Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Church Knows Little about Communication

Sympathy, empathy, are words that express a value in the present world society. Politics, finances, science, art and religion and many other facets of life engender for many a sympathy for where society finds itself. We can't say we are in touch with our world society without this sympathy. A newspaperman who worked in an editorial room writes in the Catholic Times on his views of the Catholic Church's media savvy.

Sympathy comes from communication. It grows into a means of change.To sympathize does not mean to approve but to understand the other's situation. Pope Francis in one of his Peace Day messages: "The clear distinction between the producer and consumer of information is relativized and communication appears not only as an exchange of data but also as a form of sharing. This dynamic has contributed to a new appreciation of communication itself; which is seen first of all as dialogue, exchange, solidarity, and the creation of positive relations."

The empathy index is a way of measuring a person's ability and disposition. According to the writer, the Church knows little about media, empathy, and communication. It pays little attention to these areas of life.

The Church has the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times, dialoguing with the world and using the  light of the Gospel to interpret what is seen. After the Second Vatican Council, these phrases are often heard.

He mentions a committee affiliated with the Bishops Conference that recently changed its name from Mass Communication Media Committee back to Public Relations Committee. Why would they do this in a world in which communication is so important and go back to an earlier age?

He feels they have deliberately mistranslated the word communication to public relations or PR.  At the Council, the media of social communication was used but the Church deliberately chooses to go back and use public relations instead of communication.

Public relations or PR is to make know our position. Expressing what we want and avoiding what we don't want to be known. In the past this was our way of acting  but in a society of open communication,   going back to a relic of the past is a failure to understand media, communication, and empathy. And we see this thinking expressed in the way many of the issues are treated.

He mentioned two incidents relating to church institutions that the general mass media covered in most cases negatively but without any complete coverage of the issue in the Catholic Press. Granted,  there may be a need for a difference from the social media, in the way news is covered but if the Catholic press fails to be a conveyor of truth we lose our reason for being.This is true when we are only interested in publicity and a conveyor of only what is for our benefit and not the whole picture.

He quotes a priest who in the use of the new media for evangelization recommends to the young people that they don't overextend themselves and go beyond their abilities but use their efforts to ferret out beautiful things that will be helpful to others. He found these words shocking.

Laypeople will find these kinds of words disconcerting. In the present situation no matter how qualified a layperson, if a priest says no, that's it. In the Church today laypersons have little influence  in the decision making and this is truer in the world of communication.

Priests who are in the know about the mass media are few and he ends the article hoping this will change.  Authorities, he hopes, will spend more time developing classes in the seminary on the subject of the mass media and communication.