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January 25, 2008
Pope takes on media for 'distorted morals'
It's nothing the Vatican hasn't been saying for years but Pope Benedict hammered the media perhaps more vigorously than any of his predecessors.
Celebrating "World Communications Day" the Pope didn't pull any punches:
In a message for the Roman Catholic Church's World Communications Day, Pope Benedict said the media often sought to create reality rather than report it, with agendas dictated by "the dominant interests" of the day. "This is what happens when communication is used for ideological purposes or for the aggressive advertising of consumer products. When communication loses its ethical underpinning and eludes society's control, it ends up no longer taking into account the centrality and inviolable dignity of the human person" he said. The Pope praised the new media found on the internet but had words of caution there as well:
He added "For this reason it is essential that social communications should assiduously defend the person and fully respect human dignity. Many people now think there is a need, in this sphere, for 'info-ethics', just as we have bioethics in the field of medicine and in scientific research linked to life." He said the media "in order to attract listeners and increase the size of audiences, do not hesitate at times to have recourse to vulgarity and violence and overstep the mark".
A new "info-ethics" would help to prevent the media from becoming "spokesmen for economic materialism and ethical relativism, the true scourges of our time", and from being "exploited for indiscriminate self-promotion or ending up in the hands of those who use them to manipulate consciences". I am glad the Pope has addressed this issue so forthrightly. And his call for "info-ethics" could be seen as a slight move by the Vatican away from a more rigid view of freedom of the press. Leaving the disciplining of those who abuse that freedom up to the media itself is a slightly different take than John Paul II who believed that responsibility for the media was a societal concern, leaving open the possibility of government regulation of the media.
This is another example of Benedict taking a firm stand on an issue that secularists see as outside the domain of any faith. Weighing in as he has will almost certainly rile the European left. But it's a welcome tonic to those who think these things need to be said.