Thursday, 5 May 2011

Bloggers to Replace New York Times? Blogmeet Memoir Part 3


Preferring to be energised and caffeinated – I’d stuck with the coffee and avoided the prosecco. We took our seats for the second panel. There was still an atmosphere of whatever-will-happen-next, as 150 bloggers’ eyes bugged to see the next speakers take their place on the panel. And now for the moment we had all been waiting for; the second panel will answer the question; in what esteem does the Vatican hold blogging and social networking? Fr Spadaro, S.J. moderated the panel, and was flanked by five Vatican representatives. Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J. told us that his background is in studying literature, and that he views each blog as a novel. Fr Lombardi gave a lengthy talk, but it was peppered with Pope Benedict’s plans to use social media. Lombardi opened with some insights on Pope Benedict's reaction to social media. "He doesn't blog and he doesn't use Twitter," Lombardi said, "but he does understand the power of new media." Lombardi included that the Pope will use satellite technology to host a live meeting with astronauts in space.
Thomas Peters earned a resounding applause when he enquired of Fr Lombardi if bloggers would ever be privy to advanced copies of Vatican documents. Thomas proposed that if the Vatican were to give bloggers embargoed news stories, such as are given The New York Times, it could benefit the Vatican. Secular media outlets do not always get the story right, and put their own twist on the story. Bloggers might be more brutally honest. But this begs the question; which blogs (and why) would be privy to these semi-classified documents? 

In giving such documents to bloggers, there is a very strong element of relying on the bloggers’ good will. Perhaps I’m being cynical, but consider this scenario. What if a loyal Catholic blogger were to be given sensitive Vatican documents, but then this same blogger has a sudden crisis of faith and loses their trust in the Church and the Vatican, and uses the documents to write against the Church? If the Church were to give sensitive documents to bloggers, then they would have to be open to thousands of different interpretations being put out on the internet. 
Is this suggestion of mine so naff; with our new technology, would the Vatican reconsider/stop giving embargoed documents to the secular press and create its own worldwide media base, employing some bloggers in the place previously occupied by big media power houses like The New York Times? If the bloggers were staff, they would then be legally accountable to the Vatican. The bloggers who would come forward/be chosen would follow policy; but they would be responsible for the dissemination of information to Catholic worldwide and that is a responsibility not to be sneered at.
Have bloggers shown themselves to be more accountable in the past? It was mentioned at least twice that bloggers clarified what the Pope said in Light of the World on condoms.
Fr Lombardi said he was ‘very grateful’ to bloggers for their role in publicising the Church’s teachings against condoms in 2010, when the mainstream media chitchat was that the Pope was advocating condoms. Without bloggers, would Catholics have started relying on condoms, thinking that the Pope had changed Catholic teaching? During that vexed time in 2010, perhaps bloggers prevented the situation becoming like the mid 60s. The pre-June 1968, pre-Humanae Vitae mode. I’ve interviewed many Catholics who were engaged/married in the 60s, and they were told that they could use any contraception that they wanted because the Pope would ‘shortly’ be sanctioning contraception for married couples. Then came Humanae Vitae.
See Memoir One and Two

2 comments:

  1. Wasn't it L'Osservatore Romano that precipitated the whole condom incident? I find it jarring that Fr. Lombardi praises bloggers for defusing a situation the current editors of the Vatican's own paper touched off.

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  2. Hi Norman, A very perceptive comment! Thanks for bringing your astuteness to this post. I read 'that chapter' from Light of the World three times before the Blogmeet, and I think the problem is that L'Osservatore Romano never guessed that the controversy would ensue - no one could've. At the Blogmeet, I had my book close at hand in case the Pope came from his private quarters to meet us in the Blogmeet.
    The difficulty, I believe, lies in the line where the Pope says that condoms don't 'really' solve the problem. Take out that 'really', and there is no problem. In the 'really', there is room for creative interpretation - such as does Pope Benedict really think they are all wrong? What'cha think?

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