Rorate Caeli

Guest Op-Ed: The Selfie Pope

The following short guest Op-Ed was penned for us by a newly ordained diocesan priest, writing under the name Monsieur l'Abbé:

Writing in 1966, the English poet W.H. Auden warned about the dangers of the Church’s use of mass media: “I am convinced that the Church cannot make use of them without falsifying what She stands for” (“The Worship of God in a Secular Age: Some Reflexions”). For Auden, the mid-century Church’s use of television, radio, and advertisements made it banal, not current. Unfortunately, the slow acceptance of these various media has proven that they have done little to win people to the Faith. Will the Pope’s launching of an official Instagram account today make any difference?

When the Church invests Herself too heavily in the latest technologies and social media, Her message becomes no more than another voice in the clutter of hashtags and modern self-obsession. Now that the “selfie-Pope” is on both Twitter and Instagram, his juxtaposition with Kim Kardashian is complete. As Auden noted so perceptively fifty years ago, this can only attenuate the Church’s message: “In the New York subway one can see placards saying: ‘Go to Church next Sunday. You will be richer for it.’ The effect of this is to put going to church on the same level as buying a particular brand of cigarettes or tooth-paste.”

The only mass media that will succeed in converting the world is the same mass media that was employed in the first century: the undiluted truth of the Gospel and the zeal of its adherents. The Church’s unchanging tradition and patrimony are Her greatest advertisement. We live in a world today that is dazzled by the latest novelty at one moment and prepared to replace it with another at the next. When the unrest in society’s heart becomes too much to bear, the Church will be the only force capable of anchoring it in a firm foundation. 

That is, unless the Pope is too busy taking a selfie.