From the wayback machine: an article that originally appeared in 2005 on, written by Marco Fioretti, titled "Free software's surprising sympathy with Catholic doctrine."

"The technological configuration underlying the Internet has a considerable bearing on its ethical aspects. Use of the new information technology and the Internet needs to be informed and guided by a resolute commitment to the practice of solidarity in the service of the common good. The Internet requires international cooperation in setting standards and establishing mechanisms to promote and protect [that common good]. Individuals, groups, and nations must have access to these new technologies. Cyberspace ought to be a resource of comprehensive information and services available without charge to all, and in a wide range of languages. The winner in this process will be humanity as a whole and not just a wealthy elite that controls science, technology, and the planet's resources. Determined action in the private and public sectors is needed to close and eventually eliminate the digital divide."

The above statements sound as if they could have been written by Richard M. Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation (FSF). In fact, they come from the Vatican Report "Ethics in Internet" (EiI). The FSF position on the same issues is that society "needs information that is truly available to its citizens -- for example, programs that people can read, fix, adapt, and improve, not just operate."

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In his article, Mr. Fioretti makes many points about the relationship of sound Catholic doctrine and open source software development. He includes arguments supported by many official Church documents, including Populorum Progressio, Communio et Progressio, Laborem exercens, and The Church and the Internet.

A few interesting points made in the article:

  • The Catholic Church should not use proprietary file formats and computer protocols, since they can become a way to prevent access to information, restrict it or lock end users to any specific (maybe too expensive) software program.
  • The Catholic Church should work to allow open and free access to any and all information the faithful have a right to know, and doing so could involve (among other things):
    • Adopting the Free international standard OpenDocument for office documents in all Catholic institutions worldwide.
    • Avoiding proprietary file formats and protocols on Catholic Web sites and in official Church documents, and not accepting them in any official communication.
    • Making sure that all Catholic Web sites are certified as viewable with any browser.

What do you think? I've seem my fair share of Word documents, Publisher documents, and Microsoft lock-in in pretty much every corner of the Church I'm involved with... And it's also sad when I find software/websites break in non-Microsoft non-Internet Explorer environments.