Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” – BIG NEWS!

I have some fun stories about trying to some modern technology working in the offices of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei".  That’s where the phrase:  "In the Vatican equipment is updated every 75 years, whether it needs to be or not", arose.  And the great battle cry was ever to be heard: "Yesterday’s technology tomorrow!".

This is where carbon paper was still being used in the Vatican Bank into the early 90’s.

I am now, therefore, quadrupally pleased to let you know that the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" has…

…. I don’t know if I can get this out….

… oh the emotion…





I am not surprised, in some ways. 

The Cardinal President when he was still Prefect at Clergy had that Congregation build a website quite apart from those visionaries of the Vatican’s internet offices or the forward-thinkers of the Secretariat of State, etc.  I believe

Card. Castrillon is one of those curial prelates who "gets it".

Therefore we applaud the Commission and the Cardinal.  I am sure we will be visiting often.

Spike their stats folks.  SPIKE ‘EM HIGH.

You will notice right away that they do NOT have a "Contact Us" form.   They do NOT have an "Ask a Question" form.

And I don’t blame them.

However… I wonder if this can’t be seen as a prelude to the Commission actually using the site to divulge… gulp… new material.   If you get my drift.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Howard says:

    Too bad it’s still in Italian only. Baby steps!

  2. Willebrord says:

    Can’t wait till it’s available in English… noticed that two of the events (a TLM workshop and Westminister) had English titles… I suppose that since they relate to English-speaking people, they’d be in English.

    But it looks as though the site will have multiple languages soon. You can even select English… though it doesn’t work (yet).

    I’m looking forward to whatever they have to put out in the future!

  3. RichR says:

    Whether or not they have a present “hit counter”, the stats are being stored somewhere, and most likely, those numbers will be tapped in teh future to assess interest. So, at least visit the link above so the numbers can start stacking up.

  4. Chris says:

    I personally think this is a great step.

    But they’re going to just make things worse if they don’t put this in English and other languages like the rest of the Vatican website. It will only lend to a division and conspiracy theories.

    Father, help them translate with all of your free time! :)

  5. Jason says:

    There’s a lot that the Holy See can do with modern technology (e.g., the Holy Father could make podcasts). It will be interesting how the Church adapts in the future.

  6. Andreas says:

    Interesting commentary under “studi e comentari” (le vesti liturgiche secondo Ratzinger) ending with the sentence that summarizes the whole article:

    Il Papa, insomma, non veste Prada, ma Cristo. E questa sua preoccupazione non riguarda l'”accessorio”, ma l’essenziale. Questo è il significato degli ornamenti liturgici che Benedetto XVI si preoccupa di curare, per rendere più comprensibile agli uomini del nostro tempo la realtà più vera della liturgia.

    Well said!

  7. Nihil Autem says:

    No icon to click for “Appeals From Your Local Ordinary,” either. (Sigh.)

  8. Jane says:

    One big step in the right technological direction. Lots of praise and visiting the website will reinforce the good technological behaviour.

  9. Luke D. says:

    I’m glad to see that there is a website up, unfortunately it looks like it has not been created with standards in mind. This page does not display correctly in Safari which is open source, cross platform, and standards compliant. This is really unfortunate. Hopefully this will be resolved moving forward.

  10. Simon Platt says:

    To Willebrord and others:

    The documents on the PCED website all appear to be in their original languages. I think it will be a valuable source, and I’m sure that English speaking bloggers with the right language skills will be available to translate (not just Fr. Z!)

  11. Simon Platt says:

    Dear Luke,

    Yes! Standards are so important. In more ways than one!

    I’m afraid the PCED website is poor in this respect. If anyone from the PCED is reading this they might like to consider using a validation service such as that at http://validator.w3.org/

  12. Mary Augustina says:

    Other signs of modernization, heard there’s installation of solar panels on the roof. Seriously, though, a website is a good thing, I think.

  13. PMcGrath says:

    … carbon was still being used in the Vatican Bank into the early 90’s.

    What, you mean like lumps of anthracite coal on the tellers’ desks?

    And with a “carbon tax” on the way … well, people are reducing their carbon usage everywhere …

  14. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Fr Z, Your announcement is very funny. And “Yesterday’s technology tomorrow” could describe a few places I’ve worked! Not to mention some parishes I’ve encountered. [don’t GO there…]

    Alas, having been intensely involved with the internal website of a company at one time, just because there’s a website doesn’t mean anybody knows how to use one. And many of us here know how complex the stuff can get. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Hope they know about anti-hacking environments. Maybe they should start with the old electronic bulletin board. Remember those? I think I visited those on my Commodore!

    but its a start, brick by brick. This is good news.

    PMcGrath: Carbon, wasn’t that the backup after the gold standard was dropped?

  15. Niall Mor says:

    The PCED was probably waiting to see if this internet thingy would really catch on and wasn’t just a flash in the pan :)

  16. Tina in Ashburn says:

    I visited the website as ordered by Fr Z.
    From my Mac, I clicked on “download” at “SITO WEB Summorum Pontificum”. I got a warning “This is a document created in Windows. You sure you want to open it?” Typically my Mac doesn’t care since it usually converts most documents. At the top of the 1.6 MB document of complete gibberish is a statement “This program cannot be run in DOS mode.” I’m not sure, but I think the language is written in WINGDINGs.

    The links visible on the pages appear useful but it looks like Mac and Firefox users are a ways away.

    I am impressed that there is a search engine on the site!

  17. Maureen says:

    Yes, the English-titled event stuff is in English (with pictures!), and the French-titled “study and commentary” papers are in French.

  18. Melody says:

    I am getting the same problem as Tina with my mac. Ah well, baby steps. Someone should send them Umberto Eco’s article on how the mac is Catholic and MS is Protestant.

    Oddly, instead of word or text files they are .exe (Windows application) files. Can anyone explain?

    In any case, I am glad to see that they are establishing an online presence, since I frequently see letters online supposedly from their office, and while I trust the good Father Z, I wonder if there is not a potential for abuses in that.

  19. Fr. BJ says:

    The web site doesn’t work correctly in Google Chrome either. Hopefully someone who knows how to contact someone there will let them know to update their code to a modern standard that mainstream browsers can read properly.

  20. Charivari Rob says:

    Melody – “…getting the same problem as Tina with my mac. Ah well, baby steps. Someone should send them Umberto Eco’s article on how the mac is Catholic and MS is Protestant.”

    Actually, the MS/PC format has the lineage – it would be Catholic. Mac was someone’s idea of reinterpreting things – without literally nailing it to the door.

    To carry my absurd analogy a little further, MS-DOS would be the venerable form, the “Latin Mass”, if you would. Windows is simply the NO.

  21. josephus muris saliensis says:

    Indeed, does not work in Apple Safari my Mac, all empty pages. OK in Firefox.

    I say this only as it amuses me, considering that a higher than average proportion of trad priests I know use Macs, including at least one at Ecclesia Dei, and another in Rome very close to the Holy Father.

  22. I am sure they will see the technical comments. Keep them coming.

  23. Matthew M. says:

    Fr. BJ – I am not sure Google Chrome is a good test bed for a site – it is very, very beta, and renders many pages on the internet incorrectly.

    I am actually impressed they got an attractive site working on both Firefox and IE from the beginning. Nice job, guys! (It can easily be imagined that Safari compatibility is a lower priority for them because of its tiny market share (low single digits), and anyway, every mac user can run firefox.)

    It is a mistake to store documents as self-extracting zip files, though. (These are the windows-only .exe files mentioned previously). First of all, many users don’t have windows and can’t extract them, second of all, many PCs rightly won’t download and execute a foreign .exe file on account of the security risk, and third of all, it’s really not even needed — just store then as a .zip. Every can extract a zip file – some unzip programs like z-ip are free.

  24. Matthew M. says:

    sorry, meant to end with the word ‘7-zip’, found here, incidentally: http://www.7-zip.org/

  25. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Melody – “…Someone should send them Umberto Eco’s article on how the mac is Catholic and MS is Protestant.”

    Charivari Rob – “Actually, the MS/PC format has the lineage – it would be Catholic. Mac was someone’s idea of reinterpreting things – without literally nailing it to the door. To carry my absurd analogy a little further, MS-DOS would be the venerable form, the “Latin Mass”, if you would. Windows is simply the NO.”

    Okay, we are way off here. Obviously the terminal and mainframe is the Catholic way. PCs have allowed innumerable denominations of random thought to proliferate, disengaged from the central depository of programs and source data.

    Added to that, I do find that my present Mac isn’t like the one I used in the 90s. The old one seemed more robust although this one is incredibly easy to use. I turned it on and before I had “told” it about the printer, my Mac found it and added it to the network.

    Clearly, there is something spiritual going on!

    Ad absurdum.

  26. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Well, to be honest, I think the search engine on the site will be difficult to sustain. Google or Google-type searchers are much easier to maintain and are more efficient.

    My little experience with search engines proved that no matter what company we went with or whose logic we used, it became a tangled mess eventually. These engines took an inordinate time to develop and install. Inefficient as they can be, search times can be lengthy to the point of timing out across the ‘net. As the site grew, the engines would miss a large percentage of stored data as we added new sources.

    Using Google could be a problem if any advertising is required, else I believe there is a substantial fee. Google also has the reputation of not providing search results for sentiments with which they don’t agree. However, if this could be overcome, the Google engine would be quick and low-maintenance internally and provide searchers out in the ‘net the desired answers they seek.

    As an example of downloads, EWTN offers relatively unformatted text files for straightforward downloads. As a common denominator for any kind of computer or software, plain text can’t be beat. But for enormous documents or those that require substantial formatting, zips might be the answer.

  27. Derik C says:

    Dear Fr. Z.

    Thanks for the news. I want to say to you and your readers, that “download” links to a .exe file, actually a self-decompressing file that will ‘unzip’ the text in your hard drive, whereas “Il documento” links to the actual html page with the text.

    Be sure to click in the right link.

    OTOH, the languages used in the documents reminds me of an earlier post where Fr. Z suggests that someone wishing to be an expert in liturgy, should be polyglot. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that translations are very useful for the faithful.

  28. Phillip says:

    Father Z,
    When you say carbon, do you mean carbon copying?

  29. Anne says:

    This is the funniest thread I’ve ever seen on WDTPRS. It seems some folks are so young they actually do not understand what carbon paper is? Considering pretty much anyone important in the Vatican is over about 70, it’s understandable they don’t conceptualize the impact 21st century technology can have.

    We are going through a similar transition in our parish – in an elderly community with an elderly priest. About five of us in the whole place are capable of maintaining the website and getting Father’s emails for him. But our pastor is a big fan of Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s column in the Wanderer, and maybe we can gradually coax him to approach the computer without fear when he realizes he can read stuff written by Fr. Z almost daily.

  30. Pawel Pojawa says:


    Maybe this
    could count as Pope Benedict’s podcast?

  31. Luke D. says:

    Charivari Rob,

    History would disagree with you. The website, http://www.folklore.org, will change your life.



    P.S. The recent book, iCon, is also a worthy read.

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