Pope Benedict XVI might not be the world’s most popular guy. The Catholic Church sometimes takes controversial positions on issues, especially issues that face our changing world.
But it’s hard to argue with a recent request he made of the world’s 1.5 billion Catholics today, asking them, in essence, to tone it down a notch. The pontiff noted that the civility of online discourse has been lacking these days, and asked his followers to adopt a more “Christian-style presence” online.
“We must be aware that the truth which we long to share does not derive its worth from its ‘popularity’ or from the amount of attention it receives,” Benedict wrote in his annual message for the church’s World Day of Social Communications. “The proclamation of the Gospel requires a communication which is at once respectful and sensitive.”
Benedict didn’t name names, but the head of the Vatican’s social communications office, Archbishop Claudio Celli, said it was certainly correct to direct the pope’s exhortation to some conservative Catholic blogs, YouTube channels and sites which, with some vehemence, criticize bishops, public officials and policies they consider not Catholic enough.
Celli noted that the Pontifical Council for Social Communications was working on a set of guidelines with recommendations for appropriate style and behaviour for Catholics online.
“I don’t love such things, but I think we can define some points of reference for behaviour,” he said, adding that he hoped such a document would come out as soon as possible.
Regardless of your faith, better manners online is something just about every segment of society can aim for. You know what, if Pope Benedict can make all caps typing, WHICH IS THE SAME THING AS INTERNET YELLING AND TOTALLY ANNOYING a sin, I think the Internet could be a holier place — or at least a little easier on the eyes.
And if you think Pope Benedict’s message is overly simplistic and naive, remember this: the guy is 86 years old. My grandparents have had enough trouble figuring out cell phones. For this guy to know enough about the Internet to know how toxic it can be is impressive in its own right.