By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Here’s the lead from a European news article about Pope Benedict’s latest attempt to broaden the reach of his message: “[His] debut on Twitter got off to a bumpy start on Wednesday, with mockery outweighing piety in reaction to the first tweets from the leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics.”

Nice, huh?

Listen to Jon’s commentary

In response to his tweet: “”How can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?” one wit wrote: “With some nice cold chocolate milk.” When the Pope tweeted: “How can faith in Jesus be lived in a world without hope?” another genius wrote:”You are a huge bummer, dude.” And so on.

What a laugh riot the internet generates!

Many other responses were more caustic, responding to the Pope’s messages with sarcastic references to the familiar litany of church failings and excesses. Most of the ones I’ve seen cannot be repeated here, but you can easily go online and read them for yourself, if you’re looking for a nasty dose of acid reflux.

Listen, no one knows the church’s flaws more intimately than we do here in Massachusetts, with the second highest percentage of Catholics of any state. The sex-abuse scandal did real damage here, as I found when I did an interview recently with Archbishop Sean Cardinal O’Malley and got an earful of feedback about it from lapsed Catholics who remain alienated from their church.

But I don’t think anyone argues that Cardinal Sean isn’t trying to clean up the mess he inherited. And part of that effort involves reaching out to the alienated, which the cardinal has done in many ways, including becoming the first US archbishop to blog regularly.

Now, the Pope is following suit, turning to the internet to try to meet the glaring need for spiritual guidance that festers in our culture, and which still drives many to look to the church for help, bad press notwithstanding.

I’m not Catholic, and I don’t presume to lecture to anyone about faith. But it doesn’t seem right to ridicule the Pope for trying to do his job better.

Even if he has to turn to a medium that seems to attract more haters than thinkers.


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