e did not know until this week that the word “blog” was in the Holy Father’s vocabulary, but there it is – tucked away in his message for World Communications Day. The Pope writes: “Priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different ‘voices’ provided by the digital marketplace. Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelisation and catechesis.” The secular media have interpreted this as a papal invitation to priests to “get blogging”. We suspect they are right. Pope Benedict XVI is unlikely to spend much of his day online, but he is almost certainly aware that blogging has become a powerful phenomenon in Catholic circles. Many of the world’s most engaged Catholics visit blogs several times a week, to pick up information and rumours about the Church, and also to air their views. One might protest that some of the information is inaccurate, that some of the rumours are false and that some views aired are contrary to Church teaching – but the fact remains that blogs fill a vacuum created, in part, by ecclesiastical structures that have lost the knack of communicating with the laity.
It is no accident that among the most successful blogs are those run by individual priests, rather than dioceses. Not only do the faithful like to know what their parish priest is up to, but a seasoned and witty evangelist can build a cyber-parish that extends for thousands of miles. An outstanding example is our columnist Fr Tim Finigan of Blackfen in Kent, who spreads the Gospel alongside authoritative news of papal and other liturgical initiatives that are sometimes overlooked by the official channels. His blog is called The Hermeneutic of Continuity, a phrase used by Pope Benedict XVI to emphasise the lack of rupture between the Church’s teaching before and after the Second Vatican Council; so well-known is Fr Tim’s blog that it has helped popularise the Pope’s thinking on this subject throughout the English-speaking world.
Many priest-bloggers are conservative in their liturgical preferences; but there is room in cyberspace for clerical writers who embody many different authentic Catholic approaches. The internet can empower priests who have felt their influence decline as vocations and congregations decline. Indeed, it has the ability to reverse these trends. We should therefore welcome it for what it is: a gift to the Church.
It is no accident that among the most successful blogs are those run by individual riests, rather than dioceses