It confused a lot of people.
Tweeps who were watching the #VBM11 feed during May 2, 2011’s “Vatican Blogger Meeting” saw this among Lisa Hendey’s updates:
#vbm11 Lucio A Ruiz: Vatican’s web presence is not a technological issue, it’s a theological issue
I had later tweeted that this was case #1 that my thesis had been vindicated by the Vatican. That’s because my concluding recommendations began with the “need for a theologically-infused methodology” as the basis for Church new media activity. I regret not having several more months to elaborate on this recommendation.
That starts now.
From Fear to Courage
Today is Pentecost. The anniversary of our debut? Yes, but much more, as Bishop Shomali of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem noted in a private audience at which I was present.
He described the recent Middle Eastern Bishops’ Synod, which I believe has major connections to our diverse Church venturing into new media territory:
We were afraid. […] Especially that we came from different cultures, subcultures, different churches, liturgies, traditions, languages… It was somewhat of a Babel. […] We had our own fears, divisions. You can’t expect that all the bishops coming from different countries had the same idea. […]
Then, he summarized a portion of Pope Benedict XVI’s homily at the Synod:
Pentecost is not a unique, historical event which happened once upon a time. But it is a permanent dynamism which can be repeated.
With the Holy Spirit, we conquer the confusion of Babel, the fear of post-crucifixion persecution, and become a courageous crowd of witnesses.
Why Theology Must Be Foundational
This is why, before I advise any Church-related organization on new media technologies, I speak with them about the theology of new media. What does that mean?
Theology literally means ‘a discourse on, or account of, the gods.’ But in practice, theology is an examination of God and the relationship between God and creation. Pope Benedict XVI has said that “whoever loves God is impelled to become, in a certain sense, a theologian” (To the Members of the International Theological Commission, December 2010). Our every activity should be intimately related to our relationship with God. BXVI also said, “Theology is not theology unless it is integrated into the life and reflection of the Church through time and space.”
If this is so, why do Catholic techies spend more time tech-talking about Catholic new media than theologizing about it?
If we truly believe that we, the Catholic Church, must utilize new media, how can we expect success without theology?
Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Mt. 7:22-3)
No matter how much we speak about how new media can do this, that, or the other for the Church,
no matter how much we call our ventures “Catholic new media,”
we will mean nothing if we do not embrace a prayerful, theological foundation for our work.
Thank God the Vatican understands this. I read Lisa’s tweet that day and excitedly pumped my fist in the air. “YES!” I said aloud. “It’s not a mistake, that’s the way it should be: a matter of theology over technology!”
Where to Go From Here?
So, how do we go about developing a theological foundation for our new media methodologies? The Holy Father noted in the afore-mentioned address:
The theologian never begins from zero, but considers as teachers the Fathers and theologians of the whole Christian tradition.
We have to begin by amassing works by, and meditating on, our evangelizing ancestors: from the prophets to Christ to the saints. Names I’d recommend for the list include
- Saint Paul the Apostle
- Saint Francis de Sales – Bishop & Doctor of the Church, 1567-1622
- Blessed Giacomo (James) Alberione – Founder of the Pauline Family, 1884-1971
- Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen – Bishop & Award-winning Media Personality, 1895-1979
and Saint Daniel Comboni, whose words about missionary work echo into this new media age:
The missionaries will have to understand that they are stones hid under the earth, which will perhaps never come to light, but which will become part of the foundations of a vast, new building.
Who would you add to the list? Are you ready to contribute to this new theological exploration?