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Digital Catholicism: The Internet and the Vatican

TitleDigital Catholicism: The Internet and the Vatican
Publication TypeBook Chapter
AuthorsLynch, AP
Book Title Global Catholicism in the Twenty-first Century
PublisherSpringer Singapore
Catholicism, Digital Religion, internet, Vatican

This chapter argues that the Catholic Church’s presence on the Internet contributes to the formation of “digital Catholicism”, an engagement by the Church with the users of the digital domain through online technologies in a post-secular world. The Vatican’s website includes a wide range of information, from papal encyclicals to the latest feed from the Pope’s Twitter account. The website poses a number of questions relevant to the study of religion in a digital age: How is the website’s construction modelled on the corporate structure of the real-world Church? How does the website’s design reflect the Church’s geographic relationship to its members? And to what degree does the website encourage interaction with its users? The chapter critically assesses these questions, and how the Vatican website contributes to the Catholic Church’s concern, especially since the aggiornamento of Vatican II, to keep the Church relevant in the context of secularisation. Furthermore, how the website reflects the Church’s awareness of the importance of new communication technologies in a post-secular landscape, as expressed in the Vatican II documents Inter Mirifica and Communio et Progressio, and more recently “The Church and Internet”, is assessed. Finally, unofficial Catholic websites, those run by laypeople seeking to raise awareness about issues important to them, will be analysed as examples of Internet use for religious purposes that lies outside of the control of religious organisations such as the Catholic Church.