Aside from faith formation, however, Vogt said that the greatest area of potential for the Church is using new media for the common good.
“Catholic social teaching places a strong emphasis on the theme of solidarity. With these tools we have a primary chance to engage solidarity like we never have before.”
He cited the example of advocacy group 40 Days for Life, which has grown from a handful of people in a few short years to one of the biggest pro-life movements in the world.
“Anybody can connect with anybody in the world in a matter of seconds, especially for free, and so we can build movements for good.”
However, there are dangers to new media use, Vogt noted, explaining that more and more research is showing that the internet is actually rewiring the human brain, making us constantly distracted.
But he addressed the fear some have within the Church that Catholicism could be dumbed-down or reduced to sound bites through media tools.
“I don't think the danger is the competition between the distracted online culture and religion,” he said. Rather, “I think religion, Catholicism in particular, is the antidote to digital distraction.”
People in modern society are having an increasingly hard time engaging in deep, contemplative practices offline, Vogt said. And “I think that's the perfect pastoral opportunity for the Church.”
Through new media, he explained, the Church can point to ancient practices like Eucharistic adoration, contemplative prayer and lectio divina.
“The Church can come to these people and say, 'yeah, we know you're overwhelmed by this torrent of content online, we know that you're hungry for something deeper than the shallow Facebook messages and tweets you receive. Come to this fountain of depth and sustenance that the Church offers.'”
Vogt said that Catholics should take their cue from Pope Benedict, who recently made headlines when he tweeted for the first time.
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“I thought it spoke monumental volumes to the world—I don't see any other major religious leader doing something like that.”
Although the Vatican has had some “tough love” moments in learning the need to stay current in their communication practices, the tweet “was a great sign of confirmation that the Vatican, from the very top, from our 84-year-old Pope, sees the value and importance of using these tools.”
But Vogt said he'd like to see more involvement in new media by U.S. bishops, many of whom may be intimidated by rapidly expanding technology and communication methods.
“It can be overwhelming with the new media tools because there are so many—even if you just look at the prominent ones, we're talking blogs, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.”
Vogt recommends that bishops “just pick one that you're not doing and dive in—explore and test out different ways of posting and interacting with the commentators.”
He said that by engaging in new media, bishops have the power to alter young people's inaccurate perceptions of the Church.