Book Club Channel
Casting Wide in the ‘Net: An Interview with Brandon Vogt
Pope Benedict is a huge advocate of alternative media—he's out there telling priests and layfolk to get involved with alt-media as an evangelical tool. He gets it? Tell me your thoughts on Benedict as New Media Cheerleader!
One of the great ironies of Catholic new media is that our 84-year-old pope understands its necessity almost as much as anyone. When people tell me these tools are just a fad among young people, I always point to Benedict. No priest, religious, or layperson has an excuse if our elder pontiff is using an iPad to launch a tweet.
Some people snickered at Benedict's iPad stunt, but I thought it spoke volumes to the world. The Church is often construed as out-of-date, inhuman, behind-the-times. But by that gesture he implicitly welcomed the Church into the digital age.
In May you attended the beatification ceremony for JPII, in Rome, and then—the next day—an unusual meeting between bloggers and members of the curia; tell me what it was like to be there at the beatification, both as a journalist and a faithful Catholic, and then, about the Vatican-blogger meet-up. Did those two events following so hard upon each other, give you some additional insights into the use of New Media in evangelization and understanding?
Attending the beatification of one of my greatest heroes was deeply moving. John Paul II was instrumental in my conversion to Catholicism three years ago and his teachings and prayers continue to direct my own faith and work.
It's no coincidence, though, that the blogger meeting was scheduled next to the beatification. At the Vatican blogger meeting, we were told that the Vatican wanted to use new media to create a "dialogue with the world." Well, who did that more than John Paul II? He traveled to more countries and was seen by more people than any religious leader in the history of the world. When it came to non-Catholic faith traditions—even atheism—he was in constant conversation.
More importantly, as the Catholic Church has so much fear and hesitancy toward new media, John Paul's famous command should continue to echo in the ears of us all—"do not be afraid!" In The Rapid Development, the last document John Paul wrote before his death, he explicitly linked this command to the burgeoning new media. There he roared, "Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid of new technologies!"
You're not profiting from this book at all - 100 percent of its earnings will be going to a specific cause in Africa, can you tell us about it?
When I was putting together the book, I was praying about the content and asking God for direction, when I quite clearly felt him saying, "Give away the royalties." Now I didn't set out to make money with the book, but the idea of giving away the profit was nonetheless grating. So I tried to rationalize my way out of it—"Oh, but Lord, think how many books I could buy that would draw me closer to you!"—yet it was all to no avail. "I've provided you a good job that pays for all your needs. So give away the money."
But where to? When trying to determine where to send the royalties, I hearkened back to something Pope Benedict XVI said:
It would be a tragedy for the future of humanity if the new instruments of communication . . . should contribute only to increasing the gap separating the poor from the new networks that are developing at the service of human socialization and information. (43rd World Communication Day)