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Saturday, 28 March 2009

"full of the interplay of danger and promise"

Fr Selvester has a post today, "To blog or not to blog" in which he refers to a quotation given by Paul Zalonski at Communio in his post Presence in the blogosphere.

The quotation was from the address of Pope John Paul II to the participants in the plenary meeting of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in March 2002.

A little further on in this address, Pope John Paul referred to the internet and the text has a link to his message for the 36th World Communications Day, issued in January of 2002. the theme of that was "Internet: A New Forum for proclaiming the Gospel." I remember reading this back in 2002 and it is fascinating to revisit it.
The Internet is certainly a new “forum” understood in the ancient Roman sense of that public space where politics and business were transacted, where religious duties were fulfilled where much of the social life of the city took place, and where the best and the worst of human nature was on display. It was a crowded and bustling urban space, which both reflected the surrounding culture and created a culture of its own. This is no less true of cyberspace, which is as it were a new frontier opening up at the beginning of this new millennium. Like the new frontiers of other times, this one too is full of the interplay of danger and promise, and not without the sense of adventure which marked other great periods of change. For the Church the new world of cyberspace is a summons to the great adventure of using its potential to proclaim the Gospel message. This challenge is at the heart of what it means at the beginning of the millennium to follow the Lord's command to "put out into the deep”: Duc in altum! (Lk 5:4). (n.2)
Pope John Paul went on to speak of how the internet can be used to provide information and stir interest in the faith, and then to offer the follow-up that evangelisation requires.

He also gave some cautionary advice, saying for example:
Furthermore, the Internet radically redefines a person's psychological relationship to time and space. Attention is rivetted on what is tangible, useful, instantly available; the stimulus for deeper thought and reflection may be lacking. Yet human beings have a vital need for time and inner quiet to ponder and examine life and its mysteries, and to grow gradually into a mature dominion of themselves and of the world around them.
It is certainly true that the use of the internet should be disciplined so that it does not take time away from reflection and prayer - and indeed human contact.

I am not sure that I agree that the internet "offers extensive knowledge, but it does not teach values", that it is a forum in which "practically nothing is lasting" or that it "favours a relativistic way of thinking." Since 2002 there have been major developments in evangelisation through the internet, and it is now used all the more to teach values. People realise that "an email lasts for ever" and that information posted on the internet may be far more lasting than hitherto realised, and it has become a forum where those who oppose relativism may make their voice heard more effectively than before.

These developments may well lead in due course to attempts to regulate the internet by thought crime legislation, precisely because it is a forum in which absolute moral values may be taught outside the state-regulated relativism of the education system and the health service.
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