How theologians might reflect on communication and information technologies and the new culture that they create formed the basis of a symposium sponsored by the Pontifical Council on Social Communication, held at the Jesuit-sponsored Santa Clara University in California (USA) in late June. The PCCS, along with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Communications and the University’s Communication Department, convened a gathering of 25 theologians to begin a process of sustained theological reflection. The group focused on three general areas: ecclesiology, approaches from historical theology, and a theological understanding of digital culture, in each area considering the challenges that contemporary communication poses to the church’s theological understanding.

Communication, whether the mass media or the Internet, has changed the environment in which people live, raising questions about church structure, personal identity, parish life, religious self-understanding, and religious formation and participation. For example, people take their identity from popular culture more than from the Church’s catechetics or even from the Gospel. The same mass media also promote a vertical model of the Church in which the local community, the parish, and the diocese disappear, so that only “the Catholic Church” headed by the Pope matters. Each of these poses a serious ecclesiological challenge, as each redefines the nature of the Church.

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