Wrapping up this section on social communication, we get a direct quote from Pope John Paul II’s 1990 encyclical, advising not just to use new media, but through it, to be able to frame the Christian message in an effective and appealing way:
161. Good use of the media requires of catechists a serious commitment to knowledge, competence, training and up to date use of them. But, above all, because of the strong influence of the mass media and culture, it must be remembered that “it is not enough to use the media simply to spread the Christian message and the Church’s authentic teaching. It is also necessary to integrate that message into the “new culture” created by modern communications… with new languages, new techniques and a new psychology”.(Redemptionis Missio 37) Only by this, with the grace of God, can the Gospel message have the capacity to penetrate the consciousness of all and obtain a personal acceptance as well as a complete personal commitment.(Cf. Evengelii Nuntiandi 45)
The challenge is not only to use the tools of the new media, but also the settings available. I happen to think the television screen is of limited use. But the internet itself, if handled well, can be almost as good as a live encounter between catechist and believer, and among believers and seekers.
162. Those who work in the mass media, as well as those who make use of them should be able to receive the grace of the Gospel. This should cause catechists to consider particular groups of people: media professionals to whom the Gospel can be pointed out as a great horizon of truth, of responsibility and of inspiration; families—who are so much exposed to the influence of the media—for their defence, but more so in view of a growing critical and educational capacity; (Cf. Familaris Consortio 76) the younger generations, who are the users and creative subjects of mass media communications. All are reminded that “the use of these instruments by professionals in communication and their reception by the public demand both a work of education in a critical sense, animated by a passion for the truth, and a work of defence of liberty, respect for the dignity of individuals, and the elevation of the authentic culture of peoples”.(Christifedeles Laici 44)
The problem and challenge of mass media is of course indoctrination. In democracies, through the economic powers attempting to maximize profit and influence. And in states where power is concentrated at the top, in the imposition of political views of the leadership. These are challenges for the Church, not only to defend against ideas contrary to the Gospel, but to encourage that “critical” capacity. That criticism has certainly been evident across the board as a response to the widespread mismanagement of clergy sex offenders. The critical thinking a believer needs to treat the messages of government and corporations would be the same needed to discern the fruitfulness of the episcopal ministry, particular and in the broader sense (including the curia). It’s a difficult time of discernment, and the institutions of Catholicism are as much on display for their offenses as any other segment of human society.