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':
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':
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.