The National ‘c’atholic Reporter’s combox travails. Wherein Fr. Z responds. (UPDATE: John Allen leaving!)

I saw over at Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter) that the promethean neopelagian powers-that-be have closed the comboxes on all their posts, articles, entries.

“¡Vaya lío!”? Not so much, I guess.

Apparently Fishwrap’s editors didn’t like what people were writing. Things were, I dunno…  getting out of hand?

I have some sympathy with that predicament: wholly anonymous commentators can be authentic jerks.

My solution has been to impose registration and to act like a benevolent dictator.  I want you to have a place to comment, but this is more like my living room than it is Hyde Park.

I have, from my sympathy, begun to think about setting up a special corner for Fishwrappers here at my place.

It would need a name, of course.

Keep your eyes peeled for a possible document from my pen entitled:

Pisciobvolventium coetibus


And now it seems that John Allen is leaving the Fishwrap to be an assistant editor for, the horror, The Boston Globe.  HERE  My best wishes to Mr. Allen on his new path.

I predict that, with the closing of the comboxes and the departure of Mr. Allen, Fishwrap is going to be shriller than ever as they flail around.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, Liberals, Lighter fare and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. mamajen says:

    “Pisciobvolventium coetibus”

    LOL! Can’t wait to read that one.

  2. Bthompson says:

    In all fairness, I have noticed for the past several years that NSR closes its comments system for the first week or two of the year. I even emailed them about it in the past. I got the response that they close the system after Christmas for a while because the moderators are on vacation.

  3. Bthompson says:

    …If now they are doing so more permanently, I could not tell you why.

  4. ClavesCoelorum says:

    Can’t wait for that document Father! I really had to hold my laughter as I am on the train. Fantastic idea!

  5. Lisa Graas says:

    I decided to close comments on my blog because I’m not that great at organizing my time and it was more important for me to get my laundry done than to baby-sit atheist anti-Catholics.

  6. ocleirbj says:

    When news sites and blogs began to encourage comments from their readers, they probably had the sweet ideal in mind of a gracious, civil on-line community whose members would engage in rational discourse, and share even opposing views, in an atmosphere of cordial harmony. The kind of community that is actually created through this free and frank exchange of opinion reminds me more of a shark tank at feeding time — we have all seen the vitriol, ignorance, and small-mindedness that lurks at the bottom of the page, even on sites with moderators, even Catholic [and other religions’] sites where one might expect to see more charity at work. Comments sections on news websites are a particular waste of time to read. Maybe closing off this avenue of expression is a good idea.
    P.S., Kudos to Fr. Z. for your patient forbearance in moderating this site, surely a tedious task, but not a thankless one – Thank You!!

  7. HyacinthClare says:

    ocleirbj, I’m sure there are readers who consider the term “fishwrap” uncharitable, whereas it is the perfect charity of Truth. There’s some vanity involved, but I think “pisciobvolventium” would be a marvelous inside joke, as we’d know it was “fishwrap” and they wouldn’t have a clue.

  8. majuscule says:

    Quick! Someone register! And! And pisciobvolventium.NET!

    [NB: That is a genetive plural active participle. I don’t think it would be the right domain to get…. if you are serious, that is. o{];¬) ]

  9. MichaelBoston says:

    Father, you could add a little sidebar for the Fishwrap’s commenters. I’d suggest “Heretic’s Corner”. Those commenters who pilloried the Fishwrap’s drivel effectively could be inducted into Father Z’s Hall of Fame and be dubbed “Inquisitors”.

  10. Nicholas Shaler says:

    I now know the Latin word for fish.
    Thank you, father.

  11. Jim of Bowie says:

    They have more to worry about than the combox. John Allen just announced he’s joining the Boston Globe.

  12. Charivari Rob says:


    John Allen? To The Globe? Very interesting.

    Does that mean they’re going to finally have somebody writing regularly about religion again?

  13. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    As someone who enjoys fishing and eating fish, do you have to disrespect fishing, eating fish, and fish in general by associating them with the National Catholic Reporter?

    I’d never wrap a catch with NCR and neither does my favorite fish market in the Bronx.

  14. Charivari Rob says:

    Found it – Thank you, Jim

    I wonder what they could possibly mean by “…free-standing publication devoted to Catholicism”

    A print venture, maybe weekly or monthly – in this era, in this market? I wonder if they could come up with a successful model. I’d think something electronic is more likely – a blog or something.

  15. SimonDodd says:

    I don’t know specifically what prompted them to call time, but I am absolutely certain that it wasn’t “because of the malicious, abusive nature of the comments that have bombarded our site in recent days.” Malicious, abusive comments have been the stock-in-trade of the NCR combox for years without the faintest peep of concern by the management. Is it really plausible that the management looked, for the very first time, at their own combox? Not really; what is more likely is that, horror of horrors, they received malicious, abusive comments about the wrong people. Malicious, abusive comments about pope Benedict, traditionalists, the old Mass, Catholic bishops, Catholic doctrine? All well and good. They were happy to facilitate hatred of “the right people to hate” for years. But malicious and abusive comments about Good Pope Francis, the LCWR, or their ersatz brand of Catholicism? Well, that’s probably harder to stomach.

  16. SimonDodd says:

    Meanwhile, John Allen is leaving NCR, which terminates the very last reason to ever read them.

  17. acricketchirps says:

    Possibly the malicious comments were about this guy. More irreproachable even than Pope Francis.

  18. Supertradmum says:

    Well, maybe we shall see a “natural” death of this rag….John Allen may be jumping a sinking ship and leaving it for the rats…..

  19. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    Say what you want about the National Catholic Reporter, and I will probably agree with 95 percent of it, including that John Allen was the only reason to visit the site. His writing on “The Passion of the Christ” (2004)–is it really ten years old!?–and the Pius XII controversy have been fair and even excellent. He also helped debunk the claim that the Vatican began the cover up of abusive priests in 1962 with that document, which applied only to soliciting sex in the Confessional. (Funny how anti-Catholics and many liberal Catholics attribute that document to “the Vatican” but not to Pope John XXIII by name.)

    Getting back to the point that I wished to make, NCR, I would say, does have a devoted readership which will help sustain it. So why would Allen jump to the Boston Globe, which has been in dire financial straits in the last decade?

  20. I’m fascinated by the closing-comments thing. There have been more orthodox-minded commenters there for some time, and the moderators generally allowed orthodox sentiments. But they also tolerated, as someone noted above, some pretty bilious comments about Pope Benedict and anyone deemed too traditional.

    More conservative folks have, I think, had to walk more carefully or see their comments deleted, even if they weren’t outrageous.

    I noticed an article recently about the priest who was murdered; and there were some ugly comments in that thread, motivated by the hatred against priests which has been fomented–in part–by the N”C”R over the abuse problem.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  21. OrthodoxChick says:
  22. southern orders says:

    The last sentence can be interpreted in many ways: “And on behalf of the NCR team, I say to John and the Globe: Good luck!” Good luck? Why don’t God bless you or vaya con dios? Or was it “good luck” in the pejorative sense? In that case, would would need to hear the voice inflection.

  23. ocleirbj says:

    @HyacinthClare, I guess I’m getting curmudgeonly in my late middle-age, but I just don’t feel comfortable with calling other people names, even clever Latin ones that make me laugh in spite of myself. Too much name-calling happens online by too many people, even people I otherwise agree with on every other thing. Maybe it’s just me :-( But I think Jesus had something to say about it too.

  24. Johnno says:


    Jesus did a good amount of ‘name-calling’ too. But you know they deserved it!

  25. Dave N. says:

    I’m not sure what specific incident they are referencing–which may or may not have existed. If vile comments are being made, how difficult is it to delete them?

    I’m guessing their moderators were simply laid off in an effort to keep the boat afloat–or the fish swimming as the case may be.

  26. majuscule says:

    Now there’s an update on why “We have suspended the comments, not closed them down completely.”

    I didn’t read the articles linked to in that article. It seems that malicious and vile comments may have been directed at women and gays whine whine.

    I didn’t see that in the (short) time I made a few comments over there with an obvious and obnoxiously female ID. (No lie, as I am female.) I was trashed because I held traditional Catholic (as opposed to small “c” catholic) views

  27. Jackie L says:

    The NSR has spent its existence fermenting hatred amongst its readership, and bringing out the worst in people, so much so that they have to close the combox, it seems to me they brought this on themselves.

  28. Legisperitus says:

    With no combox and no John Allen, they will become something like a lunatic shouting to himself in a small padded room and wondering why there’s no echo.

  29. The Cobbler says:

    @Legisperitus, I can only assume the combox was the echo now prevented with padding, so does that make John Allen the size of the room?

  30. benedetta says:

    Trifecta: Fishwrap columnist Fr. John Dear S.J. has been asked by the Jesuit order to leave.

  31. Peter in Canberra says:

    Thanks Fr Z for your continued benevolence and forebearance !

    In Australia, ‘CathNews’, the quasi-official news service of the Catholic Church, removed comboxes when they updated their website some months ago. They were already heavily moderated and even if your comments weren’t deemed offensive they often didn’t make it for reasons of ‘balance’ The selection of news items is skewed in the liberal direction but that bias was always stridently denied.

    But I also notice that Rorate and Fr Tim Finnigan’s blogs no longer accomodate comments.

  32. ocleirbj says:

    @Johnno, Jesus did a good amount of ‘name-calling’ too. But you know they deserved it!

    Well, that’s true. But I always thought of this as something Jesus could do because of Who He is, but that I should steer clear of myself, in the same way that some blessings can only be said by priests, not laity [as on another recent thread]. Cf St Paul, “‘All things are lawful for me’, but not all things are beneficial”, and also cf. Jesus’ admonitions against insulting other people, Matt. 5:22. We need to find a balance, I think.

  33. michelekc says:

    Would Pisciobvolventium coetibus establish the framework for bringing Fishwrap schismatics back into communion with the Catholic Church? If so, would they get to keep certain aspects of their liturgy and traditions such as the guitar and the felt banner?

  34. JoseTomas says:

    This is very good news. Allen may “catholicize” The Boston Globe a little, at the same time as taking away any reason for a Catholic to read NCR.

    I wonder, how large has been the percentage of visitors to their site who went there to read Allen primarily, and ended up contributing to their page-views out of serendipity? I may be counted one of them! I’d bet it is > 90% of Catholics who accept the Magisterium! And how much this group represents in their overall readership? Difficult to say, but I would not be surprised if it amounted to more than 50%…

    I have thought in the past that, if I had access to Allen, I would direct a fraternal correction to him, on the grounds that, by being their main reader magnet, he was “aiding and abetting” their schismatic discourse. I always though, “John is such a fine journalist, is it possible that he cannot work anywhere else?” But his reasoning, probably (and going to Boston Globe reinforces this perception), is that his balanced reporting and analysis contributed to counterbalance their collective schismatic behaviour. Something like “Well, people DO come here to read, so if they read me, they will get a different perspective”. Working there for ages also counted, obviously.

    In the beginning, Allen was just another typical liberal writing there. Ge changed A LOT after moving to Rome and starting to understand what the Church is all about. I remember his book about Ratzinger, in which he basically reinforced the “pitbull” myth about him. As he (Allen) is a gentleman, he did not attack him (Ratzinger) viciously, but the general tone was very negative. Today, Allen is the only guy there who consistently defends Benedict and his legacy.

    So, if he is going away, does that point to the suspicion that he understood his tenure there was past the hour?

    Considering that another sizeable chunk of their page-view-count consists of people who go there to socialize in the combox and pat one another in the back about how wonderful and compassionate their comments were, in contrast to the white-old-male-celibate-gerontocracy who controls the Church, closing the combox will remove 90% of their fun. Methinks the NCR is doomed…

  35. Neihan says:

    The offending comments were pretty juvenile. Dozens of the comments were from one person who was responding to people with scatological one liners. Certainly no worse than the vitriol that gets endlessly vomited out against priests, bishops, and us “orthotoxics,” but even so the comments merited deletion at the very least.

Comments are closed.