CBCP Pastoral Guidelines on the Use of Social Media

I.     Introduction

Social Media is very volatile. It has been continuously morphing as frequently as the changes in technology. During the last ten years, the progress in technology that carries social media has been as aggressive as the venture capitalists that fund them.   Human behavior or natural human impulses upon which social media have greatly impacted has been unpredictable and recently, alarming.

The pastoral guidelines made by Church instrumentalities especially in the U.S., in the early 2000s may not be applicable to today’s situation anymore because of the fast changing online landscape. Facebook and Twitter, for instance, keep changing their algorithms several times a year to keep abreast with changing user demands. The popular social media platforms some fifteen years ago (the likes of Friendster, MySpace, Multiply and SixDegrees, among others) have become obsolete in no time and eventually discarded.

With a big majority of Filipinos using social media every day (57 Million on Facebook in 2016) there is no mistaking that the internet needs evangelizing. Thus, these pastoral guidelines which are intended primarily for bishops, priests and religious.

II.     The changing Social Media landscape

When recent wave of social media started, it was mostly harnessed for social networking. Then it became a very potent tool for advertizing, so that traditional media became threatened with the migration of multimedia ads to online platforms. Soon it became a political tool that guaranteed the winability of a political candidate as in the case of the two runs of Barack Obama or more recently, Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte who, arguably, have been tagged as social media presidents.

It became very powerful in organizing mass political revolutions and activism as in the case of Oscar Morales of Colombia who in 2008 rallied a million people around the world using Facebook for the release of 700 hundred hostages being held by FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia). Or the case of Wael Ghonim who helped sparked the Arab Spring in 2011 with one Facebook Page that toppled dictators—but, on the other hand, ended up tearing several countries apart.

Today, the dark side of social media has become a very powerful tool for destroying people. It has become a quick arena for cyber bullying, black ops, propaganda, and the derailment of objectivity and truth. It is heavily populated by bots, trolls, manufacturers of lies and rumors, news fakers and bullies.

The recent stories on social media are very telling:

  • How Trolls are ruining the internet (Time, Aug 18, 2016)
  • Propaganda War: Weaponizing the Internet (Rappler, Oct 3, 2016)
  • Unmasking the trolls: Spin masters behind fake accounts, news sits (ABS-CBN, Jan 20, 2017)
  • Rodrigo Duterte’s army of online trolls (New Republic, Jan 4, 2017)

One social media expert said of late, “Five years ago, I said if you want to liberate society all you need is the internet. Today I believe if we want to liberate society we first have to liberate the internet.”

III. Guiding principles 

Pope Francis

  • “Communication is a means of expressing the missionary vocation of the entire Church; today the social networks are one way to experience this call to discover the beauty of faith, the beauty of encountering Christ. In the area of communications too, we need a Church capable of bringing warmth and of stirring hearts”(WCD, 2014).
  • “Social media is fundamentally changing how people communicate. Our Church cannot ignore it; in fact, it is our responsibility as Catholics to bring the Church’s teachings into what Pope Benedict XVI called the ‘digital continent.’”(WCD, 2014)
  • “The revolution taking place in communications media and in information technologies represents a great and thrilling challenge; may we respond to that challenge with fresh energy and imagination as we seek to share with others the beauty of God.”(WCD, 2014)

Pope Benedict XVI

  • “Social networks, as well as being a means of evangelization, can also be a factor in human development. As an example, in some geographical and cultural contexts where Christians feel isolated, social networks can reinforce their sense of real unity with the worldwide community of believers.” (WCD, 2013)
  • “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”. Be sure to announce the Gospel to your contemporaries with enthusiasm.” (WCD, 2009)  

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Appendix I: Definition of Terms

Back to CBCP Pastoral Guidelines on the Use of Social Media

Algorithm An algorithm is a set of formulas developed for a computer to perform a certain function. This is important in the social sphere as the algorithms sites like Facebook and Google use are critical for developing content promotion strategies.
Chat Chat can refer to any kind of communication over the internet but traditionally refers to one-to-one communication through a text-based chat application, commonly referred to as instant messaging (IM) applications.
Comment A comment is a response that is often provided as an answer or reaction to a post or message on a social network.
Direct Message Direct messages — also referred to as “DMs” — are private conversations that occur on Twitter. Both parties must be following one another to send a message.
Facebook Group Groups provide a space for people to communicate about shared interests. Groups can be created by anyone.
Facebook Page Pages allow real organizations, businesses, celebrities and brands to communicate broadly with people who like them. Pages may only be created and managed by official representatives.
Follower In a social media setting, a follower refers to a person who subscribes to your account in order to receive your updates.
Friends Friends is the term used on Facebook to represent the connections you make and the people you follow. These are individuals you consider to be friendly enough with you to see your Facebook profile and engage with you.
Handle Handle is the term used to describe someone’s @username on Twitter. For example, CBCP News’ Twitter handle is @cbcpnews
Hashtag A hashtag is a tag used on a variety of social networks as a way to annotate or categorize a message. A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a “#” (i.e. #News #Gospel #Love). Social networks use hashtags to categorize information and make it easily searchable for users.
Instant Messaging Instant messaging (IM) is a form of real-time, direct text-based communication between two or more people. More advanced instant messaging software clients also allow enhanced modes of communication, such as live voice or video calling.
Like A Like is an action that can be made by a Facebook or Instagram user. Instead of writing a comment or sharing a post, a user can click the Like button as a quick way to show approval.
Meme A meme on the internet is used to describe a thought, idea, joke, or concept that’s widely shared online. It is typically an image with text above and below it, but can also come in video and link form.
Mention A mention is a Twitter term used to describe an instance in which a user includes someone else’s @username in their tweet to attribute a piece of content or start a discussion.
News Feed A news feed is literally a feed full of news. On Facebook, the News Feed is the homepage of users’ accounts where they can see all the latest updates from their friends. The news feed on Twitter is called Timeline.
Reply A reply is a Twitter action that allows a user to respond to a tweet through a separate tweet that begins with the other user’s @username. This differs from a mention, because tweets that start with an @username only appears in the timelines of users who follow both parties.
Retweet A retweet is when someone on Twitter sees your message and decides to re-share it with his or her followers. A retweet button allows them to quickly resend the message with attribution to the original sharer’s name.
Tag Tagging is a social media functionality commonly used on Facebook and Instagram that allows users to create a link back to the profile of the person shown in the picture or targeted by the update.
Troll A troll or internet troll refers to a person who is known for creating controversy in an online setting. They typically hang out in forums, comment sections, and chat rooms with the intent of disrupting the conversation on a piece of content by providing commentary that aims to evoke a reaction.
Viral Viral is a term used to describe a content that spreads far and wide in so short a time.

Appendix II: Partial List of Web / News / Blog sites in the Philippines with fake or unverified content

Back to CBCP Pastoral Guidelines on the Use of Social Media

(Note: Some contents of these sites have been fed to social media carrying fake or unverified contents.   The pages in social media that are maintained by trolls and bots are not included in this list. They are too many and too variable to be listed.)

Pinoy Trending http://pinoytrending.altervista.org/
Pinoy Trending News http://pinoytrendingnews.net/
Public Trending http://www.publictrending.net/
FilipiNews PH http://www.filipinewsph.com/
Trending News Portal http://www.trendingnewsportal.net.ph/
Classified trends http://www.classifiedtrends.net/
Definitely Filipino http://definitelyfilipino.com/
Duterte News Info http://www.du30newsinfo.com/
Extreme Readers http://www.extremereaders.com/
Get Real Philippines http://www.getrealphilippines.com/
Guard1an https://theguard1an.com/
Kalye Pinoy http://www.kalyepinoy.com/
Leak News PH http://www.leaknewsph.com/
Media ni Duterte http://www.dutertedefender.com/
Minda Nation http://mindanation.com/
Netizens PH http://www.netizensph.com/
News Media PH http://www.newsmediaph.com/
News Titans http://www.newstitans.com/
OKD2 http://okd2.com/
Pinoy Freedom Wall http://www.pinoyfreedomwall.com/
Pinoy Viral Issues http://www.pinoyviralissues.net/
Pinoy Viral News http://pinoyviralnews.com/
PinoyWorld http://www.pinoyworld.net/
SocialNewsPH http://www.socialnewsph.com/
TahoNews http://www.tahonews.com/
TheVolatilian http://www.thevolatilian.com/
Thinking Pinoy http://www.thinkingpinoy.net/
TrendingBalita http://www.trendingbalita.info/
TrendTitan http://trendtitan.com/

Pope’s Address to Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between Catholic Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches

‘Just as in the early Church the blood of the martyrs was the seed of new Christians, so in our own day may the blood of so many martyrs be a seed of unity between believers, a sign and instrument of a future of communion and peace’

JANUARY 27, 2017  ZENIT STAFF  POPE AND HOLY SEE

Below is the Vatican-provided translation of Pope Francis’s address to the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Meeting in the Vatican this week, the group includes representatives of the six ancient Churches of the East:

Dear Brothers in Christ,

In offering you a joyful welcome, I thank you for your presence and for the kind words that Metropolitan Bishop addressed to me on your behalf.  Through you, I send cordial greetings to the Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, my venerable brothers.

I am grateful for the work of your Commission, which began in 2003 and is now holding its fourteenth meeting.  Last year you began an examination of the nature of the sacraments, especially baptism.  It is precisely in baptism that we rediscovered the basis of communion between Christians.  As Catholics and Oriental Orthodox, we can repeat the words of the Apostle Paul: “For in the one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13).  In the course of this week, you have further reflected on historical, theological and ecclesiological aspects of the Holy Eucharist, “the source and summit of the whole Christian life”, which admirably expresses and brings about the unity of God’s people (Lumen Gentium, 11).  I encourage you to persevere in your efforts and I trust that your work may point out helpful ways to advance on our journey.  It will thus facilitate the path towards that greatly desired day when we will have the grace of celebrating the Lord’s Sacrifice at the same altar, as a sign of fully restored ecclesial communion.   Continue reading

CBCP Pastoral Letter on Amending the Constitution

Dear Catholic Faithful

We write this pastoral letter to you with an eye to our celebration of the 500th year of the coming of Christianity to our shores. By 2021 the Christian faith shall have arrived in our shores for half a millennium already. For a long time we have been the only Asian country with a Christian majority. And even today we can thankfully say that we are the Asian country with the biggest Christian population. As we prepare for this great milestone in our history, it is but right that we examine how deeply we have lived up to our Christian name.

During the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress held in Manila in 1937, our faith was described in the official hymn of the Congress in this way:

La fe de Filipinas
Es como el sol ardiente,
Como la roca firme
Inmensa como el mar.
iniquidad no puede
Ser de estas islas duena.
The faith of the Philippines
Is like the blazing sun,
Is strong as a rock,
Immense like the sea.
La Iniquity cannot lord
It over these islands.

More recently, we your bishops discerned that the top pastoral priority for the Church in the Philippines is integral faith formation. (cf. “Behold I Make All Things New”, 2001). While acknowledging that the faith of our people is simple and strong, we nevertheless lamented the ignorance of our people regarding the truths of our faith, and the lack of coherence between the faith we profess and our personal and societal lives. (cf. Live Christ, Share Christ, 2012). We also expressed our considered opinion that the way politics as it was presently practiced in our country is perhaps the single greatest obstacle to our integral development as a nation. (cf. Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics, 1997) But the corruption of our politics cannot be isolated from corruption in our economic life, in our culture, and in the practice of our religion itself.

The bitter fruit of all these is widespread poverty, violence and a cultural degeneration whose end result is the absence of genuine peace.

No wonder people have been longing and clamoring for change. We are today indeed experiencing change, but it is highly questionable whether this change is for the better or for the worse.

One of the major steps proposed to bring about change for the better is the amendment of our 1987 Constitution. This is a major step which poses a challenge to every Filipino citizen, and hence, to every Filipino Catholic.

We write to you not to endorse or disapprove moves to amend the 1987 Constitution but to offer pastoral guidance whatever decision may be taken on this matter.

Our Lord Jesus Christ called his followers the “salt of the earth and the light of the world.” (Mt. 5:13-14). He made it clear that his disciples should not abandon the world to its own devices. While they did not belong to the world, and should not conform themselves to this age (Roman 12:2), the followers of Christ were being sent into the world to penetrate it with the values of the Gospel, so that the Kingdom of God might come to the world and transform it. The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (1991) set as one of the purposes of the new evangelization the transformation of society in which all Catholics are called to be involved. Every Christian is commissioned by the Lord Jesus not only to profess the Christian faith but to make it bear on our world which needs sorely he light of Christ. Every Catholic and all of us together, are called to bear witness to Christ by our lives, our words and by our actions which reflect and convey the love and mercy of Christ, the face of the Father’s mercy. The Second Vatican Council has gone to the extent of warning: “The Christian who neglects his temporal duties neglects his duties towards his neighbor and even God and jeopardizes his eternal salvation” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, no. 43).

Hence we call on you, to participate in the political processes of our country, and today, especially in the process of amending our 1987 Constitution. The process of amending the Constitution should not be left to politicians or to those who either by election or appointment will be tasked to draft the amendments. For the Constitution is not only a piece of paper, even though some who would disregard its provisions may claim that it is only that. The Constitution is the single most important document of our country. The Filipino people are the author of this document. Those who are tasked to draft it or to amend it are not its authors but the instruments of the sovereign Filipino people. It becomes the Constitution or a valid amendment only upon approval by the people.

But while the people’s aproval of the Constitution or amendments thereof is our final act of owning it, we must be vigilant and watch over, and even suggest ideas and formulations that enter into the Constitution. We have to make sure that the resulting document embodies “our rights, our ideals, our aspirations, and our dreams” (Commissioner Jose Nolledo).

We want to tell you that the CBCP supported the ratification of the 1987 Constitution, while acknowledging its imperfections. The bishops collectively said then, “We have come to the conclusion that the provisions of the new draft Constitution are consistent with the teaching of the Gospel.” They added, “We believe that this new Constitution will provide firm basis for governance, a clear direction for national renewal and development, and a covenant towards peace.” (Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal, CBCP President, A Covenant Towards Peace: A Pastoral Letter on the Ratification of the 1986 Constitution of the Philippines, November 21, 1986).

We urge you to get involved in the process of amending the Constitution so that all its provisions will be consistent with the Gospel, and the gains of the 1987 Constitution will be preserved and enhanced, instead of being removed.  Continue reading

Statement of Grave Concern

By the Christian Family Movement of the Philippines
On Critical Issues Affecting Family and Life in the Philippines

 

The Officers and Members of the Christian Family Movement of the Philippines, in observance of its 60th year anniversary, do hereby renew and reaffirm our commitment to the core values that have made the organization what it is today – a community of families and disciples of Christ dedicated to helping other families and communities build stronger and happier families and communities.

That these core values are rooted in the inviolability of life and the dignity of human person; that every person is created in the likeness and image of God; that by baptism every person is made a child of God; that as Christians we are all children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ.

That these core values are also rooted in the sanctity of marriage; that God instituted marriage as between man and woman; that this marriage is meant to be permanent and indissoluble; that its primary purpose is to beget children — to be a family.

That said, we hereby declare and proclaim our firm and continuing stand/position on the following critical issues affecting life and family:

  1. We are against the re-imposition of the death penalty under any and all circumstances. Human life is precious as it is God’s gift to mankind, and no person or institution has the right to take that life from any person. Studies have shown that the death penalty as a punishment for crime is not a reliable and effective deterrent to the commission of a crime, and most often the victims are the poor in our society.

Lest we be misunderstood because of our opposition to the death penalty, we make it of record that we are against illegal drugs and all kinds and forms of crime. After all, who does not want a safe and secure family home? And a society that is free of illegal drugs and crime? But offenders must be tried and punished in accordance with law and with due regard to their civil rights as citizens. Violence will beget more violence! We therefore say NO to Extra-judicial killings whether coming from the government or the vigilante groups. This must stop soon and now!

  1. We strongly oppose same sex unions. From the beginning, God has designed marriage between man and woman. While some of our brothers and sisters think otherwise and are thus advocating for same sex unions, we can only politely and with mercy and compassion say NO to them. Their rights as well as obligations can be adequately protected by existing laws without re-defining, and tampering with, the basic nature and character of marriage.
  2. We are against divorce and all its forms. It is not a solution to broken relationships. Legalizing divorce will only lead to further divorces and disintegration of the family. It will ultimately undermine the institutions of marriage and family. In the end society will suffer as the strength and stability of society depends on the existence of strong and stable families.
  3. We are against the use of contraceptives and other artificial means of birth control. The use of contraceptives cheapens and demeans the human person and reduces him/her to a mere commodity to be used and be used depending on the pleasures of the moment. It violates the sanctity of sex and the human person.
  4. We vehemently oppose the planned distribution of condoms in public schools. This is reckless and despicable as it gives a wrong signal to our youth; this will only promote promiscuity and will lead to further teenage pregnancies. As parents we want to preserve the innocence of our youth as the future leaders of our country.
  5. We oppose domestic violence against women and children in all its forms. Domestic violence is real and a growing threat to the family. One out of five families is reported to be a victim of domestic violence. It destroys marriages and families. Families must be taught the values of love, hope and charity in order to be like the Holy Family of Nazareth.
  6. Sex education must not be taught in schools to children under 13 years of age. This must be done by the parents who should be the first catechist to their children. Sex education is a sensitive subject and must not be left to the whims of school teachers who do not usually have, in mind and heart, the best interest of the child.
  7. We denounce in no uncertain terms human trafficking and the proliferation of cyber sex as it degrades human dignity and the sacredness of the human body being the temple of the Holy Spirit.

These are our core values and principles that we cherish and hold dear in our work of family evangelization. We shall continue to be guided and motivated by these values and principles as we look forward to the future by bringing our family and life programs to families and communities.

For the greater glory of God!

Given and adopted this 10th day of December, 2016, in Quezon City, Philippines.

ALADIN & LOURDES VILLACORTE
Secretary-Couple

Attested by:
JORGE & JOSEFINA SANTAMARIA
President-Couple

CBCP Statement on the Death Penalty

The Gospel of the Lord Jesus is the Gospel of Life.  It is this Gospel we must preach.  It is this Gospel that we must uphold.  We therefore unequivocally oppose proposals and moves to return the death penalty into the Philippine legal system.  We took a considerable stride in the defense of life when we repealed the Heinous Crimes Act that provided for the death penalty in what were considered “heinous crimes”.  We regret that there are strident efforts to restore the death penalty.  Though the crime be heinous, no person is ever beyond redemption, and we have no right ever giving up on any person.  When we condemn violence, we cannot ourselves be its perpetrators, and when we decry murder, we cannot ourselves participate in murder, no matter that it may be accompanied by the trappings of judicial and legal process.  Throughout the world, the trend against the death penalty is unmistakable, and international covenants, one of which the Philippines is party to, obligate us not to impose the death penalty.  We urge the government to champion life for all!

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President CBCP
January 30, 2017

CBCP Statement on Age of Criminal Liability

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines implores Congress of the Philippines to keep in tact the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, especially as regards the age of criminal liability.  We are therefore opposed to lowering the age of criminal liability.   The purpose of the law is laudable, its present provisions, beneficial.  The sins and failings of young and immaturity should not mar the possibilities of one’s future nor stand forever in the name of an honorable and noble reputation that well can, in later years, very well build.  The fact that criminal elements make use youngsters up to fifteen years old to commit crimes is no argument against the present benevolent provisions of the law, but about the resoluteness of criminals in using even the young for their purposes.  The correct response, we believe, is vigilance on the part of parents and stiffer penalties for those who exploit the young in the perpetration of crime.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President CBCP
January 30, 2017

A Rejoinder To President-Elect Duterte: Church As People Of God:

I AM A SINNER,” Pope Francis replied when asked if he would accept his election as pontiff, “But I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of Penance.”

In a separate conversation with Fr. Antonio Spadoro, SJ, published in the Jesuit magazine, America, the Pontiff again responded in no uncertain terms when asked point blank, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” “…I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon, and thus I felt my motto was very true for me: “Miserando atque eligiendo” (By having mercy and by choosing Him).

In this rejoinder to President-elect Duterte, I cite the words of Pope Francis to underline the fact that the Church considers itself as a deeply-flawed instrument in the hands of God who works wonders, and thus is able to heal the wounds of a hurting world that is deeply divided. Moreover, I write from the perspective of “pilgrim voices” – those of us engaged in an essentially unfinished journey.

“People of God” best captures the core of the Church articulated in the 2nd Vatican Council. Church does not refer to clergy alone, but to faithful and lay including those of us who may belong but do not in any official manner represent the Church. It is this modest voice which aspires to respond in the name of the nameless — “we, the people of God.”

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