Digital nun blasts Vatican over instructions for nuns to use social media with 'sobriety'

A nun who is renowned on social media has expressed her 'despair and frustration' after Pope Francis issued stern instructions telling nuns to use social media apps 'with sobriety and discretion'.

The pope made the comments in a document, titled Cor Orans, which clarifies rules governing monastic life that were issued in 2016.

The document mentions 'social communications' rather than specific apps, but The Tablet reported that this referred to Facebook and Twitter among other platforms.


It says that discretion should apply to 'the quantity of the information and the type of communication', as well as to the actual content of the media.

Responding to the document, Sr Catherine Wybourne, known on Twitter as 'Digital Nun', wrote on her blog: 'Of course I agree with the need for discretion, but having been using social media for about ten years – probably longer than many of the clergy and others who felt it necessary to give nuns guidance on the matter – my main reaction is a mixture of despair and irritation.'

The nun, who has 20,000 followers on Twitter, added: 'Despair, because yet again the Vatican shows itself to be out of touch with the reality of women's (ie not just nuns') lives, and in seeking to control is in danger of losing whatever moral authority it still commands; irritation, because with all the world's problems, to devote time and energy to something that I think most nuns have already thought and prayed about sufficiently to have arrived at a sensible decision regarding its appropriate use, is embarrassing.

'It hurts to say I am embarrassed by the Church to which I belong and her heavy-handed approach to facets of modern life that she should be embracing, not condemning or viewing with suspicion.'


The instructions come after an order of nuns in northern Spain made headlines last month over comments on Facebook regarding a controversial case in Pamplona that saw a group of men accused of gang rape given what many regarded to be unduly lenient sentences.

Writing on their Facebook page in Spanish, the Carmelite Nuns of Hondarribia defended the victim by pointing out that while they had made a free choice to live in a convent, not to drink alcohol or go out at night, she, too, was free to make her choices.

'Because it is a FREE decision, we will defend with all means available to us (and this is one) the right of all women to FREELY do the opposite without being judged, raped, intimidated or humiliated for it,' they wrote.

However, the latest guidance is not believed to have come about as a result of that case.

The BBC explained that the original constitution on feminine monastic life, Sponsa Christi Ecclesia, was published in 1950 by Pope Pius XII, but Pope Francis expanded the document in 2016 to warn against digital culture's 'decisive influence' on society.

The current pope urged nuns not to let digital media 'become occasions for wasting time'.