The Roman Catholic Apostolic Church and the media

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ORIGINAL ARTICLE

PINTO, Francisco Léu dos Santos [1]

PINTO, Francisco Léu dos Santos. The Roman Catholic Apostolic Church and the media. Revista Científica Multidisciplinar Núcleo do Conhecimento. Year 05, Ed. 08, Vol. 07, pp. 05-15. August 2020. ISSN: 2448-0959, Access link: https://www.nucleodoconhecimento.com.br/science-of-religion/church-and-the-media ‎

SUMMARY

This study seeks to know the technological networks used by the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church to reach as many believers as possible. The research was carried out in the parish of São Luís Gonzaga, in the city of Irauçuba, Ceará, Brazil. This work was based on the following questions: how does the Church interact with the faithful on social networks? Which network has the largest spatial scope? What are the networks most accessed by the Catholic faithful? At first the exploratory research revealed the types of technological networks used by the parish. In the second moment, in a descriptive research, the influence of technological networks on the religious life of the parish was quantified. In the third moment, a correction research was necessary, because traditional and contemporary networks were identified. The identification of the three main types of networks used by this institution will contribute to the understanding of the influence of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church on the religiosity of parishioners of this municipality.

Keywords: Church, parish, networks, interaction, pandemic.

1. INTRODUCTION

In a pandemic time, society and its institutions seek to adapt to the new reality. Caused by a virus that defies science, we live in a moment of social distancing. Today physical contact between people is not recommended because of the high risk of contagion. In many countries, the temples of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church are closed. The World Health Organization (WHO) prescribes social isolation as the best way to fight the virus. In this contest, several types of networks present themselves as vehicles capable of connecting people, institutions and even countries. These are the cases of radio, television, mobile and internet networks.

Today, and in the midst of the pandemic, we increasingly depend on technological networks. Dias (1995b) highlights the qualities of instantaneity and concurrency of information networks. Souza (2013) states that the concept of network, with each technical innovation seems to correspond to a theoretical-conceptual rejuvenation. In addition to the official visible networks, there are also so-called hidden or clandestine networks. That is, there are several types of scattered networks in a given space that can include or exclude people or institutions.

It is through networks that we relate, buy, sell, praise and pray for better days. The forms of relationships between individuals, groups or between institutions generate the most diverse types of networks. According to Noronha (2015), networks are elements of identification and belonging. In recent years the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church has intensified the use of various types of networks to produce and reproduce religious habits. According to Bourdieu (2007, p. 57), religious habits are the “generating principle of all thoughts, perceptions and actions, according to the norms of a religious representation of the natural and supernatural world, that is, objectively adjusted to the principles of a political vision of the social world”.

For decades, television and radio networks have been responsible for connecting the Church to its faithful. Masses or other religious programs have always been present in the life of the Brazilian Roman Catholic. Today the Church owns radio and television networks and still maintains programs, such as Mass on Sundays, on other broadcasters. According to Noronha (2015), the networks formed in the religious field contribute to the formation of bonds. The internet network, nowadays, is the vehicle of greatest use by individuals or legal entities. In it there is circulation of various content so religious.

Another type of network used by much of society is mobile telephony – mobile phones. This device contributed to the interconnection of several spatial fixed, people and institutions. Religious professionals of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church, in many parishes, have an institutional cell phone. Adding one network to another – mobile internet connection has become one of the most common ways to surf the web. Instantly the faithful can receive information about the pope, the cardinals, the bishops or about life in the parish. In a period of global crisis, caused by the pandemic, mobile phones with internet are one of the direct interconnection routes between church and faithful.

The presence of Roman Catholicism in the media was intensified through the actions of the Roman Catholic Charismatic Renewal. According to Py and Reis (2015), the pontificate of Pope John Paul II stimulated the growth of movements created by lay faithful that were aligned with the Roman Catholic hierarchy, with the aim of bringing new adherents to Roman Catholicism.

In the midst of the pandemic, technological networks are almost the exclusive avenues for forms of communication, training and interaction. The Church uses social networks to strengthen itself. Whether on the Instagram of the faithful or on The Instagram of Pope Francis, the networks create the desired sense of community. These initiatives “illustrate a reconfiguration of the mediation of the sacred man relationship through the mediaatization of everyday life in social networks” (AZEVEDO; FERREIRA, 2018, p. 63).

On the scale of human coexistence, parishes are the main territories of the Church. This space provides the religious identity of the devotee favoring the exercise of faith. They should be recognized as territories where everyday control takes place. In the parish of São Luís Gonzaga, in the municipality of Irauçuba – Ceará, communication networks, not only in times of pandemic, have become vital for favoring the exercise of faith and identity. The religious specialists of the parish, institutionalized or not, use the most diverse networks to reach the faithful. Whether through radio, mobile, or the internet, the goal is to bring the gospel to all the creatures of the parish.

2. THE CONCEPT OF NETWORKS AND THE ROMAN CATHOLIC APOSTOLIC CHURCH

Technological networks today are characterized by the qualities of instantaneity and concurrency. According to Dias (1995, p. 247), “information networks emerged through the production of new complexities in the historical process, from productive integration to modern communication and information technologies”. Since its inception, the concept of network has been associated with a true perspective of approach to reality. In recent decades this concept has become ubiquitous favored by technological valorization.

It is possible to make an analogy between the concept covered and a fishing net. The weft or mesh is generated in the encounter between two or more threads. The nodes formed by the interlacing of the wires gives stability to the network. Another example of a concrete network is the tangible roads and canals that connect cities, such as railways and highways. These are types of networks used for a long time and that are present in contemporary society.

Some networks, used intensively by current society, such as telephony and the internet do not use tangible pathways for the circulation of information, only spatial fixed – transmission antennas. According to Souza (2013), there are types of networks that do not have the flows that can give it coherence and meaning, but only spatial fixed ones that serve as means of transmission. Networks with spatial fixeds are quite common in Brazilian cities. The Catholic Church is one of the institutions that uses these networks to expand their spaces of domination.

According to Hoch (2010, p. 48), “the media of the post-industrial era – radio, TV, internet – opened not only modified forms of communication, but also new sources for historical-religious research.” For a long time the word sacred was confined in the Churches. A new moment of dissemination of the word was inaugurated with the sale of Bibles. Hoch (2010) states that the transformations that have occurred in a religion can cause greater development and dissemination, or marginalization and disappearance.

Everywhere, the Church has the role of guiding and helping others. Currently, religious experts can give guidance in various ways, including personally, through reading and interpreting the Bible and, mainly, by the media. Since the beginning, the Catholic Church has used a network for greater dissemination of its doctrines. However, in contemporary times, the religious message is among those that circulate the most in the networks.

According to Berger and Luckmann (2004, p.172) “institutions and symbolic universes are legitimized by living individuals, who have concrete social locations and concrete social interests.” Institutions and symbolic universes, too, are legitimized by the means of communication. Newspapers, books and printed magazines make up this collection. However, the vehicles most used to reach the general public are internet, TV and radio networks.

These networks have as a common characteristic spatial fixed in the quality of transmission media. According to Souza (2013), spatial fixeds are used to articulate the numerous points of space, but it does not depend on concrete pathways to accommodate the flows themselves. The streams available on these networks feature various content, information, images, and audio. However, according to Berger and Luckmann (2004, p. 202) “the most important vehicle for the conservation of reality is conversation.” In recent years, in live radio, TV and internet programs conversations with priests and religious leaders have intensified. The Church has cined in these vehicles to be closer to the faithful.

The Church’s space of influence, connected in technological networks, is strengthened and expanded. According to Suede (2008, p. 123) “Christianity is a proselytizing religion, whose message is directed to everyone. There is no place in it for ancestors of a clan, tribe, or entire people.” The Catholic Church, in all states of Brazil, have open broadcasting, such as TV Aparecida, Rede Vida de Televisão, TV Século XXI, TV Canção Nova, among other stations. Biblical texts, images, testimonies of miracles or healings are transformed into concerts. In this scenario stand out gospel singers, priests and bishops. In the daily life of Roman Catholic parishes, religious experts make no effort to act in the media.

According to Souza (2005), to ensure the Catholic presence in various media vehicles, dioceses invested in marketing and business activities. Py and Reis (2015, p. 147) claim that “hundreds of AM and FM radio stations were also created. In addition, secular broadcasters have made room in their programming for Roman Catholic programs.”

To attract more and more loyal radio, TV stations and internet portals use a simple and fast language. According to Carranza (2000, p. 22) experts inside and outside the Church “study the value of the Internet as an amplifier of the religious message.” According to the same author, the web expands the reach of preaching, but does not replace the face-to-face experience.

Technological advances have also contributed to the adjustment of religious content. In many cases, religious products follow an extremely competitive market logic. In a background, the Catholic Church benefits from the use of the various networks. In pandemic time or not, the most abstract and complex networks – (with spatial fixed stakes as means of transmission – nodes) that do not use material pathways to accommodate the flows themselves (arcs and non-material wires) are used. Portable electronic devices that function as network nodes are not confused with space fixed devices because they move in space.

3. MATERIAL AND METHOD

According to Sampieri (1997), there are four types of research: exploratory, descriptive, correlation and explanatory. In practice, search can include elements of more than one of these four types. These components of the investigation process cause a variation in the research strategy. Therefore, the choice of one or more types of research is very important.

The research was carried out in the parish of São Luís Gonzaga in the municipality of Irauçuba, Ceará, Brazil. This work was based on the following questions: how does the Church interact with the faithful on social networks? Which network has the largest spatial scope? What are the networks most accessed by the Catholic faithful? At first the exploratory research revealed the types of technological networks used by the parish. In the second moment, in a descriptive research, the influence of technological networks on the religious life of the parish was quantified. In the third moment, a correction research was necessary, because traditional and contemporary networks were identified. The identification of the three main types of networks used by this institution will contribute to the understanding of the influence of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church on the religiosity of parishioners of this municipality.

The interviews were conducted with the coordinators of the most diverse Roman Catholic groups of this parish and with the priest responsible for the Pastoral Communication. An interview script was previously prepared in order to obtain information about the types of networks used by the Catholic Church in the city. A schedule and prior appointment were made to conduct the interviews with the religious leaders of the groups. The information obtained with the priest and religious leaders was categorized, analyzed and compatible with scientific concepts. The faithful also provided information for the research. For them, we elaborated a questionnaire that was applied to one hundred and fifty practicing Catholic-Romans.

According to Ruiz (1991), the steps that make up the field research are: bibliographic research, determination of techniques for data collection, recording and analysis. Field research consists of data collection, observation of facts and recording of variables presumably relevant for further analysis. A case study involves a dialogue between the researcher and the studied reality to understand the dynamics of the processes.

4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

According to Raffestin (1993), the religious phenomenon is characterized by power relations. Power intends to control and dominate men and things. The networks used by Roman Catholicism stand out as a mechanism for controlling, maintaining and expanding religious territory.

According to Eliade (1992, p. 97) “whatever the historical context in which it is, homo religiosus always believes that there is an absolute reality, the sacred, that transcends this world, which manifests itself here, sanctifying it and making it real”. The fixed point of the sacred in the parish of St. Louis Gonzaga in the city of Irauçuba is the temple of the mother church. Currently, in the midst of the pandemic or not, the safest routes, to access this place, are the networks – radio, mobile telephony and internet.

Religious events such as masses, novenas or the holy rosary are accessed daily by these media outlets. The religious content that circulates through these networks, too, has the main function of satisfying a particular kind of interest of the Roman Apostolic Catholic Church – maintaining the dominance over its area of activity.

The first major technological network used by the parish of São Louis Gonzaga was the radio network. More precisely, Radio Amizade FM 88.7. In these days other radio stations from neighboring cities also broadcast Roman Catholic religious events. However, much of the communication between the priests and the faithful is done by Radio Amizade. The other broadcasters cover specific Catholic events such as the broadcast of Sunday Masses. Radio networks do not have concrete routes to drain the flows, but only spatial fixed ones that serve as means of transmission. However, they also articulate the different points in space.

The mobile telephone network, with spatial fixed in the city, is another example of network that has no concrete tangible channels or channels. The faithful, religious leaders and fathers use institutional or personal cell phones to communicate with each other. According to Fonseca and Santos (2012, p. 320), “acting in or through networks structurally modifies the interconnection between the various possibilities of interconnection”.

Every day, technology networks are more than essential to religion and its faithful. They present the sacred. It is in these ways that priests present the most holy, make the blessings and prayers of healings. The use of the Internet by the Church, mainly, social networks demonstrate a plausible reaction amid the postmodern forces of secularization. The e-mail, blog, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp of the parish of St. Louis Gonzaga are coordinated by the Pastoral da Comunicação.

Internet networks present a new way of interacting. Religious institutions inform about ecclesial activities, provision of information services, education and reflection. In the parish of São Luís Gonzaga, in Irauçuba, even the elderly faithful began to access the internet network via mobile phones.

In the environment intertwined by networks, masses, novenas, rosaries and other Roman Catholic religious events are broadcast live. According to Eliade (1992, p. 20-21) “religious man can only live in an atmosphere impregnated with the sacred”. The virtual environment can also be considered more of a space consecration technique. During religious events the communication vehicle itself becomes a fundamental tool that connects the faithful to the sacred.

Serving as a primary tool for evangelization, the most varied types of networks are on all sides connecting and connecting religious environments, creating sacred spaces, expanding territories, even in pandemic time or not. The three types of technological networks most used by the parish of São Luís Gonzaga, in the city of Irauçuba, are: the internet, radio and mobile telephony – mobile.

Table 1 – Types of technological networks most used in the parish.

Networks Territorial scope of the parish
Radio 100%
Cell phones 100%
Internet 80%

Table 2 – Participation and interaction of the faithful in religious programs and events transmitted by the networks.

Networks Percentage
Mobile/Radio 10%
Mobile phones/notebook /Internet/social networks 90%

Table 3 – Participation in social networks.

Religious Events Social Networks Percentage
Masses Facebook and Instagram 85%
Newsletters, invitations or notices WhatsApp 90%
Meetings, novenas, thirds and other events Facebook and Instagram 95%

Table 4 – Faithful who follow religious events only on the radio.

Masses Newsletters, invitations or notice Meetings, novenas, thirds and other events
15% 10% 5%

5. FINAL CONSIDERATIONS

In times of pandemic, most society is forced to isolate itself. With this, technological networks began to serve, almost exclusively, as channels of access to life outside homes. Religious institutions are increasingly adapting to the new reality. The individual to maintain his religion needs to maintain or, if necessary, produce an adequate structure of plausibility to give meaning to his religious life. The Roman Catholic Apostolic Church, in turn, uses the most diverse channels to reach the faithful.

In the parish of São Louis de Gonzaga, in the city of Irauçuba, the channels of greatest access are the internet, radio and mobile telephony. Through these routes circulate religious contents such as healings, blessings and even penances. The first technological vehicle for mass communication used by this parish was radio. Even with technological advances and the development of other media, radio is still the vehicle of greater territorial scope of the parish. Most of the public that accesses this media are people over 50 years of age.

In the 1990s another communication technology landed in Brazil – mobile phones. Religious institutions quickly adhered to this new tool. However, at first, this technology was used, almost exclusively, for communication between religious members directly linked to the Church. Currently, about ninety-five percent of the parish’s religious community have cell phones and can communicate with each other at any time.

The Roman Catholic world is a world mediated by canals to access the sacred. However, in the midst of the pandemic or not, and in full social isolation or not, one of the most accessed ways to seek the sacred is the internet network. This network together with mobile telephony allows internet users to access numerous tools including religious platforms. In the parish of São Luís Gonzaga, the most accessed social networks are WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook.

Daily religious messages circulate on social networks. Masses, novenas, the holy rosary and prayers are transmitted to the living. The faithful interact with prayers, praises, and requests for blessings. Faith is revitalized through access to religious content. These are produced by institutionalized religious experts or not. The parish of St. Louis Gonzaga, in the city of Irauçuba, through the networks, continues to provide religious services to the community, contributing significantly to an experience of faith in the sacred, even in times of planetary crisis.

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[1] Master’s degree in Sciences of Religions; Specialist in Geography of Brazil; Graduated in Geography.

Submitted: August, 2020.

Approved: August, 2020.

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