Racism, reconstruction, and the end of a Catholic Instagram account
How three "b-list" Catholic influencers came into conflict
In August of 2021, a social work graduate student was processing how she needed to change the way she related to her Catholic faith. She created an Instagram account called “Reconstructing Catholic” (RC). Through the account, shared thoughts on “deconstructing” and “reconstructing” her Catholic faith, and provided opportunities for others to share their own thoughts and experiences. A year later, RC had more than 7,500 followers. Then she shut down her account
Here, I will share many of the details surrounding the eventual ending of her account. I’ll share the public “stories” from three accounts (one of them being mine), and how things unfolded. (For those of you unfamiliar with Instagram, “stories” are temporary posts that expire after 24 hours, unless you save them in a “highlight.”) I may later give some commentary on how this raises important questions and concerns when it comes to antiracism, trauma, deconstruction, and our ecclesial life. But in the interests of just letting the event speak for itself, what I will provide is just that series of screenshots of the public posts which led to and followed the closure of Reconstructing Catholic.
In early August, about one year after starting it, Reconstructing Catholic (RC) announced that she would be closing down her Instagram account. She had been told by another person that, because she was white and running an account on deconstruction, she was engaging in appropriation and seeking to gain social capital. RC took this seriously. She shared with her followers that she was worried about harming BIPOC people. She shared the last date that her account would be active.
Many of her followers, including BIPOC followers, reached out to her with messages of confusion. They didn’t understand how she was harming BIPOC people. They said that they’d found her account very helpful. RC shared some of this feedback in her stories:
Some who engaged with RC said they thought she was being bullied by this other person. Regardless, the feedback she’d received from that person had a significant impact on her. RC shared some of her thoughts:
That day, another Catholic account (Leticia Ochoa Adams) posted in her stories:
From here, a number of people who followed both Adams and RC started asking if Adams was the woman who had criticized RC. RC posted this:
Adams posted a video on her page on deconstruction and decolonization. She said that she was “sensing a vibe from white Christians talking about deconstruction.” She said it “feels as if, for some people, deconstruction is becoming an adult and figuring out how your childhood Christianity no longer fits with your adult worldview…. [This is] a form of deconstruction, because you are deconstructing what you have always believed and you are reconstructing it with your current worldview.” She said that “it’s as if antiracism, deconstruction, progressiveness all go hand in hand… but in a very specific way.” She said that they all work on “uprooting systems that are oppressive in nature, the biggest one being capitalism.” She said that without uprooting the “system of colonialism, capitalism, and white supremacy that is in the air of America, then deconstruction just becomes about maturing in your faith, in my opinion. Of course, I’m not an expert. I haven’t researched it.” She then shared some of her background and elaborated further on her thoughts.
In the comments on the video, Adams complained about women who do “White Women Shit.” She said that failures to understand what she was saying represented a failure on the part of others. For example, she told one person: “if my video left you ‘more confused,’ then you have a lot of work to do.”
As RC reflected more on the feedback, she began to think more critically about her recent interactions. And she gave some additional context, including this:
Then Adams posted a number of stories:
Adams began reposting (without their permission) messages and comments she’d received from white women expressing confusion about Adams’s critiques of RC. (I have covered over with red boxes any private information or communications that Adams shared, out of respect for those people’s privacy. When Adams originally posted these, she left the profile pictures, private messages, and usernames visible for the public, including a personal Venmo username in at least one instance.):
And Adams continued:
In the meantime, an anonymous account (@holiestofholies) sprung up and began criticizing Adams, which Adams responded to in her stories:
(Content warning for the next one: explicit details of a completed suicide)
(I’ve hidden the name and message below, at the request of that individual:)
RC had deleted her Instagram app on her phone in order to take a break. But after some people reached out to her, she came back to post the following:
Shortly before Reconstructing deleted her account, I began to comment on this in my stories, and to share thoughts from others as well:
After RC’s account was permanently deleted, I posted (for context, “Katherine” is the woman who was running the RC account):
I received a number of messages with questions, and I responded to some of those as well:
Adams posted in her stories:
I received a number of messages that wanted to talk more directly about the conflict. And I reflected more on what had happened. I eventually posted:
Adams posted in her stories:
Around this time, Adams messaged me privately, and we began having a private conversation. Then someone messaged me to tell me that Leticia had (without my permission) taken a screenshot from our conversation (while it was still happening) and posted it publicly:
I posted on my account:
Adams posted on her account:
Adams also continued to post about RC, using her personal name (Katherine), even after RC had already deleted her account:
In response, I posted:
At this point, I realized I needed to not engage with Adams’s account anymore. So I stopped following her and have not kept up with her posts since.
I have, however, looked back to unpack some of the situation. For example, I later posted the following:
And I recently shared just a bit more context:
I won’t share additional commentary here. That may come in the future. But I’ve had a number of people ask me what happened to the Reconstructing Catholic account. This is one way of answering that question. And I think this situation gives an opportunity to reflect on questions like the role of Catholic “influencers” on social media, what forms of antiracism work vs don’t work, how at times the sharing of trauma can be dangerous, what happens when antiracism comes into conflict with deconstruction, and other questions.
As you consider all this, keep in mind that there was additional context and messages that didn’t come out publicly. So this isn’t necessarily the “whole picture.” It’s the public picture. But public posts are open to public perspectives and comments. And we can only work with the information we have. That’s what we have.