Technology and the Church

We are called to use science and technology in a full and constructive way, while recognizing that the findings of science always have to be evaluated in the light of the centrality of the human person, of the common good and of the inner purpose of creation.[1]

- Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

 

"The People of God walk in history."[2]  Pope Paul VI reminded the Church of this truth on the 5th World Communications Day in 1971!   In the intervening 40 years, the world of communications and connectivity has exploded.  As Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew remarked: 

Especially in the Western world, where technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, to the extent that wisdom is now chasing after science, the verities of human experience have come into question in ways that a generation ago could never have been imagined.[3]

The history we walk in now is filled with mobile devices, social networks, wide Internet accessibility, data collection, and privacy concerns.  There is a strong need to both train our children in the use of electronic media and to protect them as they learn and relate through these means.

The Church and the Human Person

People use technology; and technology influences people's lifestyles and habits.  So, we can't talk about technology without talking about the human person first.    

Every person is created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27).  As a result, every person inherently possesses qualities from being created in the image and likeness of God.  We see that divine image (or icon) through our free will, our intellect, our ability to form relationships, our creativity, our ability to love and to be loved, and many more.

This divine gift also means that we recognize the living icon of Christ in each other.  And if we love God, then we must also love those who are made in God's image and likeness.  The Apostle John put more forcefully:

If anyone says, "I love God," but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1John 4:19-20)

Every person—whether we encounter them in person or online—is worthy of dignity and must be treated with dignity. 

The Church and Technology

When it comes to the Church's view of technology, both the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox Churches have been clear.  As the Orthodox Christian Bishops wrote in 2006, "The technology itself is not dangerous."[4]   In fact, Pope John Paul II also advised in 2005, "Do not be afraid of new technologies! These rank ‘among the marvelous things'… which God has placed at our disposal to discover…"[5] Yet, parents usually wonder how they can help their children discover the wonders available while also and balancing potential harms.

This safety guide has been designed specifically to assist parents and guardians in the important and difficult endeavor of navigating our digital world.  The Church – your faith community – is extremely interested in supporting you as you guide and educate your children. The Church wishes to act with you in protecting and nurturing them in this electronic environment that they will encounter now and throughout their adult years. 

Every environment has its benefits and dangers. As parents, you already know this.  You instinctively help your children navigate through their various environments.  Whether it's with your home, school, neighborhood, relationships, or the Internet, you guide your children.  Providing guidance in the digital world has unique challenges.  As Pope Benedict XVI said, "Educating children to be discriminating in their use of the media is a responsibility of parents, Church, and school. The role of parents is of primary importance."[6]  The Church respects parents' primary role here, and offers its assistance through practical resources like the guide you have in your hands.  Hopefully, this guide will help you think through and work through some key issues about digital communication and your family.

The Church and Communication

The Church is very interested in anything to do with communication.  In fact, it's part of her very essence.  The Gospel of John states, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."[7]   As the Word of the Father, who communicates the life of the Father to the whole world, Jesus is the perfect communicator.  Thus, from the Church's perspective, any mode of communication and the Gospel go hand-in-hand.  As Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew underscored:

Our vision is that the world we inhabit must be based on Christian values, where government, civil society and religion are partners and not rivals. We should harness the power of technology, especially the Internet, to spread Christ's message to all Europe's peoples.

How new generations understand the very nature of communication is of great interest to the Church.  The very nature of how people communicate impacts how they will be able to hear, understand, and live the Good News of the Gospel, complete with its unique values and principles.  As Pope Benedict XVI said:

New technologies are not only changing the way we communicate, but communication itself, so much so that it could be said that we are living through a period of vast cultural transformation. This means of spreading information and knowledge is giving birth to a new way of learning and thinking. [8]

Children are naturally inquisitive and open, curious and appropriating.  Their relationship to media will be shaped early in life.  Their learning and thinking will be formed.  This needs parental guidance and care.  Guided by Jesus' own love for children,[9] the Church accompanies her families. The Church advocates for what is best for the sake of our children and aids in the transfiguration of society and culture. 

We hope and pray that this guide helps you see technology through the eyes of faith.  May it foster dialogue, and provide you with the tools and strategies you are looking for.  May this guide affirm your importance in the life and growth of your children, God's precious gift to you. 

Yes, the People of God in this time do walk in history.  By God's grace, we walk holding the hands of our children in confidence.



[1] Common Declaration, Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  Venice, 2002

[2] Communio et Progressio, Pope Paul VI, 5th World Communications Day, 1971.

[3] Address on the Occasion of His First Official Visit to the United States, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Washington DC. 1997.

[4] On the Well-Being of Children from http://www.scoba.us/articles/2006-03-15-well-being-of-children.html SCOBA Hierarchs, 2006.

[5] The Rapid Development, Apostolic Letter to Those Responsible for Communications, Pope John Paul II, 2005.

[6] Children and the Media: A Challenge for Education, Pope Benedict XVI, 41st World Communications Day, 2007.

[7] John 1:1

[8] Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age, Pope Benedict XVI, 45th World Communications Day, 2011.

[9] "Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 9:14, New American Bible.   

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