Showing obvious concern for what is often a ‘toxic’ arena for Catholics – and even a place of disrespect for persons as eminent as Pope Francis – the Vatican Dicastery for Communication has issued an ‘advisory’ for good neighbourly behaviour on Internet social media, centred on the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan’.
The authors of the document, entitled ‘Towards a Full Presence‘, are Cardinal Paolo Ruffini and Archbishop Lucio Ruiz. They remind us that:
“Along the “digital highways” many people are hurt by division and hatred. We cannot ignore it. We cannot be just silent passersby. In order to humanize digital environments, we must not forget those who are “left behind”. We can only see what is going on if we look from the perspective of the wounded man in the parable of the Good Samaritan. As in the parable, where we are informed about what the wounded man has seen, the perspective of the digitally marginalized and wounded helps us to understand better today’s increasingly complex world….
“We have to decide whether to be Good Samaritans or indifferent bystanders. And if we extend our gaze to the history of our own lives and that of the entire world, all of us are, or have been, like each of the characters in the parable. All of us have in ourselves something of the wounded man, something of the robber, something of the passers-by, and something of the Good Samaritan.”
Apparently most concerned about uncompassionate adults challenging one another too robustly on social media the document does not deal with the harm so often suffered by teenagers when they encounter trolling and bullying there, or give advice on how to address it.
However, the authors also stress the importance of face-to-face encounter with others, and of prayer:
“Following in the footsteps of Jesus, we should make it a priority to allot enough space for personal conversation with the Father and to remain in tune with the Holy Spirit, who will always remind us that everything has been reversed on the Cross. There were no “likes” at all and almost no “followers” at the moment of the biggest manifestation of the glory of God! Every human measurement of “success” is relativized by the logic of the Gospel.”
Braced by prayer, Catholics could then take on the task of making the Internet a safer space for all:
“How can we restore the online environment to the place that it can and should be: a place of sharing, collaborating, and belonging, based on mutual trust?
“Everyone can participate in bringing about this change by engaging with others, and by challenging themselves in their encounters with others. As believers, we are called to be communicators who move intentionally towards encounter. In this way, we can seek encounters that are meaningful and lasting, rather than superficial and ephemeral. Indeed, by orienting digital connections towards encountering real persons, forming real relationships and building real community, we are actually nourishing our relationship with God. That said, our relationship with God must also be nourished through prayer and the sacramental life of the Church, which because of their essence can never be reduced simply to the “digital” realm.”
To access the complete document, click here.