Saturday morning in the Sala Clementina of the Vatican Apostolic Palace the Holy Father received in audience the members of the “Corallo” Association, a network of local Catholic-inspired broadcasters from all regions of Italy. The Pope gave an off-the-cuff address to those present, in which he defined the virtues, mission and sins of the communication media.
“Your work should be carried out along these three routes: the path of truth, the path of goodness, and the path of beauty. But truth, goodness and beauty are consistent – they come from within, they are human. And, on the path of truth, along these three routes, we can find mistakes and even traps. 'I think, I look for the truth …': be careful not to become an intellectual without intelligence. 'I go in search of goodness': be careful not to be an ethicist without goodness. 'I like beauty': yes, but be careful not to do what is frequently done: do not look for cosmetics to create an artificial beauty that does not exist”.
The Pope went on to refer to the “harmonious unity” of the work of broadcasters, commenting that, although there are large and small media entities, “in the Church there is neither large nor small: everyone has his or her function and help for others, the hand cannot exist without the head, and so on. We are all members, and also your media, whether they be large or small, are members, harmonised in their vocation of service to the Church. No-one should consider themselves to be too small in relation to another that is too large. Everyone is important in this harmony, for the Church is harmony in diversity. … It is important to seek unity, and not to subscribe to the logic that the large fish swallows the smaller fish”.
Pope Francis then went on to speak about clericalism, which he defined as “one of the ills of the Church. But it is a sin of complicity, as priests are subject to the temptation to clericalise the laity, while many laypersons ask on their knees to be clericalised, because it is convenient. … So this is a sin committed by two hands. We must resist this temptation. The layperson must be a layperson, baptised and with the strength that comes from baptism. A servant, but with a lay vocation, and this cannot be sold, bargained for, and one is not complicit with the other, because it is a question of identity. … Is the deacon or the priest more important than the layperson? No! … The function of the layperson cannot be exercised by the priest, and the Holy Spirit is free: sometimes it inspires a priest to do something, and at other times it inspires a layperson. This is something that is discussed in the pastoral Council, which is very important. A parish that does not have a pastoral Council and a Council for economic affairs is not a good parish: it lacks life”.
Finally, the Holy Father commented that the media embody many virtues, but also many sins. With regard to the latter, the three most significant are those which “take the road of lies: … disinformation, slander and defamation. The last two are serious, but not as dangerous as the first. Slander is a mortal sin, but it is possible to clarify the situation and become aware that it is slander. Defamation is a mortal sin, but it is possible to say: this is an injustice, because this person did something at that time but has now repented and changed their life. But disinformation means telling half-truths, the part that is most convenient to me, and not saying the other half. Therefore, those who watch the television or listen to the radio are not able to arrive at a perfect judgement, because they do not have all the elements necessary to do so, and the media do not give them. Please, shun these three sins”.