a balanced view of the media

The Pope’s recent message for World Communications Day, A Risk and a Richness, illustrates the Church’s desire to “test everything, and retain what is good” (1 Thess 5:21):

Thanks to the unprecedented expansion of the communications market in recent decades, many families throughout the world, even those of quite modest means, now have access in their own homes to immense and varied media resources. As a result, they enjoy virtually unlimited opportunities for information, education, cultural expansion, and even spiritual growth – opportunities that far exceed those available to most families in earlier times.

Yet these same media also have the capacity to do grave harm to families by presenting an inadequate or even deformed outlook on life, on the family, on religion and on morality. This power either to reinforce or override traditional values like religion, culture, and family was clearly seen by the Second Vatican Council, which taught that “if the media are to be correctly employed, it is essential that all who use them know the principles of the moral order and apply them faithfully” (Inter Mirifica, 4). Communication in any form must always be inspired by the ethical criterion of respect for the truth and for the dignity of the human person.

Some Christians decide, as a matter of principle, to throw away their television sets or to avoid the movie theater altogether. While in the face of human weakness, this is understandable, the message that this sends is that the modern means of communication are beyond redemption. Is the Holy Spirit capable of guiding us in a discerning use of the media? Or has the cross of Christ really been emptied of its power?

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