Earlier this month, Australia’s Catholic bishops launched a major social justice statement on digital communications, calling on all levels of society to overcome the hatred, division and exploitation that occurs online.
The bishops say government, business and the broader community need to be more proactive in defending the dignity of people and all must work together to make the digital world a place of genuine human encounter.
This year’s Social Justice Statement, Making it Real: Genuine human encounter in our digital world, invites people to reflect on how the Internet has changed the way they communicate, work, learn and do business – and how to contribute to a more just digital world.
Writing in the statement’s foreword, Bishop Terry Brady, the Bishop Delegate for Social Justice, said that while the digital world enabled people to be more connected than ever before, it could sadly also be a place of manipulation, exploitation and violence.
“We can choose how we behave online, and we can collectively shape the online world, building a more just and loving online neighbourhood,” Bishop Brady said.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that digital platforms require wise governance and that international cooperation is required to achieve this. The common good requires intervention rather than leaving digital platforms to govern themselves.”
The Social Justice Statement notes that Pope Francis has often spoken of the great potential for “genuine human encounter” online, but he has also warned of elements of the digital world that are harmful: information overload, social isolation, marginalisation of the vulnerable, consumerism and fake news.
“Far too often, the digital world has become a place of hatred. Digital technologies, especially social media, provide a perfect platform for a range of behaviours that are offensive to human dignity,” Bishop Brady said.
“This is our digital common home, and the principles we find in Catholic Social Teaching and the words of Pope Francis can help guide us to a more just digital space.”
A number of dioceses, parishes and schools across the country have held their own activities related to the Social Justice Statement since it was launched on September 3. It will be a focus for events and Masses this weekend.
The Social Justice Statement and resources can be downloaded at: www.socialjustice.catholic.org.au