Poor Persecuted Us

Taking the leap from confection to news coverage, dotCommonweal alerts us to the frustration of a senior prelate:

“We face an extremely grave problem. The church’s messages are subject to a type of manipulation and falsification by some western media,” (Cardinal Tarcisio) Bertone said in an interview with Le Figaro Magazine published in Paris on Saturday.

“I see a fixation by some journalists on moral topics, such as abortion and homosexual unions, which are certainly important issues but absolutely do not constitute the thinking and work of the church,” he said.

“Why this deafening silence?” he asked. “We have to say the press does not write much about the social and charity work of thousands of Catholic organisations around the world.”

Is it a “grave” problem? I can understand that it’s an annoying one. The media, however, do not exist today to give favorable coverage of events to any particular individual or group. Thanks to capitalism, news reporting is a profit-driven affair and the truth is that people will pay to learn about scandal, conflict, and soap operas.

I find the “fixation” statement incredible. The cardinal seems never to have been to America. If he had, he would have seen that issues of sexual or reproductive morality indeed constitute almost all of the public thinking of the Church’s hierarchy, at least since the late 1980’s. And even when the bishops turn their attention to liturgy, they get their fluffy slippers muddy with the question of a communicant-politician’s stance on abortion or homosexual unions.

It would be interesting to query people leading the way in the social and charity works done in Genova, Bertone’s archdiocese until recently. What would these leaders say about Bertone’s pastoral and PR emphases when he was archbishop?

Is this to say that bishops can’t or shouldn’t teach or publicize on sexual matters? Of course not. However, if a balance is desired, bishops should take a serious look at the quality of prudence and the expected outcomes of every significant public utterance. Meanwhile, I’m not too sympathetic with the good cardinal. The secular media does not exist to cater to our needs. I’d rather that Christian actions spoke more loudly, more clearly, and more unencumbered. We can devote resources to good public relations. Or we can let the chips fall where they may. But we can’t expect other people to do our jobs for us.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Poor Persecuted Us

  1. Gavin says:

    I saw something on Lou Dobbs last night where he claims “The Catholic Church is resorting to lies and trickery to boost illegal immigration.” It was just absolutely ridiculous (his reasoning was Mahoney supports illegal immigration, therefore the entire Church is in a secret cabal to ruin America). Still it was refreshing to hear a newsman mention the Church without talking about sex scandal, politicians (although the next segment was Pelosi) or condoms.

  2. Eric says:

    There are three parts to this problem:

    1. Some bishops do issue statements or make remarks about these issues way too much.

    2. The media only wants to cover statements by bishops on these subjects. Consider the last homily your bishop gave or his latest pastoral letter. Was it reported in the media? Now, if he had mentioned any of the issues the media cares about (abortion or anything having to do with sex) wouldn’t they have covered this prominently?

    3. The Vatican, in their desire to be cover all bases in every document, inadvertently (?) feed the monster. Consider the 130 pages of Sacramentum Caritatis, that mentioned a couple of the hot-button issues in passing with a few sentences. Should we be surprised that the media only reported those lines? One would think the Vatican would have learned by now. If you want to issue a document about the Eucharist, keep to the point — trimming the length would not be such a bad thing, by the way. So maybe the media won’t cover what to them is not news (the Eucharist), but if you feel the need to insert a couple of lines on priestly celibacy into a document on the Eucharist, you shouldn’t be surprised when that’s all the media picks up on. You’ve just fed the beast.

    Long, rambling documents that seek to insert every possible issue that could possibly be considered remotely applicable, like a statement on celibacy in a document on the Eucharist, only ask for trouble, and the resulting length virtually guarantees that few people will actually read the entire document. So while the media is partly to blame, so are the authors.

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