It is with good reason that many have voiced concerns about the morally offensive material so easily accessible on the Internet. The ease with which children can access this material is a particularly serious aspect of the problem, although its availability to adults is also a matter of grave moral concern. Those making efforts toward solutions to these problems deserve praise and support.
But there is another dimension to this situation which should not escape our notice.
It is just as easy for people who have a wholesome message to put that message onto the Internet as it is for those who have a pornographic message. When we speak of the Internet, we are not dealing with the kind of hurdles or financial restrictions that get in the way of putting a program on network television. For very minimal costs, any individual or group can establish a web site…and it can be as large as you want! Everyone is on equal footing. Many excellent Catholic, Christian, and pro-life websites are up and running right now.
Nor are they difficult to maintain. Priests for Life, for example, established its website three years ago, and I am able to add to it and maintain it right from my own desk. (The address is http://www.priestsforlife.org ).
Here's the point: If there is so much filth on the Internet, the question we need to ask is not simply What's the matter with them (those who post and use such material), but more fundamentally, What's the matter with us? Why are we not flooding the Internet with so much good material that the offensive material is, by comparison, a mere fraction?
It is not the Internet as such that is the problem. Like so many things in our world, the Internet is a gift from God which can be used to accomplish great good, or can be abused in the service of vice. There is an old Latin proverb, Abusus non tollit usum, which means that the abuse of something does not preclude its legitimate use. We can go a step further and say that the failure to adequately use a new tool for evangelization leaves the field open for others to use it to bad purposes.
I urge all Christians and people of good will to become more familiar with this vast new means of communication. So many values that are crucial to the Church can be promoted: closer human communication, including among family members that do not get to see one another; better appreciation of different cultures, now as close as the click of a button--and not only by text, but with music, audio, and video clips; advancement of human knowledge and research by easy access to source materials which would be much more difficult and time-consuming to find than they are now thanks to the search mechanisms available on the Internet.
Above all, of course, is the communication of the Gospel. The Eternal Word needs to go everywhere that human words can go. Let us not be afraid or hesitant to do precisely that with the Internet!