Seeking truth

  • June 10, 2010

What is the role of Catholic media in modern society?

Several hundred journalists from across North America were invited to ponder that question during the  Catholic Press Association annual conference, held recently in New Orleans.  

These have been difficult days for the Church and challenging days for Catholic media. Not only has the news been filled with stories of clerical sexual abuse and alleged Church coverups, but the technology-challenged Church hierarchy has often stumbled in offering a timely defence or authoritative explanation of Church positions.

Instant communication in a digital age has put pressure on traditional media such as newspapers and television to rethink how they conduct business. The result is often a softening of fundamental values  as the old media strains to keep pace with the new, a manic technological beast of web sites, blogs and various social media tools that, collectively, disseminate information instantly but not always accurately.

For the Catholic media, the challenge is, in some respects, even greater. In addition to maintaining time-honoured journalistic standards of accuracy, balance and fairness, we are called to be faithful to the Church and, as Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton told the conference, to engage in the mission of evangelization. So when the secular media reveals wrongdoing by clergy and attacks the Church, how should Catholic media respond?

The policy at The Catholic Register has always been to report the news, warts and all, but report it from a perspective that is true to Catholic teaching and gives voice to Church leaders. A belief in seeking truth is fundamental to who we are and what we do. But where the mainstream press has trended towards cynicism and hostility, we must strive for charity and civility, which, admittedly, is not always easy.

Our calling is not to be unquestioning apologists for the Church and its bishops. We agree with Los Angeles Bishop Gabino Zavala who told the conference that Catholic media needn’t feel obligated to automatically defend the Church “at all costs” because that approach is “too simplistic and does not reflect the intelligence of Catholics.”

“They deserve a Catholic media that takes a more nuanced perspective,” he said.

We recognize that, within the Church, there are varying views and opinions and believe that civil, reasoned, faith-based debate is healthy. Bishop Thomas Doran of Illinois quipped that “if you get three bishops in a room they often can’t agree on the colour of an orange.” But most will agree it’s not black or white, and neither are most issues. We encourage respectful discourse.

Religion is constantly in the news. But stories in the mainstream media often abound with stereotyping and misinformation. Catholic readers deserve honest, comprehensive, faith-based coverage of the important news and issues that affect their lives.

That is the role of Catholic media.

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