Can Catholics Practice Religion Online?

DIGITAL MINISTRY: Fr. Joseph Horn, O Praem,  dialogues with this parishioners via the internet.

DIGITAL MINISTRY: Fr. Joseph Horn, O Praem, dialogues with his parishioners via the internet.

Many people of faith nowadays believe that their access to Catholic information through digital technology, is an acceptable practice of religion.

Why do they have to go to church when information is readily available in the Internet, or television?

Fr. Joseph Horn, O Praem, a Norbertine priest from Saint Michael’s Abbey in Orange County, Calif. said that:

You cannot be saved just because you read all the available church documents about your faith in the Internet.  This is not about being informed.  You do not go to church just to learn. You go to church to participate.  You still need to be in physical fellowship with the church by actually receiving the sacraments.”

The same argument arose during the medieval times when books came into being.  The parishioners felt that there was no need to attend church services because they can simply read everything in printed books.  This is realized to be untrue. Books were never able to replace the church.

Horn explains that:

Watching the Mass on television, especially for the sick parishioner, is better than nothing, but it is not the same as attending the Mass.  Simply being electronic is not the problem; it is the moral proximity because it is a sacrament.  In order to be saved, Jesus has to die on the cross, and this happens today at every mass, the same sacrifice as in Calvary.  You have to be there physically.  Moral proximity means that a person has to be within reasonable physical familiarity, distance and time from the visible sign value of the sacrament.”

Many people confess that they receive bible verses, motivational and spiritual messages via Twitter, Facebook and other social media applications, and they feel good and empowered.

Horn answers that:

You cannot be saved by having a good time.  Your feeling good about God, about the passage, cannot save you.  Feeling good does not get anybody to heaven; it is not religion. It is a hedonistic world we are in right now. People are devoted to the pursuit of pleasure in all sorts. People are no longer searching for God; they are searching for feeling good.  It is no longer a search for the truth; it is a search for entertainment. Sadly, going to church, for them, is not a pleasurable experience.”

Horn is a self-confessed world’s first Internet priest.  He started his HolyJoe.net website in 1995.  His primary focus was to make available all church documents to the parishioners.  He gained thousands of readers per day, and some of his posts reached 2 million hits.

Digital Ministry, in his experience, is a good supplement but never an alternative to true practice of religion.   It’s a great place to search for information to strengthen faith, but the Internet cannot save anyone.

“Only Grace can save you.  It is a gift from God.  It is not a gift from the Internet, period!” Horn cautioned with a smile.

© 2014 Joe Quintana

Author: Joe Quintana, M.A. | Multimedia Journalist
Editor-in-Chief at Journalism for the Soul
Master of Arts - Multimedia Journalism.


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