A JOURNALIST CANNOT BE A JUDGE OR AN EXECUTIONER OF THE MAN
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
Once I visited an Ordinary of Venice diocese in Florida. At that time we were shown photos of meetings of the pastor with diocesans. One of the photos presented the priest bishop surrounded by children – the bishop was sitting in an armchair, holding a cat on his knees. What was striking to me was the fact that the hierarch was surrounded by so many children and he was concentrated on the animal. It turned out that it was not accidental. In America, both bishops and priests are afraid of being accused of pedophilia in an exaggerated way, and every gesture, every touch, every contact with a child can be interpreted so. This is an example of what may be caused by mass media. Certainly, we know that pedophilia is a crime, connected with a big harm done to its victims, that it is a sin strongly emphasized in the Gospel – Lord Jesus says that woe to those who would do a harm to a child, woe to those who wreak mischief (see Mt 18.6-7). And in this way, consistently and clearly, this sin is being treated by the Church. There is also a beautiful blessing of Christ: ‘Blessed of chaste heart, for they will see God’(see Mt 5.8). This is a promise of the Redeemer.
Undoubtedly, every kind of behavior of the man is marked by his conscience. After all, Lord Jesus says that not so much something outer makes the man dishonest towards God, but the someone goes beyond the God’s commandment who commits a sin inside ( see Mk 7.15, Mt 5.27-28). Christian morality is very clear. The Church is teaching it all the time and we must maintain it in our life.
Recently in Poland we have been witnesses of a big attack on Polish priests who are accused of pedophilia. We must note that these are single examples in a group of about 30 thousand priests – there are so many diocesan and religious orders’ priests in Poland. Whereas the attack is so cruel, and in all mass media, that it seems that only this social group is marked by this hard sin and crime. It is even said about pedophilia in the Polish Church. Anyway, it is necessary to speak about pedophilia in teachers’ environment, the world of sport, in health service, etc. And, after all, these are single cases, that is, we are dealing with a very unfair way of presenting the case; especially that the same facts speak. After all, in Poland a few hundred verdicts are given for the crime of pedophilia, whereas, as it concerns priests, in fact these are only allegations, slanders, a definite and explicit verdict was reached only in one case.
I found out recently when I was visiting the editorial office of ‘Niedziela’ in Cracow that also the case of the two Polish priests from Dominican Republic can look completely different than it is presented in media. It turns out that one of priests in Dominican slandered of pedophilia, a missionary, declared a definite fight against drug mafia and probably there are the allegations against him from this side. It may be probably the same with the case of the archbishop. Therefore, we must look at these two cases very carefully which we will also do, especially that colleagues of the slandered priest are claiming that he is very honest and leads his priestly and spiritual life even in a very good way, and this kind of allegation is a cruel harm, done both to this priest and the Order, the Church, family and parish.
The attack on the Church is being led on all fronts; especially television is doing a lot of bad things. This battue is even being done by journalists working in the public television which should serve to the truth and objectivism. Therefore, when journalists from TVN come to me, asking for an interview or my opinion, I am trying not to talk to them, because I am simply scared of them. So, nobody should feel resent to priests or bishops, when they refuse to give interviews or participate in a programme because the conclusion of these programmes is already set in advance. I think, that we have to take on such an attitude towards such situations.
It was similar in the case of archbishop Józef Michalik who might not have expressed his opinion clearly enough, analyzing the issue. And there appeared a big argument, a real party of witches. Some newspapers brutally treated the Chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference, mocking at him even on front pages. How can one have this kind of attitude to such a serious man who defends the supreme values in Poland?! it is a big harm which should undergo some legal norms. Nobody can be harmed.
So, it is necessary to investigate very quickly and thoroughly all the matters concerning the cases of pedophilia but this should be done in an honest and reliable way. A journalist cannot be a judge or an executioner of the man, especially when there are not any evidence in the case yet. This job, considering its wide social influence, is obliged to keep ethical principles. Otherwise, we will agree onto dangerous castigation by media.
Therefore, I also think that some newspapers or television programmes should be boycotted by the Catholics. We must be solidary in rejecting buying newspapers, watching programmes which destroy what is good and worthy.
How beautifully our priests and catechists work. But in the atmosphere which is created around them, it is difficult to break through with the Gospel, with teaching about Christian morality. And we, as believers, receive holy sacraments, attend the Holy Mass and – we are excited with what one or another journalist ‘will reveal’.
We do not read Catholic newspapers, in which we can find good comments to intriguing social phenomena and look at them in the light of Jesus’ Gospel. If we hear only one tone from somewhere, which is against the Church, so how cannot one believe or accept it into one’s way of thinking…?
So, there is a big request to all priests: encourage believers to read Catholic newspapers, do not hide ‘Niedziela’ to the sacristy. This newspaper is Your lengthened hands, heart and teaching. This is a more intelligent Christian who comes to the Sunday Holy Mass, who can find his God’s way in his life. Besides, it is a lesson of a very important virtue – Christian solidarity.