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Published:March 6th, 2009 11:12 EST
Italian Dioceses Insist Catholics Abstain Technology During Lent

Italian Dioceses Insist Catholics Abstain Technology During Lent

By Christopher HIllenbrand

In addition to meat on Fridays, Roman Catholic bishops in Italy are insisting that believers should also forsake modern conveniences from automobiles to electronics. They pressed that since hi-tech devices are just as integral a part of everyday life as many eating habits in that they might be included as a nicety to abstain from in this day and age. This announcement pertains to everything from portable music devices and P.D.A.`s, to web browsing and text messaging.


Even in a contemporary setting, the Holy Church has evolved to meet the changing world around it to stay relevant. But with a world so intertwined with technology, only the most devout and self-disciplined Catholics would strive to live cloistered and alone from civilization.


Ironically enough, many of the Lenten pleas were posted on assorted dioceses` websites. Some of the dioceses responsible for posting the requests have even taken a stern approach to instilling the idea in their church`s followers.


Dioceses and Catholic organizations in Modena, southern Bari, and other cities in Italy have suggested a ban on text messaging effective every Friday during the 5-week span of Lent, which began the Wednesday before last, on Ash Wednesday. Representatives from the diocese called Lenten Fridays no SMS days


It`s a small way to remember the importance of concrete and not virtual relationships, the Modena diocese released. The statement further added: it`s an instrument to remind us that our actions and lifestyles have consequences in distant countries.


The consequences in distant countries " the Modena diocese spoke of refers to the years of bloodshed in Congo instigated by a power struggle for the coltan mines in the region. Coltan is a primary mineral used in the construction of cell phones.


In accordance with the change in policy from Catholic churches, dioceses across Italy instituted their own variations on the controversial new guideline. The diocese in Turin urged Catholics not to watch television during Lent. In Trento, the diocese has compiled a new lifestyle  calendar with ideas on how to stick to the abstinence regiment for each week of the 5-week fast. Some suggestions on the list included refraining from using vehicles and using bikes and other means for daily commutes, stop tossing bubble gum on the street, recycling, and the ever-present restraint from technology.


The Vatican doesn`t officially condone the actions from many of its priests in the country. Cardinals and other higher-ranked members of the Roman Catholic Church remain skeptical over some of their priests` judgments concerning what to give up for the holiday. Several went on record to say that the choice depends on each Catholic`s decision and shouldn`t be mandated by the Church.


Reverend Giancarlo Angelo Andrels, a priest in the Rome basilica, swayed with the school of thought that technology might not only be a luxury but a necessity for many believers in their career or job.


What does giving up mean? If the use is capricious, then abstinence is welcome, but if technology is needed for work it makes no sense, the reverend declared as a sensible rebuttal to his brethren`s views.


Many Italians who received the appeals by local dioceses sided with the reverend on the matter, citing that the Church isn`t the end-all be-all for life changes that affect each individual`s life in different ways.


In the years since the more progressive Pope Benedict XVI ascended to the throne, the Catholic Church has accepted the monumental role technology has in the world but in the same breath also remains cautious over society`s over reliance on newer and better technology. In a brilliant move to make Catholicism more global, Pope Benedict deployed a YouTube channel on behalf of the Vatican in January. The channel introduced the Pope and his message welcoming Internet users as his great family that knows no borders . To further illustrate how the new Pope has come to embrace the Internet, he hailed the possibilities of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook in promoting old relationships to persist and new ones to blossom. But as a contradiction, he also admonished users to be wary of how excessive social networking may alter one`s perception of actual real world relationships.

Pope Benedict also disparaged how the entertainment media downplays the importance and dangers of sex as well as its propensity to condone violence in movies, television, and music.