Update (November 17, 2010)
Another blogger's take on the USCCB press release:
- "USCCB Press Release on Embracing Social Media"
Christopher's Apologies (November 17, 2010)
This post contains a complete press release from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). I'll put that first - and then give my take on the Catholic Church, social media, and the "digital continent."
Here's what the USCCB had to say:
"Bishops Urged to Embrace Social Media in Order to Effectively Evangelize 'Digital Continent'"
USCCB News Release, 10-210, (November 15, 2010)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
"BALTIMORE (November 15, 2010) — The Catholic Church faces an urgent call to evangelize the new 'digital continent' of social media, according to a presentation to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) at their annual Fall General Assembly. Bishop Ronald Herzog of Alexandria, Louisiana, a member of the USCCB Communications Committee, delivered the presentation November 15.
" 'Although social media has been around for less than 10 years, it doesn't have the makings of a fad,' said Bishop Herzog. 'We're being told that it 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 said, referencing the Protestant Reformation.
"Bishop Herzog described the communication habits of young people today, which he noted have moved beyond email to the world of social media.
" 'If the Church is not on their mobile device, it doesn't exist,' he said. 'The Church does not have to change its teachings to reach young people, but we must deliver it to them in a new way.' He compared this outreach to evangelizing a new digital continent, and said the Church has serious challenges to overcome, noting, 'Most of us don't understand the culture.'
"Bishop Herzog said the egalitarian nature of the Internet makes it particularly challenging to the Church.
" 'Anyone can create a blog,' he noted. 'Everyone's opinion is valid. And if a question or contradiction is posted, the digital natives expect a response and something resembling a conversation. 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. This is a new form of pastoral ministry.'
"Bishop Herzog cited a survey of diocesan communications personnel conducted by the USCCB that saw great variation in the use of new media, with respondents expressing a desire to learn more about it and requesting training and additional resources. The most frequently requested resources were not additional dollars but staff who are trained in its use.
"Keywords: social media, new media, Bishop Ronald Herzog, Committee on Communications, USCCB, General Assembly, November meeting, U.S. bishops"
At the risk of sounding sarcastic: I think it's smart to not write off the Internet and social media as a passing fad. I also think it's smart to realize that it's not 'just like print media, only on a screen.'
Some priests, bishops, and archbishops in America are already online, on the "digital continent." The Archbishop of New York, for example, has a blog. And he knows how to use it. (October 24, 2010, October 23, 2010)
Not everybody's going to be as comfortable with the new media, of course. Just as a generation or so back not everybody was Archbishop Fulton Sheen.July 26, 2010)
The USCCB's declared position is, I think, a whole lot smarter than the sort of fearful approach taken by other groups in America.
Like the time that the Christian Coalition and the Feminist Majority joined forces - because they wanted the Federal government to decide who would get to put content on the Web; and who would get to read it. (Another War-on-Terror Blog (March 9, 2008)) They failed. But that was, in my opinion, a near-miss.
Hysterical, in my view, reactions to the 'Wicked Wicked Web' like that were an example - again in my opinion - of why emotion and reason don't play well together. I've discussed that in another blog:
- "Emotions, the Frontal Cortex, The War on Terror, Anarchists, and the Illuminati"
Another War-on-Terror Blog (December 23, 2008)
Some of America's traditional information gatekeepers are, in my opinion, having a terrible time adjusting to the new realities. I discussed that briefly, last week:
"...Information gatekeepers are the people in a society who determine what others are allowed to see and hear. In America, until quite recently, information gatekeepers were people like....
"...No 'vast conspiracy' involved: just a matter of folks who have a particular worldview being able to decide what 'the Masses' should hear. For our own good, of course.
"I've discussed information gatekeepers and some aspects of insularity in another blog:
(November 11, 2010)
- "What is an Information Gatekeeper?"
Another War-on-Terror Blog (August 14, 2009)
- "The New York Times, Insularity, and Assumptions"
Another War-on-Terror Blog (October 21, 2008)
Good News - - -I've enjoyed the freedom to publish ideas online at very little cost. This 'right to publish' doesn't imply a 'right to be read,' of course. And that's another topic.
The sort of social interaction that's possible in social networks is a huge change from traditional print media. Or maybe not so great a change. A newspaper's editorial page and 'letters to the editor' are very much like blog posts and comments - only slower and more limited in potential audience.
Social networks like Twitter, though: that's yet again another topic. (On Twitter, I'm Aluwir)
I think blogs and the writers of blogs are - scary - to old-school information gatekeepers like news editors and media publishers. The 'proper sort' are no longer able to keep folks who don't agree with them from getting published. (See "Cultural Chaos, Divisiveness, and CNN" (April 1, 2010))
Bad News - - -That, for me, is the 'good news' part of the Information Age. The 'bad news' is that - anyone can create a blog. Anyone - provided the person has internet access and minimal communication skills.
I'm careful about what I write - and make an effort to distinguish between my opinions, assertions made by others, and statements of fact. That's one reason why I include so many citations and links in my posts. And repeat what Matthew Warner said - that I have the full authority of "some guy with a blog."
Not everybody's that careful about what they write.
- - - And the Catholic ChurchAs I wrote about two years ago - "My opinion doesn't count: Church teaching does." (November 3, 2008)
Bishops, archbishops, and cardinals in America are telling us what the Catholic Church teaches. I hope that more Catholics will learn that they can go online and discover what these leaders of the Church actually have to say - not what some editor wants us to think.
- " 'Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain:' The Pope in Spain"
(November 11, 2010)
- "From Father Dowling to The Simpsons: Somebody Finally Got it Right"
(October 21, 2010)
- "Vatican Brick-and-Mortar Library: Still Reopening This Fall"
(September 13, 2010)
- "Vatican Brick-and-Mortar Library Reopening This Fall"
(July 26, 2010)
- "Social Media Guidelines from American Bishops"
(July 21, 2010)
- "Some Catholic Blogs Bother Bishops - A Lot"
(June 17, 2010)
- "The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Citing my Sources, the Bible, and All That"
(May 31, 2010)
- "Giving the Internet a 'Soul?!' No, Really: This Makes Sense"
(May 8, 2010)
- "Cultural Chaos, Divisiveness, and CNN"
(April 1, 2010)