Responding to my recent post on Patrick Madrid's turtling of his apologetics forum (head and legs well in shell), one Roman Catholic seems to have missed the point.
Nick writes: "I agree with you, if censorship (via difficult registration) is what is going on, then that's wrong and Catholics should not be engaging in that."
No, that's not what I said. There were (presumably still are) censorship issues at that forum. For example, people were not permitted to link to Dr. White or my blogs, and the administrators routinely edited folks' posts (on both sides of the Tiber). That's not the issue. The issue is that Patrick Madrid is trying to hide his apologetics (at that forum) from the public eye: put his flickering candle under a bushel basket, as it were.
Nick continued: "That said, I don't like such censorship on any apologetics blogs, and only after grave violations should someone be banned."
I don't think I'll ever "get" why folks think that other people's blogs are supposed to be a "free speech zone" for them. While I do permit most folks and most comments here, there's no particular reason I need to permit any comments at all. It's my blog. If you want to respond and you want your comments to be seen by all (as opposed to just being seen by the person whose blog it is), get your own blog - they're free and easy to set up. I'll even help you set yours up, if you cannot figure out how to do it.
Nick continued: "I think that to be fair with your critique and not be searching for someone with a speck in their eye, you should not moderate comments on your own blog. I've spent time and energy writing responses to some of your posts, only to find they never see daylight. That's unfair to me and I believe goes directly against the spirit of apologetics."
If you read the link that I've directed all commenters to on the comment submission page, you would be well aware that your comments may end up in a black hole for a variety of reasons. Other times, comments are simply sitting in moderation awaiting my finding time to respond to them. In early January, there were about 150 such comments - and that number has slightly climbed through the first half of the year, even while many comments have been approved and responded to.
There is a mechanism that permits you to comment on the blog post without my getting involved in moderation. That is by commenting on your own blog and providing a link. The blogging software should (and normally does) automatically create a link that directs the readers to your "comments elsewhere" at the appropriate section.
Believe me, I can appreciate that Patrick Madrid does not want to let people speak their mind on his forum - although one might find the name "Speak Your Mind" as the forum title a bit duplicitous. But, of course, aside from the irony of the name of his forum, I wasn't criticizing him for censoring other people, but for hiding his apologetics.
Besides that, of course, I do host a blog specifically for providing a forum for opposing viewpoints to interact with me (link to debate blog). It's unnecessary for me to do so, but it does prevent folks from suggesting that I'm trying to hide my positions from criticism.
Nick continued: "To me, censorship on blogs or forums (and I know of a few Reformed apologetics forms who restrict membership) is a bad sign as far as openness to opposing views go."
Plenty of fora restrict membership. That's quite understandable. Surely no one expects that my local parish of Roman Catholicism will permit me to get up and share my views after the priest gives his homily. I don't have the least problem with blogs (and other sites) that don't advertise themselves as being a free speech forum. What I do find silly is apologetics that tries to hide itself from its critics.
What we do (in Reformed apologetics) is open for the world to see. We don't try to hide our arguments from the outside world. We're not afraid of seeing our arguments addressed in the popular media of the opposing side.
Again, don't get me wrong. There are fora that can and should be private. I'm not expecting that the next college of cardinals that elects Benedict XVI's successor needs to let me in to review its on-going discussions, nor that Internet fora cannot be entirely private or contain private sections. Not at all. I'm simply suggesting that secret apologetics (i.e. trying to keep the arguments secret) suggests weakness of argument and an attempt to hide from criticism.
Update: Nick's not alone in confusing the issue. A guy who uses the nick Syzygus makes similar comments on his own blog (link). Interestingly, while Syzygus mistakenly claims I require folks to register to post comments (I do not, though perhaps I should), he also (more accurately) complains that I am pseudonymous and do not post my credentials, while he himself doesn't post his name or his credentials in any particularly visible place on his blog (perhaps one could find them if one dug more deeply there). What Mr. Burgess misses is that I don't hide the arguments I use. They are out there in the open for all to see.