CHURCH/ Evangelization in the Twitter age
The implications of Pope Benedict XVI,'s resignation, and the identity of his successor are being discussed in the United States by Catholics and non-Catholics who wonder what that choice will mean for the future of the Catholic Church and its billion-plus members.
There is an interesting article about this in The Week magazine that observes that in the past the Catholic Church was accustomed to moving at the pace of centuries. Now it seems lost in our global democratic culture dominated by a technologically fueled tabloid.
"In the days since Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, we've heard abundant speculation about who will be chosen to succeed him and what that choice will mean for the future of the Roman Catholic Church and its billion-plus members around the world. Will the next pope hail from Europe, where the church is dying, or from the global South, where its future lies? Will he be a reformer like John XXIII, who convened the modernizing Second Vatican Council? Or a timid traditionalist like Paul VI, who in 1968 reaffirmed the church's ban on artificial birth control over the objections of the very theologians and scholars he'd convened to study the possibility of lifting it? "
These may be important questions. But they are much less significant than the deeper question of how the Church deal with a culture in which the basic words of the Christian vocabulary have lost their meaning. The Catholic Church is a religion of the Word, the Logos who became flesh, an event proclaimed as occurring through symbols that are not arbitrary.
The question is: What is the word in the way we communicate today? Do we really communicate in an I-World? What is a symbol in such a world?
Some have suggested that the solution is for the Vatican to open a sophisticated communications office. Two months ago the Vatican opened a Twitter account and began tweeting under the pontiff's name. I agree that better communications won't get to the root of the problem, which is that the Catholic Church must evangelize a global democratic culture dominated by a technologically fueled tabloid sensibility.
By concentrating on how current communications spread the scandals in the Church, the article does not even touch the real challenges posed to the Church by the present structures of communication.