In the summer of 2006 the National Catholic Reporter started an Internet initiative called the NCRcafe. I had my doubts as to whether it would be successful because my experience had led me to believe that most discussion boards degenerated into screaming and SHOUTING matches in which conservatives derailed commenting to their own agendas, which in turn led progressives to do likewise. Dialogue never seemed to really work. (This phenomenon can be seen right now on the main NCR website where the same voices repeatedly hi jack commentary, from the left as well as the right. I can understand they have axes to grind, but c'mon, need those axes be ground on every article?)
to my surprise though, the NCRcafe did in fact become a place where dialogue and conversation actually happened. People were able to develop meaningful relationships with each other, points of view were broadened and even changed. I found myself a part of a core group of Catholics who were asking questions and receiving, maybe not answers, but good places to find answers.
From my perspective, at that time (2006), the NCRcafe was one of the few places in which progressives were not shouted down and out. In fact, it usually happened the other way. Conservatives got frustrated by the persistence of progressives insisting on dialoguing with them on their comments.
For instance, I would sit back in utter amazement reading Bill Lyndsey's responses to commentators on his threads, wondering how in the world he could stay compassionate and civil when my knee jerk response was neither. Bill taught me a lot about meeting people where they are at, and not where I want them to be. As a commentator and blogger this was an invaluable lesson. I realized I had to take the attitude I used in therapy sessions and put it to work in my writing. To do otherwise violated the whole concept of the cafe.
I could list so many people who meant so much to me. There was Frannie Schaefer whose pithy comments so frequently made my jaw drop. I've never read anyone who could put that much insight into a few short words and make you laugh in the process.
There was Sylvester Steffen whose writing I sometimes didn't get, but I certainly got his vision about the inner connectedness of man, nature, and God, and how critical it is for us to recapture and act on that knowledge. It dovetailed perfectly with everything my Native mentors had been teaching me, even at times, using the exact same language. This was a synchronicity I couldn't ignore.
There was AnnieO and her long and gentle conversations with B7M8 which gave me great insight into a different perspective on traditional Catholicism. In my mind this was the classic example of two people with different world views reaching for common ground.
There was the Rev Dr McCoy whose Episcopalian perspective gave me the impetus to follow all things Anglican, and allowed me to see that their road could very well become Catholicism's road. There was Joer, who very cleverly skated around the source for some of his insights, but whose steadfast defense of women never wavered and I for one appreciated it.
Which leads me to Dennis, whose vision of church was mine and far better articulated. I can remember one time I was responding to someone--this is before the insufferable moderation began--quite inappropriately. Right away I caught his response indicating I might want to back off a little. Coming from Dennis I figured I better take his advice seriously. Comment was deleted. (Personal message to my ex hockey playing Canadian friend Dennis--REDWINGS RULE! and Datsyuk is better than Crosby.)
There was HT and Thomas who I really do think were trying to figure out where progressives were coming from and most often utterly failing in the endeavor. I don't know that they ever understood we were mostly coming from a place that started where they currently were, and in the end that proved insurmountable. Progress is not a workable notion when you think the church has all the definitive answers. They saw regression where I saw maturation. In the end I couldn't deny they truly did care about the state of our souls. Probably too much.
Enough of memory lane except to say that I really appreciate the cafe members who have become main contributors to this blog and so this is not a wake for you guys. So you don't get mentioned.
I hope though, that other cafe members drop in here. Blogspot doesn't give a great deal of flexibility in a lot of things, but it's better than nothing. Commentary is never moderated, except for obvious spam and the very rare verbally challenged observation. Should anyone feel like starting their own thread, I can accommodate that through email. My address can be found in my profile.
In fact, I would encourage anyone who wants to submit something to do so. That's another thing I will miss most about the cafe is the threads started by individuals. Who knows, if there's enough interest, I might entertain the thought of hosting a website.
In the meantime, I will update the links on the right side of this blog to include the blog sites of other members of the old cafe, because as of one hour ago, the NCRcafe officially closed, and with it, access to all the threads. What an incredible loss.