Priest on monitorVATICAN CITY – The Vatican has embraced the Web and declared “the Internet is blessed.”

During a recent Communications Day speech, Father Frederico Lombardi SJ, head of communications at the Vatican, praised the Internet as a potential force for great good. Lombardi said the modern medium offers a wealth of opportunities for creating unity and rallying support for the less fortunate.

At the same time, he noted, “risks and ambiguities attend this stage, the enormous potential for manipulation and moral corruption that are nested in the modern social communications.”

According to Lombardi, there are six deadly sins — or “faces of evil” — in online communities: falsehood, pride, oppression and injustice, debauched sensuality, escapism and division.

“It is easy to paint the big picture,” he said during the speech. “The hard part is recognizing the real, concrete, individual cases and situations, and then to put people on their guard — especially those most susceptible to the blandishments or tricks of evil.”

Lombardi said falsehood “always aims to deceive” and “often [is] mixed with half-truths.” He decried pride as “self-referencing self-centeredness that despises his fellows and refuses to listen to other positions.” Injustice and oppression, he said, “deny the voice of [their] fellows and so deny their basic human dignity and their rightful place in society.” He defined debauched sensuality as “that [which] seeks to use and possess, and has respect neither for the body nor for the image of the other.” Escapism seeks “refuge in imaginary or virtual worlds, completely subverts the purpose of the new communications technologies, making them a source of isolation and slavery.”

Of division, Lombardi said the sin “seeks to demolish dialogue, to undermine all efforts at mutual understanding among people of different creeds and cultures, and to set them against one another rather than to help them come together in genuine appreciation. This face becomes the face of conflict and war.”

He concluded, “We need to learn to recognise these faces of evil for what they are, in order to make communications able freely to serve the good, that is, to further the construction of a culture of respect, of dialogue and friendship, and to place the immense potential of contemporary communications in the service of communion in the Church and of the unity of the whole human family.”

Despite the virtual sins, the Vatican has been online for several years and recently jumped onto YouTube. The church’s experience thus far has led it to believe there is great power in pixels, but the power won’t be easy to harness.

“I shall have to work more — all of us shall have to work even harder — so that every day it will be more and more true to say, and so that we might be able to say with greater and greater conviction: the Internet is truly blessed,” he said.

The speech echoed one made by Pope John Paul II. In that notable address, the Pope recounted his joy at discovering how easy TV made connecting with Catholics around the world with the words “television is blessed.”