BROOKE GLADSTONE: Whether the door to democracy or merely the purveyor of crass materialism, pornography and spam, the internet certainly is a mysterious place, and many of us have invoked God in one way or the other to help guide our way through it. Now the Catholic Church is pondering the idea of a Patron Saint of the Internet, and joining us now to discuss this is Monsignor James P. Moroney, an expert on prayer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Welcome to the show!
JAMES P. MORONEY: Delighted to be here today!
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Good! [LAUGHS] Now so far our Vatican sources tell us that the Pope is keeping mum, but thousands of Catholics are casting their votes for likely candidates -- naturally via the internet. Are you pleased with this response?
JAMES P. MORONEY: You obviously have very highly-placed Vatican sources [LAUGHTER] who are giving you the information. And indeed I think I'm always pleased, as every Christian is pleased, whenever we seek the intercession of the saints. That's really what we're talking about when we talk about patron saints; we're talking about people who are our friends in the kingdom of heaven who can pray for us and who can guide us by their example. So the internet is certainly in need of prayers as much as any means of communication has been throughout the ages.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So if you were a bettin' man -- and I'll assume you're not-- [LAUGHTER] which saint would you put your money on?
JAMES P. MORONEY:Well, I don't know whether I would put my money on a particular saint, but I think the internet has pretty well voted. One of the finalists, if you will, in this Northern Italian poll from the web site that first gave discussion to this a few weeks ago is Saint Isidore of Seville, and in fact for many, many years there's been interest in Saint Isidore as a, as a model for those who surf the internet. And I'd say the major reason is because he was an extraordinary influence back in the 6th Century which you will recall is right in the midst of the Dark Ages in Europe -- a time when learning was very, very threatened. And yet he, in this very transitional time, moving if you will from the ancient world into the first part of the Middle Ages, he was one of the foremost visionaries when it came to education and to spreading information. He issued one of the first encyclopedias. They call it The Etymologia -- 20 volumes of everything that everybody knew about everything in those days. Today the internet tries to do the same thing, but it takes a little more than 20 volumes. [LAUGHTER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Now Monsignor, I don't want to differ with you on fine points of theology here, but--
JAMES P. MORONEY: God forbid! [LAUGHS]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: -- I don't think that's the reason why Saint Isidore is the leading candidate. You want to know my theory?
JAMES P. MORONEY: What's your theory?
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Okay, well I've been reading up on him, and I read that the man in charge of Isidore's education was his brother who was a kind of spare-the-rod, spoil-the-child sort of teacher. [LAUGHTER] Isidore ran away. He was frustrated with his own rate of learning, not to mention the abuse he was taking, and somewhere along the way he acquired a degree of patience that was truly worthy of a saint.
JAMES P. MORONEY: Well I think anyone of us who have been - threatened to throw the computer out of the window when we can't quite get to the site that we're looking for would quite agree that patience is important.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: My point exactly. When do you think the Pope will rule on this issue -- and how?
JAMES P. MORONEY:I think the Holy Father will listen to what people have to say, but realize it's not so much of a horse race in which only one person wins! Indeed there can be many patrons of the internet just as there are many patrons of various churches or various guilds or various occupations. So I would suggest that everybody picks their own patron -- as long as they pray to them and they look to them for good example that the internet might be a means for us to disseminate truth and to act in charity.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Monsignor, is there a prayer for the internet?
JAMES P. MORONEY:There are many prayers for the internet. But-- perhaps as you suggested before, any prayer for patience is probably adequate for the internet.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well thank you very much for joining us today.
JAMES P. MORONEY: Thank you. God bless you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Monsignor James P. Moroney is an expert on prayer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. [MUSIC]