Why Catholics Belong on the Internet

The Church has taken a fundamentally positive approach to the media. All media. You can look it up in the Pontifical Council for Social Communications' recent document The Church and The Internet.

Even though the Church at times has to condemn serious abuses, still her role is not one of merely censorship. Pope Pius XII's 1957 encyclical letter on mass communications, Miranda Prorsus, called media innovations "gifts of God". In 1971, Communio et Progressio, the pastoral instruction on the means of social communication, went further still, stating that the media are part of God's providential design uniting men in brotherhood, which helps them to cooperate in God's plan of salvation. All this applies to the Internet as well.

For me these are refreshing words. Because of the interest in my book Catholics on the Internet, I have been interviewed on various Catholic radio and television shows. The attitude of the show hosts has been overwhelmingly negative toward the use of the Internet. They certainly did not see it as a "gift of God." Some questioned whether the Church should use it at all. The show hosts, certainly did not reflect the basic, positive attitude that the Church has toward the use of the media. But if the Internet is a "gift of God", then we would be very ungrateful children not to appreciate and use this gift.

It is interesting how the Church understands the history of the human communication. It is like a long journey that brings humanity from the prideful tower of Babel, which resulted in confusion and mutual incomprehension, to Pentecost- where, through the gift of tongues, human communication was restored. Now, through the action of the Holy Spirit, it was to be centered on Jesus. Communications finds its highest ideal in the incarnation of Jesus, who was God become man and brother.

There is no doubt that the Internet has bridged distances between peoples even more so than the telephone or postal mail. Not long ago I corresponded with a Catholic convert in Australia who was having some difficulties. Just a few years ago, this person would never have known I existed. I have corresponded by e-mail with people from just about every country in the world.

Imagine my phone bill if I tried that by telephone! The Internet has connected hearts and minds, and exposed the Catholic Church and her message to many more countries and peoples than even imaginable in times past.

The Church recognizes that the Internet is helping to bring about a revolutionary change in commerce, education, politics, journalism, the arts and international relations. This change is not limited to communications; it has ramifications for how people understand ( and thus live) their lives. The Church desires to encourage all who participate in modern communications media to use the technology rightlyfor the sake of human development, justice and peace. The aim is to build society at all levels in the light of the common good and in the spirit of solidarity. The Church seeks to dialogue with those responsible for the communications media to shape media policy, especially by proposing ways of removing obstacles to human progress and the proclamation of the Gospel.

Of course the Church's concern for the media extends to its use in and by herself. This concern involves more than just technique. Its starting point is the communion of love among the persons of the Holy Trinity and their communication with us. "God continues to communicate with humanity through the Church, the bearer and custodian of his revelation" (The Church and Internet)

The media is a tool for communication within the Church. The Church herself is a communion of personsspecifically, of eucharistic communities arising from and mirroring the communion of the Trinity. Communication is part of the very essence of the Church. So certainly the media is going to be a part of this communication.

Everything said in the past by the Church regarding the media in general applies to the Internet. At times the Internet may seem at odds with the Christian message. But it does offer unique opportunities for proclaiming the saving truth of Christ to the whole human family. Pope John Paul II has emphasized the positive capacities of the Internet to carry religious information and teaching beyond all barriers and frontiers. And he further emphasized that Catholics should not be afraid to throw open the doors of social communications to spread the Good News.

At a recent retirement party for a religious sister at our chancery, I sat across from a sister who had recently returned from Africa. Although up in age and mostly computer illiterate, she wanted to learn to use the Internet. Why? Because she wanted to set up educational audio and visual files that would be accessible to the community she had left behind. She saw that, thanks to the Internet, distance wasn't necessarily a barrier toward the ongoing religious education and formation of her African community.

The Church and the Internet also talks about the Internet's potential as an educational aide. It discusses myriad opportunities and challenges, along with recommendations for making the most of the online experience.

Perhaps as a Web surfer, you don't think you can make a difference. Well, think again. This new media has brought new opportunities. To find out how, read the document online at vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/pccs/documents/rc_pc_pccs_doc_20020228_church-internet_en.html.

The Internet is here to stay. Find out how you can both benefit from it and contribute to it on behalf of the Church.

Monthly Web Picks

Speaking of reaching the world, for this month's picks let's look at online radio stations.

Living in Florida I sometimes listen to Spirit 905 FM radio, a ministry of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. They have a very upbeat stationa worthy competitor to the many Protestant radio stations broadcasting in the area. Wherever you are, you can tune in to their broadcasts live online at spiritfm905.com

Pax Catholic Communications put out by the Archdiocese of Miami, has as its purpose the evangelizing and proclaiming of the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the media. You will find Radio Peace (English) and Radio Paz ( Spanish) both broadcast on their Web site at paxcc.org

I presume most Register readers know about Vatican Radio, but, in case you don't, tune in over the Internet at vatican.va/news_services/radio/index.htm. The same goes for Mother Angelica's radio station, WEWN, at ewtn.com/wewn/index.htm

New Heart New Voices is a Catholic radio ministry whose aim is to present the Good News of Jesus Christ using the best contemporary Catholic music. Catholic artists showcase Catholic music that is contemporary, fresh, personal and well-executed. Hear it for yourself at newheartnewvoices.com

For More Catholic radio stations see my online Catholic directory radio category at monksofadoration.org/radiotxt.html.

Brother John Raymond welcomes
e-mail at john@aplusconsultingnow.com.

He is author of Catholics on the Internet: 2000-2001,
Webmaster of www.monkofadoration.org