January 24, 2008

Part V - Cyberspace in the Life of the Church

  1. 5.1 Introduction
    How the available tools in the Cyberspace can be implemented for the daily functions of the Church is our main attention in this chapter. First part of it will be dealing with the present IT tools and upcoming technologies which are in the array to be added very soon.
    5.2 Cyberspace Tools
    5.2.1 Website
    A website (alternatively, web site or Web site) is a collection of Web pages, images, videos or other digital assets that is hosted on one or several Web servers, usually accessible via the Internet, cell phone or a LAN[1].
    5.2.2 Web page
    A Web page is a document, typically written in HTML[2], that is almost always accessible via HTTP[3], a protocol that transfers information from the Web server to display in the user’s Web browser.
    5.2.3 World Wide Web
    All publicly accessible websites are seen collectively as constituting the “World Wide Web”. The pages of websites can usually be accessed from a homepage, and usually reside on the same physical server. With a web browser, user views web pages that may contain text, images, videos, and other multimedia and navigates between them using hyperlinks. The World Wide Web was created in 1989 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, working at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. The URL[4]s of the pages organizes them into a hierarchy, although the hyperlinks between them control how the reader perceives the overall structure and how the traffic flows between the different parts of the sites. Some websites require a subscription to access some or all of their content. Examples of subscription sites include many business sites, parts of many news sites, academic journal sites, gaming sites, message boards, Web-based e-mail services, social networking website, and sites providing real-time stock market data.
    5.2.4 E-mail
    E-mail, short for electronic mail and often abbreviated to e-mail, email or simply mail, is a store and forward method of composing, sending, storing, and receiving messages over electronic communication systems.
    5.2.5 Web Directory
    A web directory or link directory is a directory on the World Wide Web. It specializes in linking to other web sites and categorizing those links. A web directory is not a search engine, and does not display lists of web pages based on keywords, instead it lists websites by category and subcategory. The categorization is usually based on the whole web site, rather than one page or a set of keywords, and sites are often limited to inclusion in only one or two categories.
    5.2.6 Internet forum
    An Internet forum is a web application for holding discussions and posting user generated content. Internet forums are also commonly referred to as Web forums, message boards, discussion boards, (electronic) discussion groups, discussion forums, bulletin boards, fora (the Latin plural) or simply forums. The terms “forum” and “board” may refer to the entire community or to a specific sub-forum dealing with a distinct topic. Messages within these sub-forums are then displayed either in chronological order or as threaded discussions.
    5.2.7 Newsletter
    A newsletter is a regularly distributed publication generally about one main topic that is of interest to its subscribers. Newspapers and leaflets are types of newsletters. Additionally, newsletters delivered electronically via email (e- Newsletters) have gained rapid acceptance for the same reasons email in general is gaining popularity over printed correspondence. Many newsletters are published by clubs, churches, societies, associations, and businesses, especially companies, to provide information of interest to their members, customers or employees.
    5.2.8 Blog
    A blog (web log) is a website where entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order. “Blog” can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog. Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (artlog), photographs (photoblog), sketchblog, videos (vlog), music (MP3 blog), audio (podcasting) are part of a wider network of social media. Micro-blogging is another type of blogging which consists of blogs with very short posts.
    5.2.9 SMS & MMS
    Short Message Service (SMS), the transmission of short text messages to and from a mobile phone, fax machine or IP address. Messages must be no longer than 160 alpha-numeric characters and contain no images or graphics. Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is a standard for telephony messaging systems that allows sending messages that include multimedia objects (images, audio, video, rich text) and not just text as in Short Message Service (SMS). It is mainly deployed in cellular networks along with other messaging systems like SMS, Mobile Instant Messaging and Mobile E-mail.
    5.2.10 Online Chat
    Online chat can refer to any kind of communication over Internet, but is primarily meant to refer to direct one-on-one chat or text-based group chat (formally also known as synchronous conferencing), using tools such as instant messaging applications. There are countless web users replacing traditional conversational means with online chat and messaging. Like email, which has reduced the need for and usage of letters, faxes, and memos, online chat is steadily replacing telephony as the means of office and home communication.
    5.2.11 Podcast
    A podcast is a collection of digital media files which is distributed over the Internet using syndication feeds for playback on portable media players and personal computers. The term can refer either to the content itself or to the method by which it is syndicated; the latter is also termed podcasting. The host or author of a podcast is often called a podcaster. The term “podcast” is a portmanteau of the acronym “Pod” – standing for “Portable on Demand” – and “broadcast”.
    5.2.12 Online journalism
    Online journalism is defined as the reporting of facts produced and distributed via the Internet. An early leader was The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. Steve Yelvington wrote on the Poynter Institute website about Nando, owned by The N&O, by saying “Nando evolved into the first serious, professional news site on the World Wide Web—long before CNN, BBC, MSNBC, and other followers.” It originated in the early 1990s as “NandO Land”.
    5.2.13 Internet radio
    Internet radio (e-Radio) is an audio broadcasting service transmitted via the Internet. Broadcasting on the Internet is usually referred to as webcasting since it is not transmitted broadly through wireless means but is delivered over the World Wide Web. The term “e-Radio” suggests a streaming medium that presents listeners with a continuous stream of audio to which they have no control much like traditional broadcast media. Internet radio “stations” are usually accessible from anywhere in the world.
    5.2.14 Internet TV
    Today, with the increase in Internet connection speeds, advances in technology, the increase of total number of people online, and the decrease in connection costs—it has become increasingly common to find traditional television content accessible freely and legally over the Internet. In addition to this, new Internet-only television content has appeared which is not distributed via cable, satellite, or terrestrial systems. Internet television utilizes the connections of the Internet to deliver video from a source to a target device.
    5.3 Proposed Cyber Portal Model for Catholic Church
    Some of the main cyber tools which are available now are discussed above. Setting up an all comprehensive portal with all the possible gadgets is our aim. Some of the ideas which I have presented here are already implemented in smcnews.com portal (See More catholic News). I may make use of the said web portal for further explanation.
    Same Portal should be accessible via all the possible internet enabled devices, for example the entire internet enabled Mobile Phones and Palmtops and new generation devices. Scalability in all directions and platform independency should be there. i.e Modules which are designed later should be freely integrated with the existing one and it should perform its functionality in all devices.
    5.3.1 Church Module
    Details of each diocese.
    Details of each parish, under each diocese category.
    5.3.2 Priests Module
    Details of each priest, under each diocese category.
    Methods to reach priests.
    5.3.3 News Module
    Updated news from the Catholic Church and related ones.
    Provision to email news from readers to the editor.
    Readers should be allowed to post their comments on the news.
    5.3.4 Online Radio
    Updated news from the Catholic Church and related ones.
    Devotional songs and live discussions on various topics.
    Seminars and important meeting’s live transmission.
    5.3.5 Online TV
    Web interface of the Church own Television Channel.
    Regular content of a TV Channel with Catholic perspectives.
    Interactive Television programs via web.
    5.3.6 Online Library
    Search facility from world famous catholic libraries, paid and non-paid services.
    Allow users to post reviews on books they have read.
    5.3.7 Online Catechesis
    Links to all freely available Church Documents.
    Catechetical texts for each class in different languages, along with sound and video.
    Online examination
    Special sections for Pre-marriage course and adult baptism and Eucharistic preparation.
    Special section for selecting a mender from any diocese (priests or nuns).
    5.3.8 Web directory
    Reviewed website links
    Other Church sites
    Other links of Catholic sites
    5.3.9 Internet Forum
    A Catholic forum where experts of Sacred Sciences from famous Catholic universities are answering questions from outside.
    Each forum with different topics and administrated by different authorized persons.
    5.3.10 Live Chat (Catholic Call Centre)
    Text based live chat centre, where users can get answers and advises from experts online.
    A Toll Free number to call at any time for counseling from anywhere in the world.
    5.3.11 Free Downloads
    Church related documents.
    Open Source Programs for Church administration.
    Songs, Sermons, Discussions etc, via podcasting both in audio and video formats.
    5.3.12 SMS / MMS Based Services
    Flash News via SMS and MMS.
    Daily reading, Feast and Important day’s reminder via SMS.
    5.3.13 On Demand Services
    Service of any type via web on demand.
    5.4 Late Pope John Paul II and Cyberspace
    As Pope John Paul II’s health declined in his last years, so did his ability to speak to his flock of more than one billion Roman Catholics worldwide. In response, the man who had transformed the role of pope from that of administrator to global evangelist abandoned sermons from the pulpit in favour of messages in cyberspace to spread his word. Establishing a “virtual papacy”, the Pope issued letters, speeches, personal reflections and sermons through the Vatican website, which launched in 1995. Now, many of the Catholic Church’s cardinals, the high-ranking priests are following suit, using the internet to address their congregations. Just weeks before his death, Pope John Paul II issued a letter urging priests and Church officials to explore the internet’s potential for evangelization and education. “Do not be afraid of new technologies! These rank ‘among the marvelous things’ - inter mirifica - which God has placed at our disposal,” he wrote. The Pope’s call for internet presence has been followed to varying degrees by Catholic dioceses across the world.
    5.5 Cyber diocese
    The former Bishop of Evreux in France, Jacques Gaillot, has ventured even further into cyberspace, establishing what he calls his “diocese without borders”. The Vatican sacked the “red cleric” from his post in Evreux for his liberal views, placing him in charge of the Diocese of Partenia instead. But the appointment was actually a punishment, since Partenia no longer exists. The once bustling centre of commerce located in modern-day Algeria disappeared beneath the sands of the Sahara 1,500 years ago. In response, the bishop developed a website where he can preach with passion to millions.
    5.6 Affinities between Catholic doctrine and Linux Free Software
    “The technological configuration underlying the Internet has a considerable bearing on its ethical aspects. Use of the new information technology and the Internet needs to be informed and guided by a resolute commitment to the practice of solidarity in the service of the common good. The Internet requires international cooperation in setting standards and establishing mechanisms to promote and protect that common good. Individuals, groups, and nations must have access to these new technologies. Cyberspace ought to be a resource of comprehensive information and services available without charge to all, and in a wide range of languages. The winner in this process will be humanity as whole and not just wealthy elite that controls science, technology, and the planet’s resources. Determined action in the private and public sectors is needed to close and eventually eliminate the digital divide.”[5]
    The above statements sound as if they could have been written by Richard M. Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation (FSF). In fact, they come from the Vatican Report “Ethics in Internet”. The FSF position on the same issues is that society “needs information that is truly available to its citizens—for example, programs that people can read, fix, adapt, and improve, not just operate.”
    Technically and ethically speaking, Free Software, regardless of its price, can be freely modified and shared, and is free from per-seat costs, royalties, patents, and similar restrictions. The same definition can be applied to file formats and communication protocols. The term Free (with uppercase F) here indicates software and standards available under these conditions. In recent decades, the Catholic Church has published several documents that clearly match this approach to information technology. Here are some examples.
    For the purposes of this, we can regard software programs as a category of machinery. The 1967 Encyclical of Pope Paul VI on the development of peoples “Populorum Progressio” said, “Unless the existing machinery is modified, the disparity between rich and poor nations will increase rather than diminish.” Then in 1971, the Pastoral Instruction “Communio et Progressio” on the means of social communication stated: With the right to be informed goes the duty to seek information. Information does not simply occur; it has to be sought. On the other hand, in order to get it, the man who wants information must have access to the varied means of social communication.
    Consequently, the Catholic Church should not use proprietary file formats and computer protocols, since they can become a way to prevent access to information, restrict it or lock end users to any specific, maybe too expensive software program. This is very similar to Stallman’s request to put an end to proprietary email attachments. This right to information is inseparable from freedom of communication. When it comes to computer-based communication, this can be only guaranteed with Free formats and protocols. It also implies that computer users should be free to choose which programs to use for such communication. The same wish was expressed by Stallman.
    This freedom of communication also implies that individuals and groups must be free to seek out and spread information. It also means that they should have free access to the media. An example of the cultural potential of the media can be found in their service to the traditional folk arts of countries where stories, plays, song and dance still express an ancient national inheritance. Because of their modern techniques, the media can make these achievements known more widely. They can record them so that they can be seen and heard again and again and make them accessible even in districts where the old traditions have vanished. In this way, the media help to impress on a nation a proper sense of its cultural identity and by expressing this, delight and enrich other cultures and countries as well.
    Many developing countries are already successfully using free software and formats to preserve their cultural heritage since free software can be adapted quickly, at the smallest possible cost, to any language or dialect. Catholic missionaries worldwide should be informed that such tools exist.
    Ten years after “Communio et Progressio”, Pope John Paul II wrote in the Encyclical “Laborem exercens” that through work, man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes “more a human being.” As long as he intends his work also to increase the common good developed together with his compatriots, thus realizing that in this way work serves to add to the heritage of the whole human family, of all the people living in the world.
    In Christian tradition, the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone. The Church has always proclaimed that “when a man works he not only alters things and society, he develops himself as well. He learns much, he cultivates his resources, and he goes outside of himself and beyond himself.”
    The GNU[6] Manifesto of the Free Software movement only talks about programming and programmers, but there we can find a vision of work (programming in this case) as a way to become a better person and help others: “The fundamental act of friendship among programmers is the sharing of programs. GNU serves as an example to inspire and a banner to rally others to join in sharing. This can give us a feeling of harmony which is impossible if we use software that is not free.”[7]
    In 2002, besides the above quoted “Ethics in Internet”, the Vatican published “The Church and Internet,” which reminds us that “Church leaders are obliged to use the full potential of the computer age to serve the human and transcendent vocation of every person” because the Internet “offers people direct and immediate access to important religious and spiritual resources.” The same document points out that, as early as 1992, the Pastoral Instruction Aetatis Novae had called two-way communication and public opinion “one of the ways of realizing in a concrete manner the Church’s character as communion.” The Catholic Church is expected (“Ethics in Internet”) “to have a visible, active presence on the Internet and be a partner in the public dialogue about its development” and “be of help by indicating ethical and moral criteria which are relevant to the process.”
    5.7 Open Catholic Encyclopedias & Catholic Documents
    Open Catholic Encyclopedias and all the documents from Catholic Church should be made available at free of cost in the internet. Already Vatican’s official site[8] is doing this. And it should be permitted to use for the research works without any written permission. I have used all the cited documents in this paper from the Vatican site.
    5.8 Seminarians and Cyberspace
    An ocean away from family and friends, some U.S. seminarians at the Pontifical North American College in Rome are bridging the divide with online communities and digital means of communication such as Skype, instant messaging, Facebook, MySpace and more. But while it may have begun as simple e-mails and Web log, or blog, entries meant to keep loved ones in touch, their notes from Rome to home have blossomed into a whole new way these students preparing for the priesthood can share their spiritual journey with the rest of the world.
    5.8.1 What All Things a Seminarian Can Do in Internet
    It’s a great witness when we share our stories, our experiences in the seminary that include our hopes, our joys, our fears, our anxieties about the journey toward the priesthood, to our friends while we are in seminary. We need to integrate ourselves into these online communities and in a sense baptize the way these things work. Everyone’s opinion gets expressed and published, but nobody’s opinion necessarily has any truth to it. Well-formed Catholics and church leaders have a golden opportunity to move into the World Wide Web like any new mission territory and point people to the truth and to Christ.
    Very few people actually know a seminarian, and meeting one online and discovering he has many of the same interests as other young people can wipe away some preconceived notions about the kind of person who is drawn to a priestly or religious vocation. Being a presence in these online communities almost acts as a sort of accidental advertising for the Catholic Church.
    By answering questions and engaging people in reflection in these “electronic communities” can provide us with valuable opportunities to experience ministry work. We are ministering to these people in many ways, both in sharing our stories, in helping them along their way answering their questions, and providing them another avenue for their own personal faith exploration. It also helps strengthen our own love for God and priestly calling.
    Some other areas where seminarians can contribute

    · Content Managers for the Church sites.
    · Site Reviewers.
    · Digitize the Old Christian Manuscripts.
    The documents of Pontifical Council for Social Communications suggest that the education and training regarding the Internet ought to be part of comprehensive programs of media education available to members of the Church. As much as possible, pastoral planning for social communications should make provision for this training in the formation of seminarians, priests, religious, and lay pastoral personnel as well as teachers, parents, and students[9]. Teaching about the Internet and the new technology involves much more than teaching techniques; young people need to learn how to function well in the world of cyberspace, make discerning judgments according to sound moral criteria about what they find there, and use the new technology for their integral development and the benefit of others.
    5.9 Syro-Malabar Church and Her great plus in Cyberspace.

    I had an opportunity to be part of a survey conducted across India by 180 students, on various aspects of new cyber cities. One of the main results of the survey was that Cochin; the new Cyber City will become one of the dreamed destinations by many computer professionals by 2010. The survey was conducted in 2004, now it is 2008, already the development in Cochin is very evident that the predicted report in that survey is coming into reality. Syro Malabar Church, headquartered in Cochin, should make use of this golden opportunity to make her presence in Cyberspace. The Huge bandwidth available and the Catholic Professionals who are willing to share their time and technical knowledge freely to the Church should be made use of. A coordination and long term planning is needed for that. Less discussed and short timed projects along with quick decisions will not generate desired effects. The human resource available at many places, especially in different dioceses, should be made use of it via networked and centralized structure.
    5.10 Conclusion
    The Computer driven Information Revolution in the Cyberspace may be considered ‘good news’. The ability to link people – to connect them with vital information, with resources and with one another – is surely a benefit. Modern information technology does, in fact, give us an unprecedented capacity to connect with each other; to history; to an inexhaustible stream of ideas, information, images, cultures, arts and products. Hyperlinks have unimaginable potential for reshaping our personal and public life. Now it’s our turn to make use of it for the wellbeing of the whole world in a different way. Cyberspace, as it is, is good by nature, but how we make use of it paves its destiny. Mission through Bytes should be one of our agenda in this millennium. Fill the bytes with Jesus Christ’s good news; tell the world that everything is good with Christ, in whom we have the Salvation.


    Barlow, J P., Crime and Puzzlement ( Paris, 1992).
    Capurro, R., “Does Digital Globalization Lead to a Global Information Ethic?”, Concilium (2005 / No. 1) p 36–45.
    Carson, D A., The Church in the Bible and the World: An International Study. (Rome, 1987).
    Cunningham, P J., Teilhard de Chardin and the Noosphere (San Francisco, 1997).
    Debbie, F W., Theology in-of and for Cyberspace, (Oxford, 2005).
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    Doctrine of Faith, Doctrinal note on some aspects of Evangelization, (Vatican, 2008).
    Ferdinand, P., “Cyberpower: Only the Power to Disturb?”, Concilium (2005 / No. 1) p 27–35.
    Floridi, L., The basis of biosphere (London, 1996).
    Gibson, W., Neuromancer (New York, 1984).
    John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, (Vatican, 2000).
    John Paul II, Laborem Exercens, (Vatican, 1981).
    John Paul II, Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace (Vatican, 2001).
    John Paul II, Novo millennio ineunte, (Vatican 2001).
    John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, (Vatican, 1990).
    John Paull II, Message on World Communication day (Vatican, 1990).
    John, H D., The Future of the Church: Where are We Headed? (UK, 1989).
    John,O., “Cyberethics: New Challenges or Old Problems?”, Concilium (2005 / No. 1) p 15–26.
    Mitchell, N D., “Ritual and New Media”, Concilium (2005 / No. 1) p 90–98.
    Mitchell, W., City of Bits (New York, 1995).
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    Pontifical Council for Social Communications, The Church And Internet, (Vatican, 2002).
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    Vatican, Official Site, www.vatican.va.
    Search Engine, www.google.com .
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    Christian History, www.ctlibrary.com.
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    Dennis-Emmanuel Cabrera, http://www.pcentral-online.net.
    [1] Local Area Network
    [2] Hypertext Mark-up Language
    [3] Hypertext Transfer Protocol
    [4] Uniform Resource Locator
    [5] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Internet, (Vatican, 2002) n 8
    [6] General Public License (pronounced 'gnu')
    [7] General Public License p 3
    [8] Holy See, www.vatican.va
    [9] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, The Church And Internet, (Vatican, 2002) n. 7

Part IV - Catholic Internet Mission: A Cyber Theology in Process

4. Catholic Internet Mission: A Cyber Theology in Process

4.1 Introduction
It is clear that theology cannot ignore the internet, nor can it assume that cyberspace is just an extension of normal life. We must find a Cyber Theology with a digital hermeneutic that can address the complexity and the subtlety of computer mediated communication in its own terms. Catholic internet mission, the communication designed and lived by the Catholic Church should answer this question. Cyber Theology can be defined as a theology, in the cyberspace, for the cyberspace and by the cyberspace[1].
4.2 Processing a Theology in Three Stages
If we are to see what theology can be derived from the Catholic internet mission experience, we have to examine three elements:
(1) The experience of interacting in the electronically-mediated world of the internet;
(2) How this internet mission experience of communication relates to the Catholic mission traditions and missionary ways of communicating;
(3) Third and final, we also see what action can be taken to ensure that the Catholic internet mission theology of communication that results from judging these internet mission experiences from a Judaeo-Christian tradition and a Catholic missionary model, is in line with what the official Catholic Church is saying, as regards its Vatican II theology of mission and the theology of communication.
4.3 An Interactive Internet Experience
The Catholic internet mission experience is multifaceted in its dimensions. To arrive at a theology of mission and communication for Catholic internet mission, the experience of being Catholic and interacting on the Internet must be examined from several factors: first, is the interaction between fellow Catholics on the internet; second, is the interaction with the other Christians and non-Catholics; and third, is the interaction of Catholics with non-Christians in the internet.
4.3.1 Interaction with fellow Catholics

Interaction among Catholics is most often harmonious especially when the subject of the interaction is praying for another person or when fellow Catholics communicate by posting messages of meditative and inspirational material that invite heartwarming feelings and positive responses. However, if discussions on Catholic issues are involved in the communication and in the interaction - especially in relation to very controversial Catholic issues dealing with a pro and an anti stance, then it is likely that arguments or ‘fights’ will occur. The two parties exchange messages and posts that quote what the other has written and puts down his point before the others in a forum or a list. When something like this happens, the fight is usually resolved when one party suggests to the other that they just drop the issue and the thread of discussion, and just respect each other’s conservative or liberal point of view - which has really been influenced by either a conservative or a liberal theology and spirituality framework behind it.
4.3.2 Interaction with other Christians and non-Catholics

When the Catholic internet mission interaction involved is between a non-Catholic and a Catholic, when the messages posted has to do with prayer, Scripture text or meditative or inspirational material, usually there is no problem. However, whenever a mention of the Pope and his documents and messages are posted, you can expect a reaction of hostility which can be quite upsetting especially if the non-Catholic is fundamentalist and very anti-Catholic in their attitude. In cases like this, a lot of patience and self-restraint is necessary in order not to start a spiral of ‘word’ violence. We can only fight evil with good and not add anymore fire to the blaze. If the Catholic internet mission is to succeed and to be victorious in the sense of peaceful co-existence and a greater tolerance and respect for each other’s orientation in both theology and spirituality, then in communicating our Catholic faith, we must learn to forgive the one who may have made a hostile remark at us, called us names, or accused us of being heretical, and forget it ever happened. What is important though is we do not lose our ground and we keep the stand of our faith. Eventually, as we continue on standing on our ground and on the Catholic theology and spirituality we are formed in, and at the same time using the language of those internet people we are interacting with, we will eventually become familiar with the way they express their faith and theology. And they themselves will learn to tolerate our being Catholic
The important thing then for Catholic internet mission in dealing with non-Catholics is to be sensitive that we do not “papalize” our words and statements in a way that they may feel threatened by the power and great influence of the Catholic Church - even if it is just expressed in the words that we post during our interaction in the lists and the forums. The best thing is to observe first what their faith is about, what language they are using and what certain type of theology they are, and then use their language in communicating the spirit of our Catholic faith through the theology of mission and a theology of communication suggested by our Late Holy Father John Paul II - one that involves entering into a spirit of peace and dialogue.
4.3.3 Interaction with non-Christians
As regards the internet mission experience of being with non-Christians in lists and forums, most often they refuse to receive any posts that relate to Christianity - especially prayers. It is wise to just respect their desire of not receiving such posts and just use the secular language which they are familiar with - such as the technological language of the internet. It is sufficient that they just know you as a committed Catholic who is in the Internet for a special purpose - for the Catholic Internet Mission. It might even turn out to be a surprise when you find out that one day over your casual surfing of the internet, you may find that one of them has started an Internet business that has to do with Christian trinkets, items, and symbols. And when you do discover this, we will find how our interaction with them in a secular way has also brought in a certain influence that has made them to venture into such a Christian business.
4.4 The Catholic Mission Heritage and Cyberspace
The Catholic internet mission is a totally different way of doing Catholic mission. The forum is entirely different from the forum we know of in the physical world. The forum involves cyberspace: an electronically-mediated environment. In this electronically-mediated environment, there is no personal encounter involved. The communication between peoples is not interpersonal but electronically-mediated. Even though there can be opportunities to use the webcam still that is also electronically-mediated. All internet mission communication is through the written word or through symbols, pictures and graphics - with some of them dynamic, animated and moving. Our Judaeo-Christian tradition and our classic Catholic mission model of evangelization and communication always sees interpersonal encounters in community or in parishes as the standard way of performing a Catholic mission. And the personal encounter with God in its highest form has always been through the Eucharist and the other sacramental celebrations. In the Catholic internet mission experience, experiences of love, friendship, peace, unity, harmony, moral support, joy, happiness, and even a sense of the presence of God through inspiring messages are similar to our experiences of reading books and watching television or the movies or in receiving postcards and letters. They are secondary and not primary experiences. These secondary experiences can also be found when the computer monitor shows for example a scriptural passage. Any spiritual experience derived from such reading may be equated to one that is experienced when reading the same scriptural passage of the Bible in the physical world. The only difference between the two is that in the Internet, the emotional impact of the reading may be heightened and intensified by the colors (both text and background) used and the dynamic graphics and animated images that may have been put to accompany it.
The Catholic internet mission involves an electronic medium, while the traditional Catholic mission involves the medium of speech, gestures, body language, eye contact, and human touch. Our Judaeo-Christian tradition has always used the latter type of medium. It is still and should be the standard of Catholic mission, Catholic evangelization and the proclamation of the Gospel. If we compare both types of Catholic mission, we can clearly see that there is a richness of human and interpersonal encounter in the latter while there is a little of this dimension in the former. On the other hand, there is the advantage of a much powerful impact in the proclamation of the gospel through the Catholic internet mission because of the greater and wider audience compared to the latter method of traditional Catholic mission that involves personal encounters with a few individuals, a small group, or a conference hall.
4.5 Vatican II and Cyber Theology
Vatican II theology of mission always speaks of the “signs of the times”. Our world today is changing much more rapidly than in the past centuries. Advancements and progress in science and technology are occurring so fast that in a short period of time compared to previous ages, much more has been accomplished and achieved by contemporary human civilization. And this we can see in the use of the Internet by millions of people. The population using the Internet is increasing rapidly every year.
If the Catholic Church must proclaim the gospel in this rapidly changing world - a world that is much influenced by Internet technology, then it is also necessary indeed that she also bring the Catholic mission in the still and much undiscovered world of cyberspace - the world of the Internet and its electronically-mediated languages and culture. The mission of the Catholic Church is a global mission and it is a great opportunity for her to use the global strength and influence of the Internet as a tool for her mission to all peoples of all cultures and of all nations.
But there is a difference however in the Catholic mission performed in the physical world compared to the Catholic internet mission performed in cyberspace. The physical world in which Catholic missionaries move has fixed physical limitations; on the other hand, those who evangelize through the Catholic internet mission move in the world of the Internet - cyberspace - which is like the term that describes it - an expanding electronic space. The Internet is a continuously expanding electronically-mediated world that has great potential for producing very many Internet niches that can contain this Catholic internet mission theology.
Both worlds however, the world of the physical environment and the world of cyberspace, occur in the same time dimension. They just exist in different spaces and at different planes but they are very much in agreement with one another nonetheless. In fact, they can complement each other - the physical world being the main and traditional mission field for the universal Catholic mission, and the internet world as the secondary or support mission field where great work can be done in the sense of supporting the former with follow-ups and additional catechetical information and formation in prayers and the Gospel.
So what can we make of a Catholic internet mission theology? How is the study of God applied to this new and contemporary experience in cyberspace? From what has been analyzed and studied above, the experience of God from an authentic spiritual dimension should not be the focus of Catholic internet mission theology. Rather, the focus of Catholic internet mission theology should be towards a didactic, catechetical and informative point of view. “To make the face of Christ seen and to make the voice of Christ heard”[2] must be seen more in terms of teaching and education - as in the printed material we read in the physical world. The Catholic internet mission must provide Internet users with initial contact with the gospel, the image of Christ and Catholic culture - all within the context of the internet mission vision provided by the papal messages. One great advantage to this medium is its interactive feature. And this interactive feature of Catholic Internet Mission can be magnified several times more than the ordinary interaction in the standard mission setting. This interactive feature of Catholic internet mission can act as a first support for the Internet user before he or she is led to the living, liturgical and sacramental celebration of the Catholic sacraments.
4.6 Conclusion
The Catholic internet mission and its corresponding theology is one filled with promise but also one full of dangers. Since it is new, it must not isolate itself from the traditional Catholic mission. Rather, it must partner with it, being its great support in evangelizing to a much more global audience; and being its Catholic internet mission communications tool for vital and expansive outreach. No matter how much cyberspace has expanded even more than the physical world, the Catholic Internet mission is still subsumed to the traditional methods of doing Catholic mission (it cannot replace it) - which goes way back to our Judaeo-Christian roots and tradition up to the present Vatican II way of doing missions. The Catholic internet mission is a new mission with a new theology that presents to us a great gift from God so that we can increase the evangelization efforts of the Catholic mission and help build the Catholic Church and her mission to bring all peoples to Christ and help them make Christ as the center of their lives in the celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy in interpersonal communities.
[1] F W Debbie, Theology in-of and for Cyberspace, (Oxford, 2005) p 5
[2] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, The Church And Internet, (Vatican, 2002) n. 9

January 16, 2008

Part III - Church and Ethics in cyberspace

3.1 Introduction
The ethical question is whether this is contributing to authentic human development and helping individuals and peoples to be true to their transcendent destiny[i]. And, of course, in many ways the answer is yes. The new media are powerful tools for education and cultural enrichment, for commercial activity and political participation, for intercultural dialogue and understanding; and they also can serve the cause of religion. Yet this coin has another side. Media of communication that can be used for the good of persons and communities can be used to exploit, manipulate, dominate, and corrupt.
3.2 A Matter of Choice
The Internet is 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. As with other media, the person and the community of persons are central to ethical evaluation of the Internet. In regard to the message communicated, the process of communicating, and structural and systemic issues in communication, “the fundamental ethical principle is this: 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”[ii].
Use of the new information technology and the Internet needs to be informed and guided by a resolute commitment to the practice of solidarity in the service of the common good, within and among nations. This technology can be a means for solving human problems, promoting the integral development of persons, creating a world governed by justice and peace and love. Now, even more than when the Pastoral Instruction on the Means of Social Communications Communio et Progressio made the point more than thirty years ago, media have the ability to make every person everywhere “a partner in the business of the human race”. This is an astonishing vision. The Internet can help make it real—for individuals, groups, nations, and the human race—only if it is used in light of clear, sound ethical principles, especially the virtue of solidarity[iii]
3.3 Ethical Questions
The spread of the Internet also raises a number of other ethical questions about matters like privacy, the security and confidentiality of data, copyright and intellectual property law, pornography, hate sites, the dissemination of rumor and character assassination under the guise of news, and much else. Fundamentally, though, we do not view the Internet only as a source of problems; we see it as a source of benefits to the human race. But the benefits can be fully realized only if the problems are solved.
The Internet has a number of striking features. It is instantaneous, immediate, worldwide, decentralized, interactive, endlessly expandable in contents and outreach, flexible and adaptable to a remarkable degree. It is egalitarian, in the sense that anyone with the necessary equipment and modest technical skill can be an active presence in cyberspace, declare his or her message to the world, and demand a hearing. It allows individuals to indulge in anonymity, role-playing, and fantasizing and also to enter into community with others and engage in sharing. According to users' tastes, it lends itself equally well to active participation and to passive absorption into “a narcissistic, self-referential world of stimuli with near-narcotic effects”[iv].It can be used to break down the isolation of individuals and groups or to deepen it.
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. This ‘new' system in fact dates back to the cold war years of the 1960s, when it was intended to foil nuclear attack by creating a decentralized network of computers holding vital data. Decentralization was the key to the scheme, since in this way, so it was reasoned, the loss of one or even many computers would not mean the loss of the data[v].
The Internet can serve people in their responsible use of freedom and democracy, expand the range of choices available in diverse spheres of life, broaden educational and cultural horizons, break down divisions, promote human development in a multitude of ways. “The free flow of images and speech on a global scale is transforming not only political and economic relations between peoples, but even our understanding of the world. It opens up a range of hitherto unthinkable possibilities”.[vi] When based upon shared values rooted in the nature of the person, the intercultural dialogue made possible by the Internet and other media of social communication can be “a privileged means for building the civilization of love”[vii].
Paradoxically, the very forces which can lead to better communication can also lead to increasing self-centeredness and alienation. The Internet can unite people, but it also can divide them, both as individuals and as mutually suspicious groups separated by ideology, politics, possessions, race and ethnicity, intergenerational differences, and even religion. Already it has been used in aggressive ways, almost as a weapon of war, and people speak of the danger of ‘cyber-terrorism.' It would be painfully ironic if this instrument of communication with so much potential for bringing people together reverted to its origins in the cold war and became an arena of international conflict[viii].
There are a number of concerns about the Internet: The digital divide—a form of discrimination dividing the rich from the poor, both within and among nations, on the basis of access, or lack of access, to the new information technology. The expression ‘digital divide' underlines the fact that individuals, groups, and nations must have access to the new technology in order to share in the promised benefits of globalization and development and not fall further behind. Cyberspace ought to be a resource of comprehensive information and services available without charge to all, and in a wide range of languages. Public institutions have a particular responsibility to establish and maintain sites of this kind. Church desires “a globalization which will be at the service of the whole person and of all people”[ix].
Precisely as powerful tools of the globalization process, the new information technology and the Internet transmit and help instill a set of cultural values—ways of thinking about social relationships, family, religion, the human condition—whose novelty and glamour can challenge and overwhelm traditional cultures. Cultural domination is an especially serious problem when a dominant culture carries false values inimical to the true good of individuals and groups. As matters stand, the Internet, along with the other media of social communication, is transmitting the value-laden message of Western secular culture to people and societies in many cases ill-prepared to evaluate and cope with it. Many serious problems result—for example, in regard to marriage and family life, which are experiencing “a radical and widespread crisis”[x] in many parts of the world.[xi]
The question of freedom of expression on the Internet is similarly complex and gives rise to another set of concerns. We strongly support freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas. Freedom to seek and know the truth is a fundamental human right, and freedom of expression is a cornerstone of democracy. Man, provided he respects the moral order and the common interest, is entitled to seek after truth, express and make known his opinions; he ought to be truthfully informed about matters of public interest. And public opinion, an essential expression of human nature organized in society, absolutely requires freedom to express ideas and attitudes.
The Internet is a highly effective instrument for bringing news and information rapidly to people. But the economic competitiveness and round-the-clock nature of Internet journalism also contribute to sensationalism and rumor-mongering, to a merging of news, advertising, and entertainment, and to an apparent decline in serious reporting and commentary. Honest journalism is essential to the common good of nations and the international community. Problems now visible in the practice of journalism on the Internet, call for speedy correcting by journalists themselves.[xii]
Many difficult Internet-related questions call for international consensus: for example, how to guarantee the privacy of law-abiding individuals and groups without keeping law enforcement and security officials from exercising surveillance over criminals and terrorists; how to protect copyright and intellectual property rights without limiting access to material in the public domain—and how to define the ‘public domain' itself; how to establish and maintain broad-based Internet repositories of information freely available to all Internet users in a variety of languages; how to protect women's rights in regard to Internet access and other aspects of the new information technology. In particular, the question of how to close the digital divide between the information rich and the information poor requires urgent attention in its technical, educational, and cultural aspects.
3.4 Conclusion
The Catholic Church, along with other religious bodies, should have a visible, active presence on the Internet and be a partner in the public dialogue about its development. “The Church does not presume to dictate these decisions and choices, but it does seek to be of help by indicating ethical and moral criteria which are relevant to the process—criteria which are to be found in both human and Christian values”[xiii].
The Internet can make an enormously valuable contribution to human life. It can foster prosperity and peace, intellectual and aesthetic growth, mutual understanding among peoples and nations on a global scale. Like today's world itself, the world of media, including the Internet, has been brought by Christ, inchoately yet truly, within the boundaries of the kingdom of God and placed in service to the word of salvation. Yet “far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come”[xiv].
[i] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Internet, n 1.
[ii] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Communications, n. 5
[iii] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Internet, n 5.
[iv] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Communications, n. 2.
[v] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Internet, n 8
[vi] Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace 2001, n. 11.
[vii] Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace 2001, n. 16
[viii] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Internet, n 9
[ix] John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, n. 5.
[x] Novo millennio ineunte, n. 47.
[xi] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Internet, n 11
[xii] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Internet, n 14
[xiii] Aetatis Novae, n. 12.
[xiv] Gaudium et spes, n. 39

Part II - Church and Cyberspace

2.1 Introduction

Anything new has its own importance in the life of our Church. Normally we discuss its pros and cons for a long time, pending decisions will sometimes retort and destroys its growth drastically. For the last one decade we are seeing a remarkable growth in computer aided information storage, retrieval and transportation, and for the last five years it has been changed from just information to knowledge management. The technological development in this area is so fast that yesterday’s language and grammar becomes obsolete for tomorrow. Even English, the till accepted official language for computation, can be outmoded by Sanskrit, our Dravidic language, NASA is doing a fare amount of work in this field.

At this juncture, the ever widening spectrum of Internet has its influence in the life of the common man. Since manufacturing and transportation cost for the components still reduces the total cost for any new equipment and henceforth the technology. Bandwidth, which was a very crucial for the communication, now comes with very low cost, even in our villages. The affluence which had been the privilege of selected few in the metros now became common even in the interior places just with normal telephone line and wire free. The Youth, whom are well exposed to internet and its services, should be given proper guidance for the making of next generation.

At this point, the duty of the Church, the enormous possibilities, which She should use are discussed here in this expose. Especially our Church here in Kerala, headquartered in Cochin, which is supposed to be the IT Hub of Asia[i] as well as the next Silicon Wally, can do a lot more than any Church in the world. Proper guidance and support from the community is needed for that.

2.2 Church’s Position on Internet

The Church's interest in the Internet is a particular expression of her longstanding interest in the media of social communication. Seeing the media as an outcome of the historical scientific process by which humankind “advances further and further in the discovery of the resources and values contained in the whole of creation”,[ii] the Church often has declared her conviction that they are, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, “marvellous technical inventions”[iii] that already do much to meet human needs and may yet do even more.[iv]
Thus the Church has taken a fundamentally positive approach to the media. Even when condemning serious abuses, documents of Pontifical Council for Social Communications have made it clear. The Church has a two-fold aim in regard to the media. One aspect is to encourage their right development and right use for the sake of human development, justice, and peace—for the upbuilding of society at the local, national, and community levels in light of the common good and in a spirit of solidarity.[v]
Pope John Paul II has called the media “the first Areopagus of the modern age”, and declared that “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”[vi]. Doing that is all the more important today, since not only do the media now strongly influence what people think about life but also to a great extent “human experience itself is an experience of media”[vii].
Like today's world itself, the world of media, including the Internet, has been brought by Christ, inchoately yet truly, within the boundaries of the kingdom of God and placed in service to the word of salvation. Yet “far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come”[viii]
Even though the world of social communications “may at times seem at odds with the Christian message, it also offers unique opportunities for proclaiming the saving truth of Christ to the whole human family. Consider...the positive capacities of the Internet to carry religious information and teaching beyond all barriers and frontiers. Such a wide audience would have been beyond the wildest imaginings of those who preached the Gospel before us.[ix]
God continues to communicate with humanity through the Church, the bearer and custodian of his revelation, to whose living teaching office alone he has entrusted the task of authentically interpreting his word[x] Moreover, the Church herself is a communio, a communion of persons and Eucharistic communities arising from and mirroring the communion of the Trinity;[xi] communication therefore is of the essence of the Church. This, more than any other reason, is why “the Church's practice of communication should be exemplary, reflecting the highest standards of truthfulness, accountability, sensitivity to human rights, and other relevant principles and norms”[xii]
The documents of Pontifical Council for Social Communications suggests some virtues that need to be cultivated by everyone who wants to make good use of the Internet, they are:
Prudence is necessary in order clearly to see the implications — the potential for good and evil—in this new medium and to respond creatively to its challenges and opportunities.
Justice is needed, especially justice in working to close the digital divide — the gap between the information-rich and the information-poor in today's world. This requires a commitment to the international common good, no less than the “globalization of solidarity”
Fortitude, courage, is necessary. This means standing up for truth in the face of religious and moral relativism, for altruism and generosity in the face of individualistic consumerism, for decency in the face of sensuality and sin.
And temperance is needed — a self-disciplined approach to this remarkable technological instrument, the Internet, so as to use it wisely and only for good.[xiii]
Christ is “the perfect communicator”[xiv] the norm and model of the Church's approach to communication, as well as the content that the Church is obliged to communicate.

2.2.1 Sacraments in Cyberspace
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.[xv]
2.2.2 Cyber Evangelization

Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to proclaim the Gospel, calling all people to conversion and faith (cf. Mk 1:14-15). After his resurrection, he entrusted the continuation of his mission of evangelization to the Apostles (cf. Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:15; Lk 24:4-7; Acts 1:3): “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21, cf. 17:18). By means of the Church, Christ wants to be present in every historical epoch, every place on earth and every sector of society, in order to reach every person, so that there may be one flock and one shepherd (cf. Jn 10:16): “Go out into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:15-16).[xvi]

The Apostles, therefore, “prompted by the Spirit, invited all to change their lives, to be converted and to be baptized”, because the “pilgrim Church is necessary for salvation”. It is the same Lord Jesus Christ who, present in his Church, goes before the work of evangelizers, accompanies it, follows it, and makes their labours bear fruit: what took place at the origins of Christian history continues throughout its entire course[xvii]. Witnessing, proclamation and Sacramental life are the very important elements of evangelization. Since Sacramental life in Cyberspace is not possible, the concept of Cyber Evangelization can’t be carried out fully. Witnessing and proclamation can be done through it.
2.2.3 Cyberspace and E-Catechesis
Faith formation through the Internet for all age group is an achievable task. The pre-formatted text, voice and video can be combined together and can be posted for users. Since many are working away from there home country and away from their own rites, getting catechesis in their own language can be made possible through cyberspace. Late Pope John Paul II once said “Whether we are young or old, let us rise to the challenge of new discoveries and technologies by bringing to them a moral vision rooted in our religious faith, in our respect for the human person, and our commitment to transform the world in accordance with God's plan”[xviii].
Several years ago, the New York Times Sunday Magazine carried a brief news item under the title ‘Religion; Wired into the Monks.’ It described some of the technology initiatives launched by the cloistered community of the Monastery of Christ in the desert in New Mexico. The news paper reported that one of the monks, a former computer programmer, was in process of developing ‘a worldwide virtual community for Catholics’. It was a project to ‘put Christ in the Desert’s monastic liturgy online’ so that ‘people anywhere, anytime will be able to see, hear and pray with the monks, who will be in chapel using IBM provided flat panel displays instead of choir books’[xix].
2.2.4 The Patron Saint of Cyberspace
In February, 2001 the media broke the news that Pope John Paul II was expected to soon name a Patron Saint of the Internet. They reported that the selection for that post has not yet been made, but the leading contender is St. Isidore of Seville, who is attributed with writing the world's first encyclopaedia more than 1,400 years ago. The nomination was made by Spanish religious groups who already had designated their countryman as a "protector" of the World Wide Web in 1999.
Although computer experts are not known for expressing their spiritual preferences, the Observation Service for Internet[xx], an initiative inspired by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, has carried out research in different realms of the world of computers and cyberspace to discover the saint who best reflects the concerns and ideals of the experts.
The patron chosen by the pioneers of the new frontier of technology is Saint Isidore, who was born in Seville, Spain in 556. "The saint who wrote the well-known 'Etymologies' (a type of dictionary), gave his work a structure akin to that of the database. He began a system of thought known today as "flashes;" it is very modern, notwithstanding the fact it was discovered in the sixth century. Saint Isidore accomplished his work with great coherence: it is complete and its features are complementary in themselves."
But this is not the only reason Saint Isidore is identified with computer experts. The Saint from Seville "was ahead of his time and constituted a cultural bridge between the Ancient and Medieval Ages. This also makes us feel close to him, as we are at the beginning of a new stage in history," explained one of the experts interviewed by the Observation Service of Internet.
Saint Isidore was a key figure at the Council of Toledo, in 633. He was known for his concern for the proper formation of the clergy, for his generosity to the poor and for his humility: when he knew he was dying he asked publicly for forgiveness for the faults of his past life. He died a holy death on April 4, 636.

2.3 The Presence of Religion on the Internet
The religious uses of the Internet evoke parallels with television, but there are important differences as well. At least three crucial differences come to mind:
(1) The Internet is an interactive and not simply broadcast medium;
(2) Anyone can launch themselves onto the World Wide Web with relative ease and little expense,
(3) The Internet is truly global in its reach.
With a comparatively small investment in time and money I can make my religious views known, at least potentially, to hundreds of thousands of others throughout the world. Television is the preserve essentially of small cultural elite. The World Wide Web is open in principle and in practice to almost anyone.
Religion is abundantly present on the World Wide Web and a host of Internet chat and news groups. Every major world religion is represented, every major and minor Christian denomination, almost all new religious movements, thousands of specific churches, and countless web pages operated by individual believers, self-declared gurus, prophets, shamans, apostates, and other moral entrepreneurs. In addition the net has spawned its own religious creations, from mega sites of cyber-spirituality to virtual "churches," and strictly online religions. To this mix we can add numerous commercial sites wishing to turn a profit on our spiritual appetites, providing us with religious news, selling us religious paraphernalia, and acting as network nodes for links to hundreds of other sites. There are also many sites launched to educate the public or to pursue a diverse array of religious causes.
On the Internet people can read about religion, talk with others about religion, download religious texts and documents, buy religious books and artifacts, take virtual tours of galleries of religious art or the interiors of religious buildings, search scriptures using electronic indexes, locate churches and religious centers, participate in rituals or mediation sessions, vote on organizational propositions, see images of their religious leaders, watch video clips, and listen to religious music, sermons, prayers, testimonials, and discourses. Soon they may even be able to feel the texture of objects appearing on their screen or smell the aroma of the virtual incense burning on the computer generated altar to their gods. The technology exists to simulate both.

2.3.1 Need of the Hour
The Church also needs to understand and use the Internet as a tool of internal communications. This requires keeping clearly in view its special character as a direct, immediate, interactive, and participatory medium. Already, the two-way interactivity of the Internet is blurring the old distinction between those who communicate and those who receive what is communicated, and creating a situation in which, potentially at least, everyone can do both. This is not the one-way, top-down communication of the past. As more and more people become familiar with this characteristic of the Internet in other areas of their lives, they can be expected also to look for it in regard to religion and the Church.[xxi]
2.4 Conclusion
The growth in the religious uses of the Internet is so extensive that the number of sites available exceeds the capacity of existing search engines and other specific online and off-line guides. No one can keep pace with all the changes. There is a need, however, to begin to map the terrain better. We need to know more about what is on the net, who has put it there, and why. This should involve the content analysis of sites, as well as surveying and interviewing the creators, moderators, and users of specific web sites, community sites, newsgroups, list serves, and chat rooms. We need to develop a more precise profile of the users of online religious materials and opportunities. We need to identify who actually is using the net in this way, i.e., their age, ethnicity, occupations, geographic locations, religious backgrounds, etc. What are their habits, their motivations, and the consequences of their actions? Does "virtual religiosity" exist already? If so, how, why, and to what effect?

[i] Survey Report by MATRIX, Marian College Kuttikkanam.
[ii] John Paul II, encyclical letter Laborem Exercens, n. 25; cf. Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, n. 34.
[iii] Vatican Council II, Decree on the Means of Social Communication, Inter Mirifica, n. 1.
[iv] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, The Church And Internet, n. 1
[v] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, The Church And Internet, n. 3
[vi] Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, n. 37.
[vii] Aetatis Novae, n. 2.
[viii] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Internet, n. 18
[ix] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, The Church And Internet, n. 4
[x] Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, n. 10.
[xi] Aetatis Novae, n. 10.
[xii] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Communications, n. 26.
[xiii] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, The Church And Internet, n. 12
[xiv] Communio et Progressio, n. 11.
[xv] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, The Church And Internet, n. 9
[xvi] Doctrine of Faith, Doctrinal note on some aspects of Evangelization, n1
[xvii] Doctrine of Faith, Doctrinal note on some aspects of Evangelization, n3
[xviii] Pope John Paull II, Message on World Communication day 1990.
[xix] Concilium, Ritual and New Media, Nathan D. Mitchell, p 90
[xx] http:/www.ua-ambit.org/soi/soi.htm
[xxi] Pontifical Council for Social Communications, The Church And Internet, n. 6

January 12, 2008

Why broken marriages are in increase among Catholics?

Why broken marriages are in increase among Catholics?
How can the Church help for sustained marriage –bond?


Catechism of the Catholic Church in article 1601 says “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."

Marriage in god's plan
Sacred Scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and concludes with a vision of "the wedding-feast of the Lamb." Scripture speaks throughout of marriage and its "mystery," its institution and the meaning God has given it, its origin and its end, its various realizations throughout the history of salvation, the difficulties arising from sin and its renewal "in the Lord" in the New Covenant of Christ and the Church.

Marriage in the order of creation
The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws. God himself is the author of marriage. The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes. These differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics. Although the dignity of this institution is not transparent everywhere with the same clarity, some sense of the greatness of the matrimonial union exists in all cultures. "The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life."
God who created man out of love also calls him to love the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love. Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator's eyes. And this love which God blesses is intended to be fruitful and to be realized in the common work of watching over creation: "And God blessed them, and God said to them: 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.’ ”
Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: "It is not good that the man should be alone." The woman, "flesh of his flesh," his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a "helpmate"; she thus represents God from whom comes our help. "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." The Lord himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been "in the beginning": "So they are no longer two, but one flesh."

Why broken marriages are in increase among Catholics?
Why do marriages break down?
The personal, family and community consequences and costs of high rates of marriage breakdown and divorce have focused national attention on developing policies and strategies to prevent family breakdown. Among the most frequently asked questions are: Why do marriages break down? What are the reasons for divorce? How can marriage and family relationships be strengthened?

Perceived main reason for divorce

Parishioners in my Project were asked, what would you say were the main reasons for the marriage ending in our community? For simplicity of discussion, the majority of responses have been grouped under three major dimensions. The categories are: 'affective reasons', 'abusive behaviours' and 'external pressures'. Additional responses have been coded in a category called 'other'.

Affective reasons
Marriage ending centred on the affective qualities of the relationship including communication problems and incompatibility/drifting apart. Communication problems was the most commonly cited. Only a small proportion specifically mentioned sexual incompatibility as a main reason for divorce. As with incompatibility or drifting apart, communication problems can be either a short-hand or a global attempt to verbalise an array of situations connected with emotional erosion in the relationship - not being understood, feeling that needs are not being met, loss of affection and companionship, feeling lonely and unappreciated. Such reasons are likely to be symptoms of problems with deeper psychological or social roots.


While often categorized separately infidelity, often connotes deterioration in the affective and emotional realm of the marriage associated with loss of love, betrayal of trust, indifference are growing apart. Infidelity was perceived as the main provocation for divorce, for the majority, it was a spouse's infidelity that was the precipitating factor.

Abusive behaviours and personality traits

A range of personality characteristics and behaviours attributed to oneself or, more frequently, one's spouse, have been mentioned as reasons for marriage breakdown. Often included in this category are alcohol and drug use problems, jealousy, dominance, immaturity, gambling, physical and emotional violence, and mental illness

Alcohol and drug abuse
Many people reported alcohol or drug abuse of the men as the main reason for divorce. Wives are more likely than husbands to nominate negative personality traits of their spouse including alcohol and drug use and emotional and physical abuse.

Physical, verbal and emotional violence to self or children

So many reported that physical violence was the main reason for marriage breakdown, sometimes physical danger to a child was the reason.

Verbal and emotional abuse was cited as a main reason by some respondents - in the main, women. The presence of physical violence or emotional abuse may not be alluded to as the main reason for divorce. Marital therapists report that between 40 to 60 per cent of couples seeking marital therapy have experienced episodes of violence in their relationship although only between 6 and 10 per cent of people spontaneously mention violence as an issue.

External pressures

Factors outside the interpersonal relationship may impose on the relationship generating stress leading to marriage breakdown.

Mental and physical health

Physical illness and mental health problems have often been incorporated within the category of external pressures. Many men and women reported physical or mental health as the main reason the marriage ended. It is not possible to determine whether, in some cases, respondents would have included alcohol and drug use, or some forms of emotional abuse, as a mental health reason. Physical and mental illness can increase stress in relationships and lower marital satisfaction. Poor health can strain finances, affect sexual relations, and create tensions around caring and the division of labour - leading to diminished marital satisfaction. Illness can also bring couples closer together, depending on the nature of the illness, supports available and levels of marital cohesion. Depression and other mental health illnesses appear to have a greater impact on marital satisfaction than many physical illnesses.

Financial problems
Some people claimed financial problems as the main cause of their marriage ending. It is also possible that couples may not recognise that concerns about income or insecure employment may underline some of the stresses and tensions in the relationship that contributed to its breakdown. Financial hardship can increase isolation, emotional stress, depression and lower self-esteem, which, in turn, can generate or exacerbate marital tensions. Marriage counselling and family support agencies have suggested that financial strains have a negative impact on relationships and family life.

Despite recent attention to increased pressures and hours of work in a competitive economic climate, and the effect on families attempting to balance work and family life, work issues and work and family time were cited by some as the primary reason for divorce. Work-related demands and pressures that generate tension and stress may go unrecognised. However, they can spill over into family life in the form of lack of time, emotional and physical energy to invest in the partnership and children which can lead to marital conflict and dissatisfaction. Not only divorce but suicide incidents are on the increase even in the state of Kerala. 13 people between the age of 24 – 30 died (suicided) in the Technopark Trivandrum, for the last 6 months.
Interference from in-laws as a main reason was mentioned by few. Some of the marriage related cases in the courts are directly related with Mother-in-law or father-in-law issues. Pressure from in-laws for more shares from the bride’s side is a common reason for divorce case in India and especially in Kerala.

Other reasons
Although the intensive years of child caring has been associated with a decrease in marital satisfaction some mentioned problems with children as the main reason for the ending of the marriage. Several respondent comments referred to a partner's attitude to children as the cause. It is possible that concerns about parenting values and disagreements about raising children were subsumed in responses of communication, incompatibility or spousal personality issues.

The influence of some free culture related ideologies and philosophies are wide spread now. The ultimate importance of self happiness and maximum achievement motivations are erasing the idea of suffering and the pain in the catholic community.

Mixed marriages are on increase now. As per the statistics mixed marriages are found failure among Kerala Catholics, or when the time of their children’s marriage it is very hard to find the suitable partner.

How can the Church help for sustained marriage –bond?
How can marriage and family relationships be strengthened?
It is becoming more and more common to hear about young couples, some with young children, getting divorced after one or two years of married life. Let’s check the story of Sheeja.

Sheeja believes she was too young when her father decided to get her engaged to his friend’s son, who was 21 and who she only saw once. “I was only 18 and I thought being good-looking and being from a rich family was enough to make a happy marriage,” she said.

Sheeja said she did not have time to think about the marriage. Everything was prepared for her, including her wedding gown, the guests’ list and the wedding party. In fact, she did not mind and was happy at being the first to get married from among her female cousins and friends. “During the first two or three months we were living happily. It felt like we were boyfriend and girlfriend. We didn’t know what was coming until I became pregnant. I felt that my husband was far away from me. He also began shying away from the responsibility of being a dad after I gave birth and started staying out for long hours with his friends,” she said. She added that they began fighting, as her husband was not helping her look after the baby and, being unable to cope and inexperienced, she had to get her mother to help.

A few months later the couples were divorced and Sheeja came to live with her parents. “I was wrong to get pregnant two months after getting married. I didn’t know him well and maybe I would’ve fixed my life without divorcing if I were more mature, older and understood his fears. I learned that being able to build a house does not mean being able to build a family and home,” she added.

“Children are the victims of divorces. Some couples get divorced when the wife is pregnant and children are born to find their parents separated or divorced”.

What all things could have avoided:
• Some people are careless when getting married.
• Children are brought up to do what parents feel is best and when they get married then they find it difficult to make their own decisions.
• “Parents also play negative roles in advising their children. Fathers tell their married daughters to leave their husbands when marriages become rocky. They tell them they’re welcome to stay at their house, while husbands are told by their dads that they’re allowed to divorce and at liberty to marry 10 other women”.
• The television has negatively affected the way girls think. “Women can become displeased with their life and marriage by watching television. A husband can also become unsatisfied with his wife’s looks after he continuously sees other women on television”.
• It is the women and children that end up suffering when couples get divorced
• People need to think beyond the wedding gown and wedding party.

Recommendations from My Study

• Marriage preparation course should be compulsory for all.
• Basic knowledge related to sex and child caring should be properly included in the curriculum.
• Parents should give proper guidance for their grown up children for the healthy and positive relations with the opposite sex friends.
• Parents should lead a good married life so that it may become the role model for their children.
• The system of dowery should be banned by law. The Church authorities should give proper guidance to both parties to avoid it.
• Proper interpersonal communication should be there between the bride and bridegroom before the marriage.
• Mutual understanding on many factors is a must for a happy married life.
• Psychological needs of each should be satisfied by both. Emotional care should be there in marital life.
• Sexual morality should be taught to all and it should be properly introduced from the adolescent time.
• The use of TV and internet should be guided. Perverted ideas of sexual pleasures are presented by many channels and websites. Some may try to experiment such things on their companion which may lead to family breakdown.
• Marriage counseling centers should be opened in possible locations in a diocese and it should be available 24/365 days via new communication methods.