An appeal to all Contemplative Religious
Each year on the Sunday before Pentecost, since 1967, the Church celebrates "World Communications Day". The theme selected and approved by the Holy Father for this year's celebration on June 3rd is: "The Communications Media and the Affirmation and Promotion of Spiritual Values".
Certainly everyone is aware that the Communications Media--Press, Radio, Television, Cinema, Recordings, and others so new that they have hardly gotten into general circulation--exercise a profound influence on our contemporary world. The Communications Media reach out beyond all geographical boundaries and, if used rightly, can help to bring about brotherhood and understanding among men. The Church recognizes the tremendous possibilities of the media for achieving justice and peace, good will, charity and love among men, and finally, unity (Communio et Progressio, 12). The media are therefore providential instruments to be used for man's personal development and in his relations with his fellow men, which is all in God's plan.
Pope Paul VI, in a speech to the Foreign Press Association in Italy on January 24, 1973, expressed his concern over many things regarding modern man--his rights, his family, culture, economic and social problems, the building of the international community. His Holiness said: "There is no human field that does not meet with our solicitude. In all these areas, Christians have a service to carry out with all other men, without losing sight of their ultimate goal which is Heaven".
Referring directly to those responsible for communications media, the Pope said that they must demonstrate responsibility and rectitude towards their fellow men, seeing to it that they are not degraded but rather uplifted and encouraged by the inspiration of the Media. The communications media, consequently, should reflect an incorruptible love for truth, humility and readiness to dialogue. The Pope said further that professionals working in the media have a responsibility to convey information about man on the human level, but that they must also impart authentic spiritual values.
It cannot be stressed too often that in themselves the communications media are only lifeless instruments requiring proper use. Powerful and effective as they are, they should nevertheless be used to serve basic spiritual values and not to spread error and confusion and, in the end, cause distrust in the public mind.
The daily press and other publications, as well as the audio-visual media, are filled with examples which deny or water down fundamental spiritual values. Unfortunately, the media are often controlled by individuals or groups unworthy of their grave responsibility, who are motivated solely by profit, power or ambition, and who, to achieve these ends, are quite ready to appeal to man's less noble instincts. This situation is particularly deplorable when it affects persons who are devoted to the Church and whose consciences are thus violated by these attacks on their basic beliefs.
The Church is well aware that the media are indispensable today for spreading the Word of God throughout the world in fulfilment of its evangelical mandate. The Church can and does appeal to the consciences of professionals in this field -- particularly those in positions of authority -- and asks them to share in the education of the public in order to evaluate the media according to basic spiritual values to discern in what they see and read, the true from the false.
But not all the problems of the media can be resolved merely through basic education. The problems are so far-reaching that they require the arousal of Christian consciences and of all men of good will to action to improve the contents of the media. This means expressing approval and congratulations for good programs and publications and disapproval or even strong protest about materials which offend basic Christian values.
It is not easy for the Church to take concrete action about the contents of the media in the external order. But through supernatural means - such as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, prayer, personal sacrifices, calling on God to enlighten men's minds, to discipline of the will so that the negative effects of the media can be ordered to the good in conformity with the plan of God- and only through such means can the People of God be alerted to the workings of grace which will enlighten and strengthen them.
World Communications Day is then a call to reflection and an appeal to the consciences of all men. But above all it is a call to prayer, the communication par excellence. It is an invitation to all men of good will, particularly those who have been called by God to a special role in the life of the Church, to pray for a right use of the media by those who serve them.
As Pope Paul stated in a general audience to the faithful assembled in the Vatican on February 14, man today "does not seek prayer, does not enjoy it, and apparently does not even miss it ". This opposition to prayer, His Holiness said, stems from "psychological laziness". It is the result of an over-abundance of material things, things which are all too often contaminated with sensuality and permissiveness and to which the communications media merely give witness.
The Pope expressed his grave concern for the problems of modern man and the witness given them by the Media. These problems must not be foreign to men and women religious. The Conciliar Document, Pertectae Caritatis, reminds us that those who, "faithful to their vocation to the integral contemplative life, abandon the world for Christ by fixing their minds on God with apostolic love and strive to be associated with the work of Redemption and to spread the Kingdom of God in their human relations", (Perfectae Caritatis, 5, 7) are to maintain the integrity of their particular vocation while praying and sacrificing for the world they have left in order to belong the more fully to God.
Surely those working in the apostolate of social communications must seek the help of contemplative religious who can serve this apostolate through dedication and work, sacrifice and prayer.
We appeal then, to all contemplatives who, while not making extensive use of the mass media, can serve this apostolate through their complete dedication to God. They have consecrated their entire lives to a silent affirmation and vigorous promotion of the spiritual values which are the center of their lives, and of which Christians today run the risk of being deprived, those values which the Holy Father sets before them as the very heart of their vocation in the People of God.
This Pontifical Commission, consequently, earnestly begs for the prayerful support of all contemplatives so that through their unique dedication and sacrifice, the communications media will express true Christian values. We cherish the hope that this dialogue will help to obtain from God the grace of communicating to all men a genuine understanding and use of communications in a climate of true spiritual values. We appeal then, for this unique support, while asking God to maintain all contemplatives in their fervor and to bless them always.
Vatican City, Easter 1973.
+ EDWARD L. HESTON, C.S.C.
Andres M. Deskur