The Holy Father recently spoke to a group meeting for a conference about the tools of Social Communication. Although during the conference there was some discussion of the blogosphere and new tools of media, the Pope’s speech didn’t attract very much attention.
I think we need to look at some of this speech.
The search for truth must be pursued by Catholic journalists with a passionate mind and heart, but also with the professionalism of competent staff who are equipped with adequate and effective means. This is even more important in the present historical moment, which asks of the figure itself of the journalist, as mediator of the flow of information, to undertake a profound change. Today, for example, the world of the image with the development of ever new technologies has ever greater weight in communication. But if on one hand this entails undoubtedly positive aspects, on the other hand, the image can also become independent of reality; it can give life to a virtual world, with several consequences, the first of which is the risk of indifference to truth.
[This is important…] In fact, the new technologies, together with the progress they entail, can make the true and the false interchangeable; they can induce one to confuse the real with the virtual. Moreover, the recording of an event, joyful or sad, can be consumed as a spectacle and not as an occasion for reflection. The search for the paths of an authentic promotion of man then takes second place, because the event is presented primarily to arouse emotions. [NB:] These aspects sound like an alarm bell: They invite consideration of the danger that the virtual draws away from reality and does not stimulate the search for the true, for the truth.
[I think it goes a bit off the rails here. The one who wrote this goes off on a different topic… but let’s go on.] In this context, the Catholic press is called, in a new way, to express to the heights its potential and to give a reason day in and day out for its mission that can never be given up. The Church has a facilitating element, since the Christian faith has in common with communication a fundamental structure: the fact that the means and the message coincide; indeed, the Son of God, the Incarnate Word, is at the same time message of salvation and means through which salvation is realized. And this is not a simple concept, but a reality accessible to all, also those who while living as protagonists in the complexity of the world, are capable of preserving the intellectual honesty proper to the “little ones” of the Gospel. Moreover the Church, Mystical Body of Christ, present at the same time everywhere, nourishes the capacity of more fraternal and more human relations, being a place of communion among believers and, at the same time, a sign and instrument of everyone’s vocation to communion. Her strength is Christ, and in his name she “pursues” man on the roads of the world to save him from the “mysterium iniquitatis,” insidiously operating in him.
New technologies and the progress they entail and the amplification of these technologies, can… can… create confusion of virtual and reality. They don’t need to absolutely, but they tend to. This leads to false communion and false community.
The essential value here is communion. We are created for communion. We are images of God, Trinity, who is Communion. Human relations have the capacity for communion. True communion is experienced in the Church, mystical Body.
Communion in Christ is the locus of true relationships. The Church promotes true communion in the liturgy.
Liturgical worship is the alternative to the fascination of the virtual and spectacle that is offered by the media.
How do we complete with their power?
We don’t do it with our own alternative new technologies, notwithstanding EWTN and this blog. That is not where we combat the virtual reality that can be generated through the new technologies.
Where we combat the virtual reality Pope Benedict warns us about is principally in the sacred liturgy.
We must be in church for worthy worship. We must be there to participate in The Real. We smell the incense, see the movement, the hear the music, we listen to the Word. We receive Communion.
We resist the danger of virtual reality through participation in worthy worship.
The Pew research suggests that Catholics don’t know what their participation in liturgical worship entails. 45% of Catholics don’t know they are receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist.