Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

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Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

Post by Saint Kurt » Thu Apr 06, 2006 2:16 pm

I could have stuck this in the religion thread, but now that we have this great Danger Room, I thought I'd give it its own topic since it's more than a religion question, it's a question about the power of the media and perception.

First, an introduction and a short History Lesson
I like podcasting. To me it is one of the more exciting new developments in internet technologies. It brings an immediacy and closeness that blogs lack and is one of the first good community building uses (in my opinion) of the recent increased bandwidth we now enjoy with cable internet etc.

Podcasting went from unheard of to being Webster's Dictionary's "Word of the Year" in a year. So when I started listening to them, there were only a few and now, there are many. Former Mtv VJ Adam Curry has been called the "Podfather" for his early work in promoting podcasting and anyone who's interested in podcasting knows who he is.

Another "leading character" in the world of podcasting is, of all things, a Catholic Priest from the Netherlands. It seems pretty random and it kind of is. Father Roderick Vonhögen was a dynamic young priest who liked technology so the Vatican sent him to radio communications school before assigning him to the Diocese of Utrecht in Holland. Besides serving as a parish priest for his diocese he was charged with the role of exploring the web and new media for the church.

He got his start with podcasting during a trip to Rome where he made a "sound seeing" tour of the city and in the Vatican. He also reported on the deteriorating health of the pope who was hospitalized at the time. He posted these to the internet under the title "The Catholic Insider". Over the next few months he continued to podcast his sound seeing tours of different sites around Europe, but it was the fact that he was again in Rome when the Pope died that really put The Catholic Insider on the map as a podcast worth subscribing to. It's his amazing first hand reports of the atmosphere in Rome during John Paul II's last days and hours even - as Fr. Roderick was posting them moments after he recorded them – that cemented him as an important voice in both podcasting and for Catholicism.


Okay, Enough with the History
So, fast forward a year later (because this could get dull otherwise). Fr. Roderick's weekly to bi-weekly Catholic Insider show has become a show called "The Daily Breakfast" - a variety show with about 80% secular content. The Catholic Insider website is now The Star Quest Podcast Network with several podcasts under its umbrella, all with Catholic content. Fr. Roderick has thousands of listeners and fans. In fact if you go to Podcast Alley you will see that the Daily Breakfast is the #2 top subscribed podcast and then under the "religious inspirational" genre, SQPN podcasts occupy the entire top 10. (A closer look at that genre will show you that Catholics seem to really to hear themselves talk on the internet. In the top 40 only 5 of them are not about Catholicism. This is in part due to Fr. Roderick and in part due to the late Pope JPII who challenged Catholics to "evangelize new media" right when podcasting technology became available.)

On March 30th Father Roderick posted his 99th episode of the Daily Breakfast that ended with a plea for help. His Bishop was concerned that he was spending too much time on his podcasting activities and not enough time on his work for the diocese. In addition, his Bishop wanted him to concentrate on his work in the Netherlands and speaking in Dutch rather than producing podcasts in English. So it was looking like podcast #99 might be Fr. Roderick's last. He asked for testimonials from his listeners - emails that he could take to a meeting with the Bishop that he was going to have on Saturday, April 1.

His plea was heartfelt and very believable. Hundreds of messages poured in from listeners all over the globe. Some listeners found the website for the Diocese of Utrecht and wrote directly to the Bishop and the press secretary. Various news medias were alerted by concerned and angry listeners hoping to use this as leverage to stop Father Roderick's Bishop from ending his podcasts. Various Vatican officials including Pope Benedict received numerous requests for assistance. Catholic podcasters everywhere (and there are a lot of them) produced special emergency shows asking listeners to do anything they could to help save Father Roderick's podcast.

None of his listeners looked at the date and because of the newness of podcasting, many of the Daily Breakfast's listeners had subscribed AFTER April 1st of last year when Fr. Roderick played an elaborate April Fools prank regarding product placement in his shows. (He claimed different companies had paid him to name their products in his podcast and he asked listeners to keep track of them and write in with a list to help him study the effectiveness of this advertising scheme. They did. He received about 20 or 30 lists of products from listeners along with their opinions of his new "Godcast" show.)

This year though, Fr. Roderick's prank which was meant to be funny and generate a few emails, produced almost 600 testimonials, involved the Vatican hierarchy from his Bishop to the Pope (Fr. Roderick had to quickly contact all of them and explain that his joke got out of hand). He also needed to respond to the many reporters calling his home and urgently requested his listeners cease calling or emailing anyone outside of him about this situation.

On April 1st Father Roderick could do nothing other than expose his prank and thank all the people who had written in. He was shocked by the size of the response and the incredibly personal emails he recieved from people. Because of the effort people had put in - he suggested he might make some kind of project of it. He thought that maybe taking names etc. out of the letters to make them anonymous and them posting them for all to see would be an amazing testimony of the power of podcasting.

This is where things got ugly.

The problem was, too many people looked and felt like idiots. Many people did things on Fr. Roderick's behalf that they wouldn't normally do apparently. Those who had never bothered to praise him did so, the ones that hadn't ever prayed for him took time out to remember him in their thoughts, many people commented in may different forums and not all of these were positive. A large contingent, though they admitted to listening to the Daily Breakfast strongly supported Fr. Roderick's Bishop, saying it was about time someone put an end to the spiritually unsound activities this priest who was spending too much time involved in base secular media.

With the joke exposed however, all these people felt either stupid and/or taken advantage of (because the took the time to write and/or pray) or they'd spoken out against a show that wasn't actually ending. The "wow I can't believe how seriously you fell for it" tone of Father Roderick's 100th podcast didn't help things. He was clearly grateful for the unexpected outpouring of support, but you could see he wasn't quite sure what to do with what he'd done.

Once again, letters and blog comments poured in, but instead of in support, they were angry. The level of anger people felt was quite shocking to me and it got me thinking of the power of this medium and of the additional complexity created by the fact that the shows host is a Catholic Priest.

Here is a sampling of the basic responses:
[quote]
- Feelings of total and utter betrayal. They have unsubscribed from Fr. Roderick's podcast and want nothing more to do with him. He has proven himself to be untrustworthy.

- The opinion that the Catholic church is doomed due to the actions of dishonest and sneaky priests like Father Roderick.

- Similar to the above are reports that one's non-Catholic friends who were considering converting have now committed themselves to atheism all because of the actions of Fr. Roderick on April Fools.

- Strings of expletives that are so rude that I can't imagine calling anyone these things at anyone, especially a priest.

- General anger that Fr. Roderick abused the relationship he has with his listeners, fooling them just to get them to write nice things about him.

- Laughter. That was a great prank. Father Roderick totally had me going!

- Shock leading to forgiveness. The prank was over the top, but hey forgiving one's sins is part of being Catholic and we forgive you Father.
[/quote]

Since the majority were towards the top of the scale (anger and expletives) Father Roderick released a second post episode #99 podcast that was simply an apology to all those who's feelings were hurt by his joke, explaining that that was not his intention at all.

It backfired of course.

Those who had been fooled the first time accused Father Roderick of putting those superior acting skills to work once again play with their emotions and fool them into believing he was truly sincere. Which lead to further expletives, angry letters of protest, etc.


So? What's the deal? Can priests not play pranks or risk shaking the beliefs of Catholics everywhere and causing the non-Catholic world to go Atheist? Does one guy with a podcast have that kind of power or are all these people over reacting?

Do you have a favorite blog or podcast that you like? How would you respond/feel if you heard it was going to be forcibly stopped and then found out it was a joke?

Many people drew the parallel between Father Roderick's media based April Fool's joke and the decades old scandal in the Catholic church of priests abusing their relationship with their young parishoners. Do you agree?

Or are people just overreacting?

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Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

Post by NachtcGleiskette » Thu Apr 06, 2006 3:10 pm

Huge huge huge frikken overreaction right there...

Huge.

And you've got some ridiculous propaganda. People are converting to atheism over it? WTF? Obviously, their faith wasn't to strong to begin with, if they can throw it away over a silly little podcast.

I can understand that making jokes regarding faith is going to be far touchier than other things. But this was a joke, by a priest, not even having much to do with the faith in general. It seems that people just don't have a sense of humor, and that's sad.

I feel bad for the priest. Its guys like him that are important to the church, people who will reach beyond the antiquated expectations of the priesthood and get to those who they normally wouldn't. I remember when i went to church (as a preteen) we had two priests. One, I hated. He was old, he was dull, he had a voice like Ben Stein. The other was younger, more energetic, and even funny at times. It made church (which I always disliked) that much more bearable for me.

This poor guy just wanted to have fun. And everyone has to act like he's the frikken antichrist over it. Get over yourselves and learn to laugh. Seriously. And if your faith is so shallow that something this minor will cause you to convert? Good riddence....
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I'm going to post some quotes from The Daily Breakfast's Blog

Post by Saint Kurt » Thu Apr 06, 2006 3:42 pm

You can see the whole blog for episode 100 here.

Here are a few choice quotes:

Unsubscribers:
[quote]
Comment by ChromaKey

April 1, 2006 @ 4:57 pm

Father Roderick, I have some good and some bad news for you.
The good news is, your talent for acting could probably get you to Hollywood.
And the bad news is, you have just lost a listener.

Last time I checked, April fools day pranks were meant to be funny. You might have forgotten about that…[/quote]


[quote]Comment by This is inexcusable

April 2, 2006 @ 2:51 am

This is not funny.

You delibrately played with people’s emotions and violated their trust. What kind of priest are you???

this so called ‘joke” was adolescent and sets a bad example. You played with people’s trusts for your own amusement.

I have deleted your podcast from my playlist. EWTN (www.ewtn.com) has several podcasts that are more informative and…CATHOLIC!

I hope your bishop does eventually pull the plug on your podcast — it doesn’t do anything to promote the Catholic Church. All it does is show that some priests don’t do anything useful but sit around and play video games all day.[/quote]

Stating that now NO ONE can trust the Catholic Church:
[quote]
I meant to convey that premise 1 is a wide-spread opinion in many parts of the world especially the USA (as a Catholic, I wish this wasn't the case, but that's the reality). That is, _I_ don't agree with this position and have a positive view of Catholism, but it is clearly one that is our culture (witness the Da Vinci code craze which is basically built on the idea that the Catholic church is only out for power, etc).

The vast majority of my friends are non-Catholics (atheists, mainly) and hold this negative view. I've been trying to convince them that the Church can be trusted, etc, but unfortunately, this prank set that argument back to square 1. The number one response I got from my friends about this was "Of course he lied -- he's a Catholic priest!"

I thought that the Daily Breakfast could help introduce some of them (in a "gentle' way to the faith) but unfortunately, now they are back to being convinced that priests can't be trusted (and all the rest). I should point out that one of my best friends came from a small town where the Catholic priest used information from confession to basically blackmail people. When people complained, some people in the parish (who had NOT been treated in this way) said things like "oh, Father X didn't mean to spread that information. I trust Father X, etc." Other people (mainly at my workplace) have had similar bad experiences with the Catholic church.

So, even though many people trust Father Roderick, there are many who are just learning about him and have no basis for trust.

With so much negative media coverage about the church, it saddens me that this damage was caused from "the inside" (e.g, from a fellow catholic).
[/quote]

From another Catholic Podcaster:
[quote]
Maybe I'm taking it from a different angle. He carries the name "Father" and represents the Catholic church as the Catholic Insider. He has 10,000+ listeners daily. He announces that his diocese demands he stops, and then I hear from other who know I also podcast as a Catholic "it's just like that church of yours to pull the plug on something good." I admit also that I bought into it completely, and sent emails, voice mails and tried to help. And I get angry when someone hurts the church I love as a game. Even if he didn't think he'd hurt people, implicating the church as the "bad guy" doesn't set well with me.

I wish I could just brush it off like you are. I don't see the humility in not thinking anyone cared. He gets hundreds of emails, letters, phone calls and forum entrys a day of people sharing about the podcast. He does show 99 and then gets 500 emails of support, and he's still laughing. I do take it personally, I'm soft skinned like that. The mia culpa comes not after getting the letters of support, but the letters of anger. Maybe it's just a different sense of humor than me. I do wish him sucess in his podcast, I just don't want to play along any more. Forgivness I'll give, trust I won't.
[/quote]

You can hear the podcasts for yourself:
Daily Breakfast 99
Daily Breakfast 100
Fr. Roderick's apology and explanation
Fr. Roderick talks via SKYPE to the hosts of another SQPN show about the backlash of his prank


Any you thought things were crazy at Nightscrawlers! :)
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Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

Post by NachtcGleiskette » Thu Apr 06, 2006 3:53 pm

I have one thing for all of those above: :rolleyes
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Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

Post by Angelique » Thu Apr 06, 2006 6:27 pm

I actually got a good chuckle out of this. But then, whenever, in early April, I read or hear something that sounds drastic or far-fetched, I check the date.

I do think Father Roderick's listenership is overreacting a tad.
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Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

Post by HoodedMan » Thu Apr 06, 2006 8:12 pm

I would have to rule on the side of overreaction. I mean, I can understand laughter, I can understand slight disgust leaning to forgiveness. I can even understand unsubscribing!

But changing your religion or changing your future in religion over it? That's madness.
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Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

Post by Bamfette » Fri Apr 07, 2006 6:25 am

ditto waht's been said. MAJOR overreaction. yeah, he's a priest, but he's also human, and the show isn't all that religious, anyway. it was a joke that got out of control... i can understand being a *little* ticked, but that's about it....

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Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

Post by Saint Kurt » Fri Apr 07, 2006 1:26 pm

What is so interesting to me about this is that all the anger is not over things that Father Roderick did, but over things THEY did. If you read through the blogs and comments etc (which I'll admit was easier to do while it was actually happening) people were hysterical - talking about staying up all night crying and stuff. They chose to write very personal testimonials that took hours. Episode 99 asked for none of this - all Fr. Roderick requested was a "short email".

It seems like they should be angry at themselves.

In my case, I did take notice of the date, but the prank was so good I still wasn't sure. I didn't stay up all night crying or anything, but it was certainly suspenseful while I awaited the outcome. Was I right or was I wrong about this being a joke?

I dug up my comment:
[quote]
Comment by Emily

April 2, 2006 @ 8:47 pm

Best April Fools prank I’ve ever had played on me!

I looked at the date and was pretty sure that it was a prank. I listened twice to be sure and still wasn’t completely convinced. I awaited podcast 100 with some trepidation. Even when I had downloaded and was listening to podcast 100 it was still suspenseful….

Awesome prank! I’m sorry you made so many people upset, but I thought it was a great prank - perfectly executed.

Thanks
-e
[/quote]

I think what's fascinating to me was the level of overreaction (both in the response to the prank and then the anger afterwards) and I'm trying to figure out where it comes from.

Is it because it's a podcast, which clearly brings a more personal level of interaction than just a blog?

Is it because he's a Catholic priest? (Would Adam Curry making the same announcement get the same response?)

Is it a mix of the two? Someone on another forum I visit suggested that part of it may be that for some Catholics, the relationship they have with Father Roderick is closer than the relationship they have with their parish priest.

One thing that's interesting: I have several online friends who also administrate forums but all of them are much smaller than Nightscrawlers and Catholic in content. I am the only one who administrates a secular forum. They are all dealing with raging arguments over "the Father Roderick incident" - having to lock threads, warn and ban users etc. It just goes to show how perspective effects forum dynamics. (The admins also feel that everyone is overreacting by the way.)

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Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

Post by The Drastic Spastic » Sun Apr 09, 2006 6:49 am

I understand the over-reaction, but it's because I just absolutely hate April Fools. It's completely retarded. Forget priests, NO ONE should do anything "for April Fools". Hooray, there's one day a year when I can tell huge lies and then insist people laugh them off! Ugh. Hate it. Ban it.
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Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

Post by fourpawsonthefloor » Sun Apr 09, 2006 3:55 pm

I am just feeling sorry for that man. I mean, what kind of torment he must be going through right now having people e-mail him all those nasty letters? People take life WAY to seriously now...I can imagine being embarrassed if you were fooled into writing the vatican (but why would you contact the media without checking with Father Roderick first? that's just DUMB) but the man has apologised already! You should be able to look beyond it to all the great stuff that he has done and get over it.

Em, can you think of anything that we could do to help this poor guy feel any better? I loved the e-mail that you sent him. He must just be sick over all of this.

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Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

Post by The Drastic Spastic » Sun Apr 09, 2006 4:29 pm

Originally posted by fourpawsonthefloor
I am just feeling sorry for that man. I mean, what kind of torment he must be going through right now having people e-mail him all those nasty letters? People take life WAY to seriously now...I can imagine being embarrassed if you were fooled into writing the vatican (but why would you contact the media without checking with Father Roderick first? that's just DUMB) but the man has apologised already! You should be able to look beyond it to all the great stuff that he has done and get over it.

Em, can you think of anything that we could do to help this poor guy feel any better? I loved the e-mail that you sent him. He must just be sick over all of this.

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I still maintain it's his own fault for not thinking the thing through. Hopefully he's learned something, like, I don't know, don't pull pranks on people who care about you?

What did he expect to get out of it, seriously? It's not like it was funny, so laughs are out. You can't use the "you have no sense of humor" defense when people get mad over something that isn't even funny! People changing religions in way out there, but people being bloody cheesed off? Totally understandable. Him being a priest does on some level make it worse. The response that makes the most sense was "it was a mistake but we'll forgive you for being a complete idiot... this time".
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Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

Post by LadyErin » Mon Apr 10, 2006 1:31 am

I thought it was funny.

No, not knee slapper funny, but funny.

I mean dude, the first thing I would do is look at the date. My reaction would be something like Em's.
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Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

Post by chicory » Mon Apr 10, 2006 5:19 am

Absolutely never!

The U.S. president doesn't get to make jokes about nuclear war and the red button.

Your doctor doesn't get to make jokes about you needing surgery or having a life-threatening disease.

And if a person's priest plays a trick like that they've not only violated their trust, but they've planted this seed of doubt. If they can be untruthful about this one thing, then what else might they be being dishonest about?

I just think that a person's relationship with their God is one of those vital life death things that not all people *can* joke about. And a lot of people don't expect a priest to play a joke on them in the first place.

It's too bad for the priest that people felt betrayed by him when he was just trying to play a joke. But, I guess it's part of the job that you have to be held to different standards of responsibility.
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Post by LadyErin » Mon Apr 10, 2006 6:56 pm

I dunno...

The current prez is a nitwitt at best...I mean he did base a war on a lie...he got reelected...sadly...

My doc used to joke about the quarts of blood they would be removing from me...back when they thought I had ovavian cancer at 17 she joked with me that then I could go though with my threat to shave my head (Which had me laughing, honestly.)...never mind the metal dector jokes about the screw stuck in my ankle...

He wasn't joking about god being dead or something people. Shesh...it's not like he killed anyone...or other things...he played a prank. He's human. Deal.
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Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

Post by Saint Kurt » Sun Apr 16, 2006 10:07 pm

Originally posted by chicory
Absolutely never!

The U.S. president doesn't get to make jokes about nuclear war and the red button.

Your doctor doesn't get to make jokes about you needing surgery or having a life-threatening disease.
Never?

Remember, Father Roderick is a media personality who happens to also be a priest. He didn't play this prank on his parish, he played it on the equivalent to listeners to a radio show; nor does he have a relationship with his audience that is anywhere near that of a doctor/patient or the president with his constituency.

If he stood up in front of his congregation and said "they are going to tear this church down unless I get $10 from all of you by tomorrow". And then, 3 days later says, "actually, they were never going to tear the church down, it was a joke, but now that I have your money, I'm going to put a new floor in the church. Ha ha ha."

People would be completely justified in being mad in that situation.

However, I don't think there's any law that seminarians have to leave their sense of humor at the door. What father Roderick did didn't do any harm except wounding a few people's pride.

For more information about Father Roderick and his show, click the link that says "God is Hot" to see him on a Dutch television show talking about his podcast. The clip is in Dutch and just so I'm not posting it for Elwing only, here is an English Translation made by one of Fr. Roderick's Dutch listeners.

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Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

Post by fourpawsonthefloor » Sun Apr 16, 2006 11:04 pm

Well, and from the other end of things, I have to say that Dr's also make jokes ALL the time...a lot of people in the medical profession have a wicked sense of humor. They may contain themselves when you are around, if they think you can't handle it , but for an example recently my dr handed me a trial packet of men's erectile disfunction drugs (as a joke). He waited till I frowned at the package and was like ooookay, before killing himself laughing at me and passing me the right drugs. And you know what? I absolutely fricking LOVE that about my Dr.

There is also a huge difference in lying, and in playing a practical joke. Life without humor would be pretty gosh darned bleak. I can sympathize with the people who were embrassed that they made an ass out of themselves because of this, but did they forget the whole "forgive us our trespasses" thing? Particularily when this wasn't malicious?

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Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

Post by flashbang13 » Sun May 17, 2009 3:51 am

wow, that's so cool! The priest at my church is really cool and he always crack jokes.

Honestly, though, you can't be too hard on the guy. Priests are people too, they like to laugh as much as anyone else
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Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

Post by steyn » Sun May 17, 2009 4:41 am

Paws, I'm with you on the doctors cracking jokes, there's a show called Clean House, people coming to your house, cleans it, sells the stuff you don't need and uses the money to refurbish and fix up a room or two, anyhow, one of the guys that works on it is really funny, and then one day, I found out that guy was actually a doctor. He just did not give off that doctor kind of vibe, they guy was just too blunt and funny.

edit, on another note, yesterday after watching a commercial about our national cricket team playing a practical joke on one of their players, I realised that it's usually the places and sports with the more stricter rules that people come up with the best jokes.

[Edited on 17/5/2009 by steyn]

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Posts: 25
Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2008 8:57 pm
Location: England

Is it okay for priests to play jokes?

Post by Amatheya » Sun May 17, 2009 1:44 pm

OMG, The guy played a joke, it backfied. These things happen. He probably didn't realise that so many people were that crazy about his podcast. And people have no right to be angry about everything they did to try to help him because they tried to do a good thing, their anger just shows that they were doing it out of selfish motives which is why they feel personally insulted or betrayed. It doesn't matter if it was a joke or not because if they can't appreciate it as a joke they should just be happy that the show they like will continue. I just don't get how people could be so worked up about this and what's worse they won't even let the pore guy appologise, how ridiculess is that!
The guy might be a priest but he's still human and deserves to be forgiven for being an idiot sometimes just like everybody else.
I wanna run away with the circus :)

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