From Inside Higher Ed (2 Dec. 2008):

Pope Benedict XVI used a speech at the University of Parma Monday to warn students about the dangers of technology. According to Vatican Radio, “Pope Benedict said today’s younger generations are exposed to a double risk, largely due to the widespread use of new technologies: On one hand, noted Pope Benedict there is a danger that the students’ capacity for concentration and mental application on a personal level are reduced; on the other hand there is a danger that the students isolate themselves in an increasingly virtual reality.” The comments came in a speech on the reform of universities in Italy. The pope said that those efforts would succeed only if individuals involved first focus on “reforming ourselves, correcting that which could damage or obstruct the common good.”

While I can’t speak with 100% certainty, I’m pretty sure Walter Ong would see Pope Benedict’s statement on technology as a step backwards. Throughout his career, Ong spoke to the need for the Catholic Church to recognize technology as a natural part of the human condition and to embrace science in general. That said, I don’t think Ong would have much of a problem with the larger focus of the Pope’s address. [Read the Vatican Radio’s press release.]

For more on Ong’s position(s) on this subject, see such publications as:

  • “The Catholic Church’s Interest in Knowledge and Research.” Hospital Progress 38. 6 (1957): 50-51, 102, 106.
  • Frontiers in American Catholicism: Essays on Ideology and Culture. New York: Macmillan, 1957.
  • American Catholic Crossroads: Religious-Secular Encounters in the Modern World. New York: Macmillan, 1959.
  • The Christian and Technological Society.” The Sounds of Learning Series. Lecture CL-717. Omaha: Opinion Institute, 1960. (Audio recording.)
  • “The Spiritual Meaning of Technology and Culture.” Technology and Culture in Perspective. Ed. Myron B. Bloy, Jr. and Ilene Montana. Cambridge: The Church Society for College Work, 1967. 29-34.

See also my Notes from the Walter J. Ong Collection posts

This post raises an interesting question: Do I have the authority to make pronouncements, however provisional they may be, on how Ong might respond to particular issues?