Pope Benedict: teh internets are teh suck

AKMA sez, "Benedict XVI, whom I actually admire a lot as popes go, has lapsed into the tedious reflex of blaming digital technology for the decadence of youth. Vatican Radio reports that Benedict met with professors and students in Parma, and warned them that because of digital technology, 'students' capacity for concentration and mental application on a personal level are reduced; on the other hand there is a danger that the students isolate themselves in an increasingly virtual reality.' I can understand, to some extent, his resistance to the change in mode-of-attention that accompanies online activity, but it's disappointing to see him falling for the bugaboo of replacement panic."

Pope Benedict on the Nature of University Reform (Thanks, AKMA!)


  1. Seems like the classic “new media are scary!” panic, not replacement panic. Teenagers are sitting in the back rows of dark movie theaters! Teenagers are reading comics! They’re listening to rock and roll! ZOMG!

  2. Yeah, as we all know, nuns, friars, and especially monks never “isolate(d) themselves in an increasingly virtual reality” while on retreats or in monasteries…


  3. Is this a surprise? Does this matter? I thought pope = irrelevant ghoul.

    (not trolling, genuinely curious (maybe a little trollish (who am I kidding? (but why is this a ‘wonderful thing’?))))

  4. I thought religion has had “replacement anxiety” since the first caveman told his cave buddy he can talk to spirits. Not a knock on religion, it’s just really not surprising that the Pope doesn’t want people investing themselves in things that don’t bring them closer to the church.

  5. I thought it was our “record players” and rock and roll music?

    You know, the internet would be a lot safer if the Catholic church could keep its priests from searching for little kids on there. I suppose the technology must have corrupted them too.

  6. The Catholic Church once again proves how irrelevant and out of touch it is with modern society .

  7. Being far too lazy to RTFA, I’ll just comment on the blurb.

    Knee-jerk anti-Pope reactions aside… he’s not exactly wrong here. I hit University as the Web was taking off, and used BBSes for years before that. I know the Internet detracts from “concentration and mental application”. If there’s a web browser available, it’s open and switched to regularly (often to check BB of course). Work and productivity suffer, and that pile of books I intend to read keeps growing. I’m sure if not for the Internet, I’d be in front a TV or video game, but probably not in the same manner (“oh, I have 2 minutes free, let’s go online.” 2 hours later I’m wondering what I’m not doing).

    As for increased isolation, I’ve long made a point of making sure I have friends I can actually see IRL and make sure I do. But you’re telling me that hours upon hours spent in MMORPGs, updating Facebook, or otherwise talking to friends you’ll likely never see (or at best see once or twice a year) isn’t an increasing isolation in a virtual reality?

    Just because it’s a religious figure knocking technology doesn’t automatically make his points invalid.

  8. “there is a danger that the students isolate themselves in an increasingly virtual reality.” – I thought he was taking about religion here…

  9. As a citizen of the Internet, I read the summary of what the Pope had to say and must admit — yep, sounds about right. Read the actual article and it didn’t sound any worse. The title this is posted other, on the other hand, seems to be about a different article? One where he denounces “teh internets” instead of raising valid concerns that ought to be of interest to the people he was addressing? Or do we think that they should do university reform WITHOUT taking the internet into account?

    And dude #3, we’ve had replacement panic since we first discovered replacing things. I realize it’s cool these days to blame religion for everything, but scapegoating religion only distracts from trying to deal with true problems of human nature.

  10. I agree with Astin (#8). If we’re being 100% honest, I think we all have to admit that digital technology is changing us. As with almost all changes, some may be for the better, some for the worse.

    If you read the entire article, you will see that digital technology wasn’t even the main point. It was mentioned at the end, almost as an aside, not in the form of a declaration or dire prediction, but rather as a warning on a personal level, and a statement that universities have a responsibility to its students to help them navigate those risks, to develop a framework of conscience and morality, and to prepare them to contribute to a civil society.

    I am usually very much opposed to what any representative of organized religion says, but in this case I think his remarks were quite reasonable.

  11. This is the same medieval mentality that demanded rejection of the life-enhancing developments of anesthesia, the dissection of corpses, and birth control.

    The mentality whose ideal is that human life is properly lived in sacrifice to a supernatural being, and that suffering is proof of virtue. The worship of suffering is fundamental to Christianity, a religion whose central figure is glorified for dying a horrific death for the sins of mankind. Several years ago, a prominent religious conservative said of the Schiavo case, “Terry Schiavo . . . is suffering in obedience to God’s will.” He added: “Isn’t suffering in pursuit of God’s will the exact center of religious life?”

    Human life is sacred–not because of supernatural declaration, but because of the unique nature and glorious potential of the individual, rational human life: to think, to create, to love, to experience pleasure, to achieve happiness here on earth. A genuine culture of life would leave individuals free to pursue their own happiness–free from coercive injunctions to sacrifice themselves to religious dogma. Such a culture is what technology seeks to create. Of course they are against it.

  12. “Pope Benedict underlined that if we want a human environment to improve in quality and effectiveness, then we must begin by each one of us reforming ourselves,”

    Says the former Hiltler Youth.

  13. #14, he is a FORMER Hitler Youth. Don’t see how it’s hypocritical for him to ask for self-reformation.

    Besides, as much as I want to I can’t really bring myself to hold HJ membership against people who were only children at the time. Everyone was. They didn’t know what it meant, or what they were becoming a part of. We hear from Germans all the time who say, “yeah, I was there for the Third Reich, but I knew something was wrong and I never believed any of it and I hated Hitler!” BS. There were some people like that, sure, even many people, but the impression we get is that MOST knew exactly what was going on and was against it.

    It was an all-consuming culture. One where deviance could get you killed. “Following orders” is not a valid defense but Benedict was just a kid in the Evil Boy Scouts. What was his crime?

  14. I never thought I’d speak in defence of a Pope…. weren’t all boys n girls of age in the 3rd Reich in the Hitler Youth or the Aryan Brood Mares League?

    I think it was if not obligatory, a really bad idea not to be a member.

    Anyhow, the Pope and the RC church decrying the moral decadence of the internet while sitting on the worlds largest and oldest Pornucopia of jazz mags and Bongo literature.


  15. Just like the record industry, The Church of Rome® has business model problems. It was at the height of power way back before the Reformation, when it could keep the flock uninformed about even the existence of different ways of looking at things. On teh Interwebs, there’s no way to not be exposed to heresies against whatever it may be you believe in. You bet it has the Pope worried.

  16. He is head of 2,000 year old business, whose mission statement is the fabrication and dissemination of a fairy tale (even if Jesus was the son of God, what is written down and been spread is bullshit), and to use that fairy tale to control as much of humanity as the church,inc. can. I’m surprised they aren’t speaking out against reading. People who can read aren’t dependant on the church in their search for truth.

  17. #21

    Well they did like it a lot better when all the books were in Latin, and only the clergy could read and understand books.


    They had a lot of it.
    They lost a lot of it.

    They wants it back, they do.

    Let’s not give it to them.

  18. I think part of the point is- it’s always something that’s distracting “the youth of today” People who say things like this never seem to remember themselves as easily distracted and irresponsible. This is, of course never true. It’s now internet, it used to be TV, before that it was comics and pulps….

  19. Not big on religion / this pope / Catholic Church etc. and work at a British University in IT and constantly have browser windows open whilst working, use Facebook & email as it’s quick & convenient, etc. etc.


    Kids concentration spans are shortening, their ability to absorb and process large tracts of information is vanishing, never mind their ability to speak properly or construct a decent essay of any length… Essentially I agree with a lot of what #8 says, and though I love electronic communication, the ‘net and its associated benefits, I’m aware that our society and youth are necessarily different from us due to the culture and communication methods that are prevalent in the world today. I’m not saying it is all bad, and in many respects there is little difference between me escaping into a brilliant book for hours when I was a child, compared to today’s youth playing an online game etc., apart from the multimedia-enhanced experience and thus possibly less use of the imagination.

    It’s a shame if we can play with people halfway across the world but cannot play in our own streets with our neighbours’ children… We realise actions have consequences, grow emotionally, and learn subtle communication cues that are missed in an online or fast-moving world…


  20. I’m shocked at the number of ad hominems in here. Usually it’s much higher than 50%. He must have said something that made some sense.

  21. I think a lot of the commenters here are just reacting to the words “Pope” and “internet” in close proximity and not actually reading the content of what he said, much less the whole article, of which the remarks about technology only came in briefly at the end.

  22. For some reason, this reminds me of Plato’s criticism of writing– that it was destructive to the development of memory.

    Easy access to information means you don’t have to store as much in your own brain. Easy ability to collaborate with others a world away may mean you lose some skill at figuring things out for yourself.

    The Catholic Church, and many (most?) other religions encourage meditation in some form or another for personal development. Meditation’s pretty much impossible while communicating with others constantly and at high speed.

    1. Besides being a BB moderator, I chant/pray/meditate twice per day and do an hour yoga practice every day. I just walk away from the computer and turn the ringers off on the phones. It’s not really rocket science.

  23. Well, it did take them forty years to realize John Lennon maybe
    wasn’t the Antichrist after all…
    Patience people, they’ll catch up (I hope).

  24. It seems ironic that one of the geekiest places on the Net, one that worships the powers of technology to shape thought and augment human capacities, would disagree with the pope’s words. What we see as positives he views as negatives, that’s all: it’s undeniable that the invention of computers and the Intertubes has created radical, far-reaching changes in the way we process information, see the world, think, etc. Just because his take on it is reactionary and negative doesn’t mean that the changes haven’t taken place.

    I dunno, I’m an English teacher, one who went to college just when the Internet was beginning as a popular phenomenon. I’m a happy Net addict now, but I shudder to think of all the all-night readings of Paradise Lost and whatnot I’d have missed by looking at online pornography, DailyKos, this site, etc. Books and slow media have a lot going for them, a lot of nuance and depth that our fast media, like the Internet, can’t match, despite the Net’s huge advantages in so many other things. I think of this when reading Milton with 18-year-olds, most of whom can’t even process the idea that it might be pleasurable, useful, etc., to read something as thorny and resistant as Milton: where’s the clicky link with the video? I seem to hear them thinking…. And don’t even get me started on how etexts are slowly replacing scholarly editions, how “interactivity” with a text means increasingly more web-based visual learning rather than good-ol’ notetaking and speaking in class…. Hate to say it, but for once I agree with my spiritual leader the pope.

    As an aside, I’m saddened that the reflexive, knee-jerk Catholic bashing above is allowed on this site: kindly substitute another term for “Catholic” in the screeds above and you’ll see what I mean. Are we still re-trying the Catholic Middle Ages at the bar of History? Moderators, for shame!

    1. Tdawwg,

      Do you see that little eyeball on the upper right of everyone’s comments? That’s how you tell us that you find something offensive. And why you find it offensive.

  25. I think the pope should be more concerned about what his attitudes towards contraception is doing to poor women all over the world.

    Also, he should stop his ridiculous opposition to stem cell research.

    In general, the catholic church should focus a little less on children, methinks.

  26. ..kindly substitute another term for “Catholic” in the screeds above and you’ll see what I mean.

    Catholicism is a choice. We can criticise choices all we want. Replace it with another choice: gamer, taxi-driver, scientist, mall-cop, doctor.. renders it a lot less harmful than your allusions to racism, sexism or homophobia.

  27. Antinous, I’m pretty happy with my public finger-wagging, thanks. I’d rather say it once for all rather than eyeball the several screeds: and I think the general anti-Catholic screed and its not-being-moderated is for everyone to discuss, not just the moderators and me. Hope that’s OK with you, as I’ve seen this kind of call-out here before. Respectfully, thanks but no thanks….

    Arikizzle, folks are born into Catholicism, just like any other religion. Remaining a Catholic is indeed a spiritual choice, but the mindset and culture of Catholicism don’t just go away when one stops believing or chooses to believe something else. Read Joyce. The terms I was thinking about (I should have been more explicit) were these kind of non-choice things that are (like one’s religious background) determined at birth: like “Jew,” or “homosexual,” or “Pacific Islander,” etc. The point was that a broad-brush damning of any group for any reason is quite simply unacceptable for rational, intelligent denizens of the twenty-first century. We Catholics have a saying “hate the sin, love the sinner”: dispute our doctrines all you wish, but kindly leave off the inaccurate shotgun condemnations of our entire religious-cultural group, thanks.

    A further note for the haters: we Catholics, being rather into the guilty self-condemnation trip, have been over all this WAY before the rest of you even bothered to think about it. We’d find much of your scorn cute and silly if it weren’t so contemptibly ignorant and gross. We’ll bash ourselves, thanks, we’ve got millennial experience and we’re all Jesuitical about it.

    That said, I’m breathlessly awaiting Pope Maladict’s successor: let’s get a liberation theologian at the helm! Time for redemption!

    1. I’m pretty happy with my public finger-wagging, thanks.

      Yes, that part is patently obvious to everyone.

      I’d rather say it once for all rather than eyeball the several screeds: and I think the general anti-Catholic screed and its not-being-moderated is for everyone to discuss, not just the moderators and me.

      You see, we get about 700 comments per day on BB Prime. I have neither the time nor the inclination to read your mind to determine exactly what you find offensive. In fact, there’s a strong probability that what is offensive to you is dear to the hearts of many other readers. So if you’re not willing to point out what you object to, please stop complaining.

  28. proposed: a truly free and civil society would forbid the religious indoctrination of children as a violation of their right to advised consent. They should be allowed to reach the age of majority and make their own decision without prejudice or duress.

  29. after all,was it not Baldur Benedikt von Schirach who said: “Give me the boy up to seven and I will give you the man”?

  30. Trevel “I realize it’s cool these days to blame religion for everything, but scapegoating religion only distracts from trying to deal with true problems of human nature.”
    I realize it’s cool these days to blame technology for everything, but scapegoating technology only distracts from trying to deal with true problems of human nature.

    Tdawwg “Are we still re-trying the Catholic Middle Ages at the bar of History?”
    Well, considering a bunch of what was then is still in effect, yes (contraception, anyone?). It’s not our fault they’ve based their view of the universe on an obsolete model.
    “…I’m breathlessly awaiting Pope Maladict’s successor: let’s get a liberation theologian at the helm!”
    Good luck with that. Maybe I’ll get a pony for my birthday, too.

  31. It seems to me that most people just want to talk about how religion sucks and all that. Yes some priests have made mistakes but that does not portray the religion as a whole. You may not agree with the Catholic religion or religion at all but that does not mean that everything that is said by someone from that religion is immediatly wrong. Lets be honest for a second here, the computer really does take away from togetherness and closeness. Yeah I would probably be sitting in front of the television but atleast I would have been doing that with my family rather than completely shut off alone on a computer. Just because the pope said it doesn’t mean it is automatically wrong. Try listening to what is actually being said before making an opinion.

  32. the only reason why his opinion is published is because of the hat he’s wearing. He said nothing that hasn’t been said here and elsewhere many times before. Unless he can say it better, why should he get the bully pulpit?

  33. OF COURSE the Pope is published here because of the hat. And because he mentioned the Internet. And for some casual bashing. The trifecta.

  34. MS1030 @44: “Lets be honest for a second here, the computer really does take away from togetherness and closeness. Yeah I would probably be sitting in front of the television but atleast I would have been doing that with my family rather than completely shut off alone on a computer.”

    I don’t know about anybody else, but the computer and the internet actually HELPED me gain togetherness with others. I was a very introverted kid, and stayed that way until around 9th grade when we got a computer and the internet. That was how I first started building friendships and learning how to communicate with people, which turned me into the (comparatively) well-adjusted and social person I am today. And I’m not sure what shows you watched, but when I would sit in front of the TV, it was usually not with the rest of my family. I was more likely to be reading books and off in my own little world.

    Without the help of technology to get me over the hurdle of communicating with other people, I’m not sure if I ever would’ve stopped being a complete loner.

  35. antinous РLOL! Benedict certainly seems to like dressing up more than JP2, but the fringe popes and cardinals are still a rich vein of outr̩ couture.

  36. I’ve bin looking too!I ~know~ I have a pic of such a stylish cardinal in hot pink and sunglasses…

  37. These kids should be outt in the real world interacting with priests, not meeting child molesters online.

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