Catholic approaches to the internet.
Article Type: Report
Subject: Internet (Religious aspects)
Internet (Social aspects)
Author: McDonnell, Jim
Pub Date: 03/01/2012
Publication: Name: Communication Research Trends Publisher: Centre for the Study of Communication and Culture Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Sociology and social work Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Centre for the Study of Communication and Culture ISSN: 0144-4646
Issue: Date: March, 2012 Source Volume: 31 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Event Code: 290 Public affairs Computer Subject: Internet; Technology application; Company public relations
Organization: Organization: Catholic Church; Catholic Church; Catholic Church
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 285994484
Full Text: 1. Introduction

In contrast to most Christian communities the Catholic Church has developed a relatively coherent official response to the Internet over the past two decades as well as developing a significant web presence. The thinking of the Church has been expressed primarily in a number of documents from the Pontifical Council for Social Communications as well as in the annual messages issued on World Communications Day by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Though representing the Roman Catholic Church thought, in some ways these approaches can also mirror a more general Christian approach to the Internet, particularly in terms of their theological underpinnings.

As Campbell (2010) observes, the Catholic response to the Internet can be seen in terms of "an officializing discourse." "This discourse seeks not only to promote designated uses of technology but also to set defined boundaries for use in terms of theological beliefs and social values" (p. 144). This process is part of a wider "communal framing of technology" which involves "using language and symbols that provide a clear framework for how the new technology should be viewed or integrated into the community" (p. 134). She notes that in official Catholic discourse " the Internet becomes framed as a mission field or a space for people to inhabit in order to transform it towards a Catholic view of the world" (p. 160). Within this broad framework official Church documents have used a variety of metaphors to characterize the Internet, particularly those like "aeropagus," "agora," "forum," or "market-place," which evoke the idea of the Internet as a "space" of dialogue and interchange. The strength of this position from an official Church point-of-view is that is it is easy to articulate and can act as a rallying call for Catholics to become involved in working with this new form of communication (Pascual, 2011; Vogt, 2011).

This discussion considers a number of dominant themes in Church thinking which can be said to have shaped both the discourse and practice of appropriating the technology of the Internet. These include the use of the Internet for evangelization or preaching the Christian Gospel, the ethical challenges presented by the Internet, ways of living with the Internet, and the pastoral use of the Internet. The essay concludes with a brief review of some of the critiques leveled against the Catholic approaches.

2. Internet and Evangelization

By far the most dominant theme in official Catholic discourse about the Internet is that of its potential and value for evangelization. This is hardly surprising given the long theological tradition embodied in documents such as Inter Mirifica (Second Vatican Council, 1963) and Communio et Progressio (Pontifical Council, 1971) that see the media in largely positive terms (so long as they are used properly) as "gifts of God" and "instruments of social communication" to be used for the purposes of mission.

The essential position was set out in the World Communications Day message for 1990 (some five years before the Internet actually became a reality for any significant number of people) entitled The Christian Message in a Computer Culture. "The Church must also avail herself of the new resources provided by human exploration in computer and satellite technology for her ever pressing task of evangelization" (John Paul II, 1990a).

The Vatican website was first set up in 1995 as Pope John Paul II became fired with the possibilities for the new technology. Sister Judith Zoberlein, the Vatican webmaster remembered, "So when it was proposed to John Paul II, he immediately thought it was positive. You know, he was a man who wanted to go out, to evangelize, to meet people, to present to the people the message of the church. He was very much in favor of that" (de Vaujany, 2006, p. 366).

This basic approach is reiterated and expanded in a range of documents over the following two decades. Throughout the 1990s World Communication Day messages re-iterate the themes of proclamation and evangelization in relation to different media. In the 2001 message the Pope spoke of "the positive capacities of the Internet to carry religious information and teaching beyond all barriers and frontiers" (Pope John Paul II, 2001).

The following year the message entitled, Internet a New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel, asserted that "the new world of cyberspace is a summons to the great adventure of using its potential to proclaim the Gospel message," but stresses that "electronically mediated relationships can never take the place of the direct human contact required for genuine evangelization" (Pope John Paul II, 2002).

Under the Pontificate of Benedict XVI the Vatican has taken more initiatives in extending its Internet presence to include in 2008 a TV channel on YouTube and in 2009 the Pope2You Facebook site. These practical initiatives were accompanied by Communication Day messages in 2009 in which the Pope called on young people to evangelize the "digital continent" (Benedict XVI, 2009) and in 2010 in which he exhorted priests to become "enthusiastic heralds of the Gospel in the new agora which the current media re opening up" (Benedict XVI, 2010; Mujica, 2010).

The Pope argued that "priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different "voices" provided by the digital marketplace. Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis (Benedict XVI, 2010).

In his Message of 2011 (Benedict XVI, 2011) the Pope draws attention to people's digital profiles on social network sites as a form of witness: "To proclaim the Gospel through the new media means not only to insert expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one's own digital profile and in the way one communicates choices, preferences, and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically."

Catholic critique of the use of the Internet for evangelization has tended to concentrate on the gap between aspiration and reality. A good example is the address given by Bishop Jean Michel di Falco, President of the European Episcopal Committee for the Media (CEEM) at a conference organized in Rome in 2009 in which he commented that Evangelical websites are often more welcoming to interested enquirers than Catholic ones. He called for Catholics to adopt a more open approach and to master the new language of the web (di Falco, 2009).

This theme of mastering the new languages of the digital world was first articulated in Pope John Paul's encyclical on evangelization, Redemptoris Missio in which he observed that the media were a new "areopagus" and that:

since the very evangelization of modern culture depends to a great extent on the influence of the media, it is not enough to use the media simply to spread the Christian message and the Church's authentic teaching. It is also necessary to integrate that message into the "new culture" created by modern communications. This is a complex issue, since the "new culture" originates not just from whatever content is eventually expressed, but from the very fact that there exist new ways of communicating, with new languages, new techniques and a new psychology. (John Paul, 1990b, #37c)

The challenge posed to the Church in understanding and mastering the "new languages" has been taken up by a number of Catholic authors. Soukup, (2003) points out:

In a similar fashion, the extent to which the Internet and digital culture generally is fostering a new mentality and way of behavior has become a common theme in reflections upon Church involvement with the Internet (Ouellet, 2009).

3. Ethical Issues

Apart from the preoccupation with the use of the Internet as a tool for evangelization, a second persistent theme in Catholic thinking about the Internet is a focus on ethical and moral questions. Ethical reflection on the Internet is seen as an application of well-established ethical principles in the area of communications and the media. In 2000 the Pontifical Council for Social Communications issued the document, Ethics in Communications (Pontifical Council, 2000). Ethics in Communication refers to the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes (Second Vatican Council, 1965) and to Pope Paul VI's Pastoral Instruction Communio et Progressio (Pontifical Council, 1971) in asserting that "the media are called to serve human dignity by helping people live well and function as persons in community" (#6).

It sums the core principles of the Church's approach to communications as follows:

Two years later Ethics in Internet (Pontifical Council, 2002a) applied the principles enunciated in Ethics in Communication to the Internet. Ethics in Internet characterizes the Internet as

However, Ethics in Internet does qualify the instrumental view in one important respect. In this document, for the first time in Church communication documents, there is an explicit recognition of the fact that the design of technologies already embodies cultural value judgements and decisions (Staudenmaier, 1989). Ethics in Internet notes that:

It then goes on to give a historical summary of Internet development that reinforces one of the myths about its origins in the 1960s, that it was created as "a decentralized network of computers holding vital data" primarily to "foil nuclear attack" (#8).

However, according to the historian of the Internet, Manuel Castells, though the Internet originated in the U.S. Defense Department, "its military applications were secondary to the project." What drove the initial development was rather "a scientific dream to change the world through computer communication" (Castells, 2001, pp. 17-19) .

There are a number of problems identified as areas of concern, the "digital divide," the danger of "cultural domination," the issue of "freedom of expression," the ideological and commercial pressures on journalism, the dangers of isolation and the challenge to community, and radical libertarianism. The final chapter makes a number of recommendations for using the Internet in an ethically responsible way. The document encourages comprehensive media education, legal and self-regulation of the Internet, international action to tackle the digital divide, and a whole range of other issues from crime to intellectual property, multilingualism, and the rights of women (#15-17).

In a companion document entitled, The Church and Internet, "some virtues that need to be cultivated" by those who want to make good use of the Internet are suggested. These are prudence, to see "clearly the implications--the potential for good and evil--in this new medium"; justice, especially "justice in working to close the digital divide"; fortitude, "standing for truth in the face of "religious and moral relativism"; and temperance, to use the Internet "wisely and for good" (Pontifical Council, 2002b, #12).

Of the problematic issues the digital divide and the dangers of social isolation and effect on community are probably the most often cited topics in the wider Catholic discourse about the Internet. In respect of the recommendations, most attention (and practical action) has been devoted to the promotion of media education in one form or another.

A. The digital divide

It is striking that the first "area of concern" raised in Ethics in Internet is that of the "digital divide," probably because it is seen as a fundamental challenge to the principle of "solidarity" which is "the virtue disposing people to protect and promote the common good" (Pontifical Council, 2000, #3). The issue was raised briefly in the Pastoral instruction, Aetatis Novae in 1992 in terms of the "unjust exclusion of some groups and classes from access to the means of communication" (Pontifical Council, 1992, #14). Pope John Paul II also expressed the hope that the "gap between the beneficiaries of the new means of information and expression and those who as yet do not have access to them will not become another intractable source of inequity and discrimination" (John Paul II, 1997, [paragraph]3). It was also touched on in Ethics in Communication in terms of the "information rich" and "information poor" (Pontifical Council, 2000, #14).

Ethics in Internet discusses the "digital divide" both within the context of globalization (to which it devotes considerable space) and in relation to discrimination within societies. It observes that "the causes and consequences of the divide are not only economic but also technical, social, and cultural. So, for example, another Internet 'divide' operates to the disadvantage of women, and it too needs to be closed" (Pontifical Council, 2002a, #10). In its recommendations the document refers the urgent need for the "globalization of solidarity" in order to respond to the divide and inequities of access. unusually for such a document, it also refers to a specific forthcoming global political event and expresses the hope that the forthcoming UN World Summit on the Information Society will "make a positive contribution to the discussion" (#17).

The digital divide has continued to remain an important element in the Church's reflections on the Internet both at the Vatican level and in national and regional discourse. For example, in a contribution to discussions about the information society in the Irish context, Archbishop Martin of Dublin maintained that

The fundamental ethical challenge of the digital age is equitable access. This I think is one of the contributions which religion can make to our debates on the digital age. The Church, in Christian theology, sees itself as called to be a witness to the unity of humankind in Jesus Christ. The more we can forge a world where unity emerges, where all share in an equitable way the good things that God has given us, the more we contribute to the building of a broad ethical culture for the information technology at the service of humankind. That is the ethical vision. The challenge is how to generate that new culture. (Martin, 2004, [paragraph] 33-34)

More recently, Pope Benedict drew attention once again to the risks of new technologies "increasing the gap separating the poor from the new networks" and calling it a "tragedy for the future of humanity" if "the economically and socially marginalized" were excluded from access (Benedict XVI, 2009, [paragraph]8).

B. Community and the Internet: Social networking

Worries about the psychological and behavioral impact of the Internet on individuals and communities are widely shared among educationalists, politicians, church leaders, and the general public. Official Catholic responses have largely mirrored these concerns with a particular stress on the dangers of individual isolation and the fragmentation of community ties. Interestingly, in recent years the pronouncements of Pope Benedict on social networking have seemed to signal a shift towards a somewhat more positive and optimistic evaluation of the Internet's influence.

The Pontifical Council for Culture expressed the anxiety about the Internet in the following terms: "It is not simply a question of moral use of the Internet, but also of the radically new consequences it brings: a loss of the intrinsic value of items of information, an undifferentiated uniformity in messages which are reduced to pure information, a lack of responsible feedback, and a certain discouragement of interpersonal relationships" (Pontifical Council, 1999, #9). Ethics in Communications took up the theme, highlighting the fear of fragmentation and isolation:

The means of communication also can be used to separate and isolate. More and more, technology allows people to assemble packages of information and services uniquely designed for them. There are real advantages in that, but it raises an inescapable question: Will the audience of the future be a multitude of audiences of one? While the new technology can enhance individual autonomy, it has other, less desirable implications. Instead being a global community, might the "web" of the future turn out to be a vast, fragmented network of isolated individuals--human bees in their cells--interacting with data instead of with one another? What would become of solidarity--what would become of love--in a world like that? (Pontifical Council, 2000, #29)

Ethics in Internet, reflecting on this vision, observes that "The medium's implications for psychological development and health likewise need continued study, including the possibility that prolonged immersion in the virtual world of cyberspace may be damaging to some" (Pontifical Council, 2002a, #13). And in The Church and Internet, it is asserted:

the virtual reality of cyberspace has some worrisome implications for religion as well as for other areas of life. Virtual reality is no substitute for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the sacramental reality of the other sacraments, and shared worship in a flesh-and-blood human community. There are no sacraments on the Internet; and even the religious experiences possible there by the grace of God are insufficient apart from real-world interaction with other persons of faith. Here is another aspect of the Internet that calls for study and reflection. At the same time, pastoral planning should consider how to lead people from cyberspace to true community and how, through teaching and catechesis, the Internet might subsequently be used to sustain and enrich them in their Christian commitment. (Pontifical Council, 2002b, #9)

In his World Communications Day message for 2009 Pope Benedict (Benedict XVI, 2009) picked up on contemporary debates about the role and expansion of Internet social-networking sites. Through he warns that the "desire for virtual connectedness" might become "obsessive" and "isolate individuals from real social interaction" and disrupt "patterns of rest, silence and reflection," the overall tone of the document remains positive and there is no hint of the dire vision of fragmentation raised in Ethics in Communication. The document, in fact, is quite positive about the potential of the technology, recognizing that

He goes on to discuss the "desire for connectedness" which he sees these technologies answering and comments that, "it is important to focus not just on their undoubted capacity to foster contact between people, but on the quality of the content that is put into circulation using these means" ([paragraph]4). This language of this document in emphasizing the networking aspects of the new technologies, as well as in using terms like "digital arena," "cyberspace," "digital generation," and "digital continent" seems to indicate a movement away from the more instrumental terminology of some earlier documents.

The Communications Day message for 2011 once again returned to the question of relationships:

The discussion shows that, at least in some quarters in the Vatican, there is a growing understanding of and a sensitivity to the complexities of what is taking place in the world of social networking even though positive aspects are constantly balanced by the negative: "the limits typical of digital communication: the one-sidedness of the interaction, the tendency to communicate only some parts of one's interior world, the risk of constructing a false image of oneself, which can become a form of self-indulgence" ([paragraph]3). However, generally speaking the Pope sounds a confident note, "I would like then to invite Christians, confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, to join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible. This is not simply to satisfy the desire to be present, but because this network is an integral part of human life" ([paragraph]8).

4. Living with the Internet: Internet Literacy

The term media education was first used in Pope Paul VI's Communications Day message in 1978, (Pope Paul VI, 1978). However, as Borg and Lauri document, the official Catholic attitude to the media had changed most decisively with the Second Vatican Council and then Communio et Progressio in 1971 in which the emphasis on educating its members about the media had shifted more towards a "discrimination model" and away from the dominant "inoculation" paradigm (Borg & Lauri, 2012, p. 7). Media education is an important theme in Aetatis Novae and also in Ethics in Communications. Ethics in Internet applies this thinking specifically to the new media asking that "Schools and other educational institutions should provide training in discerning use of the Internet as part of a comprehensive media education including not just training in technical skills--'computer literacy' and the like--but a capacity for informed, discerning evaluation of content" (Pontifical Council, 2002a, #15).

The Church and Internet, makes a number of important recommendations regarding media education. "Education and training regarding the Internet ought to be part of comprehensive programs of media education available to members of the Church." It also stresses that this is more than teaching techniques but about helping "young people make discerning judgments according to sound moral criteria" (Pontifical Council, 2002b, #7). It calls for Church leaders " to receive media education themselves" and wants "priests, deacons, religious and lay pastoral workers" to have education that includes Internet training. Regarding parents and children, it recognizes that children and young people are often more familiar with the Internet than their parents, but "parents are still seriously obliged to guide and supervise their children in its use." It goes on to recommend the use of filtering software and says that "unsupervised exposure to the Internet should not be allowed" (#11). "Parents and children should dialogue together about what is seen and experienced in cyberspace; sharing with other families who have the same values and concerns will also be helpful. The fundamental parental duty here is to help children become discriminating, responsible Internet users and not addicts of the Internet, neglecting contact with their peers and with nature itself" (#11).

As for children, they are exhorted to use the Internet well, told that it can enrich their lives, and warned against "consumerism, pornographic and violent fantasy, and pathological isolation." In words that illustrate how much the experience of the Internet has changed in the past decade, the document comments that "The Internet is not merely a medium of entertainment and consumer gratification. It is a tool for accomplishing useful work, and the young must learn to see it and use it as such" (#11).

Two years before the appearance of The Church and Internet the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference had issued a statement Your Family and Cyberspace which ended with a list of practical tips for parents to supervise their children's Internet use (USCCB, 2000). This practical guide approach was subsequently followed by other Bishops' Conferences.

The following year, 2001, the Catholic Bishops of the European union issued a statement on media literacy in which they said:

Special attention must be given to Internet literacy. ... Nevertheless, we wish to underline that measures designed to train people in the use of information technology ... are not enough. Provisions must be made at all levels and in all sectors of education and learning to equip people with the skills to use and evaluate the content of the Internet as well as its technical apparatus. (COMECE, 2001, #3)

5. Pastoral Use of the Internet

The uses of the Internet go beyond evangelization. In 2002 the World Communications Day message spoke of the value of the Internet providing "instruction and catechesis" and as a means of providing a "supplement and support" to individual believers and the Church community as a whole (John Paul II, 2002). These themes are then further elaborated in the document The Church and Internet (Pontifical Council, 2002b) which came out later that year and which explicitly called upon Church leaders to "employ this remarkable technology in many different aspects of the Church's mission." It identified these as "catechesis and other kinds of education, news and information, apologetics, governance and administration, and some forms of pastoral counseling and spiritual direction" (#5). One of the emphases in The Church and Internet is on the potential use of the Internet for two-way communication in the Church. It argues that the "Internet provides an effective technological means" of realizing the vision of "dialogue and information within the Church" (#6).

The positive exhortations are also accompanied by a number of warnings. In particular, it points to the presence of "hate sites" defaming and attacking religious and ethnic groups and calls for self-regulation and, if required, public intervention to "establish and enforce reasonable limits to what can be said." It also worries about the potential loss of ecclesial authority that the freedom provided by the Internet offers. The document frets about those web sites which call themselves Catholic and which are not aligned with official teaching. It asks how "to distinguish eccentric doctrinal interpretations, idiosyncratic devotional practices, and ideological advocacy bearing a 'Catholic' label from the authentic positions of the Church" (#8). The solution proposed is that "A system of voluntary certification at the local and national levels under the supervision of representatives of the Magisterium might be helpful in regard to material of a specifically doctrinal or catechetical nature. The idea is not to impose censorship but to offer Internet users a reliable guide to what expresses the authentic position of the Church" (#11). These anxieties, provoked by the emergence of such phenomena as rebel Bishop Gaillot's "virtual diocese" are shared by other religious communities too (McDonnell, 2000, pp. 58-61).

A number of studies are now appearing that are attempting to describe and assess some of the numerous Internet initiatives taken by the Catholic Church on the practical level. Cantoni and Zyga (2007) have studied the use of the Internet by Catholic religious congregations. Arasa (2008) has looked at the use of websites in nine of the biggest dioceses in the world, and a more comprehensive study of 15 case studies of Church applications from the Vatican's online communication to websites of Opus Dei and other groups has been undertaken by Arasa, Cantoni, and Ruiz (2009).

In Latin America the key ideas behind the Church's continental intranet, RIIAL (Red Informatica de la Iglesia en America Latina), are discussed and explained by Soberon (2009). In Africa, Ihejirika (2008) conducted more local research, studying an Internet cafe owned by the Mater Ecclesiae Catholic Diocese, in eastern Nigeria. Designed not to "project the image of the diocese (the diocese has a website), it is not meant to attract new converts, it is not meant to educate people about the diocese, but it is aimed at providing a needed service to the people" (p. 91).

PICTURE (2012) studies the usages of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), and of the Internet in particular, by the priests of the Catholic Church all over the world. PICTURE does not intend to answer the question, "How many priests use ICTs?" The research aims instead to offer a picture of which are the religious activities done by priests online, and which are their attitudes toward digital technologies. PICTURE studies only priests who access the internet, who are named in the following reports "ePriests." The project has its home at the Universita della Svizzera italiana in Lugano, Switzerland.

6. Critiques of the Church's Approach to the Internet

Shields (2008) critiques the Church's approach to Internet ethics on a number of points. He finds missing in these statements "an appreciation for the complexities of the Internet and its technology, of the protean-like reality and metaphoric meaning of cyberspace, and of the difficulty of locating ethical responsibility where users and producers are not easily distinguished." He also claims that "the generality of appeals to human dignity and the common good, as necessary conditions for grounding one's vision, taking a stand, and action remain rather vacuous" (p. 22). More fundamentally, Shields argues that "the Church's response to ICT is problematic in several aspects: (a) the appeal to a religious meta-narrative, (b) an instrumental appraisal of ICT, and (c) an authoritarian and deductive approach to ethical valuing" (p. 23). In its place Shields wants a religious ethics of ICT that will be "inclusive," "open," and "inductive." Shields is particularly critical of the instrumental assumptions underpinning the Church's thinking. He asks can "'social communications' as an ethical category adequately cover what is happening in ICT as it expands, for example, into robotics and biometrics?" (p. 23). He argues that

In fact, though the dominant paradigm governing the approach to evanglization through the media is an instrumental one, as far back as 1990, The Christian Message in a Computer Culture had pointed out that "one no longer thinks or speaks of social communications as mere instruments or technologies. Rather they are now seen as part of a still unfolding culture" (John Paul II, 199a, [paragraph]6). On the whole, this insight has not been taken up or explored in other official documents dealing with the Internet. However, the phrase is later cited with approval by Babin and Zukowski (2002) who argue that evangelization is not simply about "amplifying a doctrinal speech with the media" but rather of transforming the communication system.

Spadaro (2010, p. 258) also argues that the Internet is not just a tool but a cultural environment ("Internet infatti non e un semplice 'strumento' di comunicazione che si pud usare o meno, ma un <> culturale") as does McDonnell (2009) who sees some recent movement towards understanding the Internet in this way and who argues for the adoption of a more media-ecological approach (p. 163).

Benedict XV in his third message for World Communications Day, has now introduced the idea of "info-ethics." He observes that "it is essential that social communications should assiduously defend the person and fully respect human dignity. Many people now think there is a need, in this sphere, for 'info-ethics,' just as we have bioethics in the field of medicine and in scientific research linked to life " (Benedict XVI, 2008, #4). It remains to be seen if this idea is taken up further in official Catholic thinking and if has the potential to broaden the Church's approach to consideration of ethical issues and the Internet (McDonnell, 2009).


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Dr. Jim McDonnell
Like the printing press, digital technologies
   change the context of language--where we use
   language and how we use it. But where the printing
   press fostered the various vernacular languages,
   the Internet, for one, seems to encourage
   the use of just one: English-language sites predominate.
   This may change over time, but for
   now we see a kind of enforced "orthography" in
   language as well as in the form of presentation
   (icons, gif images, and so on). The digital technologies
   also further a change in language use:
   hypertext replaces the linear patterns of essays,
   documents, and narratives. Finally, digital languages,
   as people presently use them, have a
   strong interpersonal force: email and chat
   remain by far the most popular forms. The digital
   languages connect people. (p. 12)

The human person and the human community
   are the end and measure of the use of the media
   of social communication; communication
   should be by persons to persons for the integral
   development of persons.... A second principle
   is complementary to the first: The good of persons
   cannot be realized apart from the common
   good of the communities to which they belong.

the latest and in many respects most powerful in
   a line of media--telegraph, telephone, radio, television--that
   for many people have progressively
   eliminated time and space as obstacles to
   communication during the last century and a
   half. It has enormous consequences for individuals,
   nations, and the world.... The Internet is
   being put to many good uses now, with the
   promise of many more, but much harm also can
   be done by its improper use. Which it will be,
   good or harm, is largely a matter of choice--a
   choice to whose making the Church brings two
   elements of great importance: her commitment
   to the dignity of the human person and her long
   tradition of moral wisdom. (# 2)

The technological configuration underlying the
   Internet has a considerable bearing on its ethical
   aspects: People have tended to use it according
   to the way it was designed, and to design it to
   suit that kind of use. (#8)

Young people, in particular, have grasped the
   enormous capacity of the new media to foster
   connectedness, communication, and understanding
   between individuals and communities, and
   they are turning to them as means of communicating
   with existing friends, of meeting new
   friends, of forming communities and networks,
   of seeking information and news, and of sharing
   their ideas and opinions. Many benefits flow
   from this new culture of communication. ([paragraph]2)

In the digital world, transmitting information
   increasingly means making it known within a
   social network where knowledge is shared in the
   context of personal exchanges. The clear distinction
   between the producer and consumer of
   information is relativized and communication
   appears not only as an exchange of data, but also
   as a form of sharing. This dynamic has contributed
   to a new appreciation of communication
   itself, which is seen first of all as dialogue,
   exchange, solidarity, and the creation of positive
   relations. ([paragraph]3)

the new ICT puts into question the assumption
   that a firm, reliable boundary exists between
   humans as organisms and tools regarded as
   material aids to activity. In a world where many
   computers will share each of us, totalizing digitalized
   and global networks broker the relationship
   of humans to the world. If ethics for the
   Information Age has realistic hopes of shaping
   the development and applications of those technologies,
   we must not only rethink our assumptions
   about ICT, but move beyond the instrumental
   view. (p. 24)
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