Bishops, the Gospel, and the Internet age

Bishops, the Gospel, and the Internet age

Religion News Service looks at the phenomenon of bishops taking to the Internet and satellite radio. The theme is that these old guys representing an ancient institution and “passé” morals is using the hottest new technologies to reach hip, young audiences.

Among the efforts they cite are Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s blog, the New York Archdiocese’s Catholic Channel on Sirius, Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali’s YouTube videos and more. They also mention other efforts like posting streaming video of Masses and the like.

These are all good. I want to make that clear. I’m happy they’re doing it. But it only scratches the surface. Melanie and I were talking in the car while we drove to my brother’s house for a birthday party (Isabella turns 1 this week and my nephew Joseph and niece Theresa also have birthdays this month so we did one combined party.)

Anyway, in the car I brought up the idea of some hypothetical ways the Church—by which I mean a diocese—could use the Internet and the cutting-edge technologies available to reach out in all new ways. I think some of the ideas were pretty good: podcasts, email newsletters, streaming media, web sites, blogs, and more.

Of course, none of that sounds interesting by itself. What’s new about streaming media? That’s precisely the point: It’s not the technology that matters most but the content. It’s what you do with the content. The technology is a delivery tool.

The bishop, the face of the diocese

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  • I think it will inevitably happen as children of the 80s and 90s and beyond become Priests and Bishops and Popes. The current Bishops come from a different time.

  • Facebooks seems to be way most young Catholics are networking! There are some interesting facebook groups out there on Theology of the Body, Theology on Tap etc etc)

    I urge folks to get on Facebook (with privacy set HIGH) and to use Facebook to interact with 20-35yos!!!

  • The web has already done a great service to American Catholicism.  There is no discounting its impact in exposing the sexual abuse scandal.  I also think it’s unfortunate that it is still being viewed as a novelty.  The internet is mainstream, not some new techno-fad useful only to the young.  I’m not the only gray-haired lady in cyberspace who tunes in regularly to what is going on here.

    Content is everything.  If our bishops can find out what interests their audience and target that interest, the web offers far greater potential for evangelizing Catholics than anything we’ve had in the past, particularly considering the minimal cost.  But I do think it is going to take the bishops to do it—to lead the charge—and they must be bishops who are faithful to Tradition and in communion with the Pope if they are going to be effective.  Then the rest of the American Catholic journalists can follow their lead, and we just might see a revival!

    If I were going to pick a subject that interests, it would probably be authentic Roman Catholic mysticism, without any importations from other religions.  We Catholics do want to believe in miracles.  All the evidence we need of that is the chasing after images of Christ and the saints in tree bark and water stains on buildings.

  • I think the work that Fr. Roderick is doing with SQPN (Star Quest Production Network) is one of the great examples of using new media.  His network of podcasters both lay and clergy doing video, audio to produce high quality content is the perfect example of a successful use of media.

    By producing shows of interest across a wide audience that also show and teach the Catholic faith you do get part of the new evangelism.  That his bishop in priest-strapped Holland is letting him do this almost full-time shows that some know just how important a Catholic presence in the new media is.

  • Dom, have you seen It’s by the same guys who created Skype, I believe. (Skype, for the uninitiated is a video phone service that you can download for free and use with your computer camera and video chat with friends and family all over the world) Joost is tv for the internet. The first thing I thought of when I saw it was JPII’s calling to be using all of this technology for evangelization purposes-and then how soon can we get a good and relevant Catholic station on it?!

    After all, the Catholic faith used to lead the world in communicating the faith through media (think the monks in Ireland!!)

  • Whenever I think of bishops trying to use the latest technology to spread the Gospel, I can’t help but remember the US bishops’ crash-and-burn effort trying to go head-to-head with Mother Angelica’s EWTN network, lo those years ago. 

    You know the story.  Cloistered nun in the heart of the Bible belt.  Zero money.  Zero broadcasting experience.  Enter the Holy Spirit…who has lots of money (among other things, of course)…mix with Mother’s sincere desire to teach the Truth in Its fullness…and you’ve got the most effective teaching medium the Church has known since Fulton Sheen. 

    And Carrie is spot on with her “Content is everything” insight.  Mother Angelica didn’t care about gauzy graphics and slick editing.  She cared (and cares) about Christ crucified and risen from the dead.  She cares about the Sacraments.  She cares about leading all souls to heaven. She zeroes in on the most bottom of bottom lines when it comes to our faith.  THAT’s the content the bishops need to focus on.  None of this NCCB / ICEL / Haugen-Haas ice cream crap.  Just the Gospel, the way it should be taught. 

    If the bishops are looking for some free advice from me – and they can be sure it’s worth what it costs – it would be to study the model that ate their lunch the first time.  Maybe then, they’ll get it right the next time.

  • Preaching the Gospel, yes, that’s what is needed.  It won’t be anything new to those of us who have been around the Church for years, but to hear it preached again can be so refreshing even so.

    At the church my husband and I have been attending lately there is a priest from Africa who is studying in the area.  His homilies are filled with solid Catholic doctrine taken directly from the readings of the day.  They are not erudite explanations of complicated theology.  They are simple so that even a child can understand.  Sometimes he preaches from the CCC, taking the truths of the faith and talking about them in the context of contemporary life.

    We never get the “preferential option for the poor” kind of preaching.  We get God—Who He is and what He wants from us.  We get the Mass according to the rubrics with never a reason to question what he is doing now.  We get the solid Catholic faith with no novelties.  I always look forward to his Masses. 

    The fact that this takes place in a church that looks Catholic, with all of the Catholic artwork that has been banished from other churches by renovation, doesn’t hurt either; and ironically this church has become the church of choice for weddings in the area.  The young people know what’s worth having.

  • “And Carrie is spot on with her “Content is everything” insight.  Mother Angelica didn’t care about gauzy graphics and slick editing” (Steve)

    eeehhhh…and who is watching EWTN? The faithful who want to support it, because they are willing to put up with a lack of “good art” if you will in it’s production.

    There seems to be this notion that to proclaim the Gospel it can’t have excellent graphics, even “slick editing”.  Why should we not demand the high standards of production worthy of the Gospel? Why do we allow for shoddy shlockwork and say “it’s good enough”

    We have the technology to get it done right. I think we do more harm when we try to present the Gospel message in a poor quality .  Good art means not only the content and it’s excellence, but also how it is presented.

    Can you imagine if someone like Fra Angelico said “eh, good enough. At least I got the content right”. Look at his work-by artistic standards it is some of the best art that we know. It wasn’t just content that he gave 100%, it was presentation as well.

  • Maybe it depends upon how “good art” is defined.  Do we want the message of the Gospel presented using all of the slick techniques of the secular media that we’ve become accustomed to?  If the media is the message, don’t we have to take care not to present the wrong message when we use the secular media?  Sound bites don’t make for particularly good preaching.  Think of Bishop Sheen’s techniques.  Were they state-of-the-art?  His presentation was very simple, yet people still watch the videos of those TV segments today, and they still carry a message that is contemporary.

    Those who I know who watch EWTN aren’t putting up with poor content in order to support the station.  They are tuning in because the message appeals.

  • Maybe it depends upon how “good art” is defined.

    That’s the problem. Good art is not dependant on who defines it.  Art needs to be True, Good and Beautiful. It needs to reflect truth, the fullness of understanding, both in a theological sense as well as it’s medium, it needs to be good,-with balance and order, and it needs to reflect Heaven.  Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, either it fulfills what it should and is therefore beautiful or it does not and then warrents the term “ugly”.

    “Do we want the message of the Gospel presented using all of the slick techniques of the secular media that we’ve become accustomed to?  If the media is the message, don’t we have to take care not to present the wrong message when we use the secular media?”

    Just because the secular media uses it doesn’t make it inherently wrong. They may use a medium beautifully (to it’s fullest potential) but content is lacking in fullness of truth. If someone has found a way to most perfectly use a medium I say let’s use it to proclaim the Gospel message.

    Bishop Sheen used radio because that is the medium most effective-and popular- for reaching the population. I think we should demand no less of ourselves in this state of the art age.

    Doesn’t the Gospel deserve to be proclaimed with the best art we have to offer?

    Incidently, Sherry Weddell has an article that speaks to this in a fashion.  One of the lines that I think is important is this “if people’s lives aren’t changing, something is wrong in our proclamation of Christ”. (“When Evangelical Is Not Enough” )