This last Sunday in most Catholic parishes in the United States, the 2nd collection was for the Catholic Communication Campaign. Half of the money collected stays in each respective diocese and the rest goes to national projects. The USCCB explanation of this need is found here with this interesting comment: “The Catholic Communication Campaign provides essential funding for the Church to engage in using new communication technology in its evangelization efforts,” said Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on CCC. “Many Catholics turn to their mobile devices to find the world. The Church needs to be in that world.”
I was impressed by the mention of mobile devices and our need to “be in that world” since I had just been discussing this very issue with Patti Armstrong. I had specifically asked Patti to research and write about the topic of Catholic apologetics in the age of digital and mobile communication. The fruit of our conversation is in our lead article today — warning it talks about apps. If you are like me, you don’t even want to know about apps.
You see, I use my cell phone to make phone calls (where I actually talk to a person) apparently a form of communication on the endangered species list. Once upon a time, I used a phone that plugged into the wall with a cord. It had a dial — a round thing on it that you turned to indicate a particular number. And if someone was not at home when you called them… guess what you did? You called them back (what a concept!). You did not leave a message. You shrugged, said, “I guess they aren’t home.” And then you called them back — at home, not on a cell phone that they took everywhere so they (and everyone else) were instantly available. I was already a mother when this amazing thing called a wireless phone was invented. I even had one of the first ones (that’s me, early adopter) in the whole apartment complex where I lived . You could actually take your phone and go outside with it! Even like a whole hundred feet away from the base unit! What freedom. By then it was routine to leave messages for people on their phone — the messages were recorded on little tape recorders with little tiny cassette tapes (ask your parents).
I said all that to say that I do not read my phone. Just ask my kids. I beg them not to send me text messages. Reading a phone is just not in my genes. My daughter wants me to learn how to get online on my phone — dummy me, I thought that was what MY COMPUTER was for.
But I am not your kids. You are not your kids.
The communication world of our kids is digital: online and mobile. And like the Archbishop Schnurr said, ”The Church needs to be in that world.” Another way to say it might be to say that the souls of our kids’ and grandkids’ generation desperately needs for the Church to be there. Because the devil is there. And the Church has lost her media edge.
For many centuries Christians led the way in advancements in communication. The switch from the scroll to the codex (bound pages) was largely due to the influence of the early Christians who wanted a convenient way to transport and read the Scriptures. Early advances in printing were spurred by the Christian desire to spread God’s word. But during the 20th century the Church went into catch-up mode and remains there. Whether the subject is block-buster movies or the latest social networking fad, Catholics seem to be behind the curve way to often – we’re so 2000 and late — forget early adoption; we seem to be just learning what the world has already discarded as obsolete.
Well it isn’t the whole reason, but it is part: To put it bluntly, Catholics do not seem to grasp the need to support Catholic media. Protestants seems to do a bit better at this — they aren’t necessarily innovators, but they do tend to try to be early adopters and to grasp quickly the need to be present in every diverse media and (this is so key) they are great consumers of Christian books, periodicals, movies, etc. I don’t know what gives with Catholics. I look at a company like CE with tens of thousands of readers and really wonder why we have to beg the way we do for a paltry 100 people to give a monthly donation to this site. And yet, the case could easily be made that it is more vital for Catholic lay apostolates to be present online and in various media venues than even for the various diocesan organs – because getting “in that world” is really the lay mission. But if it is the lay mission, then the laity are going to have to step up to the plate and support Catholic media.
Sorry to be this blunt with you folks (you know how sweet and subtle my usual delivery is) but you need to stop taking the money that God gives you and stop giving it to media that destroys morals, undermines the faith, and coarsens society. (Uh, yeah, what you earn God gave you or were you starting to think you created yourself and gifted yourself with talents?) And you need to start supporting Catholic media. That means buying books by Catholic authors, subscribing to Catholic periodicals, and donating to non-profits like CE. Because the question of what gives really comes down to who gives. And the answer needs to be, you give.