Quick Lessons from Catechism: The Use of Social Communications Media

In recent days, with the State of the Union (which could be used for those suffering from insomnia) and the GOP Presidential Debate last night, I realized how biased the mainstream media is towards pushing their own agenda. As one who leans right, I am glad there are media outlets that I can turn towards that will give me a somewhat more objective approach to reporting, however these outlets are far perfect as well. Nowadays I often turn more towards Catholic media outlets for my news since they provide for me what Catechism of the Catholic Church Paragraph 2494 professes the media should do.

Unfortunately, there are a few “catholic” media outlets that are just as bad as the New York Times, however media outlets like Catholic News Agency, Zenit, Catholic Vote, National Catholic Register, and Catholic World Report are doing what the Catechism suggests when it comes to journalism. If wasn’t for these media sources and others like them, we might be at loss when it comes to receiving sound journalism for the benefit of the common good.

With this being said, let’s quickly take a look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says when it comes to the use of social communications media. The bolded words and phrases are mine because they stood out to me as something we don’t see in the mainstream media that often –

Within modern society the communications media play a major role in information, cultural promotion, and formation. This role is increasing, as a result of technological progress, the extent and diversity of the news transmitted, and the influence exercised on public opinion. [#2493]

The information provided by the media is at the service of the common good. Society has a right to information based on truth, freedom, justice, and solidarity:

The proper exercise of this right demands that the content of the communication be true and – within the limits set by justice and charity – complete. Further, it should be communicated honestly and properly. This means that in the gathering and in the publication of news, the moral law and the legitimate rights and dignity of man should be upheld. [#2494]

“It is necessary that all members of society meet the demands of justice and charity in this domain. They should help, through the means of social communication, in the formation and diffusion of sound public opinion.” Solidarity is a consequence of genuine and right communication and the free circulation of ideas that further knowledge and respect for others. [#2495]

The means of social communication (especially the mass media) can give rise to a certain passivity among users, making them less than vigilant consumers of what is said or shown. Users should practice moderation and discipline in their approach to the mass media. They will want to form enlightened and correct consciences the more easily to resist unwholesome influences. [#2496]

By the very nature of their profession, journalists have an obligation to serve the truth and not offend against charity in disseminating information. They should strive to respect, with equal care, the nature of the facts and the limits of critical judgment concerning individuals. They should not stoop to defamation. [#2497]

Civil authorities have particular responsibilities in this field because of the common good. . . . It is for the civil authority . . . to defend and safeguard a true and just freedom of information.” By promulgating laws and overseeing their application, public authorities should ensure that “public morality and social progress are not gravely endangered” through misuse of the media. Civil authorities should punish any violation of the rights of individuals to their reputation and privacy. They should give timely and reliable reports concerning the general good or respond to the well-founded concerns of the people. Nothing can justify recourse to disinformation for manipulating public opinion through the media. Interventions by public authority should avoid injuring the freedom of individuals or groups. [#2498]

Moral judgment must condemn the plague of totalitarian states which systematically falsify the truth, exercise political control of opinion through the media, manipulate defendants and witnesses at public trials, and imagine that they secure their tyranny by strangling and repressing everything they consider “thought crimes.” [#2499]

For more information regarding this topic, I would suggest you read my blog post titled, The 50th Anniversary of Inter Mirifica. This is the Second Vatican Council document on social communication. In my blog post you will find the link to the document itself. If you have never read it, I would encourage you to read it as well. It’s very short!

St. Francis de Sales, Patron of the Media (Journalists)…Pray for Us.

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