Vatican Documents About Internet Warn of "Digital Divide"

Pontifical Council for Social Communications Highlights Challenges

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2002 ( The Vatican presented two documents today referring to Internet as “an opportunity and a challenge and not a threat.”

Both “Ethics in Internet” and “The Church and Internet,” documents prepared by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, encourage the idea of not thinking of “Internet only as a source of problems,” said Archbishop John P. Foley. (Both documents are available at the ZENIT Web site.)

Archbishop Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, explained at a press conference that Internet should be regarded “as a source of benefits to the human race. The benefits can be fully realized only if the problems are solved.”

Asked why the Church published “Ethics in Internet” — part of a series of documents including “Ethics in Communications” (2000) and “Ethics in Advertising” (1997) — the archbishop responded by quoting the document´s second paragraph.

“Today it takes no great stretch of the imagination to envisage the earth as an interconnected globe humming with electronic transmissions — a chattering planet nestled in the provident silence of space. The ethical question is whether this is contributing to authentic human development and helping individuals and peoples to be true to their transcendent destiny,” he said.

According to the American archbishop, the basic principles of the Internet are the same as those for other forms of communication: “The human person and the human community are the end and measure of the use of the media of social communication; communication should be by persons to persons for the integral development of persons.”

The Vatican document, which was revised by the State Secretariat and by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, hopes to further the idea that the media “have the ability to make every person everywhere a partner in the business of the human race — and Internet can certainly do that,” Archbishop Foley added.

The document does note that some of the problems of Internet include questions of “privacy, the security and confidentiality of data, copyright and intellectual property law, pornography, hate sites, the dissemination of rumor, and character assassination under the guise of news,” among other things, the archbishop said.

“There is also the problem of the economic and cultural divide — a so-called digital divide between the technology-rich and the information-rich and those who are poor” in “these key areas of modern development,” he added.

The archbishop publicly thanked Russell Shaw for his key role in the writing of the document. Formerly, Shaw was secretary for communications of the then U.S. Catholic Conference and later director of communications for the Knights of Columbus.

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