Now, there are already quite a few excellent blogs being written by Catholic priests and deacons (not to mention a few of higher ecclesiastical rank). And my own diocese makes use of Twitter to share important news (such as the swine flu restrictions last year when no one was sure how bad swine flu might be). I think that this is a trend that ought to continue to spread, not only because it's a great way for priests to spread the Gospel, but also because it's a great way for lay Catholics to communicate with their priests without having to schedule an appointment to talk, or grabbing Father after Sunday Mass when he's really, really busy.
VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI has a new commandment for priests struggling to get their message across: Go forth and blog.
The pope, whose own presence on the Web has heavily grown in recent years, urged priests on Saturday to use all multimedia tools at their disposal to preach the Gospel and engage in dialogue with people of other religions and cultures.
And just using e-mail or surfing the Web is often not enough: Priests should use cutting-edge technologies to express themselves and lead their communities, Benedict said in a message released by the Vatican.
"The spread of multimedia communications and its rich 'menu of options' might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web," but priests are "challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources," he said.
The message, prepared for the World Day of Communications, suggests such possibilities as images, videos, animated features, blogs, and Web sites.
Think of the possibilities! Suppose a fictional priest--we'll call him Father Brown, because I like Chesterton--sets up a blog and a Facebook page for himself, and shares his email address. On any given Sunday evening, Father might get on the Internet and find out the following:
--a parishioner who reads his blog is slowly coming to understand the Church's teaching on contraception
--parishioners on Facebook mostly liked his homily, but a couple were confused and need clarification on a few points
--more parishioners have joined the Facebook Group Catholics for the Abolition of Liturgical Dance, which makes them outnumber (finally) the parishioners in Catholics for Creative Liturgies
--a new parishioner sends an email to offer his services as a classicist with mastery of ancient Greek and Latin for Father's bible study group and for Father's series of talks to get people used to the idea of some Latin chant
--the choir director has copied Father on her Tweet to all members informing them of an extended practice to learn some of that chant
and so on.
Blogging, emailing, and the like aren't any substitute for face-to-face communication, of course. But the reality for our priests is that with fewer priests and bigger areas of responsibility, parish priests don't have the time to connect individually with each parishioner or family on more than an occasional basis. Making use of these efficient means of communication makes sense.
Of course, I did like this reminder from Pope Benedict XVI, quoted in the article:
So I'm guessing this sort of thing ought to keep coming mainly from lay people:
Benedict said young priests should become familiar with new media while still in seminary, though he stressed that the use of new technologies must reflect theological and spiritual principles.
"Priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ," he said.