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Your Family In Cyberspace

By John Bookser Feister


What's Catholic Out There?

How to Pick

The best definition of cyberspace I’ve seen got killed last summer while the U.S. bishops drafted a fine, new pastoral document, Your Family and Cyberspace. Cyberspace, an early draft said, is where you are when you talk on the phone. A more precise, less poetic definition won the day.

Yet the connection of cyberspace and our familiar telephone experience hit a nail on the head. The Internet is becoming everyday. For our younger Catholics, it’s always been here, like the phone and TV. The Web comes with the promise and pitfalls of both, and some of its own.

What's Catholic Out There?

Your Family and Cyberspace has helpful guidance for Catholics using the Internet. We are warned against pornography and violence, of course. “The world of cyberspace puts children and adults, often in the privacy of their own homes, in contact with violent, hate-filled, or graphically sexual material...,” the bishops observe. The document is loaded with practical tips covering many aspects of Internet use.

Religion can greatly benefit from the Internet, the bishops continue, but a special problem arises: “Cyberspace has become filled with a great deal of misleading or simply inaccurate information on the Church....Just because you can find it on the Web doesn’t mean it’s true; and just because a site uses Catholic in its name doesn’t mean it reflects the teaching and practice of the Catholic faith. ‘Let the buyer beware’ applies very much in this case.”

How To Pick

Our bishops recommend you lend a critical eye to sites calling themselves Catholic. If they are sponsored by a parish, diocese or bona fide Catholic organization (check with your parish staff if you’re not sure), you’re probably O.K. Look in their self-description and see if they are accountable to any official Church authority.

Lay-run Catholic sites would be wise to seek some sort of official endorsement, or membership in a recognized professional Catholic association such as the Catholic Press Association, Unda or others. Web-surfing Catholics should watch for these signs of reliability.

 

 

Web Pick

www.reapteam.org
Reap Team is a Catholic evangelization group that gives teen retreats in the St. Louis area. Their well-designed site promotes teen chastity with humor, advice, practical dating suggestions, Church contacts. Their newsletter motto: “Read it and reap!”

CHECK OUT

PARISH
***********
www.oldstpats.org
Constantly updated, it includes a fun virtual tour of the church that you must see to appreciate. You can simulate standing in the center of the Church or the balcony and looking around in a complete circle, zooming in and out as you please at points of interest.

MEDIA
***********
www.spirituality.org
Spirituality for Today is a monthly e-zine sponsored by the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut. In it you’ll find articles, poetry, faith reflections, each month on a new theme. Father Mark Connolly, host of the ABC syndicated show Thoughts for the Week, is the editor.

GROW YOUR FAITH ***********
www.jesuit.ie/prayer/
The Irish Jesuits sponsor this newsmaking site, which features an online prayer experience that is relaxing and meditative, and draws the heart toward God. The invitation is to take 10 minutes, at your computer, with the help of on-screen guidance.


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