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“MY UNMARRIED FACEBOOK FRIEND ANNOUNCED SHE IS PREGNANT – IS IT OK TO CLICK ‘LIKE'”?

QUESTION: “If an unmarried friend on Facebook announces that she has moved in with her boyfriend I don’t click ‘Like’ because it seems to be a form of approval. But if an unmarried friend announces that she is pregnant, is it hypocritical to congratulate her?

ANSWER: Your raising this question is commendable because it demonstrates an awareness of the responsibility that we have to avoid co-operating in the wrong done by another person. Traditionally theologians have identified nine general ways to co-operate in evil: by counsel, by command, by consent, by provocation, by praise or flattery, by concealment, by being a partner in the sin, by silence and by defending the wrong done.

Although clicking ‘Like’ for a Facebook status is fairly trivial it can be a way of praising something wrong and so I agree with your decision to avoid clicking “Like” when an unmarried couple announce that they have moved in together. It is not always necessary to comment negatively on a person’s status but it might be necessary to say something if others draw an inference from our lack of comment. Even here we do not need to respond if people are simply attempting to draw us into an online fight.

In the case of an unmarried friend announcing a pregnancy, there are other considerations. In many cases an unmarried mother will be asked whether she wishes to continue with the pregnancy – in other words, whether to opt for the killing of the baby through abortion.

For someone who is young and in difficulties, considerable pressure may be brought to bear. In such cases we are right to congratulate a young mother on making the courageous choice of life for her unborn child.

In the case of a mother who is in a long-term cohabiting relationship we can still congratulate her on the conception of a child, though we may be in a position where we should encourage her to marry. Facebook is probably not the place for such a conversation to take place, and simply clicking ‘Like’ does not imply that we approve of all the circumstances of the pregnancy.”
– This article by Fr Tim Finigan was published as part of the feature “Catholic Dilemmas” in the “Catholic Herald” issue March 7 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

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POPE FRANCIS WANTS US TO IGNORE THE ‘TROLLS’ AND THRIVE ONLINE

THE WEB OFFERS IMMENSE POSSIBILITIES FOR ENCOUNTER AND SOLIDARITY

“When Francis issued his first World Communications Day message last week one media outlet ran the headline: ‘The Internet’s Favourite Pope Loves the Internet Back.’ You may recall that Francis was named the most popular person on the web in 2013 and in his new message he reportedly described the net as ‘a gift from God’. That prompted American comedian Stephen Colbert to observe: ‘Pope Francis said the internet is ‘a gift from God’. Sounds like somebody hasn’t scrolled down to the comments section yet.’

How can Francis describe the net as a divine gift when it is the habitat of hateful ‘trolls’ and a vehicle for such horrific crimes as human trafficking and child abuse? If we read his message carefully we see that the Holy Father does not, in fact, say that the internet itself is a heavenly gift. Rather, he argues that the ‘immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity’ that the web offers are ‘something truly good, a gift from God’. So he is saying that the web is a gift in so far as it offers us new opportunities for meeting and sharing with others.

THESE MEDIA… WHICH IN ACCORDANCE WITH GOD’S PROVIDENTIAL DESIGN, UNITE MEN IN BROTHERHOOD AND SO HELP THEM TO COOPERATE WITH HIS PLAN FOR THEIR SALVATION

It is true, though, that the Church takes a broadly optimistic view of the digital revolution. It has had a decidedly sunny outlook on modern communication technology for decades. In a 1971 document, the Vatican said: ‘The Church sees these media as ‘gifts from God’ which, in accordance with his providential design, unite men in brotherhood and so help them to cooperate with his plan for their salvation.’ The 2002 text ‘The Church and the Internet’ quoted that sentence and added: ‘This remains our view, and it is the view we take of the internet.’

DRAWBACKS ARE REAL, [BUT] THEY DO NOT JUSTIFY REJECTING SOCIAL MEDIA

The Church’s forward-looking vision seems to baffle people who regard Catholicism as a remnant of the Middle Ages. They see the Pope’s widely successful Twitter account, @Pontifex , as a kind of curio and seem amazed that, say, cloistered nuns are using the web to reach out to the world. There is also some resistance within the Church. Some have encountered the ignorance and occasional savagery of web commenters or Twitter users and decided to have nothing to do with the net. ‘The Church and the Internet’ said firmly that ‘hanging back timidly from fear of technology or some other reason is not acceptable’ and in his message Francis argued that although the ‘drawbacks are real, they do not justify rejecting social media’. It is not always easy to get our message across in a medium whose collective attention span can be counted in seconds. But we have to try, then learn from our mistakes and try once again.”
– This article was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue January 31 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 
 

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“REACH OUT TO LONELY PEOPLE ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER,” RECOMMENDS BISHOP

THE ‘JANUARY BLUES’

“People should tackle ‘January blues’ by reaching out to others through Facebook and Twitter, a bishop has said.

Bishop Richard Moth, who is the lead bishop for the bishop’s conferences Mental Health Project, said January could be a ‘very tough month for people’ facing debt, a return to loneliness and isolation or stress at work. ‘Many people are affected by the long dark winter nights,’ he said.

A SHORT UPLIFTING MESSAGE

The bishop added: ‘While professional help should always be sought if necessary, for many a simple loving gesture can help to alleviate their immediate symptoms. Twitter, Facebook and SMS offer all of us a free and easy way to send someone a short uplifting message. Do consider those you know who might benefit from contact at the moment, and please don’t leave it there.

‘If you can pay someone a visit, or give them a phone call, don’t hold back. Your little gesture could make all the difference in the world.'”
– This article by Madeleine Teahan entitled “Bishop: reach out to lonely” was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue January 24 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 
 

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THE INTERNET IS MISSIONARY TERRITORY WE ARE ALL CALLED TO EVANGELISE

CREATING ‘SACRED SPACE IN CYBERSPACE’

“This time last year there were approximately 2.4 billion people using the internet – about twice as many as there are Catholics in the world. The rapid growth of the online networks we know as the internet, and the ever increasing number of hypertext documents we call the world wide web, affect us all. More and more services, from shopping to government, are delivered via the internet; more and more information is accessed via the web. Add to this the explosion of social media such as Facebook and Twitter and you can see how interconnected the world has become in a very short space of time.

THE INTERNET IS ESSENTIALLY CHAOTIC

The internet is essentially chaotic. It is supranational, and the norms governing its operation are not always or everywhere enforcable by law. Here in the West we have established certain protocols regarding the mechanics of such things as domain names, but individual countries, indeed individual persons, can often flout them at will. More importantly, there is very little that can be done to ensure that the uses to which the internet is put are always ‘good’ or constructive.

WE MOVE UNEASILY BETWEEN ‘FREEDOM OF SPEECH’ AND ‘CONTROL’

We may smile when North Korea turns the internet on and off; we do not smile so readily when terrorists post their gruesome videos or people post malicious or libellous remarks about others. Even in a country such as Britain, we move uneasily between ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘control’. There has been widespread revulsion at some of the appalling remarks made on Twitter/blogs/online newspaper comments sections by people who should know better, but still we are reluctant to have any policing of the internet by the state.

The easy availability of pornography troubles many, yet we are curiously accepting the way it intrudes into our lives. The current FBrape campaign, which is trying to stop Facebook allowing degrading photographs of women, has highlighted the fact that a corporation can determine what is ‘acceptable’ without reference to any objective standards. Thus, you may be unlucky enough to find that when you click on the page of a well-known company, the advertisements and other related material running down the side contain images you would not want to see even in your worst nightmares.

DIGITAL CURRENCIES AND MONEY LAUNDERING

Recently, digital currencies have been in the headlines. These are not currencies backed by any government, but they are real in a sense that they can be used to buy and sell over the internet, and some people have been investing in them as a hedge against the woes besetting many world economies. The revelation that Liberty Reserve, based in Costa Rica, has been a vehicle for multi-billion pound money laundering comes as no surprise. Drugs, prostitution and cybercrime will always find a way of processing ill-gotten gains, and what better way than through an online bank which is not subject to the usual regulatory controls? At the time of writing, 17 countries are separately taking legal action, but the fact that each must act individually is in itself measure of our lack of any effective scrutiny.

THE INTERNET IS MISSIONARY TERRITORY WE ARE ALL CALLED TO EVANGELISE

The internet has not yet come of age. It is still in its adolescent phase, when everything is possible and everything seems equally attractive. That is why it is supremely important that the Church should do some long, hard thinking about how we translate our traditional values into the cybersphere. It is not enough that we tweet and blog and podcast, make cool apps or whatever. These things are merely one aspect of what we do online.

Technology will go on advancing, bringing more and more capabilities within the grasp of even the most technologically-challenged of us, but how we use the technology, what we use it for, is still largely unexplored. For many years I have argued that we should see the internet as sacred space, as much subject to divine law as any other. Internet activity needs prayer and reflection but, if it is to be fruitful, for ourselves and for others, it also needs to be expressed in ways that take account of what already exists.

We must speak the language of our times, but we must also help to form that language by the values and ideals we bring to it. That means you and me and every Catholic online. The internet is missionary territory we are all called to evangelise.”
– This article headed “We must create sacred space in cyberspace” by Catherine Wybourne [capital subtitles added afterwards] was published in “The Catholic Universe”, issue Sunday 9th June, 2013. For subscriptions, please visit http://www.thecatholicuniverse.com (external link)

 

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A PRAYER FOR THE SOCIAL COMMUNICATION MEDIA APOSTOLATE

God of truth, to communicate Your love to all
You sent Your only Son, Jesus Christ,
into the world
and made Him our life.
Grant that the media of social communication
may always be used for Your glory
and the good of all.

Raise up vocations for this apostolate,
and inspire all people of goodwill
to contribute with prayer and work,
so that through these means
the Church may proclaim the Gospel
to all peoples.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 
 

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