It is interesting how the culture seems to view Catholics. People are amused by nuns roller skating, running in a marathon in a habit, or monks refilling laser cartridges. The view that Catholics don’t use technology or that they can’t have other interests seems to be the normal assumption.
Maybe this view can be seen also among even Catholics. The coverage of the Pope’s personal Twitter account and his seven tweets today has gotten a lot of attention even among tech blogs. Somehow they expect Catholics to have an Amish aversion to technology and that the Pope would be more likely to place Twitter on the “Index of Forbidden Social Media Applications” than to use it.
I certainly liked that he did a series of tweets after today’s General Audience. But I think the papal iPad should have been the white one. I also really want that papal iPad which could be a 2nd class relic in the future if he is ever canonized. Plus if his cause is ever introduced it means the Congregation for the Causes of Saints will have to read through his tweets. I tweeted before that maybe one day there will be a Denzinger’s list of official tweets published.
Getting back to the attitude regarding Catholics and technology. Part of this is from the false narrative of the Church vs. science which is constantly drilled in. The fact that it was usually Catholics who were on the bleeding edge of some science is almost totally unknown and like clockwork every year we get some story on the Vatican Observatory because the novelty never wears off.
When it comes to the internet and some other media Catholics have certainly lagged behind. I really don’t expect for example the Vatican to jump on every new social media initiative and it makes some sense to observe the scene and then enter it when there is a certain critical mass. For example a Vatican presence on Friendster would have been rather silly or even worse myspace. Although it would be nice if they had someone in the Vatican that monitored this and did things like reserve nicknames in new platforms for future use. It would have been nice if the Pope at least have had an option to use @pope. There was not much planning ahead before when the Vatican did not get other top level domains other than .va andI believe at one time vatican.va went to a very undesirable site.
The other day I was looking through the top “Religion & Spirituality” podcasts on iTunes and Catholics are hardly represented at all. In a list of top podcasts in this category you don’t come to a Catholic one until #47 Catholics Answers Live. There are more Mormon podcasts in the top 100 than Catholic ones. There are more atheist podcasts in the top 100 than Catholic ones. Protestants though pretty much dominate. I listen to a good amount of Catholic podcasts and there are some high quality ones and you can find a couple of them in the iTunes “What’s hot section”. Fr. Roderick’s SQPN (Star Quest Podcast Network) was an early innovator and has expanded and continues to deliver entertaining and informative content. Still with over a billion Catholics there should be multiple such podcast networks. I like to listen to the EWTN homilies via podcast. Though it is quite annoying that many times they don’t post them in a timely manner and never on weekends.
Catholic radio is another area that severely lagged. While the Vatican had a radio station early on, Protestants have also dominated the air waves. The good news is that Catholic radio is rapidly growing. When I first came to Jacksonville, Fl 15 years ago the Catholic station here was only one of three in the country. Now there are over 200 Catholic radio stations here in the United States.
If you want to go into a technology time warp than pretty much visit any parish website. In my diocese I have not seen on parish site that does not make me cringe either with 1990 design or bulletins last updated in a previous year. Internet.org has a wayback machine so that you can see what an archived website looked like in the past. Unfortunately parish websites look like they had been archived sometime in the past. In fact if you look at the 1997 version of Vatican.va there is very little difference in design compared to now. If you do web programming like I do I am sure you would cringe at the fact that documents on the Vatican site are formatted using tables – yikes. At least news.va is not an embarrassment to look at.