A Digital Dialogue: Author Calls for Formation to Meet Challenge of Social Media

By Jones, Melissa | National Catholic Reporter, April 24, 2015 | Go to article overview

A Digital Dialogue: Author Calls for Formation to Meet Challenge of Social Media


Jones, Melissa, National Catholic Reporter


CONNECTED TOWARD COMMUNION: THE CHURCH AND SOCIAL COMMUNICATION IN THE DIGITAL AGE

By Daniella Zsupan-Jerome

Published by Liturgical Press, $17.95

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We have seen how the use of a simple hashtag can set hearts on fire. Think about the influence of # JeSuisCharlie, #ICantBreathe and #ArabSpring. The power of digital communication is a promise and a threat, a technological wonder and a ticking time bomb.

In Connected Toward Communion: The Church and Social Communication in the Digital Age, author Daniella Zsupan-Jerome acknowledges the unbounded nature of the Internet. "Contributions range freely from the socially conscious Ushahidi to the lolcat, from expert commentary to memes, from words of affirmation to vile comments. It is no longer plausible to imagine an ethical code of conduct that could rein all these in."

Interactive Web 2.0 technology has allowed the roles of audience and author to merge, and any hope of civility or community must rise from within. The Catholic church has long been conscious of the need for policies regarding the mass media. Church leaders, especially since the Second Vatican Council, have grappled with the problems and potential of what they refer to as "social communication."

In this book, Zsupan-Jerome sets Catholic pastoral theology in dialogue with digital culture. The author has compiled significant church documents that relate to social communication and analyzes them vis-avis contemporary ministerial formation.

She asserts that the church needs to train priests and lay ministers who can deal with pertinent questions about morality and ethics: "being, knowing, and being together in this digital age."

She begins with an examination of Vatican II's landmark conciliar decree Inter Mirifica (1963), and moves through later documents, including Communio et Progressio (1971), which she calls the church's "magnum opus on social communication." However, she also points out that the very topic of this 1971 work doomed it to become quickly outdated in many areas it addressed.

Communio et Progressio expressed the hope that mass media could help us move from connection toward communion. The author explains that this text uses the idea of "Christ the Perfect Communicator, who teaches us the utter centrality of the human person-in-relationship when it comes to media and communication practices."

She notes that although the tools of mass media have changed dramatically since 1971, the need for a dialogue between faith and media continues.

One of the most interesting discussions in the book is Zsupan-Jerome's interpretation of the 1986 "Guide to the Training of Future Priests Concerning the Instruments of Social Communication. …

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