A SPIRIT IN A CAGE AND CATHOLIC JOURNALISTS
FR. ARTUR STOPKA
Around catholic journalism there is a lot of misunderstanding. Some people even refuse to qualify themselves as Catholic journalists, others usurp this affiliation. What's the problem?
Many Catholics work in the media in Poland (both the traditional and the so-called new media). Some people speak directly about their belonging to the Catholic Church, others leave the issue of their religion undefined in the field of professional activity. Are they all Catholic journalists? Rather no one thinks so. Even in the media referred to as the Catholic ones and in the means of social communication owned by the Church, many journalists who prepare journalistic materials do not refer this term to themselves. On the other hand, in our country, authors which are neither Catholic in the strict sense of the word, nor even the church ones, are considered to be such (sometimes they also recognize themselves as such).
Today the situation is not as clear as less than 10 years ago in the pages of 'Niedziela' when it was proposed by prof. Walery Pisarek. According to him, a Catholic journalist is someone who works in the Catholic media, and therefore is obliged to represent the general editorial line of his magazine or his radio or TV station. He wrote that the Catholicity of a Catholic journalist is "institutionalized", while for a Catholic journalist it is only a matter of his own conscience or belief. "It is Catholicity at its own risk," he pointed out.
Today's actual lack of clear criteria that would allow someone to be included among Catholic journalists causes a lot of confusion. It applies not only to people involved in journalism, but also includes entire editorial offices. There is currently no lack of media in Poland that define themselves as the Catholic ones, although they have never received permission from the Church to refer this term to themselves. Also in the minds of the recipients they currently function as Catholic media, which in the strict sense should not be considered as such. This is a very serious problem that is still waiting to be solved. There is confusion in this respect especially on the internet. Confusion, and often misleading others.
Right to broadcast
Considered as the most important church document on media issues, issued in 1971 by the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications Pastoral Instructions, "Communio et Progressio" states that the development of public opinion in the Church is considered extremely necessary, and that every believer has the right to become acquainted with everything he needs to participate in the life of the Church actively. "It is assumed that every believer will not only have easy access to various types of news, but also, if necessary, to the Catholic news, assuming that they will fulfill their task" - it was written in the document.
It is worth paying attention to the wording used: "Catholic message". Perhaps it should now become the basis for recognizing individual media and journalists working in them as "Catholic." It is true that the document does not define it, but it is easy to guess that it is a message consistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church - fully compliant, not only fragmentarily or selectively. In the light of the cited instruction, the faithful have the right to such a message. And this means that the Church should, if there is such a need, take care of its preparation and dissemination. To do this, the Church can use its own media, but the common sense suggests that it should be available much more widely, also for those who are not recipients of church media for various reasons.
In a closed circle
Some media creators who prepare content that deserves to be included in the "Catholic message" do not want to be called "Catholic journalists." They are afraid of being locked into a rather narrow circle and environment, in addition ideologically and even politically defined. This view of Catholic journalists is contrary to the very idea of Catholicity, or universality, regardless of whether they perceive themselves in this way or whether their colleagues and recipients see them in this way. Moreover, if someone who considers himself or is considered as a Catholic journalist allows his content to be ideologized or biased, distorts the message and actually acts to the detriment of the Church. Even when this kind of activity meets the approval of superiors and the applause of some recipients - the rest of readers, listeners, viewers not only feel excluded, but also really experience exclusion. Especially when the creators, administrators and employees of magazines, radio stations, television, and websites considered to be Catholic, succumb to the temptation to create the so-called "identity media", so common today not only in Poland.
Catholic journalism, not necessarily labeled, is still needed. It can be said that it is increasingly necessary because in the modern world the proclamation of Jesus Christ and His Good News of salvation cannot be missed. Social media are one of the tools of this proclamation. There is no shortage of disappointed voices that the Church uses them insufficiently, but only reacts defensively, insufficiently cares for the dissemination of a positive message focused on reaching new recipients.
Spread your wings
During the last year's meeting with journalists of the only all-Italian Catholic daily "Avvenire", Pope Francis appealed to them not to be content with just reporting what others are already saying. "Do not be bored with a humble search for truth resulting from a systematic exploration of the Good News of the Gospel. Let this publishing line flow out of it, "he encouraged.
He reminded of one more threat that media considered to be Catholic in Poland are experiencing today. The threat that Paul VI was already aware of. He warned that Catholic media could not concentrate on news that "only impresses and drives customers." Striving for the largest possible number of recipients in a competition with the so-called secular media can also lead to the distortion of the message and the preparation of only such content that seems expected by Internet users, viewers, listeners or readers.
Francis said that the Catholic media "do not enclose the Holy Spirit in the cage, but only allow Him to spread His wings so that one can breathe Him in the depth of one’s soul." This is thanks to Catholic journalists that the Holy Spirit works in the modern world. If they allow, with their all openness, Him to act in them.