Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, recently gave a conference on Media and Evangelization and how the Catholic Church is committed to using new media.
What I found particularly intriguing was how the Archbishop framed his remarks about communication. He referred to the work of the late Cardinal Avery Dulles on the theology of the Trinity in order to illustrate his thoughts on communication and how such a theology is foundational to how we connect with others, especially via the new media
The Trinity is, of course, one of the great mysteries of our Catholic faith. The One God is at the same time three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Many mystics and theologians of our faith have looked to the Trinity as a model of how to relate to and communicate with God and one another. The Archbishop quoted Dulles on what this relationship and communication “looks” like within the Trinity:
“The Trinity is communication in absolute, universal perfection, a totally free and complete sharing among equals. In generating the Son as word, the Father totally expresses himself … the Holy Spirit completes the intradivine process of communication” (The Craft of Theology: From Symbol to System).
Although this particular quote doesn’t make mention of it, love is key to Dulles’ understanding of the Trinity and of how the Triune God communicates among the three Persons as well as to all of creation. For example, Dulles writes:
“Within the Trinity the Spirit is the subsistent love breathed forth by the Father and the Son. He is the personal bond of union expressing and sealing their mutual love, and proceeding from them” (The Catholicity of the Church, 45).
Key messages about the nature of good communication can be found in both of Dulles’ quotes:
What does this mean in this age of mass communication where we can relate to and communicate with others immediately and through huge variety of media? Do we treat others as equals when we are communicating with them, especially when we are hidden behind the veil of anonymity? Are we attentive to how are words are expressing how we are? Do all of our communications (yes, even that 140 character tweet on Twitter) express love? I’m not talking about sentimental love, but a love that Saint Paul so well articulates in 1 Corinthians 13.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Let’s talk more about this. What key messages do you hear in the Archbishop’s conference or in Dulles’ theology of the Trinity? How can we make the blogosphere, especially the Catholic blogosphere, more of a place where good communication is the rule, not the exception?
Other thoughts, ideas, wonderings …
Don February 3, 2009 at 11:59 am
Very interesting post, Sister. Lots to ponder. Thanks. I’ll just throw out a couple of random thoughts that come up: The full development of the methods of electronic communications, which probably began with the telegraph and is flowering with the web, will have as much if not more effect on changes in the world as did the Gutenberg printing press. That means that in time we will experience changes in political structures and economic systems, some of which we may not even envision right now. The Gutenberg gave us content without context. Yes, you could now print the Bible and have it widely distributed, but without the context for interpreting it, numerous theological errors began to grow into the current state that the Christian world is now in. In many ways, the web and the new media reverses this trend. While it is still possible to publish content without context, it is much easier to verify facts. Moreover, this verification happens within the phenomenon of social media, so that you have individuals within a collective of experience and expertise checking off each other as a point is considered. Anyway, just some random thoughts…
Don February 4, 2009 at 7:58 am
Sister Julie – I understand the concern about there being a lack of context on the web. However, I think there is another phenomenon happening that has not fully developed yet. That being the collective editing that happens when information is available to a wide pool of editors. This phenomenon began with the development of citation indexing for scientific papers. Dr. Eugene Garfield here in Philadelphia is seen as the father of this process. The Google guys used his research to develop their first search algorithm. The basic idea was that the more citations occuring for a particular paper, and part of a paper, from other papers, the higher the raking of those cited papers should be. Basic search engine algorithm now. But the full implications of this phenomenon haven’t developed yet. It could be that the collective editing that goes on could in fact be providing the context that is needed. Not sure if that’s clear. You given me some good things to ponder. Particularly how this collective editing may relate to the nature of the Trinity. So in addition to the aspect of Love in the new media, perhaps we ought to consider the aspects of Truth and Beauty as well. Does this technology lend itself to a particular kind of Beauty, a beauty in how everything and everyone can now inter-relate. And does Truth then become clearer from the inter-relation.
Sister Julie February 4, 2009 at 6:58 am
A good phrase, Don, “content without context”. I think that well describes a lot of the content that is floating around cyberspace. On the Internet, we can so quickly, so easily grab a quote, ripping it out of context (if there even was a context) and creating a meaning or statement that was never intended. And since more and more people turn to the Internet for their news and information, for explanations of the Church’s teaching and Catholic life, etc., I worry that without the context people won’t know what’s accurate and what’s not.
Anne February 4, 2009 at 7:55 am
I teach college writing, and am amazed at the number of students who submit plagiarized essays. The internet has made it possible for those, who have no confidence in their own voices, to appropriate the thoughts and words of others. They do not even type, but simply copy and paste. I see my mission as giving them the courage to express their own thoughts in their own words.
Which brings me around to your comment about good communication being the exception rather than the rule in the Catholic blogosphere: I strongly disagree. More than any other form of mass media, a blog is a forum for conversation and a “totally free and complete sharing among equals.” I love the individual voices struggling to find their place in the church. Real compassion requires sharing a passion. Among Catholic bloggers, that is a passion for finding their identity within the Church.
Sister Julie February 4, 2009 at 7:56 am
Hi Anne, Thank you for writing — and thank you for calling me on the comment about the Catholic blogosphere. I do apologize as now that I re-read it, I see that it was a bit harsh. There are some blogs and people’s comments on blogs that tend towards a lack of charity and downright offensive behavior. I’ve seen some pretty nasty stuff that people have written and, in particular, about fellow Catholics who have a different perspective. But you are right … that is not true of the majority of the Catholic blogosphere. It’s the nasty kind of Catholic blogging that I was reacting to, not the myriad of Catholic voices who are discussing their faith and life in the Church and world.