Saturday, July 25, 2009

Archbishop Chaput on Catholics and the Mass Media

The media has certainly changed over the years. It is more important than ever for all of us to be careful about where we get our news. Archbishop Chaput speaks on the need for all of us, especially Catholics, to be more vigilant than ever in how we acquire our information.

The following comes from the Salesian News Agency:

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, speaking at a meeting of “Legatus”, an organisation of Catholic business men, urged Catholics to understand how the media operates and what goes on behind the scenes.

In his address given on 8 July and reported by Zenit, Archbishop Chaput, referring to the current situation in the US, gave a very critical analysis of the media.

Internet and 24 hour news programmes have not only changed radically the production of news programmes, once limited to a morning, afternoon and evening edition of a newspaper, but also the way in which the public obtains its information. The Archbishop pointed out how visual and electronic media, today’s dominant media, need a certain kind of content. They thrive on brevity, speed, change, urgency, variety and feelings. But thinking requires the opposite. Thinking takes time. It needs silence and the methodical skills of logic.

While recognising the advantages of advances in technology which have increased the sources of human information, the Archbishop notes “they have also undermined the intellectual discipline that we once had when our main tools of communication were books or print publications. This is not a good development. In fact, it’s a very dangerous thing in a democracy, which is a form of government that demands intellectual and moral maturity from its citizens to survive.” Material progress gives, and it takes away. “And it always has unintended consequences, which means we need to be more – not less – vigilant about the way our news media form us, and how their influence shapes the content of our public life.”

Recalling that freedom of the press and freedom of religion are explicitly singled out for protection by the First Amendment, Archbishop adds: “The news media, despite their claims of impartiality, and despite the good work they often do accomplish, are just as prone to prejudice, ignorance, bad craftsmanship and tribalism as any other profession. But unlike other professions, the press has constitutional protections. It also has real power in shaping how we think, what we think about and what we like, dislike and ignore.”

He goes on to describe the media as “the greatest catechetical syndicate in history. And if that kind of power doesn’t make us uneasy, it should at least make us alert.”

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