A Vatican magazine argues hackers of the Linux coding and hardware modification type are on a mission from God.
Father Antonio Spadaro, writing in the fortnightly magazine Civilta Cattolica, seeks to rehabilitate the term and divorce it from its more common association with cybercrime-related activities.
Spadaro quotes technology Eric S Raymond's definition that "hackers build things, crackers break them" in drawing parallels between hacker ethics and the teachings of Christianity. Tom Pittman, a member of California's Homebrew Computer Club and a practicing Christian, also earned a favourable mention.
The Jesuit priest seems particularly impressed by the application of intelligence and creativity to problem solving ingrained in hacker culture. He was also taken by the open sharing of information and the rejection of the profit motive, at least among a sub-set of hackers, TechWorld reports.
"Under fire are control, competition, property. It's a vision that is... of a clear theological origin," Spadaro, a fan of the work that went into the development of Wikipedia, writes.
Spadaro concludes by acknowledging that hackers with their innate rejection of authority and the Catholic Church, with its rigid hierarchical structure and a focus on "revealed truth" have more than a few philosophical differences to sort out.
The debate is further evidence that the Catholic Church is paying more attention to issues around the use of technology, particularly communications technology, after demonising or at best ignoring the web for many years. ®