An auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles decried the social media response to the Covington Catholic High School students Tuesday as “quite literally Satanic.
Bishop Robert Barron, dubbed “the bishop of Catholic social media,” denounced social media users who slandered and at times urged violence against the Covington students filmed in a confrontation with Nathan Phillips, a Native American and U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Barron said the initial response toward the students, sparked by short excerpts of hours of video, was “morally outrageous,” especially given their efforts to harm the students’ lives.
Barron clarified that he didn’t intend to attack or defend the boys, but to decry “the morally outrageous and deeply troubling nature of the response to this occurrence, one that I would characterize as, quite literally, Satanic.”
The bishop noted that the response went beyond cruel words into actions that could severely harm boys’ lives and their families.
“As I continued to survey the reactions, I began to come across dozens urging retribution against the boy, and then dozens more that provided the addresses and email contacts of his parents, his school, and his diocese,” Barron wrote.
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, do they realize what they’re doing? They’re effectively destroying, even threatening, this kid’s life,’” he added, referring to Nick Sandmann, identified as the boy who wore the Make America Great Again hat and who smiled at Phillips.
“I am proud to say that I am a priest and a theologian because of the good Dominicans who formed me when I was a young man. The Dominican dedication to truthfulness, lively preaching, and fellowship have inspired me throughout my life.” — Bishop Robert Barron pic.twitter.com/jxYqZypO7P
— Dominican Friars Foundation (@dominicanfriars) October 29, 2018
Barron argued that the way social media users lashed out at the Covington boys was a prime example of what Franco-American philosopher René Girard called the scapegoating mechanism, in that the online community used the boys as a scapegoat for the rising tensions in the political and religious landscape of the U.S.
“When tensions arise in a group (as they inevitably do), people commence to cast about for a scapegoat, for someone or some group to blame. Deeply attractive, even addictive, the scapegoating move rapidly attracts a crowd, which in short order becomes a mob. In their common hatred of the victim, the blamers feel an ersatz sense of togetherness.
Filled with the excitement born of self-righteousness, the mob then endeavors to isolate and finally eliminate the scapegoat, convinced that this will restore order to their roiled society,” Barron wrote.
That urge to victimize and eliminate the chosen scapegoat is Satanic in nature, as one of Satan’s names in the New Testament is “ho Satanas,” or the accuser.
“When looking for evidence of the Satanic in our culture, don’t waste your time on special effects made popular by all of the exorcism movies,” Barron wrote. “Look no further than your computer and the twisted ‘communities’ that it makes possible and the victims that it regularly casts out.”
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