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St. Augustine

CALIFORNIA, July 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― A decision by Facebook to ban a peace-loving quote by St. Augustine of Hippo, a Catholic theologian and philosopher from the 5th century, has one Catholic writer scratching his head. 

Noticing that two priest-friends had been censored by the social media giant for posting the saint’s pastoral advice, Massachusetts pro-lifer Dominic Bettinelli published the same words to his Facebook wall on Friday. Then he, too, got a warning that the post went against Facebook’s “Community Standards on hate speech.” 

The quote Facebook deemed so offensive is as follows: 

Let us never assume that if we live good lives we will be without sin; our lives should be praised only when we continue to beg for pardon. But men are hopeless creatures, and the less they concentrate on their own sins, the more interested they become in the sins of others. They seek to criticize, not to correct. Unable to excuse themselves, they are ready to accuse others.

The quote, Bettinelli explained in a spirited post on the “hate speech” accusation, is from a homily of the saint included in the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office.   

“Hate speech?” Bettinelli asked. “It’s the opposite of hate speech. It’s calling for people to stop focusing on others’ sins and concentrate on their own. Augustine is just re-formulating Jesus’ own words from the Gospel: 'Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?' (Matthew 7:3).”

The author believed that the posting had been rejected by a computer algorithm. However, when he was offered the option of a human review, Bettinelli took it and discovered that even a human supervisor at Facebook deemed that the quote violated “Community Standards.” 

Facebook invited Bettinelli to respond to its rejection of his appeal. He wrote the following:

I still don’t understand why this is hate speech. It’s a quote from a Catholic saint who expresses the opposite of hate speech. He is essentially restating the words of Jesus Christ in the Gospels to stop worrying about what the other guy is or isn’t doing and worry about your own flaws. Is Facebook saying that the Gospel is hate speech? But what’s worse is that I have no more understanding now of what is a violation of your community standards than I did before. I cannot for the life of me figure out why you label this hate speech.

Bettinelli is now concerned that Facebook users will end up in “Facebook jail”, i.e. not be able to post on Facebook, just for quoting the Bible or sharing a “word of encouragement from a saint.” 

Bettinelli told LifeSiteNews that he may have found the crux of the problem. 

“A friend posted just ‘men are hopeless creatures’ and that got banned, so that seems to be the relevant part that is hate speech,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bettinelli is not willing to let Facebook get away with libeling St. Augustine. 

“If FB doesn't want me to post it, then I'm going to blog about it and then I'm going to podcast about it and I'm going to make a stink about it until someone with some power gets FB to admit that quotations from early Church fathers is [sic] not hate speech,” he wrote―on Facebook.

Facebook has been implicated in censoring conservative and Christian opinions. Recently, CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that Facebook had intentionally blocked pro-life advertisements in the run-up to Ireland’s referendum to remove the right-to-life of the unborn child from its constitution. Facebook has also been found guilty of privacy violations and is facing a five billion dollar fine.