Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Catholic Church and the Internet

The Internet is changing the world, says the priest responsible for public relations in the diocese of Chunchon. Writing an article in our weekly bulletin, he asks if it's possible to live without the internet. Excepting those who are not experienced with, or do not use, the internet, most would be far from negative about this electronic marvel. It has for some time now influenced the way many of us live.

The Internet was first developed for the military. During the cold war the US Defense Department, assuming the worst about the Russian military buildup, believed they needed a reliable network system, which turned out to be the computer. From the military it moved into the  educational system, to facilitate non-profit research. and then in 1990 the business world took an interest, increasing the ways it could be used, and soon it became a necessary part of every day life.

The internet, having started in the military and having made its way within a few years into an estimated 1.9 billion homes (and growing at about 12 percent a year, an indication of its importance in today's world) is a great blessing. The Church, recognizing this fact, asks that we take an interest in this revolutionary medium of communication. 

From the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (#10): "Religious people, as concerned members of the larger Internet audience, who also have legitimate particular interests of their own, wish to be part of the process that guides the future development of this new medium. It goes without saying that this will sometimes require them to adjust their own thinking and practice. It is important, too, that people at all levels of the Church use the Internet creatively to meet their responsibilities and help fulfill the Church's mission. Hanging back timidly from fear of technology or for some other reason is not acceptable, in view of the very many positive possibilities of the Internet. “Methods of facilitating communication and dialogue among her own members can strengthen the bonds of unity between them. Immediate access to information makes it possible for [the Church] to deepen her dialogue with the contemporary world...The Church can more readily inform the world of her beliefs and explain the reasons for her stance on any given issue or event. She can hear more clearly the voice of public opinion, and enter  a continuous discussion with the world around her, thus involving herself more immediately in the common search for solutions to humanity's many pressing problems.”

To make full use of this new medium, the priest says that we have to be able to accept the societal changes that have come along with the medium. The priest makes two distinctions. First, it's not a one-way transmission of information but a mutual exchange; whether one is young or old is immaterial, all can  participate. Second, the internet erases the usual constraints of time and space. We can in seconds give many pages of information to others on the other side of the world, and develop a relationship  with anyone anywhere in the world--that alone is an amazing achievement.

As we become users of the internet, it's useful to keep in mind the words of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication. We, as religious people, whenever possible, should be intent on using the many communication features of the internet--whether blogging, emailing, or  by any other means of communication--to be in touch with like-minded people in order to strengthen the bonds of unity between us, and between all peoples.

No comments:

Post a Comment