Cardinal Tobin highlights technology as challenge to social justice


As Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark spoke from in front of his computer to virtual attendees at day two of the Catholic Campaign on Human Development 50th anniversary celebration Saturday, his office windows were closed to limit the outside noise. It was unusual for the 69-year-old prelate, who, in the spirit of St. John XXIII, prefers the windows of the church open.

“If I open them, you’re going to hear all sorts of stuff,” Tobin explained. “From boom boxes, to samba, salsa, maybe even the occasional fight, but the church needs that window open to listen.”

Invoking Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti, Tobin was making the point that listening to people from all walks of life is paramount for the church to help address the many “cracks and fissures” in our society” displayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tobin, alongside other panelists, spoke about those societal “cracks and fissures” that were brought to light over the past year, and what is most important to address going forward. In addition to listening, a renewal of human interaction and the future of employment were at the top of the list.

In both cases, he considers technology a present and future challenge.

Tobin acknowledged that technology has its perks in allowing people to connect when it otherwise wouldn’t be possible (for example, during a global pandemic), but said it’s still no replacement for in-person contact between people that he deems a “necessity.”

The cardinal also noted the fear that exists in his and other dioceses that “people will just get used to being liturgical couch potatoes and watch the Mass every Sunday on video.”

As for his concern about the future of employment, Tobin fears that technology, and artificial intelligence in particular, does more harm than good.

“The technology is taking away jobs and not creating them except for a very elite cohort in society and this is going to continue,” Tobin said.


(John Lavenburg | Crux – in