Twitter, the Pope, and his trolls

By Richard Nieva , written on February 11, 2013

From The News Desk

Why did Pope Benedict XVI resign? In a statement delivered in front of a meeting of cardinals, he cited his ailing health as something that would deter him from carrying out his papal mission. His rationale is being widely debated, but many in the media are taking his explanation as genuine.

Here's another theory. Maybe, like the rest of us, he just got tired of the Twitter trolls. Seems reasonable, right?

The Pope Tweets this:

And, in return, gets this:

And so on:

There's some terrible stuff out there from people responding to the Pope's Tweets -- things that we will not repeat here. We've only chosen to include a few that stay on this side of the line of decency. (That line is probably not far past horse porn.)

Still, while many chose to use direct communication with the Pope -- or at least his office at the Vatican -- as a joke, some have used it as a forum of genuine religious discourse. Some Tweets seek to discuss the scandals in pedophilia that have haunted the church, or its stance on gay marriage, or the Pope's 2006 comments that offended Muslims. We're not reprinting those Tweets here either because we were hard-pressed to find any that didn't also get personally derisive against those arguing the issues. We're going to need to learn how to be more civil in open comment forums, but that doesn't mean the ideas behind those comments are invalid.

So what role should social networking play in challenging supposed "papal infallibility"? Even if they are rough around the edges -- to put it mildly -- these conversations are still helpful. Whether or not they are most effective in the form of 140-character bite-sized rebuttals is another story. But Tweeting with the pope gets people talking, and, if done responsibly, it can be a place to air legitimate grievances. And it does pull back the curtain to one of the oldest authoritative positions in the history of the world. Here's hoping the next pope, whoever it may be, continues the Catholic Church's Twitter experiment.