Communications prof using social media to disseminate the catechism
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/09/2018 (1449 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Deep into revisions on a book about the public image of Irish rock band U2, media studies professor Nicholas Greco decided to work with a few more — and fewer — characters as well.
Since mid-July, Greco has been posting an unofficial, condensed version of the catechism of the Catholic Church on Twitter and a corresponding Facebook page.
“I’m hoping I will be authentic with what I’m doing,” says the St. Pierre resident, now gearing up for his 11th year of teaching media and communications at Providence University College in Otterburne.
“I’m trying to make (the catechism) accessible to people who don’t have that kind of time.”
Greco refers to the 1994 print edition of the catechism, which runs to 581 pages, with a lengthy prologue and four chapters, each divided into articles and then subdivided into paragraphs.
The entire catechism has 2,865 paragraphs and Greco plans to tweet out a shortened version of each one.
An electronic version on the Vatican website contains recent updates, including the revision to paragraph 2,276 regarding capital punishment. On Aug. 2, that paragraph was amended to declare the death penalty inappropriate in every circumstance.
So far, Greco’s tweets mostly fall within the original Twitter limitation of 140 characters, including spaces and punctuation, translating into a couple of sentences. The social media platform increased the maximum space to 280 characters last year, but Greco hopes to keep his tweets shorter.
“It forces you to think about what you’re saying, to try to be as accurate as you can and concise as you can,” Greco says about this theological social media writing project, which he fits into small pockets between writing and teaching duties.
Now at about 100 tweets, Greco realizes the exercise — and even discipline — of tweeting out three bite-sized chunks of the catechism daily could take about 2½ years.
“As a Christian, as a Christian university professor, as a media studies professor, part of this is a social media experiment,” says Greco, 44, who intends to turn the project into a book if he continues to the end of the 2,865 paragraphs.
His upcoming book on U2, titled The Rosary and the Microphone: Religious Impulse in U2’s Mediated Brand, examines the human rights and poverty-reduction work of the band.
Greco’s social media experiments follow the popular format of The Twible, a collection of funny and ironic tweets about every chapter of the Bible by American religion writer Jana Riess.
Originally posted on Riess’s Twitter account and Facebook page over three years beginning in 2009, all 1,189 tweets were published in a book she describes as a humorous commentary on the Christian sacred scripture.
“I’m not trying to reproduce the Bible — I’m trying to make it funny and accessible and a little unexpected,” she says about the project in a 2010 article on patheos.com.
Greco says he’s not trying to be funny, but to be more intentional about a religious tradition he recently took on as his own. Raised Pentecostal and married to a Roman Catholic, he joined the Catholic Church in 2016 after years of attending services in both traditions.
In the process, he studied a small part of the catechism and became intrigued to discover how involved it is, explaining in detail the creeds, sacraments and Christian theology developed by church leaders over the centuries.
As a compendium of Catholic teaching and beliefs, the catechism is more reference book than textbook, says Rev. Darrin Gurr of St. Gianna Beretta Molla Roman Catholic Church in southwest Winnipeg, which Greco attends.
“The catechism is a guiding document to help us ensure there’s a place where what we believe is clearly articulated,” Gurr says.
Just two months into the project, Greco only has a modest group of followers, but he plans to continue whether or not he gains a larger audience.
“Twitter is a big place if you want people to find you… and it moves so quickly,” he says of what he’s learned about the social media platform.
And he’s learned even more about Catholic theology, and about the tradition he recently took on for himself.
“You’re trying to distil it because you’re thinking about every single thing you’re reading and the basis of your faith.”