Question in Short
In the Internet era, how does the Magisterium help both the faithful and the non-Catholic public to discern the authentic voice of the Catholic faith tradition?
Before the Internet
In the pre-Internet days much less information was available to the general public because of the inherent "filters" in place:
- book / journals / magazine / newspaper channels need access to printing presses
- radio and TV channels need to acquire frequency license from the local government
- recorded audio and video tapes require a large capital to produce them
- schools, conferences, seminars, etc. require "live" teachers / professors
Teaching authorities like the Catholic Church Magisterium then could approve or censor either the material or the teacher through means such as Imprimatur, Index of Prohibited books, Permission to teach which the public can then use to discern whether the views imparted through the teaching material or the person themselves represent accurately the view of the Catholic Church.
But now at the end of 2020, about 30 years into the Information Age, the general public can very easily find the above 4 categories of teaching medium just by Googling, either using a keyboard or by speaking to a virtual assistant ! Even traditional publishers also make available an alternate digital format through:
- eBooks, PDFs, and Websites instead of printed materials
- podcast, live streaming, Internet radio / TV, etc.
- YouTube, Vimeo, Apple/Amazon/Google music/video, etc.
- online courses/seminars/conferences, both recorded and live
In addition, there are new interactive medium that never existed before:
- social media
- collaborative editing: wikipedia, stackexchange, reddit, etc.
- comments on traditional media such as book reviews, news articles, etc.
Very informal history of how the Magisterium worked for 2,000 years
To a layman the Magisterium seems to spur into action by reacting when there is a "clear and present danger" to the apostolic tradition that She has the duty to defend. Examples:
In the pre-Constantine era: since it is already quite hard to survive, each bishop quashed each heresy as it became serious, sometimes meeting with other bishops in a church council for a more serious heresy
In Late Antique & Early Middle Ages: more polished apologetics and more learned church scholars at a bishop's disposal to meet the challenge, such as John Scottus Eriugena
In High Middle Ages: Very established institutions and an "army" of theologians like St. Thomas Aquinas ready to spend years to deal with heresies, but the mode is still reactionary.
Renaissance and Reformation: the new printing press is used by both sides to produce propaganda pamphlets like today's Twitter war, followed by the usual church council like Trent
Modern Pre-Internet: (described above)
Internet era: this is my question: does the Magisterium has a new way to preserve the integrity of the tradition?
Complete Question Statement
The main problem of the Internet era today is that there is too much information, sometimes conflicting, forcing the reader to discern which information / person is more "Catholic" than the other. The problem is clearly different in nature than the pre-Internet modern era described above. Therefore, another way to state the question:
What is the Magisterium's 1) general strategy and 2) general character (i.e. is it still reactionary?) to deal with the Information Age in fulfilling Her duty to protect the faithful and the general public from misinformation of the Catholic Faith?
The questions below are sample concerns that should be addressed by the general strategy:
While waiting for an encyclical / church document to address an issue, is there a hierarchy of teachers that we can use for guidance?
These speakers are authorized by a particular diocese. When there is a gray area or where there are many answers about a topic like deutero-canon books, which one to choose? For example, this seems to be one of the best answers out there: 15 Myths, Mistakes, and Mispresentations about the Deuterocanon by Gary Michuta, one of those speakers. Is it safe to quote (at least in Wiki / C.SE) that's his ebook is the Catholic position for now?
Some websites is more faithful than others, like the Catholic Answers website, having their answers sometimes stamped with Nihil Obstat.
Some professing Catholic and well-published Thomist professor like Ed Feser is self-disciplined to disclose when his opinion is at variance with the Magisterium. Otherwise, is he to be trusted?
How do bishops issue Nihil Obstat today? Is it still being done and applied to the new media?
Some Catholic apologists are more quoted by others.
Some Catholic books have prefaces by bishops, implying the book is safe to represent a Catholic position.
Does the Vatican / a Diocese still issue teaching license?