Date of Award

Spring 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Jinsun Lee

Committee Member

Avi Santo

Committee Member

Yi-Fan Chen

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H85 P36 2011


This study examines what impact the Internet usage by church members has on religious authority, focusing on a case study of the Korean Catholic Church. The goals of this study are to investigate the ways in which church members use the Internet for communication in the Church, to examine whether and how the Internet usage by church members affects religious authority, and to identify what kind of religious authority is affected. This study encompasses two main parts: historical background of the Church's Internet usage and analysis of the online forums about "The Four Major Rivers Project". The latter is divided into three main areas: the construction of public opinion, forms of religious authority, and rearrangement of authority.

The findings of this study suggest that ordinary church members have utilized the Internet as a new way of getting, sharing, and even producing religious information and knowledge, as well as a space for discussion and debate on a variety of issues that is not limited to purely spiritual area. The expansion of cyber space for church member has made it possible for them to raise opinions critical of the Church organizations and leaders, which in the end brought about radical form of challenges to the existing religious authorities.

This study also found that while church members, at the initial stage of discussion, tended to rely on the Church organizations and leadership group in forming their opinions about an issue, they tended to accept or deny the traditional religious authorities in the Church on the basis on their own convictions and experiences. This study suggests that the most frequently referred form of religious authority was religious hierarchy, with religious ideology and text the least referred. This study also found that traditional religious authorities of Korean Catholic Church, through the online discussion, were challenged and eroded, and some part of authorities were dispersed among church members or new form of authorities was created by them.


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