Relations between Catholic bloggers and Church officials have at times been quite strained as the new media has developed in the last couple years. Some prelates, clergy, and chancery officials have expressed strong reservations about the Catholic blogosphere, with some even speaking quite derogatorily.

Church leaders have been angered by the penchant of many bloggers to call them out on their failures to expound and defend controversial Catholic teachings on moral issues like contraception, homosexuality, and abortion.

The difficulties got to the point that last year the Vatican convened a special conference for bloggers to try to build bridges and learn more about this new method for advancing the Gospel.

But now even the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is saying Catholic bloggers have a “critical role” in defending the Church.

In a new statement on religious freedom released today they write:

The Catholic Church in America is blessed with an immense number of writers, producers, artists, publishers, filmmakers, and bloggers employing all the means of communications—both old and new media—to expound and teach the faith. They too have a critical role in this great struggle for religious liberty. We call upon them to use their skills and talents in defense of our first freedom.