Facebook Apologizes After Blocking Image of Crucifix

by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  April 5, 2018   

Franciscan University of Steubenville temporarily barred from using San Damiano Cross in advertisement

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STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Catholic university known for fidelity to the Magisterium is getting an apology from Facebook.

On March 30, Good Friday, Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS) had a Facebook advertisement blocked by moderators for promoting allegedly "shocking, sensational or excessively violent content."

The advertisement in question featured an image of a crucifix known as the San Damiano Cross, accompanied by the slogan, "We teach those who teach the Faith." It was part of a series of Facebook advertisements for FUS and promoted the graduate-degree program in catechetics.

Facebook has since apologized and reversed the block on the advertisement. "This image does not violate our ad policies," a Facebook spokesperson told Fox News on Wednesday. "We apologize for the error and have already let the advertiser know we approved their ad."

When the advertisement got censored on Good Friday, the university's Twitter account announced, "An ad we placed was rejected by Facebook today for content that is 'shocking, sensational and excessively violent.' We must agree with them."

The Tweet included an image of the advertisement and the notification flagging it.

A March 30 post on the university's blog stated, "And indeed, the Crucifixion of Christ was all of those things. It was the most sensational action in history: man executed his God."

The blog post says the crucifixion was indeed shocking in that God became Man to die for our sins. It added, "And it was certainly excessively violent: a Man scourged to within an inch of His life, nailed naked to a Cross and left to die, all the hate of all the sin in the world poured out its wrath upon His humanity."

The post concludes, "'He was despised and rejected of men.' It was ever thus and will ever be for those who do not see with the eyes of faith and [do not] love with a love unquenchable."

While many Catholic universities in America have sold out on Catholic identity in exchange for "academic freedom," FUS is known for having remained loyal to the Faith. For instance, theology faculty at FUS have to swear an Oath of Fidelity to the Church's magisterium.

It was ever thus and will ever be for those who do not see with the eyes of faith and love with a love unquenchable.

Twitter users shared the university's shock at Facebook rejecting the advertisement. One person replied on Twitter, "Yet another reason to close my Facebook account."

Another Twitter reply stated, "A good time to question why our public forum is being run by a corporation."

The San Damiano Cross is the specific image of Christ Crucified from which St. Francis of Assisi heard the voice of Christ in 1205 AD while praying in a then-dilapidated country parish called San Damiano.

Steubenville's communications director told Fox News, "Facebook approved other ads with the exact same image, which again leads me to believe it wasn't an algorithm but was a low-level staffer who skims many, many ads and just had something personal against this one."

Other Catholic organizations feel they are being censored by Facebook in more subtle ways. For instance, many Catholic Facebook pages have had an experience where, in a brief period of time, the number of people liking the page will stop growing and the number of comments and likes on their posts will drop, all for no known reason.

When a Facebook page experiences this out-of-the-blue stagnation and decline, the term "shadow-blocking" is often used. The term implies that employees of the social media giant intentionally change the algorithms to make it less likely for a certain page's posts to show up in users' newsfeeds.

Catholic pro-life news website LifeSiteNews apparently experienced the effects of this during its recent spring fundraising campaign. In an opinion piece for LifeSiteNews released on Wednesday, Steve Jalsevac wrote, "Right now, all of this is definitely hurting our fundraising campaign. We are being actively prevented from reaching all the people we used to easily reach with our news stories and our appeals during our 2-week campaigns."

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