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The Vatican and the Internet

January 25, 2012

Timothy’s excellent Catholic Bibles blog had a wonderful posting recently – a portion of Benedict’s post-synodal exhortation Verbum Domini

The post is particularly interesting because it seems that the Pope has taken several different positions on the Internet over time. Even in his last major statement, I think that the he expressed ambivalence.

As an example:  the Pope attracted controversy after he lifted the excommunication of Richard Williamson, the Holocaust-denying SSPX Bishop. When critics pointed out that a simple Google search should have revealed warning signs about Williamson, the Pope famously remarked:

In future at the Holy See, we must pay more attention to that source of news.

Things got even more complicated this month.  As the Italian media has extensively covered, the Vatican apparently used cut-and-paste clippings from Italian Wikipedia to provide biographies for twenty-two new cardinals – quite a departure from the usual careful and scholarly pronouncements that we expect from Rome.

As I try to understand how this could have happened, I have to come to the conclusion that even in the Vatican there is a difference among generations – between younger people who are comfortable using the Internet and relying on Wikipedia – and more senior scholars, including the Pope himself, who prefer to rely on more traditional sources of information.

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