What I find most remarkable about this decision is how fast it has come and that is opens to door for thousands of professional voices to be heard on the Blogosphere. Imagine, if you like, the Chinese communist party telling its cadres to do this, or perhaps the US officer corps, or perhaps the managers of Microsoft been given this license.
Amazingly, the Catholic Church is leading on this. The Pope has chosen to trust his priesthood, obviously a good bet, but it still blows the door open for a public debate and real public participation. I suspect that it will work out just fine.
The press loves to take cheap shots at the Church over its famously slow response to change, though that has waned in resent years as more are coming to respect the nature of the Church not just as another institution, but as almost the only institution that must make definitive moral decisions and those policies are always the standard for others. Other churches and religions have dabbled in this and have typically been found wanting.
In fact, the modern age has seen the disappearance of some of the most egregious anti Catholic propaganda commonly deployed by a lot of other Christian faiths, or perhaps I simply am too successful at avoiding such people.
For the nonce, the Church has decided that its thousands of priests can and will blog and compete with each other for attention and ultimately reach their own audience of believers.
This is very powerful. No longer does a believer have to accept whoever is at the alter to provide their spiritual instruction. They can choose a priest who speaks successfully to them personally.
There are presently 400,000 priests worldwide, each typically providing service to an average of 3,000 believers. I can from my own experience, can say that without the use of a blog, it is impossible to properly reach out to that many people. The truth is that you reach ten percent and rely on family and the rest to maintain the rest.
With a blog, a gifted writer can communicate with and even develop a much larger effective audience than otherwise possible.
Pope To Priests: go
Forth and Blog
By Associated Press
Saturday, January 23, 2010
The pope, whose own presence on the Web has heavily grown in recent years, urged priests on Saturday to use all multimedia tools at their disposal to preach the Gospel and engage in dialogue with people of other religions and cultures.
And just using e-mail or surfing the Web is often not enough: Priests should use cutting-edge technologies to express themselves and lead their communities, Benedict said in a message released by the
"The spread of multimedia communications and its rich ’menu of options’ might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web," but priests are "challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources," he said.
The message, prepared for the World Day of Communications, suggests such possibilities as images, videos, animated features, blogs, and Web sites.
Benedict said young priests should become familiar with new media while still in seminary, though he stressed that the use of new technologies must reflect theological and spiritual principles.
"Priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ," he said.
The 82-year-old pope has often been wary of new media, warning about what he has called the tendency of entertainment media, in particular, to trivialize sex and promote violence, while lamenting that the endless stream of news can make people insensitive to tragedies.
But Benedict has also praised new ways of communicating as a "gift to humanity" when used to foster friendship and understanding.
has tried hard to keep up to speed with the rapidly changing field. Vatican
Last year it opened a YouTube channel as well as a portal dedicated to the pope. The Pope2You site gives news on the pontiff’s trips and speeches and features a Facebook application that allows users to send postcards with photos of Benedict and excerpts from his messages to their friends.
Many priests and top prelates already interact with the faithful online. One of Benedict’s advisers, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the archbishop of
Naples, has his own Facebook profile and so does Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of . Los Angeles
In Saturday’s message — titled "The priest and pastoral ministry in a digital world: new media at the service of the Word" — Benedict urged special care in contacts with other cultures and beliefs.
A presence on the Web, "precisely because it brings us into contact with the followers of other religions, nonbelievers and people of every culture, requires sensitivity to those who do not believe, the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute," he said.
Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli, who heads the Vatican’s social communications office, said that Benedict’s words aimed to encourage reflection in the church on the positive uses of new media.
"That doesn’t mean that (every priest) must open a blog or a Web site. It means that the church and the faithful must engage in this ministry in a digital world," Celli told reporters. "At some point, a balance will be found."
Celli, 68, said that young priests would have no trouble following the pope’s message, but, he joked, "those who have a certain age will struggle a bit more