CNS photo/Paul Haring

Editorial: Rebuild trust

  • September 28, 2022

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops got a hot scolding last week from the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec for what the FPJQ called a “deplorable” decision to bar journalists from this week’s plenary meetings.

In a tartly worded communique unleashed Sept. 23, the body that speaks for journalists in la belle province fingered the refusal to allow reporters to monitor the annual gathering as part of an increasing CCCB tendency to shun news hounds and conduct ecclesial business behind closed doors.

The bishops show no sign of seeking media absolution in response. Nor has a lay Catholic outcry swept across the Prairies and down into the wind-battered Maritimes to the effect of: “Stop the presses, the press is upset; fire up the truck, Martha, we got us another protest convoy!”

Reason suggests it’s ink-stained wretches and their digitized counterparts who are protesting too much. The bishops are entirely entitled to hold their conclave privately in their usual gathering place of Cornwall or overhead in a balloon if that is their whim.

Their freedom to indulge that wish does not obviate asking in good faith whether such in camera jawboning presents the best image for Church leaders. Given the highly public issues we face such as, oh, Pope Francis’ penitential accusation that Canadian Catholics are culpable in the genocide of Indigenous peoples, a little bit of Q and A might show off the transparency our prelates offer up as their trademark. Ultimately, though, that’s a strategic choice for CCCB members to make in the wisdom of their hearts.

The compelling question is “why” they wish to hide their potential for enlightenment under a bushel basket. Easily dismissed are guesses that a) they consider journalists collectively a basket of deplorables, or b) they experience uneasy intimidation in front a room of full of notebook clutchers and microphone toters. These are men whose lives are dedicated to preaching the Good News of loving one’s neighbour in an increasingly hostile world. They’re also soul survivors in the combat art of speaking above the sound of crying babies. A fella or gal wielding a pencil stub or voice recorder and asking cheeky questions couldn’t possibly faze them.

The more serious possibility is of a fundamental breakdown in trust between Catholic clergy and the toilers in the newsfeed vineyard. Such would mean these men of God have lost all faith that their words will be transmitted fairly and accurately or, worse, that they will be trapped just as His most pernicious interrogators sought to trap Our Lord.

If so, the onus falls on journalists, and especially Catholic journalists, to initiate the rebuilding. As the Cross is the sure sign of Christ, so a sign of untrustworthiness for journalists is when people stop speaking to them. The current omnipresent lack of faith in media generally shows how deplorable that can be for everyone.

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