An update on our Web site comment system

Visiting these pages over the past couple of years you may have noticed something unique about NCR: We let virtually anyone comment on our online stories. We don't require registration to post a comment on our Web pages and, as best we can, we only moderate out comments that present personal attacks or are simply inappropriate for a public forum.

We do this to encourage conversation, to provide a tiny (but growing every day) corner of the web where people can come to engage one another in thoughtful discourse about issues facing the church and society as a whole.

By and large this experiment works. We receive many comments that are obviously well reasoned. We also receive many that reflect deep personal feelings and convictions which add substantively to the conversation.

But sometimes the experiment doesn't work. The comments can get out of hand. A personal attack might slip through or a particularly incisive comment might incense other commenters.

We know the system isn't perfect. And for the past few weeks we've been discussing how we can improve it. We don't have any answers yet, but in the next few weeks you can expect some updates from us about what we'll be doing to encourage the continued burgeoning of conversation on these pages. There's going to be a little bit of push and pull until we find the right balance. That's healthy.

This weekend Bill Tammeus' column on finding hope for Islam in the U.S. highlighted some of the best qualities of our comments. Some of our readers tackled rather delicate issues with tact and nuance.

Take two comments for example.

From a commenter named 'John David':

My prayers, as always, will be with all those who have died and those who have suffered from the terrorists attack on 9/11. My prayers will also be that there are NO MORE victims from this terrible event. And that includes the safety of all Americans, at home and abroad as well as all loving, peace-building Muslims, be them Americans or not. I hope that more will join me in my prayer because, as it is, this issue is one that is sure to create many, many more innocent victims. And creating more innocent victims is no way to honor those who have died.

We need to be very concerned. May Christ's peace be with all who are trying to understand this issue.

From another commenter named 'Rosemarie Pace':

Within the same vicinity of Park51, an area some call sacred ground, are numerous stores like Century 21 and vendors who have exploited 9/11/01 with unauthorized souvenirs since the attack first happened. The very footprints of the World Trade towers are to be replaced with new profiteering corporate offices. There are multiple sex clubs within blocks. How any of these respect sacred ground is beyond my imagination, but I do not hear anyone demanding they be removed. What I experienced at Park 51, however, does respect sacred ground. As a matter of fact, it consecrates desecrated ground. To suggest that the Muslim community move Park51 because its current location is sacred ground is to imply that all Muslims were responsible for what happened on 9/11/01, rather than acknowledging that many were and continue to be its victims. Would we like all Catholics to be blamed for the holocaust because Hitler was a Catholic or to be blamed for the bombing in Oklahoma City because Timothy McVeigh was an altar boy?

I encourage all who have doubts to read Islam: What Catholics Need to Know by Fr. Elias Mallon, S.A.; to participate in interfaith events in their communities; and to pray that we who were once the victims of anti-Catholic bias not become perpetrators, that we remember the Good Samaritan of Jesus’ time could be the Good Muslim of today.

This is the kind of genuine, thoughtful conversation which makes our Web pages so noteworthy. We'll do all we can to encourage that wonderful exchange of ideas.

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