US bishop hear the word “blog” during meeting

Problem: Catholic Bishops in general today know as much about most social issues – in this case the internet and social networking – as they did about astronomy in the 16th century.

With that in mind… a note from the USCCB plenary:

Go forth and blog, tweet and post, US Catholic bishops told

(AFP) – 16 hours ago

WASHINGTON — Roman Catholic bishops in the United States should go forth and blog, tweet and preach on the “new digital continent” of social media, a church leader said Monday. [Interesting idea.]

“The church does not have to change its teachings to reach young people, but we must deliver it to them in a new way,” Bishop Ronald Herzog told the general assembly meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Baltimore.

If the church is not on their mobile device, it doesn?t exist,” he said, likening social media to a “new digital continent” waiting to be evangelized.  [Well… tress fall in forests, too.  But, we should ask which Church would be on their mobile.  What would be a Catholic content on their mobile devices were bishops involved?]

The biggest handicap facing the church is that many members of the clergy don’t understand the culture of the unexplored continent and might even fear confrontation with the natives, he said. [I could deliver a workshop or two on that score.]

On the digital continent, “Anyone can create a blog. Everyone’s opinion is valid. And if a question or contradiction is posted, the digital natives (bloggers) expect a response and something resembling a conversation,” Herzog said. [There is at work in blogs that allow a lot of interaction something like a Reverse Gresham’s Law.  You have to be able to back yourself up if you are going to make a claim.  This is why liberal Catholic blogs don’t get much traction.]

We can choose not to enter into that cultural mindset, but we do so at great peril to the church’s credibility and approachability in the minds of the natives, those who are growing up in this new culture.”

Ignoring social media could have a similar impact on the church as another communications revolution did back in the 1500s, said Herzog.

Social media “is causing as fundamental a shift in communication patterns and behavior as the printing press did 500 years ago. And I don’t think I have to remind you of what happened when the Catholic church was slow to adapt to that new technology,” he told the gathering of Catholic bishops.

The printing press was a driving force behind the Reformation in the 16th and early 17th centuries, which saw a schism in the Roman Catholic church and the establishment of Protestantism as a branch of Christianity.

Though the Roman Catholic church isn’t usually associated with social networks, the church, Pope Benedict XVI and individual clergy members are on digital media including Facebook and Twitter.


News: the internet has been around for a while now.

There are a lot of priests and Catholic laypeople involved in the Catholic blogosphere.  I have not seen much engagement with them so far.  If you were to draw up a list of “digital natives” who might have a few things to say, I think you might have to include my name, and those of a few of my fellow travelers.  Some of us have been involved with the internet for a long time.

I am glad that the bishops have heard the words “I-N-T-E-R-N-E-T” and “B-L-O-G” mentioned at their meeting.

I’m really glad.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, The future and our choices and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Tim Ferguson says:

    My esteem for our body of bishops went up immensely this morning upon learning that they have bypassed Bp. Kicanas and chosen Abp. Timothy Dolan as president (presider? j/k) for the next three years.

  2. Microtouch says:

    Eventually, kicking and screaming they will be dragged into the 21st century. Thank the Lord for the more pro active among you who have jumped into the water with both feet. I have learned more about my faith in two years as a Traditional Catholic (Latin) and through sites like this than 12 years of the liberal catholic teachings of “Catholic” school and 40+ years of the Novus Ordo.

  3. chironomo says:

    “Anyone can create a blog. Everyone’s opinion is valid.”

    Hmmm… I think I know what he meant to say here, but I’m not sure this is a good way to say it. I think it would be best to say that everyone’s opinion gets equal time or has equal access to being considered, not that they are all equally valid. There are plenty of untruths and lies out there… those are what bloggers need to be prepared for… to challenge the untruths!

    I totally agree with your conclusion about liberal blogs… it parallels what has been said about liberal talk radio… it goes nowhere because it can’t defend it’s positions and thus becomes merely opinion and self congratulating conversation. It can’t really inform.

  4. Henry Edwards says:

    My esteem for our body of bishops went up immensely this morning upon learning that they have bypassed Bp. Kicanas and chosen Abp. Timothy Dolan as president

    My own esteem went up somewhat more when they elected as vice-president–and undoubtedly eventual successor (unlike Kicanas) as president–Ab. Joseph Kurtz of Louisville. In addition to being a rising star generally, as Bishop of Knoxville previously, Ab. Kurtz was a warm friend of our TLM community (which he started in pre-SP days). (Click here for some photos of Ab. Kurtz in attendance at one of our Masses.)

  5. chironomo says:

    And concerning technology….

    What happened to the Mobile Version of WDTPRS? It used to work really well on my Blackberry… ever since the format change it no longer comes up, and the website takes an eternity to load on my browser in it’s full format.

  6. lmgilbert says:

    It’s very possible that the blogshere profoundly affected this election, for there were a number of bloggers raising the alarm about Bp. Kicanas and at least one was organizing efforts to have Catholics communicate with their bishops at the conference. Perhaps we are approaching the point where we may have in effect something like a vote by acclamation by the people on various issues. At least we can make our voices heard loud and clear in the ecclesiastical piazza, which is all to the good. It sure beats writing letters to the chancery or to editor of the local Catholic paper, with litle hope of either a response or publication.

  7. rakesvines says:

    The religious orders that are specialized in the media e.g. Paulists & Salesians of St. John Bosco really need to get into this new missionary continent with the coolest sites because they can meet and save souls who are not church goers. They have to be in the leading edge to attract readers away from more temptating flesh spots. The thinking orders also need to be out there to refute the lies and obfuscations of the media or wayward believers e.g. the LCWR & CHA. Thank God we have clerics like Fr. Z and many others e.g. Padre Steve who can read the signs of the times and respond in a pastoral and catechetical (and liturgical for WDTPRS) manner.

  8. TC says:

    Here’s a term the Bishop’s need to be exposed to: Creative Commons. The Bible (NAB), Psalter, Missal, &c. who knows what else are are locked up in exclusive deals with international publishers (can you say simony?).
    If you want a free mp3 or e-book Bible you need to go to a protestant site.

    The USCCB might start by links to a lot of the good stuff that IS out there compiled by Catholic bloggers: SQPN’s patron saint’s site Catholic Prayers blog, if they want to star with the “non-controversial.”

  9. Supertradmum says:

    I think the lack of the use of the Internet is larger than a particular priest not being technologically skilled. I think there is, at least in the Midwest, a sense of anti-intellectualism among priests, many of whom come from Protestant areas, especially here, where the experience of Faith is stressed to the detriment of the rationale of Faith. Most priests I personally know who are not EF priests simply do not read anything and are stuck in the religious experience mode, or even in the political theology mode, such as liberation theology. If they ever went to a blog, these men, who, by the way, had bad formation and training, would be hard put to find the words to express themselves, as most of the great priests who join this comment group do. If I sound harsh, look a the fruit of anti-intellectualism in the Midwest Catholic churches, schools, colleges, and universities. One sees over and over in the curriculum a lack of good, solid theological courses. I know that one of my seminarian friends in graduate college had to write a mid-term on how he felt about a liturgical stance of the Church. I would never allow such papers in my classes, as I teach rational discourse.

  10. mike cliffson says:

    I suspect you’re being unfair to 16th century Bishops at the beginning of your post, but Im not sure . Certainly the republic of letters ,clergy a large part thereof ,generally protected its own, the universities (and their backwoodsmen?) were part of the church . and the Js in particular were into astronomy and the latest cosmology.
    How should I criticize those who were not martyrs when I so fear that I would myself fail that test? But, learned or not, the 16th cent Bishops of England barring but St John Fisher and another, folded where tens of thousands , if not more , monks, nuns, clergy, laity( men womenand children of all classes ) stood up to be counted, were counted, and mown down, and others continued standing up.
    They were still having fun at the end of HenryVIII’s reign, the said Bishops, on minor delutherizaning , broad tent, reccomending seminsacramnts, and manouvering for some sort of Union withthe Eastern Churches, but avoiding the Pope. THAT wasn’t under duress. That was them institutionally.
    It is all too easy to draw a parallel between the then English Bishops ‘ two umbrella organizations, the convocations of Canterbury (south) and York (north) and modern Bishops conferences. I don’t know if a serious study HAS been made, tho I find it cogent that that snare of the devil, burocratic group-think, could well be at play in both cases.
    Returning to the point : As in U.K .Leguin’s novel the dispossed , when the disillusioned hero dicusses a device his resaearch is leading to that will enable FTL instantaneous message communication among the star systems with a diplomat who is enthralled at the possibility of nation speaking unto nation as easily as alocal Phone call therebye, he bitterly replies: “Yes. And what will they say?”
    It is hard not to believe that Angloshere Bishops conferences’ greater presence on internet would not be Lowest common denominator.( The Spanish Bishop’s conference once excellent, with warts, radio chain has lost half its listeners , down from 4 million to 2 million, since not the church’s enemies but internal ones drew its teeth 2-3 years ago. It now offends noone – except me apparently .Eg, for the US to understand: It was fulsome all day about abomacare being passed, my phoned complaint re Obama and abortion was brushed off as “your opinion.” )
    If you’ve GOT something to say AND there’s a way to say it , you might get on to the means available. If you don’t want to rock the boat, run an an anodyne website.

  11. pforrester says:

    I loved the analogy, by Bishop Ronald Herzog, to a “digital Continent” yet unconquered for Christ. Not that missionaries & priests, and some bishops have not been at work on the digital continent for some time. But, so much more could be done. The harvest is great and the workers still too few.

  12. Tina in Ashburn says:

    You’re funny Father Z. gee! Terms like ‘internet’ and ‘blog’ being mentioned. What’s that again?

    Catholics got behind in the 16th century when Protestants leveraged the printing press to spread heresy.

    It is a good lesson today – good Catholic hierarchy must fill the vacuum before the vacuum is filled by something else. I too am grateful for Fr Z’s work and that of other good clerics. There are plenty of self-anointed lay “apologists” that annoy me to no end with their shallow understanding and pronouncements out on the net. The ‘net needs, as well as the whole Church, a place to find priestly authority to guide us.

    Without brothers and nuns to fill the work gap as they did before the 60s, technology can replicate the good work of our busy clergy…though we still need the human connection, fer shure.

    And YAY!!! for Archbishops Dolan and Kurtz. wooo-hooooooooo!!

  13. PghCath says:

    Henry Edwards: Thanks for that. It’s good to hear of more friends of the EF in high places.

    (An aside: Is that a blue chasuble in your photos?)

  14. Henry Edwards says:

    No, the chasuble is really violet, just looks bluish in some digital photos.

  15. Geremia says:

    Hey, it is an unfair characterization to say “Catholic Bishops in general today know as much about most social issues – in this case the internet and social networking – as they did about astronomy in the 16th century;” Card. St. Bellarmine, e.g., was very knowledgeable. And many were of course well-versed in Ptolemaic astronomy. Perhaps you meant to say “Copernican astronomy?”

  16. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Reprising my role as Wet Blanket, I must note with some reserve these headlines. Didn’t we hear “preserve the faith, but change its presentation” just before Vatican II, just before the 1970 Missal, and just before the original (now lame-duck) translation? One doesn’t need to take a degree in Liturgics or Deconstructive Ideology to know that whenever someone proposes to keep things the same, only change them, the real emphasis is on CHANGE. The Gospel is enduringly true, and the faith is unchangingly beautiful. Hand held devices will be replaced by whatever newfangled thing comes along the pike, and then there will be calls to update to keep up with that fad. Let the Ecclesiastical Marine Engineers take that fight, but let us not be dragged into fighting the enemy’s war on the enemy’s terms. Didn’t 27 years of such approaches teach us much?

  17. skellmeyer says:

    Well, the bishops actually knew quite a lot about both Ptolemaic AND Copernican astronomy. Indeed, Copernicus’ work was funded by his uncle (a bishop) and his uncle’s friends (all bishops), Catholic bishops secured the services of an excellent Protestant (!) mathematician to help Copernicus and C. was even tapped by the Pope to help reform the calendar, precisely because of C.’s excellent reputation as an astronomer.

    Furthermore, bishops and cardinals threw parties for Galileo upon Galileo’s publication of his stellar discoveries.

    It was the lay university professors that had it in for Galileo, accused him of heresy, and forced the first trial on Copernicanism (they couldn’t get Galileo in the dock, although they tried. The best they could do was get Copernicanism in front of the Dominicans).

    Galileo brought the second trial on himself when he disputed primacy of discovery with the Jesuits (especially Fr. Grassi) in several areas, and got rather nasty and heated in his rhetoric. The Jesuits paid him back by getting him in front of the Inquisition a second time, this time much more front and center than had previously been the case. Even then, the Dominicans found him vehemently SUSPECTED of heresy, but not actually formally heretical.

    So, yeah, the whole analogy is …. well…. off….

Comments are closed.