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Community-based Facebook is much more 'Catholic' than the polemic and rant-filled 'Protestant' Twitter, says prominent priest

By Rebecca Black

Published 21/05/2015

Father Xander Lucie-Smith
Father Xander Lucie-Smith

A prominent Catholic priest and theologian has sparked a heated debate by claiming Facebook is more Catholic and Twitter more Protestant.

Father Xander Lucie-Smith said Twitter reminds him of "the very worst of Protestantism", and referred to one of the architects of the reformation, Martin Luther "hurling insults" at the Pope in the 15th century.

Facebook, on the other hand, he said, was "a congregation, a community".

Fr Lucie-Smith explained his thinking: "The noisiest people on Twitter hark back to the very worst of what Protestantism has to offer: protest, not reason; polemic, not dialogue; slogans rather than a theology that appeals to the careful balance between faith and reason should reign in every human heart".

The comments came in a piece written by Fr Lucie-Smith for the English magazine the Catholic Herald.

Commentator, atheist and Twitter user Alex Kane dismissed the comments as "silly", saying that the social media site was simply a bit of fun.

Mr Kane said if anything, most Protestant preachers would find it extremely difficult to be restricted to 140 characters as per Twitter rules.

"The whole thing about Protestants is that they like the very long sermons, they like to preach and go on rants, so you would think Twitter is not the best medium for that," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Indeed, a blog would suit them better, because most Protestant clerics will never say in 140 characters what can be said in 5,000 words - with footnotes."

Mr Kane said Twitter was his only concession to social media, and admitted he was addicted.

"I use it (Twitter) for little points of view or terrible jokes," he said.

"I don't get the preaching thing, because unless you are absolutely brilliant there is very little you can say in 140 characters. That's why I think these comments are silly and that is why I love Twitter. I have never tried to do a breakdown of my followers, but I think I am followed by atheists, agnostics, republicans, unionists, Catholics, Protestants."

The Rev Steve Stockman from Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in south Belfast said he didn't understand the point the priest was trying to make, and pointed out that the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, was one of the most popular figures on Twitter with six million followers.

"The more I looked at the comments the more I thought he doesn't know much about Protestantism, and he may be a little awry on where Catholicism is now," he said.

"The nuances of both are ignored, it is a pretty caricatured view of both, and out of time." However, blogger Alan Meban, a user of both Facebook and Twitter, said while he didn't think Fr Lucie-Smith's comments "quite hit the nail on the head", his hammer "isn't too far off the truth".

"Very few people shout on Facebook - but Twitter is built for a quick 140-word gulder about the topic of the moment," he said.

"It's shouty and preachy. It allows you to wade into any discussion with your opinion, even ones that no one expected you to show up to.

"And as a Presbyterian, I have to say that, sadly, sometimes that must be how Protestants behave and communicate, and how we're perceived.

"The truth is that every different medium has its strengths and weaknesses."

He added: "If Jesus was on the Earth today, maybe modern day parables would have been told via pictures on Instagram, rather than Twitter or Facebook."

Fr Lucie-Smith is a consulting editor for the Catholic Herald and a blogger.

His views echo the Italian writer Umberto Eco's famous remark that computer manufacturer Apple is Catholic and the PC is more Protestant. The full article will be in this week's Catholic Herald magazine, out tomorrow.

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