The Pope recently recommended that priests in the Catholic Church start blogging and using social media to connect with congregants. Unless the Vatican is also re-thinking its entire stance on transparency – this is a bad idea.
An institution like the Vatican, legendary for how secretive its operations are, is poorly-positioned for social media which demands transparency. Here are just some of the myriad problems they’re going to run into:
- Accidental Releases: Invariably when large numbers of people in an organization begin to use social media, the walls of the organization become much more porous. This will shine light on things that could be controversial, from political stances to divisions within the church.
- Handling Dissent: the free-wheeling web demands that dissent be heard and these blogs/social media presences will be magnets for honest dissenters and trolls alike. It’s challenging enough to respond to these people when your life is an open book, and it would be downright impossible if there are subjects one can’t broach.
- Tracking: there are already social media apps that track behavior and make it public – one could easily imagine it coming out that such tools uncover some church leaders paying a little too much attention to photographs of some members of their congregation. (Perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing).
My advice to any member of the clergy who intends to take the Pope up on his request: get a copy of Radically Transparent by Andy Beal and Judy Strauss and read it cover-to-cover before you get started.