This is a full transcript of my interview with Fr. Antonio Spadaro SJ, regarding his work on "cybertheology". Questions on the papal interview is here. The Portuguese, published version of the interview can be found here.
Esta é uma transcrição integral, no inglês original, da minha entrevista com o Pe. Antonio Spadaro SJ, relativa ao seu trabalho na área de "ciberteologia". A secção relativa à entrevista papal está aqui. A versão portuguesa, publicada, encontra-se aqui.
You are here to speak about communications and religion. Do you believe that the communications at our disposal can aid the church’s mission? In what way?
Communication is not a tool now, it is an environment, so the church has to understand better what communication means. The goal of the church is not to use a tool, but to live well in the time of the internet.
How far can we go with this… in your book you mention that some Christian churches and confessions are talking about on-line sacraments…
This is the problem. We’ll see… The Church has a mission to walk with the people, it is a job of enculturation. Since the people live in a digital environment, the Church has to be in this digital environment as well. The Church has to be with the people, where the people are.
But do you imagine on-line confessions in the future, or things like that?
We have to understand well what the digital environment is. It is not something that substitutes the physical environment. We have only one life and we live it in different environments, the physical and the digital. There is no opposition between the two, we have to live well in both. The best environment for confession, for example, is the physical environment. Because you have to be there, with a person, you have to relate with the confessor, face to face. It is different, they are different opportunities. That is why we can’t confess online, or by Skype for example. You have to be present.
There are different ways of having communities on-line, but the Church has always stressed the importance of physical presence. You believe this is irreplaceable?
In your book you ask two main questions: What impact does the net have on the way we understand the church and ecclesial communion? And what impact does it have on the way we think about Revelation, Grace, the Liturgy, the Sacraments and classical theological issues?
The main conclusion is that the internet has a big impact on our way of thinking in general. Since Theology is thinking about faith, my question is how can the internet have a big impact on our way of thinking about faith. It is an open question, we have to work a lot. The goal of this work, that I call Cybertheology is to understand how the net has an impact on our thinking about faith.
How “plugged in” are you? How much do you use the social media?
I am on twitter, facebook, instagram. I try to be present. I lived on Second Life for one month, so I try only to write about things I really know. For me it is very important to be with the people where they are, in this digital environment. From here I feel questions rising, like how can we search for God in a time of search engines. Or how can we live a spiritual presence, when we live in a virtual environment.
We hear so much coming from the Vatican about the importance of social communications. Do you think there are enough people at the Vatican who are present in the digital environment?
Oh yes! The Pontifical Council for Social Communications is doing a very good job. They are very open minded, they are trying to understand how the Church can be present in a very good way in the digital environment. It is not about research, it is about life.
Within the digital world, where people can become quite isolated, do you feel there is a rise in the search for God?
The internet is not a revolution, rather it is an old revolution. The desires we find there are the traditional desires. Searching for God in the digital environment means exactly the same as it means in the physical environment. There isn’t a difference. The human being who is in the digital environment is the same one in the physical environment, the desires are the same. We are experiencing great desire for God in the digital environment, as well.
Are there enough answers for people who search for God online, or does the Church need to do more?
The Church needs to do more, of course, and to understand better how to be there.