Cyber-religion: VATICAN CITY (AP)

Gessler, Nicholas (gessler@ANTHRO.SSCNET.UCLA.EDU)
Wed, 14 Dec 1994 08:59:00 PST

>VATICAN CITY (AP) -- In a joint press conference in St. Peter's Square
>this morning, MICROSOFT Corp. and the Vatican announced that the
>Redmond software giant will acquire the Roman Catholic Church in
>exchange for an unspecified number of shares of MICROSOFT common stock.
>If the deal goes through, it will be the first time a computer software
>company has acquired a major world religion.
>With the acquisition, Pope John Paul II will become the senior
>vice-president of the combined company's new Religious SoftwarDivision, while
>MICROSOFT senior vice-presidents Michael Maples and
>Steven Ballmer will be invested in the College of Cardinals, said
>MICROSOFT Chairman Bill Gates.
>"We expect a lot of growth in the religious market in the next five to
>ten years," said Gates. "The combined resources of MICROSOFT and the
>Catholic Church will allow us to make religion easier and more fun for
>a broader range of people."
>Through the MICROSOFT Network, the company's new on-line service, "we
>will make the sacraments available on-line for the first time" and
>revive the popular pre-Counter-Reformation practice of selling
>indulgences, said Gates. "You can get Communion, confess your sins,
>receive absolution -- even reduce your time in Purgatory -- all without
>leaving your home."
>A new software application, MICROSOFT Church, will include a macro
>language which you can program to download heavenly graces
>automatically while you are away from your computer.
>An estimated 17,000 people attended the announcement in St Peter's
>Square, watching on a 60-foot screen as comedian Don Novello -- in
>character as Father Guido Sarducci -- hosted the event, which was
>broadcast by satellite to 700 sites worldwide.
>Pope John Paul II said little during the announcement. When Novello
>chided Gates, "Now I guess you get to wear one of these pointy hats,"
>the crowd roared, but the pontiff's smile seemed strained.
>The deal grants MICROSOFT exclusive electronic rights to the Bible and
>the Vatican's prized art collection, which includes works by such
>masters as Michelangelo and Da Vinci. But critics say MICROSOFT will
>face stiff challenges if it attempts to limit competitors' access to
>these key intellectual properties.
>"The Jewish people invented the look and feel of the holy scriptures,"
>said Rabbi David Gottschalk of Philadelphia. "You take the parting of
>the Red Sea -- we had that thousands of years before the Catholics came
>on the scene."
>But others argue that the Catholic and Jewish faiths both draw on a
>common Abrahamic heritage. "The Catholic Church has just been more
>successful in marketing it to a larger audience," notes Notre Dame
>theologian Father Kenneth Madigan. Over the last 2,000 years, the
>Catholic Church's market share has increased dramatically, while
>Judaism, which was the first to offer many of the concepts now touted
>by Christianity, lags behind.
>Historically, the Church has a reputation as an aggressive competitor,
>leading crusades to pressure people to upgrade to Catholicism, and
>entering into exclusive licensing arrangements in various kingdoms
>whereby all subjects were instilled with Catholicism, whether or not
>they planned to use it. Today Christianity is available from several
>denominations, but the Catholic version is still the most widely used.
>The Church's mission is to reach "the four corners of the earth,"
>echoing MICROSOFT's vision of "a computer on every desktop and in every
>Gates described MICROSOFT's long-term strategy to develop a scalable
>religious architecture that will support all religions through
>emulation. A single core religion will be offered with a choice of
>interfaces according to the religion desired -- "One religion, a couple
>of different implementations," said Gates.
>The MICROSOFT move could spark a wave of mergers and acquisitions,
>according to Herb Peters, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Baptist
>Conference, as other churches scramble to strengthen their position in
>the increasingly competitive religious market.
I don't know who wrote this, but I thought it was appropriate for the season!

Nick Gessler
UCLA - Anthropology