As they say; “Live and learn”. The shame is that a site like Catholic.com could be an effective tool for alerting concerned parents to issues such as extreme liberal professors at Catholic Universities. Instead, CAF creates a blockade to prevent parents from sharing this information with other Catholics. There’s my saga. I don’t know what to make of it. I hope you guys can make sense of this insanity. God Bless you and please keep up the good work.
This is a funny one, a member was banned for asking why so many members are banned:
As if things weren't crazy enough, there are a string of banned people defending the Eucharist and the Pope against "AnEvilAtheist", who appears to be able to attack Catholic core beliefs with absolute impunity:
It's utterly amazing, the thread is titled: "Richard Dawkins to Atheist Rally: 'Show Contempt' for Faith, the Eucharist", in which Dawkins called on the crowd not only to challenge religious people but to "ridicule and show contempt" for their doctrines and sacraments, including the Eucharist. "Do you really believe, for example if they're Catholic, that when a priest blesses a wafer, it turns into the body of Christ? Mock them, ridicule them in public. Don't fall for the convention that we're all too polite to talk about religion." Its getting to the point that the Pope needs to address CAF.