Following the attacks
on September 11, stories emerged of people in the midst of terror contacting
their loved ones via e-mail and instant messaging programs. Some of those people
survived, others did not; but the Internet allowed many people to reach their
loved ones during a time of need.
For most of us, our Internet usage is not nearly as dramatic, but is rather
just one more way of staying in touch with friends and relatives
or finding information. Even Pope John Paul II has begun taking
advantage of the Internet’s vast capabilities. Last November
he delivered his apostolic exhortation on the 1998 Synod of
Bishops for Oceania via e-mail to synod participants. A month
later, he logged on again and, with the click of the mouse,
opened the official Web site of Mexico’s Basilica of Our Lady
of Guadalupe (www.virgendeguadalupe.org.mx).
This year, the theme of the 36th World Communications DayMay 12will
focus on the Internet and its role as a forum for proclaiming
the gospel. Pope John Paul II released the message “Internet:
A New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel” on January 24, the
feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers. To
read the text of the pope’s World Communications Day message,
World Communications Day is observed
in most countries on the Sunday before Pentecost. It is the only worldwide celebration
specifically called for by the Second Vatican Council.
In his World Communications Day
message, the pope points out, “The Internet can offer magnificent opportunities
for evangelization if used with competence and a clear awareness of its strengths
“It is important, therefore,
that the Christian community think of very practical ways of helping those who
first make contact through the Internet to move from the virtual world of cyberspace
to the real world of Christian community.”
On February 28, the Vatican issued two new documents on the Internet: Ethics
in Internet, which is a reflection on the ethical issues
of the Internet, and The Church and Internet, an assessment
of online pastoral opportunities. The documents, which were
prepared by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications,
emphasize the Internet’s interactive nature. That can help
achieve the Second Vatican Council’s vision of communication
among members of the Catholic Church. Both documents are available
at www.vatican. va.
The U.S. bishops have also addressed the issues the Internet
poses to families in their 2000 document Your Family and
Cyberspace. You can read this document at www.usccb.org/comm/cyberspace.
htm. You can read a summary of the document at www.AmericanCatholic.org/Messenger/Mar2001/Web_Catholic.asp.
As most families with children know, the Internet offers
endless opportunities for information about entertainment
and homework help, for example. It is also important to remember
that, because they are growing up in this age of technology,
most kids are pretty computer- and Web-savvy.
But at the same time the Internet
poses real dangers to teens and childrendangers they often may not recognize.
As parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles, therefore, we must monitor and
provide guidance for proper Internet usage.
One way of monitoring what our children are seeing over
the Internet is through the use of filtering programs, such
as CYBERsitter, CyberPatrol or Net Nanny. The Web site www.filterreview.com
provides information, such as ratings and comparisons
of many filtering programs, that can help you determine the
best monitoring options for your family. Remember, however,
that none of these programs is foolproof and none can replace
parental supervision or involvement.
For more information on ways to keep your kids safe on the
Internet, check out www.safekids.com
projects of the Online Safety Project (OSP). Another useful
resource is the U.S. Department of Education’s Parents Guide
to the Internet at www.ed.gov/pubs/parents/internet.
Let's Go Surfing
As I just mentioned, no programs can replace parental involvement
in kids’ online activity. Therefore, here are some Catholic Web sites you and
your family may want to check out together or bookmark on your computer:
official Web site of the Vatican.
Web site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. This
site offers a wonderful array of resources such as movie reviews,
statements and documents from the bishops and the daily Bible
readings. For specifically family-related topics, visit the
page of the bishops’ committee on Family, Laity, Women and
Youth at www.usccb.org/laity.
Anthony Messenger’s Web site, featuring Saint
of the Day, Minute
Meditations, excerpts from St. Anthony Messenger
magazine and a lot more.
Web site of Catholic News Service offers the latest Catholic
news from around the world.
Are there any other Catholic
Web sites that you and your family visit that I missed? If so, send them to
me. By sharing our resources with one another, we as Catholics can help use
the Internet to proclaim the gospel.
Next Month: Being A Good Christian Counts