The Emmanuel Community hosted a symposium in Rome this week with the theme "Priests and Laity in the Mission," for which Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver gave the keynote address on Wednesday. Following his talk, CNA spoke with the archbishop about how culture is affected by modern technology, a theme that was recently touched on by Pope Benedict XVI.
In his talk, the archbishop analyzed the roots and direction of contemporary culture including the effects that mass media and a "knowledge economy" have on the way we perceive the world.
On Saturday, through his message for the World Day for Social Communications, the Pope called for priests to have more of a presence online while, more importantly, remaining grounded in the faith.
In response to a question from CNA on his views about the use modern technologies as tools for evangelization, Archbishop Chaput said, "You have to be very prudent in your use of new media and new communications," explaining that he remembers the first time he heard a confession in which "people confessed sins that were the result of their access to media."
"We should use it to promote the Gospel, but we also need to guard ourselves from its dangers," he stated.
The archbishop also elaborated on a statement he made in his talk about addressing the "implications both for the Word of God and for the Church" that result from the effects of mass media and modern technology on culture, including its way of isolating people and attacking community.
The danger of spreading the Gospel through technological means rather than face-to-face, Archbishop Chaput said, is that "the Gospel becomes intellectual rather than interpersonal."
Sharing the experience of Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior with someone else is "not just a declaration of 'some' information," he said, adding, "and I don't know that the experience of the Lord Jesus can be shared electronically. I think it has to be shared personally.”
"We have great opportunities of entry into peoples' lives with the media, but we have to understand that it's not enough. There has to be, also, the personal relationship because the Gospel is essentially Trinitarian and, because of that, communitarian."
Summing up his thoughts, the archbishop said, "so I think that we've got to make good use of them but never presume that because we have an active presence in the technologies that it's ever enough.
"The old technology of personal witness and personal encounter and sharing faith is essential to the Gospel."
The archbishop added that using technology to extend an invitation to a community or describe it is useful, "but it can't be an experience of community in itself." Personal contact, he concluded, is "absolutely essential."