In an very expensive, and from my perspective, mistaken, move, the Vatican secured a top-level domain and will now have the ability and authority to dole out [dot]catholic sites to those they deem worthy and can pay for that privilege. The application alone was $185,000 and the yearly maintance is $25,000. Because they had to buy rights to control the domain name in the Chinese, Arabic, and Cyrillic alphabets, the initial cost was actually $740,000.
Spending nearly $1 million on a domain name aside, the purchase brings up a number of issues and questions for me:
1. The first, of course, being, who’s running this circus? Obviously not someone who understands that the mostly anarchic nature of the internet means that the purchase will likely not have the Vatican's desired effect of controling and maintaining the only "authentically Catholic" online presence.
2. For example, if USCatholic.org were able to become uscatholic.catholic (since we are affiliated with a canonically recognized organization, the Claretians, that’s a possibility), would that somehow give us more authority and authenticity over certain Catholic bloggers (who might otherwise have to settle for [dot]catholyc in a delicious dose of irony)? Probably not. And even if it did, for whom exactly would we have a more authoritative voice? Probably not those who (rightly) believe that the church is more than its hierarchy. In fact, any fair criticism of church officials would likely lose any saliency it might currently have.
3. Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications Msgr. Paul Tighe’s comments in the Catholic News Service story that “Controlling the top-level domain ‘will be a way to authenticate the Catholic presence online,’” and that “[t]he Vatican plans to allow ‘institutions and communities that have canonical recognitio’ to use the extension, ‘so people online–Catholics and non-Catholics–will know a site is authentically Catholic’” are quite telling, namely of a top-down ecclesiology that frankly doesn’t resonate with most American Catholics. Even the so-called traditional Catholics who buy into this understanding of the church should feel threatened that they will no longer be able to blog with an “authentically Catholic” voice according the Father Tighe’s communications strategy. Further, I find this move just step with concentrating power in the hands of those in Rome.
4. It’s somewhat amusing and, again, telling that no institution has requested [dot]Christian, [dot]orthodox, [dot]lutheran, or [dot]anglican.
5. I can understand the buying up of top-level domains for money making and branding opportunities, something I’m not so sure the church should be in the business of, particularly since the very term catholic isn't the Roman Catholic church's alone.