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Debate: Is the internet weakening the Catholic Church?

Is the blogosphere obscuring the truth, or helping to illuminate it?

By on Thursday, 7 October 2010

A journalist uses his iPad during the Catholic Press Congress at the Vatican (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A journalist uses his iPad during the Catholic Press Congress at the Vatican (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Today Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Catholic Press Congress about the challenges facing Catholic journalism. “Catholic journalists must seek the truth with impassioned minds and hearts,” he said, “but also with the professionalism of competent workers equipped with adequate and efficient means.”

He spoke about new media, according to the Catholic News Service, saying that while it could help spread information, often it was focused on attention-grabbing images and made little or no attempt to help people understand what is happening or what it means for their lives.

Many people believe (including Fr Ray Blake) that Catholic newspapers are being superseded by new media. But is that a good thing? The Catholic blogosphere is rude, argumentative, and fractious: it exposes the divisions of the Church in an ugly light. It flattens Church hierarchy, too: bishops and cardinals are abused regularly by Catholics in the pew.

On the other hand, the online Catholic world has a huge amount of vitality and enthusiasm, and offers the kind of robust debate, and up-to-the-second coverage, that is not often found in traditional media.

So, is the internet weakening the Church? Is it obscuring the truth, or helping to illuminate it?

  • Anthony Miller

    Well, if it wasn't there in 1949 and it was in 1950 where do you think it came from?

    It's not in the Bible, it wasn't doctrine or even mentioned till 300 years after Jesus's death.

    It's either based on theological assumptions. Jesus was perfect and assumed into heaven therefore Mary must have had to be perfect so must have been assumed into heaven. Or it's the result of the many Marian visions of the 20th centuary. Or Both. Visions that are so unimportant the Vatican has to make statements they are worthy of belief and keep the 3rd secret of Fatima back from us for I cant remember how many years.

    It turns out, of course, the 3rd secret was just the Pope getting shot. That's pretty bad but it's not the end of the world which was insinuated at the time. Anyway, if we gave women some political power they might stop seeing Mary. I can say that, of course, because as you say private revalations dont add to the faith.

    Sorry, but in my world if it wasn't there before and it is there now that's an addition. The catechism is clear it is a new article of faith because the pope has solemnly defined it as such. That means you werent expected to believe it before but you are now. At best you can say it is a reclassification of an idea from probable to definate. But in my slightly more mathematical mind if there were X articles of faith in 1949 and X+1 in 1950 then that is an addition. It is an additional thing we are required rather than it is suggested that we should believe in.

  • RJ

    I think it's good to read the document of Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, which accompanied the declaration. There you will read:

    13. Various testimonies, indications and signs of this common belief of the Church are evident from remote times down through the course of the centuries; and this same belief becomes more clearly manifest from day to day.

    15. The innumerable temples which have been dedicated to the Virgin Mary assumed into heaven clearly attest this faith. So do those sacred images, exposed therein for the veneration of the faithful, which bring this unique triumph of the Blessed Virgin before the eyes of all men. Moreover, cities, dioceses, and individual regions have been placed under the special patronage and guardianship of the Virgin Mother of God assumed into heaven. In the same way, religious institutes, with the approval of the Church, have been founded and have taken their name from this privilege.

    16. This belief of the sacred pastors and of Christ's faithful is universally manifested still more splendidly by the fact that, since ancient times, there have been both in the East and in the West solemn liturgical offices commemorating this privilege.

    This is not the full story. Please have a look at it.

  • Anthony Miller

    Kind of what I said, innit.

    I mean the Pope's not going to go round saying “I just made it up”.

    Everything the Pope pontificates on stretches back to the “early days of the church”.

    The political reality is that if the Pope hadn't made this ruling there was a danger of fracture within the Church.

    You might think that's a cynical way of looking at things, but just because religious teachings are manufactured by the human subconcious mind and just because the Pope would seem to be responding to public opinion rather than forming it does not mean that there is no divine inspiration at work. It's just a bigger leap of faith to believe. Faith without doubt is simply a blind lack of reasoning and not faith at all. However, not everyone needs emotionally or intellectually to try to understand the faith in this way. Most people see faith on a much more macroscopic level. As I said above it's an interesting intellectual exercise to pick holes in Catholic dogma but it isn't the point of Catholicism.

  • RJ

    I think it is reasonable to assume that a) the Pope was in good faith ; b) he was well informed (though he only alludes to the sources here, I seems fair to say that he could have enumerated them or referred us to theologians who had the details at their fingertips). I think your cynical assumptions are the less reasonable option; moreover, I would think you are much less well informed than he was (or I am).

    I was not aware that this definition was a response to any controversy within the Church. It seemed to me that the belief was in peaceful possession – he says that he had consulted around the world and received a virtually unanimous response that this was in fact the faith of the Church. He was responding to petitions asking him to define it. I take him at his word. This seems the more reasonable option unless I start out with the presumption that he was deceiving people and/or himself. Seems to me cynicism won't allow us to accept anything. That is the cynic's loss.

    By the way, the idea that religious teachings spring from the subconscious is a modernist error.

  • Dr07

    What do we want to accomplish? Why? (What is your motivation?)

    Why run from it? Every one of us has a gift that we have not shared in decades, if ever. Some of us are immoble in beds in homes, some of us are shy face-to-face, but have wisdom. Some of us can talk like a pius nun, and some relate to a long shoreman; but everyome can learn a different perspective from “everyone”.

    I was involved in Juvenile Jail ministry for twenty years. My failures in this ministry were beyond the greatest lessons I have ever experienced, These lessons made me who I am today.

    You can hide and never grow or not. You decide right now.

  • RJ

    Replying to myself :) what I meant to say was: he was a lot better informed than you (or me)

    Hope I wasn't too brutal in my approach.

  • Anthony Miller

    Might explain things better.

    People dont bother with petitions unless they want to change something.

    The Orthadox Church had been celebrating the Assumption for years – if Pius XII hadn't recognised it he'd have been in danger of losing market share.

    While there may have been no immediate threat of schism you cant have a religious organisation with large decide-yourself doctrinal differences. Someone has to reconcile them and decided what is IN and what is OUT. Otherwise it wouldn't be political stable. For example in the early church there were a lot of arguements about how human or divine Jesus was which had to be sorted out to avoid schism.

    Erm … I was not postulating the subconcious mind is the only way God has of communicating but since he has often used dreams I'm sure he does use the mind too – which he created, having created everything. To what extent and how God manages to violate his own laws is not the purpose of miracles and visions etc. That's a whole other debate. However, many people have religious visions both inside and outside Catholicism. There's no shortage of people who think they've seen Jesus or Mary or, indeed, think they are them … the Vatican has to have a classification system to calculate the credibility of each as again if it didn't this could create sub-divisions and schisms. But I'm not getting into that and giving up now as I'm running out of space and this could go on forever…

  • Dr07

    I am interested in the UK perspective on the following:

    “NEWSER) – Israel blasted a statement by Catholic bishops made during a conference in Rome that called for “an end to the occupation” of Palestinian territories. “We express our disappointment that this important synod has become a forum for political attacks on Israel in the best history of Arab propaganda,” said Israel’s deputy foreign minister.”

    Didn’t Pope Pius (???) have the same problems with the Nazis?

    When will Catholics ever learn? Go to any Catholic Church in the world and read the first reading

    Is the Internet weakening the Catholic Church?

  • Fr. Joseph

    “The church is always in need of reformation because it is always in danger of becoming a mere self protecting institution like all other institutions.
    When this happens, it follows not the Law of Love but the law of Institutions, by which it tends to do the opposite of what it professes
     to do.”  Pope John XXIII

    … if the church is looking to increase believers and truly “welcome people home” then it should think more of the Christian slogan, “What Would Jesus Do.”  So much out of the Vatican and Catholic Church is a true shame & not consistent with -What Would Jesus Do?  Why do we discriminate against other Catholics?  Not all Catholic men are welcome in the Knights of Columbus…[an insurance company fraternal organization].  The bishops mock other Catholic denominations & jurisdictions let alone other Christian Ministers… tha’ts not Christian at all.  I love the Internet because it allows for this discourse!

    Fr. Joseph