Church Urged to Help World Sift Through Data

Symposium Looks at Internet

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ROME, JULY 16, 2001 ( Just as monasteries once guarded the patrimony of culture, the Church today should help society sift through the mass of information available through Internet, a Church official suggests.

«The man without culture, although well informed, is lacking in an ensemble of learning that enables him to appreciate and order the data he receives,» said Monsignor Enrique Planas of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and director of the RIIAL service of the Church in Latin America.

He gave the closing speech at a recent symposium on «The Church and Internet,» sponsored by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, in Rome. The Spanish periodical Alfa y Omega gave a summary of Monsignor Planas´ address.

«It is necessary to see Internet as one more means of communication inserted in the evolution of the phenomenon of social communication,» he said. «The Church is, and must be, present at the center of all means of communication.»

He contended, however: «On the whole, the Church has not always measured up to circumstances, although she should. The new technologies do not annul traditional methods of evangelization, but the [latter] need adaptation and effort.»

«Today, in general the common attitude of pastors of the Church is to affirm, almost unanimously, the validity of the new technologies and means of social communication for evangelization,» Monsignor Planas continued. «However, in practice, with the exception of some enlightened cases … not much is done.»

He explained that «a serious problem is the lack of continuity. Moments of great creativity alternate with moments in which specific initiatives are abandoned, going so far as to destroy initiatives that were constructed with so much effort. I am thinking of the destruction of the Catholic Publishing House in Spain, which seemed to be so solidly built by Cardinal Angel Herrera; or, at present, the crisis of the Presencia periodical in Bolivia, and other very important means.»

Regarding the negative sides of Internet, he said, «From the cultural point of view, the Church today should also measure up to her tradition and resolve the problem of the preservation, order and maintenance of the great cultural contents, just as the Medieval monasteries did. Moreover, she should undertake the transformation and systematization of the realm in which the flood of news and information flows, an area of collective intelligence.»

«Gustav Thibon said that information acts in the opposite sense to the demands of culture for, among other things, the following reasons: because of its anonymity, it is directed to the whole world and to no one [in particular]; it ignores dialogue, is massive in character, the number of news [items] being such that the spirit is unable to assimilate them, and [they] tend to be confusing and to cancel each other out,» Monsignor Planas said. Another problem he noted was «the absence of selection and hierarchy among the events transmitted.»

«In other words,» he concluded, «the Church should help society move from information to knowledge, through the proposal of models, values — and be an agent of meaning. Information has meaning when the reader is able to judge [and] discern the true from the false, reality from illusion.»

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