Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wake For The NCRcafe

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.


  1. I agree Colleen, it is really a loss. I have links to Dr. Clarissa on my music page and I guess I will have to check to see if it will even work now. I wonder if there is another link to her articles that I have mentioned.

    I cried today when I saw all the comments again and my own and I apologize to Bill for not mentioning him. It wasn't deliberate by any means. I think I was just very much still in disbelief that they were just shutting it down the way they did. I am very sorry they decided to end the cafe, but so be it. I hope all those you mention in this blog today will come here too Colleen.

    PS, I just sent you an email.

  2. I agree. I did not often contribute but learned a lot from the cafe, perhaps most important that I am not alone in the journey, and found common ground with many even when we sometimes disagreed. I hope some find their way here as I miss them.

  3. To acoolmom007 - Stick around. It should get very interesting here I am sure. I don't comment all the time. Sometimes I need to contemplate only and listen. Once in a while I leave a good comment.

    word verification is rocklria. Sounds like a piece of music to me. Make rocklria instead of hysteria. LOL!

  4. Butterfly Dr. Estes's columns can be linked from the main NCR page. Her latest on her grandmother's need to give ashes on Ash Wednesday is just great.

    acm007, finding I wasn't alone was also the most important thing I learned. Even when I was part of a parish I never ever said anything which remotely tipped my true thinking. There was just this sense that we all agreed to be some homogenous mass of polite surface people. And because of that I never really felt "I" belonged. This shallow surface presentation belonged, but not "I".

    That was the greatest thing for me about the cafe. None of those conforming cues operated, and I could be far more the real me, and in dialogue discover more of the real me.

    In my book the cafe was a successful experiment.

  5. Colleen, thank you for your kindness in mentioning me. I will try to live up to your praise.

    Butterfly, I hadn't seen your comments, so I didn't feel overlooked at all. As I saw the NCR cafe heading towards closing, I tended to stop visiting it--just too painful.

    I appreciate both of you. As my blog posting today notes, this has been a down time for me, and you lift my spirits.

  6. Well, I feel stupid that I didn't start copying what names and websites etc. that I could before the cafe was closed AND boarded (well, since it disappeared as I clicked a link, I guess it was DEMOLISHED) in front of my face. I panicked at first, a bit unexpectedly, not to know how to find anyone again. And started writing down what I could remember to see if I could find my way into the blog world.

    Thank you for setting all this up, Col. It is amazing to see how much work you have/are doing on here. I was going to take Lent to think over my future web spirituality, but, once I read the wake, I had to re-connect already. Thank you for such a beautiful piece of writing in our honor. You have done us all a great good, since our ending was rather awfully done; if we would have even been honored with information we asked for I would feel better about it. But I am delighted to become part of a "classic example" of anything good!

    I was shocked not only by the demolition of the cafe, but also at the realization that I would not know wherever you all were ever at. Loss of community as well as talk. I feel better already, and appreciate that you are linking to other's sites as well.

    Good Lent to you all. I am delighted to be able to find some of you again, and, hopefully a few more will drop by. Thank you all for posting, and you, Col, for having a place to run to...

  7. AnnieO, glad you found the blog. I too was shut out in mid link and it sucked. All I could think of was the loss of all those threads. Some of them held a special spot in my heart.

    I still need to update more links from the old timers, but I am getting around to it. I hope eventually more and more drop by even if it's just to let us know they are still around.

    I still wonder at the abruptness of the closure of the cafe. Maybe the real excuse wasn't one the NCR wanted to let us in on. The new format is nice, but the commenting will never be as in depth and personal as the old cafe. Just too many people from both sides who aren't interested in finding common ground. Not even finding the courtesy to agree to disagree.

  8. Well, Col (Colleen!), I have wondered for a long time if we were just pushing the envelope a bit much. Like I mentioned at some point, I really do think that that diocese was hit up with a conservative-style bishop as the only way to pay back NCR. It was right at the time of America magazine and Fr. Reese's departure, which the Vatican could force and wanted to...but what to do with NCR. I'd love to know more also, and I do wonder if the way it was handled was to make sure that the commenting was as circumscribed as possible, with a little window for good-byes but little else. But I guess that is what we will not know.

    I wondered if you were in the cafe also at the moment of DEMOLITION as I was when you knew the time of its destruction. It was god-awful. I suddenly realized--stupidly--all the things that I could have done, should have done, to take down info and copy threads for later. Felt like the worst idiot.

    Anyhow, thank you again for having this here to run to. I do plan to settle into some of the blogs to at least learn more about the people I've been writing with these years.

  9. P.S. to last post. It took me awhile to learn how to even get on here to comment. In doing so, I lost my first comment and had to re-write it all. I just realized that I didn't say HI to the other posters on here that I know: butterfly, acoolmom007, Bill. I don't know if you'll check back here, but if you do, I'm so glad to see all of you on here. It was like sitting down to a plate of my favorite 'comfort food' suddenly. Not bad for someone in a panic! Bill, I have found your blog. Butterfly, didn't even know you were a musician with all my jumping around on the cafe. Acoolmom007, occasionally dropping in from England, Hi to all of you. Hope to keep running into you all.

  10. AnniO, here's how things kind of work around here. I have moderation for comments on all threads which have dropped off the main page. This lets me know when comments have been left on threads I wrote awile ago. It's not to stop conversation. Any of the threads of the homepage, usually about seven days worth have instant commenting.

    We have this deal where if the security word seems to make some sense, we'll give it at the end of a comment. Some of them can be mind blowing given the article the comment was on.

    Anyway it's good to see you here. I think we had a real community going on the cafe and I would like to keep it up as much as I can.

  11. Col, thanks for the info. As you probably remember, I'm not a very consistent poster, but I'm adjusting to the differences now with the other-than-the-cafe blog world, and at least will be dropping in to read you. I hope that NCR eventually sees the way to honor the cafe as you did on here. But I will be checking back in to keep up with where you are in life. This is an amazing adventure you are on here--hats off!

    P.S. I'm not sure that I understand about the security word--since I didn't see from others that anyone had done this--but I couldn't quite help but mention what came up this time. Too funny: "Blessed". Your site?

  12. Hi AnnieO - I am so glad to see you on here and I hope you see this little message to you.

    The way the Cafe was ended was really awful and maybe they felt they had to destroy the evidence of real dialogue going on? I don't know. It really makes me wonder though.

    There is a link here to my music that Colleen has nicely put on here for my music on the front page. I am going to attempt to try to get on other music sites as the game in Stereofame is getting to be a real drag. However, the more points I have I am able to bid for prizes. I have learned much about the music industry and have met many new friends there that are artist/musicians and composers, singer/songwriters.

    I hope you will enjoy this blog here as much as I have. I think I was one of Colleen's first buddies on here to follow her blog. She has so much insight and I am blown away by it sometimes and mostly if not all the time I find we are on the same page spiritually and politically.

    Welcome to the community!!!

  13. AnnieO, that is too funny, that your security word was 'blessed'. I sure hope it's true about this blog.

    My best one ever was a comment on an article I wrote about Benedict. It was ensure. I couldn't help but wonder if that was a comment on his daily meal. It could have been worse though, it could have been Depends.