By Fr. Roy Cimagala
THAT, IN effect, was the gist of the 10-page speech made by the director of Vatican ’s press office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, before the Spanish bishops’ conference recently. It summarized his vast experience and many insights he gained over so many years of working with the media.
In other words, he was saying that in spite of the many aspects and requirements of media work that need to be integrated as smoothly as possible, one should not forget that the main and underlying interest of the Church in media is to spread the truth, to evangelize and to build up greater communion.
His views certainly deserve to be studied well and learned thoroughly. Everyone in the Church involved in media work, from the parish to the diocesan levels and beyond, would do well to make them a guiding light.
The Church cannot and should not be lagging behind in making use of the tremendously advanced technologies that now greatly escalate media’s reach and scope. With them, a lot can be gained for the good of the Church.
In fact, Fr. Lombardi said that Catholic media should be an ethical model for the secular media by promoting peace, justice and a vision of an integral human development. Yes, dear, it’s about time that those in this task have this clear and deep understanding of their work.
That’s a heavy and dynamic responsibility, requiring constant renewal and creativity, prudence and passion. But as long as those involved have the necessary attitude and continuing training—nothing less than being holy and competent—there’s no question that they can hack it.
If these conditions are met, I believe that not even the worst scenario that the Church can get enmeshed in, as in handling big, screaming scandals involving high ecclesiastics, can undermine the Church’s credibility, her true nature and purpose.
With these conditions, the Church, in spite of her members’ sins and defects, big and small, can still remain radiant and beautiful, ever able to function well in her continuing work for human redemption.
I’d like to highlight some of Fr. Lombardi’s views which I think are relevant to our local Church situation. Among them are the following:
– “We must always try to favor understanding and dialogue between different positions and different people and not accentuate the opposition. We must be able to ‘live’ the tensions with patience, including the price of being criticized.
– “We must always use with determination a respectful, balanced and non-aggressive language towards others, capable of inspiring serenity of judgment and mutual understanding.”
When I read these words, I was reminded of high Churchmen who shamelessly violate this indication. With high-calibered language, they intemperately take partisan positions in political and social issues, pouring sarcasm all over the place and carpet-bombing their opponents with ridicule.
It’s not just a matter of ruffling some people’s feathers that often is unavoidable in expressing opinions. There seems to be a systemic perversity in pulverizing those in the opposite side.
It’s truly a sad spectacle, brutal, ugly and completely unfit for Church officials to do. I remember my mother telling me, no matter how right I may be in my views, I have no right to be ill-mannered in expressing them or in dealing with others. I have always tried to follow that principle.
Fr. Lombardi also said that “the truth must always be told, even in the face of difficult questions. When a question deserves an answer it must be given without waiting.”
Wow! That’s tough. But I agree with it. While discretion is also needed, it should not be an excuse for not doing one’s work punctually and misreading the people’s right to information.
Another aspect of media work that Church personnel should give special attention to is the personal touch they should have when doing business with those in media. They have to avoid being officious, cold, even cavalier in their dealings. They have to learn to be very human, warm and personable.
Even if certain protocol has to be followed, and some steps and systems of communicating have to be pursued, the human need for cordiality and true friendship should never be neglected.
Charity, which generates true communion in the Church, never departs, with God’s grace, from this level, despite our differences.