June 19, 2003
VOL 122 NO. 24
Inside the Internet
By Howie Mansfield
Many Web Sites Make it Possible to “Find God” on the World Wide Web
Communicating Jesus’ message over the Internet is constantly evolving. The Internet has become an important mode of communication for priests, parishes and laity. Setting up committee meetings can be done in the middle of the night by sending e-mail to members. The Internet has many practical uses. Kids can research confirmation names; parents can take digital pictures of the confirmation and e-mail them to family and friends not in attendance. The church’s use of the Internet is expanding and as much good as the Internet does, there are many opportunities for harm. The Pontifical Council for Social Communications’ 2002 document The Church and Internet made recommendations and set guidelines for appropriate usage of the World Wide Web. “Prudence is necessary in order clearly to see the implications — the potential for good and evil — in this new medium and to respond creatively to its challenges and opportunities. Fortitude is necessary. This means standing up for truth in the face of religious and moral relativism, for altruism and generosity in the face of individualistic consumerism, for decency in the face of sensuality and sin,” the statement explained. “And temperance is needed — a self-disciplined approach to this remarkable technological instrument, the Internet, so as to use it wisely and only for good.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Communications in 2002 created the “Protocol for Catholic Media Programming and Media Outlets.” The document outlines the church’s responsibility to provide religious instruction and education that is “in harmony with the doctrine and practice of the Catholic Church,” in all areas of the media. Below is a list of web sites one could access without worry of being misinformed.
After choosing a language at the site’s front page, a site visitor can see all that the Holy See has to offer. The intricate web site provides visitors with news and archived information as well as an index of saints canonized by Pope John Paul II. A very good search engine gives a detailed list of results, arranged by language. The site has a special focus section on the lower right side of the page with current topics of interest. There are links to the Pope’s Apostolic Journey to Croatia, Pentecost 2003, the Holy Rosary and the pope’s latest encyclical on the Eucharist. Each of the pages has transcripts of the pope’s general audiences about the subject and all related letters, documents and encyclicals. The Vatican’s web site provides all of the Church’s most important information in one place. The site also has an extensive site map, if finding the right information becomes difficult.
Our Sunday Visitor
Our Sunday Visitor is a good information web site for all ages. Our Sunday Visitor is loaded with data and links on its front page. Featured links on the left side include How to Make a Good Confession, The Eucharist and Teaching Catholic Kids. The right side has on-line articles available from many of Our Sunday Visitor’s publications. The data is easily read on a white background, with few graphics.
The What the Church Teaches page shows a series of seven pamphlets the publisher has created on topics such as just war, human cloning, stem cell research and stewardship. All of the pamphlets are available for free to individuals by signing up on their web site. Teaching Catholic Kids is a great resource for parents, teachers and catechists. This page is updated monthly, complete with new features and activities geared toward nurturing children’s faith. Summer activities are offered in Adobe Portable Document File (PDF). The Teaching Catholic Kids page has a special link for how to talk to kids about war. Our Sunday Visitor focuses more on content than graphics. People looking for cool photos and graphics should look elsewhere.
How to Pray the Rosary
The Sancta web site, dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, has one of the best guides on how to pray the rosary. This web page gives a description of the rosary’s historical roots, a list of all prayers used in saying the rosary and a detailed outline of how to pray the rosary. This site includes the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, added by Pope John Paul II in October 2002.
Catholic Relief Services Kids Site
The Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) Kids Page is innovative and eye-catching. The dynamic web site content is created through the use of Macromedia Flash. (This program is easily downloaded for both Macintosh and Windows computer systems.) An opening menu gives kids a choice of news, interactive games, puzzles, activities, word games and fascinating facts to explore. Users can quickly switch from playing a game of survival in a natural disaster to learning that the average person in the U.S. eats 1.5 times the food they need to survive. In the activities section, kids can print off PDF documents of pictures to color. This site relies heavily on graphics and could be slow on older computers. Even on new computers, the games will take time to load, but are worth the wait. The site was created for students from third to eighth grade. Teachers can also benefit from this site. A teachers’ resources link brings up a CRS Education Portal, allowing teachers to add the discussion of global solidarity to their own curriculum, in a Catholic school or religious education classroom. This web page provides great knowledge in a user-friendly way about CRS and the need to support their programs.
Catholic Answers has a user-friendly site, tastefully laid out on the page. Links are easily found, at both the top and left side of the page. One can click on the radio button on the page and listen to the nationally known “Catholic Answers Live,” from Eternal Word Television Network, broadcast live on the Internet. The library links provided on the front page delve into various topics related to faith and the Church. Appropriate documents related to the subject and special tracts written for the topic enhance the quality of the page. For students wishing to take information from the site to use in school projects, Catholic Answers has included a detailed permission guide for citing sources. A unique section of the Catholic Answers web site is its chastity page. This page features chastity information from Jason Evert, national speaker and presentor on the topic. On the left side, under the heading Chastity, visitors can read about frequently asked questions on chastity or browse Evert’s popular booklet “Pure Love.” The full text of “Pure Love” is included on the web page.
New York State Catholic Conference
The state’s Catholic Conference continues to upgrade and improve its web presence. Relevant legislation is highlighted with action tips for Catholics. This year the New York State Catholic Conference unveiled its Catholic Advocacy Network for public policy issues. Membership is free by signing up on the site and provides detailed information on current issues important to the Catholic Conference, bills being voted on in the State Assembly and State Senate. The Catholic Advocacy Network provides voting records on all recent bills, so people can see how their own state representative or Congressperson voted. Members can also e-mail their state officials directly to voice disapproval on specific issues or ask them to support a bill important to the Catholic Church.
News, press releases and useful links are other notables on the Catholic Conference site. An archive of the state bishops’ statements is also available. A Catholic Services page gives visitors links and phone numbers to diocesan Catholic Charities, Catholic hospitals and nursing homes across the state.
Catholic News Service
Although much of this site is for paid clients, the Catholic News Service web site is a good source of current and breaking Catholic world and national news. Free services include viewing headlines, news briefs and a featured story of the day. Movie reviews can also be found on the site. Visitors can search a database of recent movies for past reviews. There is also a page of links to diocesan, national and international Catholic members of the Catholic News Service.
US Conference of Catholic Bishops
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ web site is organized and easy to browse and find data on any topic. The Latest News page offers visitors to the site news, press releases, statements and speeches made by committees or groups within the conference. Departments are organized in alphabetical order on its index page. Visitors can easily research in departments such as Natural Family Planning, Pro-Life Activities and Communications. Clicking on the Catechism link brings up the online version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The catechism is separated into different pages for faster downloading of the information to one’s computer screen.
One impressive page is the Catholic Campaign for Human Development’s (CCHD) Poverty USA site. This page can be accessed directly by going to www.povertyusa.org. The CCHD lays out in a basic format facts and statistics related to Poverty, “America’s Forgotten State.” One can learn about how a family of four handles budgeting by clicking on the Tour Poverty USA link. This powerful presentation can help people understand the difficulties faced by millions of Americans.
In addition to the above web sites, diocesan parishes continue to make the Internet a strong communication tool among priests, parishioners and non-members interested in joining. The Syracuse Diocese has a number of parishes with good web sites. To browse them or to get clickable links to the web pages reviewed here, go to the diocesan web site, www.syracusediocese.org.