But how it’s disseminated by the media can empower them more than the people they’re supposed to serve, and Pope Benedict is concerned about that.

Toward the end of his encyclical “Charity in Truth,”
Pope Benedict XVI included a brief but strongly worded analysis about
the “increasingly pervasive presence” of modern media and their power
to serve good or immoral interests.

The two pages on communications were barely noticed in an encyclical
that focused on economic issues, but they underscored the pope’s
cautionary and critical approach to today’s media revolution.

In particular, the pope zeroed in on the popular assumption in the
West that the penetration of contemporary media in the developing world
will inevitably bring enlightenment and progress.

“Just because social communications increase the possibilities of
interconnection and the dissemination of ideas, it does not follow that
they promote freedom or internationalize development and democracy for
all,” the pope wrote.

This point needs more attention and self-discipline. Pope John Paul
II emphasized that ‘communication is a moral act’, and Benedict is
keenly focusing on that message.

The pope’s critique made several important points:

– The mass media are not morally “neutral.” They are often
subordinated to “economic interests intent on dominating the market”
and to attempts to “impose cultural models that serve ideological and
political agendas,” he said.

– The media have a huge role in shaping attitudes, a role that has been amplified by globalization….

– Media have a civilizing effect when they are “geared toward a
vision of the person and the common good that reflects truly universal
values.” That means they need to focus on promoting human dignity, be
“inspired by charity and placed at the service of truth,” he said.

That’s why they need to be on the receiving end of information like this.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....