Church Uses Facebook for Sacramental Scrutiny at Its Peril

Church Uses Facebook for Sacramental Scrutiny at Its Peril

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For all Il Papa’s social media encouragement the last few years, the Roman Catholic Church continues to struggle with digital ministry practice, particularly where new media intersects the Church’s medieval sacramental structure. In 2011, a new smartphone app aimed to support preparation for and the practice of confession ended up generating more confusion than contrition when a not particularly social design invited people to conclude that absolution was granted by way of the Confession app itself rather than, according to Catholic teaching, through the mediation of the priest.

No wonder Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for World Communications Day earlier this year highlighted silence and listening—the heart of Christian practices of contemplation—by way of encouraging the development of “a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.” And, we might add, actions. Blog a bit, tweet a bit, share your favorite liturgical recipes on Facebook if you like, the Holy Father seemed to be saying to the Catholic faithful, but once in a while, for the love of God, zip it.

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