Debate: Is the internet weakening the Catholic Church?

A journalist uses his iPad during the Catholic Press Congress at the Vatican (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Today Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Catholic Press Congress about the challenges facing Catholic journalism. “Catholic journalists must seek the truth with impassioned minds and hearts,” he said, “but also with the professionalism of competent workers equipped with adequate and efficient means.”

He spoke about new media, according to the Catholic News Service, saying that while it could help spread information, often it was focused on attention-grabbing images and made little or no attempt to help people understand what is happening or what it means for their lives.

Many people believe (including Fr Ray Blake) that Catholic newspapers are being superseded by new media. But is that a good thing? The Catholic blogosphere is rude, argumentative, and fractious: it exposes the divisions of the Church in an ugly light. It flattens Church hierarchy, too: bishops and cardinals are abused regularly by Catholics in the pew.

On the other hand, the online Catholic world has a huge amount of vitality and enthusiasm, and offers the kind of robust debate, and up-to-the-second coverage, that is not often found in traditional media.

So, is the internet weakening the Church? Is it obscuring the truth, or helping to illuminate it?