Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Go digital, go tell the Good News

Today Pope Benedict XVI mentioned World Communications Day, held this Sunday, May 24. Since you're reading this, you're no stranger to new communications media. Neither is he.

The Vatican is taking the occasion to launch iPhone and Facebook apps to reach young Catholics (and ages on up) and to launch a new site,, going live Sunday.

Beyond the bling of blogs and treat of Tweets, content is still king. That means it is still the message that counts most. And what better message than "the Good News of God's infinite love for all people"? Christians in the digital world have the job of witnessing our faith -- in the words we choose to read (or skip past) and especially the words we write.

The Holy Father's words on the topic:

"I am inviting all those who make use of the new technologies of communication, especially the young, to utilise them in a positive way and to realise the great potential of these means to build up bonds of friendship and solidarity that can contribute to a better world.

"The new technologies," he added, "have brought about fundamental shifts in the ways in which news and information are disseminated and in how people communicate and relate to each other. I wish to encourage all those who access cyberspace to be careful to maintain and promote a culture of respect, dialogue and authentic friendship where the values of truth, harmony and understanding can flourish.

"Young people in particular, I appeal to you: bear witness to your faith through the digital world! Employ these new technologies to make the Gospel known, so that the Good News of God's infinite love for all people, will resound in new ways across our increasingly technological world!"

Under the Rainbow

CS&T reader John Firn sent us the above photo some weeks back. With apologies to John for the delay -- as the CS&T has shown over the past six weeks, it's been a busy/hectic/frantic time. (Holy Week and Easter, the Catholic Charities Appeal, Priesthood jubilarians and ordination, two multi-part series including parish life and violence among youth, Bishop Cistone's appointment to Saginaw, Mich. -- and they're just the high-profile items.)

Here are John's words after he snapped this photo at the Burholme Ambulance Station in Northeast Philadelphia, reminding us all of the beauty and fragility of our earthly home, and Who is ultimately in charge of it...

"On the 8th of April, at 1830 hrs, a heavy rain and wind came on suddenly. To the north, it was dark , cloudy and raining, and to the south, behind our Station it was sunny.

"A large rainbow appeared where the two fronts met, just out front of the Station. I took a couple of pictures with my cell phone, and the one here was the one I sent to my e-mail.

"Something in the picture caught my attention. Hardly anyone notices it the first look, but keep looking."

That something is, with the gift of imagination, an image of a man's arms spread wide. Thanks to John for sharing a reminder of God's gift of salvation through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A new economic order?

“Economies based on greed must be replaced,” read the headline on Catholic News Service.

Interesting concept from the Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, who is president of the Catholic relief organization Caritas International.

OK, your eminence, but replaced by what?

Agencies like Caritas, Catholic Relief Services in this country and many others work to ease the suffering of poor people. They naturally look at the economic system in which those who are well off tend to get richer, while the poor struggle to survive.

To paraphrase Churchill’s description of democracy, capitalism is the worst economic system, except for all the others.

Certainly communism has failed in most cases, though the jury is still out on the long-term economic success of China’s mix of repressive communism and competitive capitalism. Socialism compares poorly with capitalism in terms of prosperity, especially when the latter is functioning in a healthy manner. A barter system, while it has merits on a small scale, is impractical to meet the demands of global and interdependent commerce.

One emerging idea is peer-to-peer commerce, part of what is called cooperative economics. Here’s an interesting read on it plus a broader economic overview.

Don't get anxious, fellow democratic capitalists. Free-market capitalism didn’t surpass feudalism overnight, and the former likely won’t be supplanted any time soon.

Cooperative economics might not be what Cardinal Rodriguez was thinking, but getting people to consider a more charitable, more sustainable economic system might really be what he had in mind.

Using natural resources as though they were infinite cannot continue as it has. Nor can wealthy nations give lip service to development in poor nations.

If there is going to be economic progress after the crash of 2008, a system must emerge in which resources are used efficiently while jobs are created by entrepreneurs. At the same time, governments with the means must seriously address the lack of basic necessities and education in poor countries that lead to radical movements and that ultimately threaten prosperity (perhaps even life) for all.

How to do that? There is no agreement at this point, but one couldn’t disagree with John Lennon’s line: “We’d all love to see the plan.”