HoH_Listecki3-ColorFor almost three weeks we viewed the struggles of a people to be free. The Egyptian people demonstrated their displeasure with their government. Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the squares demanding a more democratic government. Many chanted that President Hosni Mubarak must go after almost 30 years of authoritarian governing. He finally acceded to their demands and left office. Only time will bear witness to whether or not the democratic reforms demanded will take root.

When we think of democratic reforms, we think of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, a right to due process, etc. We have experienced situations where the reformers become more oppressive than their predecessors. We can only pray that true reform will happen in Egypt and in other places where people’s rights are denied.

It is interesting to note that early in the protests in Egypt that the government tried to control the information coming from the country. We live in the “age of communication” and during this crisis in Egypt, we experienced that “age of communication” in action. Fifty years ago a totalitarian government would have seized the press and cut off telephone, radio and television communications, until the protests subsided. But in today’s world, cells phones and personal computers make communication instantaneous. The Egyptian government could not silence the modern vehicles of communication. Therefore, they could not silence the voices of the protesters calling to the international community.

Despite attempts at silencing the masses, people used their cell phones and computers to tell their story, accompanied by pictures and videos, to the world. The citizens of other countries formed opinions, thereby putting pressure on their own governments. We can easily see how important communication is to a free society and how necessary access to information is for the free exchange of ideas.

Christianity was spread through the oral telling of the story of Jesus Christ. The spread of the Gospel was achieved through the preaching and the teaching of the apostles and disciples. To this day, face-to-face encounters, personal witness remains the most effective tool of evangelization. In the Middle Ages, crowds would gather in churches or town squares to listen to dynamic preachers. The message of Christianity was communicated through paintings, statutes and stained glass. Even the great cathedrals and churches were built to reflect the sacred, the power and the majesty of God.

Fr. Robert Barron, a well-known theologian and Catholic communicator, has undertaken a project to introduce the Catholic community to the historical beauty of world Catholicism. This is a significant contribution to the catechesis and evangelization of our faith, examining the rich beauty and artistic treasures which are expressions of church teachings. But like all communication, we need someone to point the camera, someone to interpret the signs, someone to point out the depth of what we are seeing or hearing. Freezing one frame of a movie may not be conveying the whole story or the whole truth.

Vatican II’s Decree on the Instruments of Social Communication stated:

“There exists within human society a right to information about affairs which affect men individually or collectively and according to the circumstances of each. The proper exercise of this right demands that the matter communicated always be true and as complete as charity and justice allow. The manner of communication should furthermore be honorable and appropriate; this means that in the gathering and publication of news, the norms of morality and the legitimate rights and dignity of a man must be held sacred. For knowledge is sometimes unprofitable, ‘but charity edifies’(1 Cor 8:11).” (Inter Mirifica #5)

Modern communication technologies are a great gift to our society, but like all gifts they need to be used wisely for the benefit of the individual and the common good. Pope Benedict XVI has emphasized the importance of using the modern means of social technology to evangelize and assist individuals in the growth of their faith. We must not be frightened of these means of communication but understand their usefulness in spreading the Gospel message.

At the same time we cannot be naïve. The power of the Internet, through presentations by bloggers or cell cameras, can be used to spread misinformation, lies or even seduce persons into immorality.
Lydia LoCoco, director of the Nazareth Project, is sponsoring a conference addressing the pornography epidemic in our society. Priests, deacons, seminarians and staff will gather for a presentation and discuss how the sacraments, the spiritual life and therapy can assist in battling the problem of pornography.

Modern communication technology has created easy access to pornography via the Internet. Curiosity can lead to addiction and this has destroyed marriages and families. There is a demeaning of the dignity of the human person and the loss of the value of human sexuality. It is a problem and it needs to be discussed.

With the tremendous amount of information coming at us from every direction, how do we stay focused and grounded? Where do we go for the truth? The instrument of information that you are reading right now is a source of Catholic perspective and vision. The Catholic Herald, as a newspaper, becomes a measure, a lens in forming opinions. At the heart of its mission is service to the church whose mission it is to proclaim the truth of the Gospel to all people.
Let us all remind ourselves to use the social instruments at our disposal with a critical eye for the information that is generated, always guided by the dignity of the person and the common good.