Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Some guidelines for "the Areopagus of modern times'

I discovered just yesterday that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has developed Social Media Guidelines. The guidelines are just that, not dictates. Under the heading Guiding Principles it states:

"The world of digital communication, with its almost limitless expressive capacity, makes us appreciate all the more Saint Paul’s exclamation: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" ( 1 Cor 9:16).—Pope Benedict XVI, 44th World Communications Day message (2010)

Social media are the fastest growing form of communication in the United States, especially among youth and young adults. Our Church cannot ignore it, but at the same time we must engage social media in a manner that is safe, responsible, and civil.

As Pope Benedict XVI noted in his message for the 44th World Communications Day message (2010), this new form of media “can offer priests and all pastoral workers a wealth of information and content that was difficult to access before, and facilitate forms of collaboration and greater communion in ways that were unthinkable in the past.”

The Church can use social media to encourage respect, dialogue, and honest relationships—in other words, “true friendship” (43rd World Communications Day message [2009]). To do so requires us to approach social media as powerful means of evangelization and to consider the Church’s role in providing a Christian perspective on digital literacy.

"Before beginning work on social media guidelines, you may want to read both the 43rd and 44th World Communications Day messages. These are available at 43rd World Communications Day Message and 44th World Communications Day Message."

Later in the document, it addresses personal sites by clergy and church personnel:

"sites of church personnel should also reflect Catholic values. Businesses are cautioning their employees that, while employees have a right to privacy and confidentiality regarding what their employers know about them, an employee’s use of social networking—because of its very nature—means he or she relinquishes some privacy and could be construed as representing the company’s ethics and values. Likewise, church personnel should be encouraged to understand that they are witnessing to the faith through all of their social networking, whether 'public' or 'private.'

"Many employers and church organizations ask their personnel to consider including a disclaimer on their personal sites, especially if employees/church personnel are highly visible in the community and/or post material related to church work/ministry on their personal sites. One example: 'The views expressed on this site are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer'."

As both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have pointed out, the church must be present in cyberspace, but our presence has to be a witness to Christ. The guidelines discuss visibility, community, and accountability. John Paul II called the world wide web "the Areopagus of modern times." Of course, St. Paul preached in the Aeropagus of ancient Athens, the place where public discourse and debate were carried out.

Here's what Paul said:

"Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

'For we are indeed his offspring.’

"Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead" (Acts 17:22-31).


  1. The Internet is an Indomitable Beast. A Golem that we have created and loosed upon the world and can no longer seem to control.

    The most we can hope for is that the Individuals' Hearts who post, who create, who diffuse, Hunger for Truth. Hunger for Christ.

    His Grace, Bishop Tom Collins, at a Lecture that I attended titled "Evangelization in the Media" said that we must be "Charitable." He said we must be Charitable with our Words, with our Criticisms, with the pressing of the Send Button. "Charity can go a long way," he said.

    You see, the simple fact is that we are Sinful, Fallen Creatures and the Internet has the ability to make us LESS Accountable. Via Anonymity. Via the Ignore Button.

    I Love that the Document addresses the Personal sites of the Clergy, the Church's Personnel...even with a disclaimer we know that there will still be those MANY that will say, "Oh and So and So is with the CHURCH!!"

    Many of us Judge the Church through its Members. Its Ministers. Its Personnel. If they are flawed, which we are, then we utilize that as an excuse to Criticize and not Attend Mass, to not be Accountable: "Well if So and So does it and THEY'RE with the Church, what's expected of me."

    I know that they're wrong for thinking this way. That the only Model to Follow is Christ, but, Sinful and Fallen.

    I am not trying to be a Pessimist, simply a Realist.

  2. No problems. These days posting for me is catch-as-catch-can. I have alot of things brewing that I should sit down and write about coherently, but I have been going nuts an Facebook instead.


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