Some of the modern tools of evangelization are social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. The power of the internet to connect people is something that cannot be ignored and the Catholic Church has much to say on this subject. Take, for example, the following summary of Inter Mirifica the Papal document on the media of social communications.
Especially in the present era, technological advances have created new avenues of communication. These can be of great service to mankind, but “the Church recognizes…that men can employ these media contrary to the plan of the Creator and to their own loss.” (IM, 2) Use of the new means of communication must be guided by the laity “to instill a human and Christian spirit into these media, so that they many fully measure up to the great expectations of mankind and to God’s design.” (IM, 3)
Media should communicate that which is “proper and decent” (IM, 4) and that which is within the “bounds of justice and charity.” (IM, 4) “The Council proclaims that all must hold to the absolute primacy of the objective moral order, that is, this order by itself surpasses and fittingly coordinates all other spheres of human affairs-the arts not excepted-even though they be endowed with notable dignity.” (IM, 5)
Not only should the creators of news, media, and communication be concerned about the content, but so also should those viewers and readers of said content. “All who, of their own free choice, make use of these media of communications as readers, viewers, or listeners, have special obligations” (IM, 9) to avoid that which would cause themselves or others spiritual harm or promote evil and hinder good. Those who use media should be moderate and self-controlled in their use. To assist in these ends, a truly Catholic press should be created and encouraged. (IM, 14)
While Inter Mirifica serves as a foundation from which to address modern means of communication, it was written in 1963 and much has changed since then. Papal documents on social communications serve to support and unpack the Church’s teaching on this subject. In the document “The Church and Internet” by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, it is stated, “although the virtual reality of cyberspace cannot substitute for real interpersonal community, the incarnational reality of the sacraments and the liturgy, or the immediate and direct proclamation of the gospel, it can complement them, attract people to a fuller experience of the life of faith, and enrich the religious lives of users.”
So, for that purpose, SPES offers you a couple books on the current mediums for social communications. We hope you are able to use them to share the Good News of Jesus Christ!
The Parish Guide to Social Media: How Social Networking can Recharge Your Ministry
This book by Clarissa Aljentera is brief and is aptly named for it really does serve as a practical guide to social media. It is replete with facts, summaries of social media platforms, and suggested best practices. Take, for example, the Appendix which lists each of the current social media platforms, their primary use, secondary use, suggested ideas, and ways to integrate them into ministry. (p.65)
The Parish Guide to Social Media is an easy to use guide for parishes, dioceses, or ministries that wish to learn more about social media and to implement it. It gives practical advice on how to enter into social media. For example it recommends that implementing social media should be done slowly since “jumping into too many sites at once is overwhelming” (p.53) This book is best aimed for those unfamiliar with social media. Specifically, it covers Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, Flickr, Picasa, and podcasts.
The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet
This book serves well as a topical piece on social media. Predominately, it focuses on how particular individuals like Bishop Robert Barron, Jennifer Fulwhiler, and Fr. Dwight Longenecker use new media to spread the faith. It gives an in-depth view of how Catholics are successfully using the new forms of media. It also ties in the many messages from our recent Popes, especially from their addresses on Communications Day.
The topical layout is a prudent layout since it draws from experts in particular areas and unites them under the focused mission of utilizing new media for the salvation of souls. For those familiar with new media, they can jump to areas they would like to improve in, for example, like “Cultivating Online Community” by Lisa M. Hendley or “Building a Digital Movement” by Shawn Carney of 40 Days for Life. For those less familiar or just stepping into the world of new media, “The Virtual Areopagus” by Bishop Robert Barron provides an argument why to use new media, Marcel LeJenne’s “Speaking Their Language” offers concrete ways to reach out to young adults, and Taylor Marshall’s “New Wineskins” offers a piece on “Fresh Presentations of Ancient Traditions.”
Screen Saved: Peril and Promise of Media in Ministry
Paired with Vogt and Aljentera’s books, Dan Andriacco’s book Screened Saved: Peril and Promise of Media in Ministry offers the perspective found lacking in the aforementioned two. A bit dated (published 15 years ago which, in the age of technology, is as archaeic as a landline), his book acknowledges the peril of media in ministry. It is not unduly pessimistic, but offers important and thoughtful warnings about the use of media. It does this so as to help shape a prudent path for dioceses, parishes, and ministries to use media to share the Gospel.
Due to the fact that the book was written at a time before social media existed as we know it, a lot of the media specific advice is no longer applicable. However, the principles Mr. Andriacco lays out are even more necessary in our media saturated world. He provides that good dose of caution that coincides well with Inter Mirifica, “The Church and Internet”, and “Ethics in Communication”.
I recommend reading Screen Saved first in conjunction with The Church and New Media because this will develop and describe what a healthy relationship with new media should be. The Parish Guide to Social Media is best used as a reference guide specifically on the various forms of social media.
 Foley, John. “The Church and Internet.” Pontifical Council for Social Communications. 2002