Here’s a statement: Fr. Z agrees with the Huffington Post.
One Thomas A Shakely, blogging at HuffPo has a piece about the Catholic Church and the Church’s use of and strategy on the tools of social communication. But… wait, there’s more. Coherent strategy about social communications.
I agree with many Shakely’s ideas. Keep in mind that Shakely has also written for National Review Online. I’m just sayin’…
Here are some snips. Read the rest, if you care to, over there. We enter the scene in media res…
But for a variety of reasons, such coherent approaches to life in the digital age remain elusive, especially for major, culturally significant institutions. And among America’s great institutions, the Catholic Church looms large as another arena for the reconciling of our physical and digital experiences. The American Catholic Church represents nearly a quarter of the population; some 68 million people across 18,000 parish churches within 195 dioceses in 50 states.
Catholics under 30, who embody the future of the Church, are true digital natives. They experience life in both the physical and digital space, with real world experiences like the Mass amplified across online profiles and communities, sparking curiosity and conversation among people who expect to be able to find answers (at least, orthodox clarity of information) as simply as they search for an address or pay a bill.
The digital life, in other words, impacts lines of thinking and personal formation. This leads to an inescapable conclusion: the Catholic Church is missing a tremendous opportunity. [I have written before in these electronic pages that every bishop in the US should appoint a priest to be Episcopal Vicar for Online Ministry.]
Pope Benedict XVI has made the new evangelization a cornerstone of his papacy. […]
Directors of Digital Strategy could develop coherent, custom plans of action, with clear lines of responsibility, and answer directly to the bishop, serving as a digital adviser. [That might work. The only problem is that getting everyone to work together would be rather like trying to organize a goat rodeo.] Parish churches, too, could recruit their own digital liaisons to take charge of online media, branding, access, and communication on a local level, working in tandem with the diocese strategist. [If it can be impressed at the parish level that there is something called the internet, the web, Twitter… etc.]
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia, in particular, represents an ideal proving ground for this concept. Charles Chaput, longtime Archbishop in Denver and author, will be taking over in Philadelphia in September. The city has been rocked in recent months by the simmering scandal of the sexual abuse crisis and its handling of accused priests, and the faithful are truly in need of leadership, not only about the state of their churches and their priests, but also on how to communicate their faith in dark times.
The challenge has at least two parts. First, to engage Catholics beyond the Mass across relevant platforms, communicating the eternal message of the Church. [We used to do that pretty well, even with liturgical moments that weren’t Mass, devotions and the like, which could have a social dimension afterward. However, in the aftermath of the Council, devotions were all but swept away. In most places. And as neighborhoods changes and people all acquired cars, parishes weren’t neighborhood centers of activity anymore.] Secondly, and critically with near-perilous internal and national economies, to do so at low cost while reaching more souls across diverse physical and digital communities. [QUAERITUR: Will the perils of our economy bring down the internet? Then what? Back to devotions! Pot luck at the parish! Sharing ration books to make the cake for the collective birthdays of a dozen kids at a time!]
Imagine: an Archbishop whose voice was a part of your Facebook feed. Who spoke through short behind-the-scenes videos and personal updates via Twitter. Who checked-in on Foursquare. Who live streamed and archived his Masses and homilies. Who had a public email address. [Well and good. But the medium is not the only message. The bishops and priests who do this have to give something worth saying or hearing, with something to tussle with. If you are going the shout from the housetops, you had better have more to say than just a shout at the moon or “You’re all okay just the way you are!”]
Catholics want the faith of their communities to shine, and their bishops and priests and schools to be meaningful parts of their lives and positive examples for others. The Catholic choir of community still sings. Like all choirs, it helps to have a director.
A digital strategist, and a roadmap strategy, are a smart way to seize a critical opportunity.
The Church always used to use well the most modern tools of social communication. Until recently.
I have used this example for years now:
Our Lord asked to be let out on the water in a little boat at the end of a line so that He could address a much larger crowd on the shore.
He thereby gave us the first example of “on-line ministry” (cf Mark 4).
He used technology to address a wider audience.
Another biblical example is that of shouting from the rooftops: more people can hear. (cf. Matthew 10:27: Quod dico vobis in tenebris dicite in lumine et quod in aure auditis praedicate super tecta.) The roof is a tool of communication.
Paul wrote letters which were read aloud to crowds and then copied and sent to other communities.
When Christianity became the religion of the Empire Constantine allowed bishops to use the Imperial post system. They so overtaxed it that it struggled to function well.
When we learned to make thin walls that were tall, we filled them with glass so that light could in a new way teach even the unlettered about the mysteries of the faith and the story of saints and of salvation.
We used the printing press, radio and the infant television.
We haven’t done too well with the internet … yet.
But we are getting there.
Byte by byte.