Comment Guidelines

The writers and readers of this blog form a particular kind of community, one that is dedicated to learning from intellectual exchange with others.  Certain kinds of comments (irrespective of viewpoint) frustrate that central aim.  Therefore, as the editor of all the content that appears here, I ask you to read and abide by the following guidelines:

1.  Please keep yourself acutely aware that you are responsible for what you write here in every possible sense.  You are responsible for preserving honesty, accuracy, mutual respect, and intellectual rigor.  You are responsible for confronting opposing views without taking offense, just as you are responsible for not giving offense unnecessarily.  You are responsible for accepting well-meaning criticism with grace.  And you are most definitely responsible for anything that gets me sued.

2.  Please use a real first and last name and your e-mail address (or better yet, log in with a free WordPress ID) when you comment.  There may be occasions on which a conversation can be improved by an anonymous or pseudonymous contribution; in particular, the temporary and tactical use of a pseudonym may be useful where satire is involved, or where the speaker wishes to advance an argument that would probably be received differently (or not received at all) if the speaker’s identity were known.  However, anonymity and pseudonymity must not be abused to evade responsibility for incivility, falsehood, or personal attack.  Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will not automatically be removed, but editorial standards will definitely be applied more strictly to such comments.

3.  Please refrain from any personal attacks, whether on other participants in the conversation here, or on others mentioned in the course of the discussion.  Personal attacks will almost always be removed, or at the very least “disemvoweled.”  Threats of any kind will not be tolerated.  Violations of this guideline are extremely likely to result in banishment.

4.  Please try to exercise “hermeneutical generosity” whenever possible.  That is, in any exchange, please try to understand the contributions of other participants in the way most favorable to them, and pause to notice points of agreement instead of focusing exclusively on what divides us.  If someone else’s comment convinces you that your position is untenable, say so.

5.  Please cultivate enough humility that you remain educable, but not so much that you refrain from expressing your opinion.  The spirit we’re looking for is captured well by the following quotation, sent to me by a very wise and erudite friend:

Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance.  Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth.  Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us.  For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there be no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed.

St. Augustine,”Contra epistulam Manichaei” 3.

6.  Please don’t underestimate the diversity of the readership of this blog.  The most frequent contributors tend to be male, Catholic, and Georgetown-educated, but even the small subset of readers whom I know personally include men and women from all walks of life.  The age range is perhaps 12-89.  There are immigrants as well as natural-born citizens.  There are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and independents.  There are Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and atheists.  There are gay and straight couples, ex-couples, and singles.  There are some who have children, some who wish they could have had children, and some who have buried children.  There are some who have been tested by trials from which most of us have been spared.  They are my friends.  Please don’t offend them.

7.  Please don’t drop any F bombs, or use any language that could be thought more offensive than that.  I used to work at the FCC, but you can’t count on me to excuse “fleeting expletives.” Generally speaking, I will try to redact comments that violate this guideline rather than deleting them entirely.

8.  Please mind the spam filters, which typically intercept comments with more than two hyperlinks unless the author of the comment is signed in with a WordPress ID.  If you’re using a lot of hyperlinks because they’re essential to your point, and you don’t want to get a WordPress ID, go ahead and submit your comment and then e-mail me at [mark at reasonableminds dot org] to tell me you have a comment that’s probably stuck in the spam filter.  On the other hand, if you’re using a lot of hyperlinks because you’re a spammer, please leave us alone.

Happily, this has required very little in the way of editorial intervention so far.  Let’s keep it that way.

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