Macquarie University
01whole.pdf (4.92 MB)

Authority disrupted: the Catholic Church in the age of social media

Download (4.92 MB)
posted on 2023-12-08, 01:41 authored by Ann Hine

This research investigates the ways that people using online and social media disrupt the Roman Catholic Church (Church) exercising universal moral authority in the globalised world. In discrete case studies, I analyse through a media ecology framework an historical cache of Church-related media in visual, spoken and written form. This analysis reveals why access to emergent technologies remains a critical component in retaining power and the capacity to exercise universal moral authority. It shows how for centuries, the Church accessed technologies which enabled it to effectively mediate Church teachings through a hierarchical, centralised, one-way communication process to its publics across the world. It discusses the 16th century disruption to Church authority when Martin Luther accessed emergent printing press technology to publicly challenge Church teachings, triggering the Protestant Reformation. This research demonstrates why the internet poses an even greater, ongoing disruption to Church authority than the printing press. Open access to internet technolog has enabled a democratisation of communication, dramatically shifting the power and authority levels between the Church and its publics. Communication has become two-way with the Church's publics now able to speak back to and about the Church. The case studies reveal how online and social media affordances enable a now global audience to increase exposure, transparency, identification and response capacity relating to systemic moral issues within the universal Church. Case studies also reveal further disruption to the Church exercising moral authority as some Church publics now access alternative sources of religion online and use social media platforms to engage in various rituals previously overseen by the Church. The dissertation concludes with ideas for future research. These include investigating how the two-way communication process with access to a global audience influences other aspects of authority in the globalised world including the role of civil laws within specific jurisdictions.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction and literature review -- Chapter 2. Authority -- Chapter 3. Visuality -- Chapter 4. Technology -- Chapter 5. The Church and sex -- Chapter 6. Discussion and conclusions -- References

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Doctor of Philosophy

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Catharine Lumby


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




388 pages

Usage metrics

    Macquarie University Theses


    Ref. manager