26 Jan 2009

Catholic Church to Invade the Internet - Osservatore Romano review

The launch of the Vatican's YouTube channel on 23 January made news around the world. But this is just one visible step towards a Catholic evangelization of the whole internet. On May 24th the Catholic Church also holds its 43rd World Day of Social Communications with this year's theme being "New technologies, new relationships. Promoting a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship." A number of articles have recently appeared in the Osservatore Romano and I just wanted to outline some of the worrying themes that are being promoted by the Pope.

On 24 January the article "A digital world accessible to all" was at the very top of the Italian online edition. It covered a recurring theme: that the huge success of social networking sites was due to our fundamental desire to be connected with other people. Nothing particularly controversial about that. The Pope stresses, however, that Catholic virtues should not only be upheld by the faithful but actively promoted. We can see where this is going and the Pope does not disappoint. The last paragraph starts,"I would like to conclude this message by turning, in particular, to young Catholics, to urge them to bear witness to their faith in the digital world. My beloved, feel yourselves entrusted to introduce into this new communications and information environment the values on which our lives rest!" (italics in the original Italian). It goes on to draw parallels between the conversion of pagans by the Apostles and the conversion of this "digital continent" by young Catholic. The logic here being that the internet is a natural environment for the younger generation who, in a sense, already speak the jargon, know how to Buzz and Digg their way around. If there was any doubt that the YouTube channel was not just videos to the faithful but rather one small step towards mass global conversion then we have confirmation here from the Pope himself. The message is to go forth and spread the Gospel to all your internet friends for "You know their fears and their hopes, their enthusiasms and their delusions." So much for the preamble about respect and dialogue - this is a full-blown call to arms!

The next article is about the actual launch of Vatican YouTube. Little of interest here except that the venture has been planned for a year and a half to ensure the stability of the technology. The videos will be available in Italian, English, Spanish and German, with more to come. The third article, entitled "The Net and the Church. Destined to Meet" is mere puff elaborating the Pope's ideas about conquering a new continent. However, the language used, of the Church incarnating into the net reminds me of the film Lawnmower Man. The author does nothing to dispel that thought as he goes on to say that in reality the internet is in the image of the Church, comparing them both to a body that is alive and well when all its organs are communicating effectively. Wait for those phones to start ringing!

I suppose we shouldn't expect anything less; after all, the Catholic Church is on a mission from God to rule the whole world. We expect armies to behave like armies, even if most people are mere reservists. We've had American televangelists and their internet manifestations for some time now. But much of the world finds them risible and a mere financial or sexual scandal away from going off-air. We now, however, have a planned invasion by the Catholic borgs with "Be my friend!" as their first gambit before launching into their assimilation techniques. Prepare your children!

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