Of watchdogs and safe havens: control mechanisms and/in online sacred spaces


  • Alexander Ornella University of Hull


Internet, Digital media, Media and religion, Social media, Popular culture, Electronic discussion groups, Catholic Church, Critical discourse analysis, Sacred space, Virtual reality, Narration


‘Die große Schlacht. Der Hass des Satans auf Benedikt XVI. Non prae­valebunt’ is the headline of an article the Austrian-based and Catholic news portal, kath.net, published in early June 2012. It is about how badly and unfairly the media treat the Catholic Church and its official representatives in the wake of the so-called ‘Vatileaks’ scandal and it reasons that Satan is behind the attacks of the media, society, popular culture, on saintly figures such as Pope Benedict XVI. ‘Gegen die Diktatur des Relativismus’ is another article published on the same platform in the context of a conference hosted by the Catholic Heiligenkreuz monastery. On the forum kath.net, powerful language is employed to draw the faithful in, to make them feel themselves to be safe within a community of like-minded people in the midst of turmoil. News portals and message boards such as kath.net create safe spaces within a world whose culture, values, and morals are not only not understood but despised. The analysis is informed by critical discourse analysis and based on Paul Ricœur’s understanding of narratives and how narratives create worlds. As a first step, the concept of space and Ricœur’s understanding of narrative identity are discussed. After an introduction to the news portal kath.net, a close reading of some articles shows how these safe spaces are created and guarded. To conclude, a reflection on the implications of the self-understanding of kath.net and some of its user base on the understanding of hierarchy and the role of theology in the Church, is provided.



How to Cite

Ornella, A. (2013). Of watchdogs and safe havens: control mechanisms and/in online sacred spaces. Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis, 25, 150–180. https://doi.org/10.30674/scripta.67438