Social Media vs. the Catholic Church (?)

Here’s the summary of this post: “How the Internet is game-changer for the Catholic Church.” Keep reading if you’re interested…

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This summer I’ll be speaking at the Catholic Media Conference in Denver. I’ll be giving a presentation on the “Ethics of Social Media.” 
The elements of social media (internet, blogs, podcasts, synchronous college courses, live streaming internet radio, phone texts, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are now a permanent part of our lives. You can try to be a Luddite, but not for long. You will drown in the waves. You will lose the cultural battle.
Think about these two bullets:
  • Social media now has the power to bring pornographic videos through an iPhone into a teenager’s bedroom. 
  • Social media now has the power to bring videos of the Pope celebrating Mass, Bibles, Catechisms, and Fulton Sheen mp3s to China, North Korea, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc. – places where missionary efforts have been widely blocked.

As Uncle Ben from Spiderman cribbed from the Bible: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” How can Catholics surf the wave of information crashing upon us?

No doubt, the power of information just became more powerful. Information is faster and easier. This is like fire. It can bring about great good and great evil. Fire can burn down your house and crackle the skin off your bones. Fire can also cook your steak and warm your home. The problem is not the fire per se.
As you know, Popes issue encyclicals. They are called “encyclicals” because once upon a time they needed to be “cycled” around. These documents had to be distributed through the rings of information. At first hand copied. Later printed. Later photocopied. Later faxed. But now, Pope Francis can send out a tweet via Twitter and it goes to 2.5 million people instantly. Pope Boniface VIII (d. 1303) would have fleeced France a hundredfold in order to acquire this new kind of social power.
What does this mean for Catholics?
I read somewhere recently that 60% of the internet is delivering pornography. That means that Wikipedia, your favorite blogs, sports scores, and whatever are only 40% of what is “the internet”!
That is a bleak statistic. Nevertheless, I’m hopeful. When people look back at our century, they will speak of the canonized saints who used this great power to evangelize the face of planet earth. The next Boniface, Dominic, Catherine of Sienna, or Francis Xavier will come seemingly out from nowhere when things seem almost lost. Then Christ will act with great power.
These future saints could be little old nuns like Mother Angelica or they could be a handful of Catholic college kids who launched an initiative that reformed the Catholic Church through their keyboards. I don’t know. What I do know is this: When the printing press emerged in the 1500s, Protestants and Humanists flocked to it. Catholics were slow on the uptake. We should learn from this mistake.
I hope that we won’t make the same mistake with the new digital medium. The Catholic Church could become the most influential voice on the planet. But she needs saints to make it happen. Not mere techies. She needs “holy techies” who have a passion for truth, souls, and most importantly, love for Christ and His Church.
Question: I have some ideas on how this “game changer” could happen for the Catholic Church through the new media. I’ll be sharing them in the months to come. Before then, I want to hear your ideas. How do we share the Gospel with every person on earth? How do we harness this power? How do we create something like an EWTN that is 1,000 times bigger and more influential?
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