Today we are surrounded by digital information that is created by a variety of organizations and individuals. In a matter of seconds a search finds thousands of possible resources related to the topic we are searching for.
As mobile tools, become an integral part of our daily lives and the ability to find out almost anything if we have Internet access, causes me to ask – am I able to find the best Catholic information online or will I also find “fake” information related to my faith?
If you are engaged in any of the following tasks, you will need to find the best possible Catholic information that resides on the Internet:
- A student who has been assigned the task of explaining the History of the Sacrament of Baptism or any topic to be researched!
- RCIA catechist who will be explaining the history of Baptism to RCIA candidates
- A catechist who is involved with Parents who will be baptizing their child and preparing a parent lesson.
- A child, teenager, or adult curious about the History of the Sacrament of Baptism
Steps to Review Internet Articles
To begin, you are invited to sit down at your computer and go to the “Google” website. Begin your search with the phrase“Sacrament of Baptism.” A variety of options are usually presented…
I’m delighted to see “Sacrament of Baptism History” as an option. Choose this topic or you can just type in the Google search field “Sacrament of Baptism History” as you begin your search.
As you see in a few seconds’ numerous articles are located for you. Your next task is to figure out what are the “best” articles related to the topic of your search. Normally, the first 20 articles are the options you want to begin with. For this article, we’ll work with the first six articles asking three simple questions:
- Is this a Catholic website? If yes, is it sponsored by the Vatican, the USCCB, a Diocese, a Parish, a Catholic Publisher, a Catholic University, or by an individual who is writing this article.
- What do you know about the writer? Name, who do they represent – Vatican, Diocese, Parish, Catholic Publisher, Catholic University – Theology Department, Self? What degrees do they have? Who are they associated with?
- Is the information current, dated or biased?
Answering the Questions
It is usually helpful to create a table that identifies – Article – Organization/Individual – Writer Info – Date of Article. As I ask the three questions, here is what I learn about each webpage:
Deciding What to Read and Study
Just asking these three questions, and after identifying the responses to the questions I would choose three articles to begin my research and learning.
Catechism of the Catholic Church – Baptism: This is a Vatican sponsored article and is part of the newest Catechism. A good resource to study.
The Holy Trinity parish article: Why? It is written for a parish audience to quickly and simply explain to them information about the Sacrament. After reading the Catechism article, I would be comparing the Catechism content with this article to see how this article clearly articulates what has been approved by the Vatican. Despite no date or specific author listed, this is a current Catholic parish in the Shreveport Diocese. While reading the article, references to the CCC are made which indicates that this is a current article, most likely prepared by a parish staff member.
Baptism – New Advent: Since we are focusing on the History of the Sacrament of Baptism, this article was approved by bishops in 1907. It would provide an explanation of the sacrament at this historical time. Since I read the two more current articles, I will be trying to identify what is the same or different between the Catechism Article (1993) and the Catholic Encyclopedia article (1907) regarding the history of the sacrament of Baptism. This article will contextualize for me how the Church understood the Sacrament of Baptism before Vatican II.
An article I would read to understand what seems to be an article that would be more supportive of pre-Vatican II theology is:
Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation – Why? This is a resource that is supported by a group in Canada. Their goal is wonderful – your online source for the best in Catholic faith and culture. However, as I view the information about the “Executive and Advisory Boards” there are flags for me. The phrases that cause me to pause are:
- Professor Emeritus – indicates for me someone who is academically astute, but may have a more traditional mindset that may not support Vatican II theology. These members represent – English and Humanities, School of Education, Christianity & Culture Program, Philosophy, Social and Political Philosophy.
- Organizations that are known to support Pre-Vatican II Theology: Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ignatius Press, and Catholic Answers.
- Author “Fr. Hardon, SJ who is known in Catholic circles to be more of a traditionalist who was critical of Vatican II theology.
It is important to know and be aware of both sides of the equation in today’s church. The audience who arrives on your doorstep comes from a rainbow of theological experience. As a teacher/learner it is important to respect the rainbow of colors in a parish. Our call is not to engage our communities in fighting one another regarding who is right and who is wrong. Our call is to engage our faith communities in a dialogue so that both sides grow in understanding and welcoming one another.
I would not recommend or read the following two articles:
Sacrament of Baptism – Catholic Doors. Overall the design of this content is not very appealing as it is all text based. On closer examination to see who is sponsoring the website, I found the following – The Catholic Doors Ministry is owned and managed by Jonn Miller. This ministry is a response to Pope John-Paul II’s appeal that the West is in need of re-evangelization.
There is no additional information about Jonn Miller. There is this statement – Catholic Doors Ministry operates from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Even after googling “Jonn Miller saskatoon saskatchewan Canada” or “Jonn Miller Catholic Doors Ministry” I did not find any significant information Jonn, specifically a short bio or any additional information about this person.
History of Baptism – Wikipedia. In general I, do not recommend Wikipedia articles as I will always want to compare and contrast with recognizable other sources the content of their material especially related to faith based articles. Why? My personal bias is that a website with faith and theological content needs to be reviewed by theologians (academic or practical) who are recognized for their expertise. In general, Wikipedia articles are written and edited by those who sign up with Wikipedia. There is no vetting process to acknowledge that we are receiving good theology in these articles. And even if approved, by fact that this is a wiki tool, anyone can come and add information at any time that may or may not be accurate. When I check the “Cite This Page” I notice that the Author is listed as “Wikipedia Contributors.” I have no idea who these contributors are as they are not listed. Thus, there is no way to learn more about these authors.
The Challenge of Digital Faith Research
Gone are the days when there are only ONE or TWO resources to read. Today’s digital world is a library of articles written by a variety of writers who have and do not have a theological background. Our task is to find the best articles to assist us in learning more about our faith.
As I ask questions about my faith – Who is Jesus? Where did he live? What is the Bible? How do I study the Bible online? And many other questions, it is possible to ask Google or any other Search Engine to assist us in learning more about our faith.
Photo by Steve Snodgrass (CC)
However, the task is now on us to locate and find the information that will truly enlighten us! We need to admit that today we live in a church with a rainbow of theologies: Pre-Vatican II, Vatican II, and Post Vatican II. This rainbow of theologies is represented in the articles we find on the Internet.
I particpated on February 6, 2017 at a Listening Session where our new Bishop Gregory Parkes, invited parish members to share their insights around three questions. As I listened to the shared comments representing the 500 persons attending this event, I heard statements that reflected the rainbow of theologies that currently exist in our church.
Because we are simple human beings, we will gravitate towards our personal bias and expect others to believe like us. It is time to respect and learn from one another. We all have a bit of the truth that we are invited to learn from one another.
It is not time to “push” our beliefs onto others. It is time to engage in a conversation or dialogue that allows me to grow in a deeper relationship with Jesus.
As you engage in Internet research to learn more about your faith, come with clear questions you are using to guide you in picking your resources. Take the time you need to “discern” and “choose” the best articles to read and reflect on that will engage you in becoming a faith-filled Catholic!
Remember it is not what you know about your faith! It is about knowing and coming to a deeper relationship with Jesus!