Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Aussie Catholic's Guide to Social Networking

It's good to see that the Aussie Bishops have released an updated version of the Social-Networking Protocols. I must confess I wasn't aware  that we even had protocols that needed "updating". Although you can read the document as a pdf file on the official site for the Catholic Church in Australia, I suggest you log onto this document on the Media Blog site which allows for sharing and comments.

While it's a pretty cool text, it does have an odd quirk which may be part of the current trend of being faithful to the Latin. The statement insists: "Social networking, using platforms such as Facebook, MySpace or Xt3, is a phenomenon which allows groups to share information, build friendships and promote activities. Indeed, social networking has already proven to be a powerful way to engage with and promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a wide variety of fora."  Now according to the authoritative  Wictionary, the English plural forums is preferred to the Latin plural fora in normal English usage. I wonder which member of the Commission for Mission and Faith Formation   edited that part of the text?

There are some good practical suggestions about personal and public issues that plague all organisations that venture into the unregulated world of  social networking. The "blurring of boundaries"  is a phrase that should be common with any professionals who engage in social networking, particularly with young people.

The statement is directed primarily at Church organisations and their personnel but it also challenges participants who engage in the world wide web using the catholic tag with little commitment to "growth in faith and in communion with others". I wonder how many of these "loose cannons" will feature this statement on their sites?

 I love the paragraph that is directed at the bishops themselves.

Some Bishops have elected to set up a public profile on Facebook, which displays them as a public figure – for example, the Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn would be listed as a public figure, with a photo and information about his work and ministry. Those using these sites may wish to become a ‘fan’ of the Archbishop as a public figure. This can avoid some of the tensions which can come with accepting or denying ‘friend’ requests.

There is an obvious reason that the Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn features here as he has attracted 556 fans on his public figure page. He is way ahead of Cardinal Pell who has only found 20 fans so far!! Mind you the Cardinal has  attracted 261 members to the Cardinal Pell Appreciation Society although catching up behind are the 193 members of the "Cardinal Pell and the Catholic Church are out of touch with reality"group.The most intriguing group has to be the 120 members of the Bp Chris Prowse Groupies Club.

Readers of this blog  would be surprised to see the clerics who I have as "Facebook Friends".  They represent a good cross section of theological and pastoral perspectives. I have only been "unfriended" by one cleric, a former  confrere in a religious order who now lives in another paradigm.

All people of good will should find common ground in the Bishops' naming of human dignity as the overarching principle of the communion we seek to experience in social networking. It is also challenging to read the statements' reflection on the "Digital Divide". However, I  hope a further updating will provide   more creative suggestion about bridging this gap by using Church resources in creative ways.

I would like to think that  the Holy Irritant blog was an  incentives for this quote:
 "Blogging is a conversational and reflective mode of communicating which is cost-effective and allows people to express their views in a relatively unmoderated forum. A number of priests, religious and lay people within Australia maintain excellent blogs which can be helpful for the promulgation of faith. Once again, Church workers should try to consistently represent the Church in a positive light and communicate evangelically using this medium."

I have recently announced my decision to step down from a long term gig  as web editor for the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission in the Archdiocese of Brisbane.  I can take a step back from this statement's reminder to those who work for Church organistions. But I  hope that this blog continues to provide  a perspective of  bringing about the message of Christ to the world, albeit in a slightly off beat tone!!!

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