Just because social communications increase the possibilities of interconnection and the dissemination of ideas, it does not follow that they promote freedom or internationalize development and democracy for all.The pope's critique contains several important points that are very relevant for our North American context:
- The mass media are not morally "neutral." They are often subordinated to "economic interests intent on dominating the market" and to attempts to "impose cultural models that serve ideological and political agendas," he said.
- The media have a huge role in shaping attitudes, a role that has been amplified by globalization. That requires careful reflection on their influence, especially when it comes to questions of ethics and the "solidarity" dimension of development, he said.
- Media have a civilizing effect when they are "geared toward a vision of the person and the common good that reflects truly universal values." That means they need to focus on promoting human dignity, be "inspired by charity and placed at the service of truth."
The Church’s unity today is severely strained, as we all know, and alternative Catholicisms are claiming authenticity even sometimes against the Holy Father and bishops. Even Bishops and priests have sometimes been less than worthy of their calling, and lay groups have sometimes come together to create a Church in their image and likeness rather than Christ’s. Political interference in many countries, including our own, and the hostility of some in the media and entertainment industries, the self-righteousness of some on both the right and the left, various pressure groups with their own agendas, have created a situation full of danger for the Church’s unity, a situation the bishops now want to explicitly address in this country. How to stitch up the Church where her unity is torn, how to use the authority given by Christ to the apostles without wounding the faithful who are already hurting is a project that begins with the bishops’ own submission to Christ and our own self-examination in the light of God’s word that lasts forever.Cardinal George’s powerful words provide a very accurate description of life in North America as well as some creative strategies for Catholic communicators, journalists and broadcasters to engage the culture around us and humbly offer the world an alternative message of hope. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB C.E.O., Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network Consultor, Pontifical Council for Social Communications