Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 21, 2010
Church press called to evangelize – Smith
Catholic media, bishops must be seen to be united, he says
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
NEW ORLEANS - The role of the Catholic press needs to be understood in the context of the Church's core mission of evangelization, Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith told Catholic journalists and communicators.
Bishops and the Catholic press need to collaborate to fulfill that evangelizing mission, Smith said at a panel session June 4 at the annual Catholic Media Convention.
"It is when the Church is united and seen to be united in all its branches that we are effectively contributing to the mission of evangelization," he said.
Smith was invited to participate on the panel because of his role as vice president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and chair of the CCCB's communications commission.
Other bishops on the panel were Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans and Bishops Thomas Doran of Rockford, Ill., and Ronald Herzog of Alexandria, La.
Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, also attended and spoke at the end of session.
The overall theme of the discussion was: "What does it mean to be a faithful Catholic media organization in the 21st century?"
The session, the first of its kind, was on the last day of the convention, sponsored by the Catholic Press Association and the Catholic Academy for Communication Arts Professionals.
Smith said the Western Catholic Reporter "has historically operated and operated very well at arms length from the archbishop."
But people sometimes ask him, he said, that since he is the WCR's publisher, why do some stories get into the newspaper that do not necessarily reflect the Church's views.
Catholics expect that the newspaper and the bishop "will work together for the common mission," he said. "Our people expect that and our people need that."
Aymond said both bishops and communicators need to be committed to an honest dialogue. "By disagreeing in a respectful way, we can come to a better understanding of our mission and the mission of the Church," he said.
"There does need to be a certain level of autonomy between the bishop and the publisher that has to be respected."
Aymond also pointed to a distinction between reporting the news and handing on Church teaching. The Catholic press has the ability to help bishops inform people's consciences.
The Catholic press is "an important dimension of evangelization and catechesis" and it should receive the resources it needs to do its job, he said. "If we want to be in polite competition (with secular media), we need to do it well."
Smith noted that financing cannot be separated from the issue of autonomy. The five per cent parish assessment to support the WCR in the Edmonton Archdiocese is "a significant amount."
Some people ask, "If we are paying for this paper, why do we not have some say in what goes into the paper?"
The financial issue "introduces a tension and at times a frustration that everybody needs to be aware of," he said.
Bishop Doran said if the Catholic press is a priority for the Church, its window on the world and its public face, "then we have to spend what's necessary."
PLACE FOR DIALOGUE
Archbishop Celli said Catholic media must not only provide Church teaching, but also a place for dialogue. It can be a place for the Church to perceive what people have in their hearts and how they are searching for God.
Catholic media can also be the place in the temple where the People of God meet with non-believers, Celli said. The media can be clear about what the Church stands for, but at the same time receive people with open arms without judging.
Catholic media, he said, can provide an image of the Church that is "a passionate Church for the men of today."
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