So Pope Benedict XVI is setting up a YouTube channel. Like every other frustrated CEO of a multinational organization, the Holy Father wants to disintermediate the traditional authorities and communicate directly with his global team. As Monsignor Paul Tighe, a former Dublin priest who is now the secretary of the Pontifical Council (ie: running PPR -- Papal Public Relations), explained:
"With the YouTube platform, we now have the capacity to give young people direct access to the thinking, to the thoughts, to the words and deeds of the pope. That allows them to share that with their friends."
Direct access, eh. And who, I wonder, is to blame for not giving young people direct access to the thinking, words and deeds of the pope? Might it be those lazy, out-of-touch local Catholic priests who are not communicating directly enough with their customers. And who better to transform the organization than the innovative guy in charge. As Benedict XVI himself wrote about the democratizing potential of the Internet:
"The proclamation of Christ in the world of new technologies requires a profound knowledge of this world if the technologies are to serve our mission adequately. It falls, in particular, to young people, who have an almost spontaneous affinity for the new means of communication, to take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this 'digital continent.'"
One of the first Papal videos posted on YouTube involved Benedict XVI discussing the Internet as a "new way to speak to God." But, with all due respect to the Holy Father, I'm not so sure this call "for the evangelization of this digital continent" is particularly new. It actually represents the digital version of The Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), that select group of viral evangelizers founded by Ignatius of Loyola in 1534 as a counter to the Protestant Reformation. By calling on "young people" to evangelise the digital continent, Benedict XVI is actually disintermediating his traditional structure of power in the church. Are local priests about to join journalists and record label executives in the dustbin of history? Will the Internet trigger the new Counter-Reformation?