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Archbishop condemns Facebook, email, footballers

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The leader of England and Wales' Roman Catholics took aim at social networking, rampant individualism and overpaid footballers this weekend.

Vincent Nichols, the recently installed Archbishop of Westminster, told the Sunday Telegraph that social networks, along with mobile phones and texting, were in danger of "dehumanising" community life in this country.

He said the growth of texting, emailing and other forms of electronic communication, "means that as a society we're losing some of the ability to build interpersonal communication that's necessary for living together and building a community.

"We're losing social skills, the human interaction skills, how to read a person's mood, to read their body language, how to be patient until the moment is right to make or press a point."

Nichols warned that young people could mistake legions of Facebook friends for real friendships, with potentially devastating consequences: "Among young people often a key factor in them committing suicide is the trauma of transient relationships... They throw themselves into a friendship or network of friendships, then it collapses and they're desolate."

Nichols also took a sweep at that other example of rampant individuality-cum-substitute for community/religion, the Premier League. He expressed concern over the way inflated salaries for mercenary players undermine the bonds of loyalty, that used to hold clubs and communities together.

"What football spectators appreciate is a bit of loyalty and we're seeing that less and less," said the Liverpool-supporting Archbishop.

"There are echelons of football, as in society, where some players are clearly mercenaries."

"I regret in a way that somehow the local identification, the local bonding between the community and its football team has been commercialised to such an extent."

Like so many things about Catholicism, Nichols' comments are both echoed and contradicted by other wings of the Church of Rome.

Back in May, Father Fredrico Lombardi, SJ, the Vatican's head of communications, marked the Church's upcoming Communications Day with a speech extolling the internet as a force for unity, and for reaching out to the poor and marginalised as well as the wealthy world. The Vatican has its own YouTube channel.

But, at the same time, The Vatican has quashed the idea of confession by web or by phone. ®

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