Thursday, June 11, 2009

"A Witness to the World"

Almost three years after the first blogging cardinal threw his red hat into the ring, Sean O'Malley's got competition -- a new group-blog from the archdiocese of Chicago was launched earlier this week with a contribution from its chief, the USCCB president Cardinal Francis George:
I am coming late to the blog, and I enter that world as anyone going to a foreign country with a particular task. Can I understand the language, can I use it to get my message across? What is new about e-mail and the blog that grows from it is its interactive nature. People can talk back and forth and therefore become more involved with one another than is possible just by publishing books and articles or even by appearing on TV. Since the Gospel always involves the messenger as much as the message itself, blogging would seem to be a good means to preach.

An immediate problem is: how much of the messenger is really revealed? Contacts are not relationships, and relationships are not automatically loving. And love is at the heart of the Gospel: love of God and love of neighbor. The blog can be anonymous while giving the illusion of forthrightness. How can it be used for evangelical purposes?

A few months ago, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, a group with a daunting title, published a letter from Pope Benedict XVI. He reflects on electronic communication and human relationships.

The Pope points out that we can now almost instantaneously share words and images “across enormous distances and to some of the most isolated corners of the world.” The benefits are many. Families remain in contact; students and researchers share their sources and their results; our deep need to communicate with others is more easily satisfied and new communities spring up.

The dangers are also obvious. The quality of the messages and the content carried can destroy genuine respect, dialogue and the growth of friendship. As Archbishop of Chicago, I sometimes receive messages from people who hate the Church, distort her history and want to use the Internet to wound or destroy her. Pope Benedict says: “If the new technologies are to serve the good of individuals and of society, all users will avoid the sharing of words and images that are degrading of human beings, that promote hatred and intolerance, that debase the goodness and intimacy of human sexuality or that exploit the weak and vulnerable.”

In the Gospel, Jesus invites us to be his friend and to give our life for one another. Friendship presupposes presence, and “on-line” presence can never be the equivalent of personal presence. It is a personal tragedy when the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive and serves to isolate individuals from real social interaction with family and friends and neighbors. Like any addiction, electronic addictions “disrupt the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development.”

Catholics and other followers of Jesus can use the Internet to witness to the world. This Archdiocesan blog will put interested people into contact with me and with others who are responsible for the life and ministries of the Archdiocese. My prayer is that the community of those who know Jesus in his Church will expand and that our mutual understanding will deepen.
As head of the Stateside bench, George will lead next week's summer meeting of the bishops in San Antonio. Beginning Wednesday, the three-day gathering will be the body's first plenary since the Obama administration came to office and over 70 bishops voiced disapproval of Notre Dame's selection of the President as its commencement speaker last month.

Only two of the meeting's five sessions will be open to the public and media coverage; reflecting the body's desire for freer discussion, the rest of the agenda consists of closed-door executive sessions.

Earlier today, the Mothership released a statement from the cardinal expressing his sorrow over yesterday's fatal shooting at Washington's Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Calling the murder of a museum security guard at the hand of an anti-Semitic white supremacist "a deplorable act of violence and a violation of a hallowed space in our nation’s capital," George said that "this tragic incident only serves to reinforce the need for continued education throughout society against bias of every kind, but most especially racial and religious prejudice."

(Tip to the mother of all aggregators, Kevin Knight's New Advent.)