Since he was appointed archbishop of Toledo two and a half years ago, Francisco Cerro Chaves has been a regular on social networks (tiwteer or a personal blog) as another vehicle to spread the message of the Catholic Church. Precisely this knowledge and use has led to the writing that has been sent, as published by the diocesan magazine Our Father and taking advantage of the recent day of Social Communications, a letter addressed to priests, members of the consecrated life and faithful in which it establishes some lines of action in social networks.
After pointing out that the "lawful means of communication are good for spreading the Truth of the Gospel and the values that spring from its preaching", he then encourages everyone, but especially priests, "to use them with dedication and balance to that the mission be present throughout the world».
The archbishop points out that the appearance of the internet and social networks "is a new opportunity for communication between people and for the preaching of the Good News", as well as that "the digital continent is a place of meeting and evangelization", the same than the globalization of mass communication, but warns that "the use of these means by the Christian must be animated by the desire that this use be vivified by a human and Christian spirit". And in this sense, he points out that "our presence on the Internet must be marked by charity and by living the perennial moral values that the commandments mark for us."
Chaves emphatically announced that "as Archbishop of Toledo, and to preserve the integrity of the truths of faith and custom, I have the duty and the right to ensure that neither the writings nor the use of social media damage the faith and customs of the Christian faithful. That is why he affirms that "I must demand that the faithful submit to the judgment of the Church the writings that they are going to publish and that are related to faith or customs, and also condemn the writings that are harmful to the rectitude of the faith or to the good manners".
He analyzes in the writing that the appearance of social networks «has meant «a rapid and intense transformation for all areas of social life», with a wide range to obtain information and establish communications between people and groups, hence the contemplate as «an extraordinary opportunity for our witness and for the proclamation of Christ and his Gospel», while giving Catholics «new opportunities to make known their life of living the faith».
However, he warns from another perspective that it is "a challenge for everyone", since "we find ourselves imbued with a new fast-paced digital culture, in which the multiplication of messages and image claims frequently catch us and require our attention and absorbing our time and energies.”
Hence, the archbishop claims that the possibilities that the networks give to spread the Gospel "must be used by priests with audacity and creativity to reach people and areas of our society that could not be reached today if it were not for these means. But it has to be in fidelity to the message of the Gospel, in accordance with the identity and mission of the priest».
In another part of the letter, with the support of the auxiliary bishop, Cerro Chaves warns of "the dangers." The first one he points out is "the time spent paying attention to the screens", since an excess can generate "pernicious dependencies... which can unconsciously 'hook' and absorb the user, weakening their will and isolating them from real relationships -not virtual- with people». And he specifically speaks of "certain content that is particularly harmful from a spiritual and moral point of view."
Apart from recommending a "responsible use of these means", it is added that "an excessive waste of time or an uncontrolled and compulsive use of the mobile phone or other media can be alarm signals that should be addressed".
Again it alludes to "the immense possibilities of interpersonal communication" of networks, but warns that "this direct communication, without the social filters of face-to-face communication, facilitates disinhibition in these communications." For this reason, he tells priests that “as a public person in the Church, they must always be at the service of their brothers, from the truth and perfectly recognizable at all times. The anonymity of false profiles on the networks is especially serious for the priest who, in the image of Christ the Good Shepherd, must always go before the flock entrusted to him... along the paths of justice and peace. Taking refuge in the anonymity of a false profile to express opinions or criticism that one does not dare to do with his true identity is a form of abuse that we must refrain from due to the moral seriousness that it entails ».
At another point in the letter, the archbishop alludes to the fact that social networks allow anyone to offer their opinion, alluding to the figure of 'influencers'. He recognizes that this instrument increases the possibilities of expanding the evangelizing mission, but being «influencers to the divine», always with care in the disputes.
In addition, the archbishop recalls that "in relation to the publication of articles or posts on social networks or web pages, the priest must follow the rules that govern the use of the media by clerics."
Apart from avoiding false profiles and that recklessness can lead to bad consequences "on the priest's reputation", the archbishop also warns that social networks "also lend themselves to a manipulative use of personal data in order to obtain political and economic... The 'fake news' can also refer to aspects of the life of the Church. In this sense, it is a serious responsibility to spread false information through the networks that damages ecclesial communion and even more serious to spread defamation or slander about the Pope, the bishops or other pastors of the Church. Before disseminating news, we have a moral obligation to verify its veracity.