KANSAS CITY, MO (June 20, 1997) -- The Catholic Bishops of the United States have adopted a multi-level plan for use of the mass media to promote community and parish life, spiritual growth, the proclamation of the Gospel, and Church participation in the life of the nation.
Theological in inspiration and conversant with the latest communications technology, the plan was prepared for the Bishops over the last several years by their Communications Committee, chaired by Most Reverend Thomas J. Costello, Auxiliary Bishop of Syracuse.
The Pastoral Plan for Church Communication was adopted unanimously by the Bishops on a voice vote at their spring general meeting here.
"Communication and community lie at the heart of the Church's mission because God's self-revelation draws every believer into the faith community," the plan says. "Human communication in the Church mirrors the communication of the Trinity, the Divine community, in whom we discover the fullness of communion and communication."
Recognizing that modern society increasingly defines itself by communication--newspapers, magazines, books, telecommunications, radio, television, film, electronic mail, digital media--and mindful of Christ's command that she preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth, the plan says the Church "asks once again how she can image and echo God in the world."
"Such communication becomes all the more urgent in the United States today with its variety of cultures and socioeconomic levels, its debates over public communication, and its powerful communication environment," the bishops' plan said. "Despite all the advantages this country enjoys, the United States has become a culture that diminishes the importance of faith. Many need to hear the Word of God; believers need to encourage one another in their faith. As an institution and as individuals, Catholics must communicate their faith: communication does not lie on the periphery of the Church...Whether spontaneously or deliberately, every part of the Church communicates."
The plan says it is up to diocesan pastoral plans to spell out local goals. "In this context of pastoral planning, Church communication supports the mission of the Church universal and in the United States of America," it states.
The plan describes use of the media in seven specific actions: (1) evangelizing; (2) influencing the values, judgments and actions of U.S. society; (3) telling the Church's story; (4) protecting the communication environment; (5) teaching communication; (6) reflecting systematically on the quality of Church communication; and (7) supporting one another in a ministry of communication. Against the background of this "overarching goal," the plan makes specific recommendations at both the national and diocesan levels. These include:
- Collaborating with other Church offices to produce programming
- Exploring ways to counteract negative effects of the mass media
- Using the commercial media, as appropriate, to publicize evangelization programs
- Providing content on the Internet which serves as an evangelical tool
- Providing information on Church teaching to parishes and individuals with the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a primary and contemporary source
- Intensifying national advertising/public service campaigns to promote positive values reflecting the Gospel
- Providing a comprehensive media office for national issues whose responsibilities may include assisting Conference members in responding to issues, identifying and training additional spokespeople, and developing crisis communication plans
- Linking existing diocesan Internet Web sites to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) web site and encouraging development of new diocesan Web sites; using these sites to disseminate information from the bishops' conference
- Using the Catholic press and media outlets as key resources for both media contact and for disseminating information to Catholics
- Identifying key communication issues -- such as respect for life, respect for all human beings, access to information, limitations on pornography, protection of children, religious freedom, and the sanctity of life
The document noted that a survey of the communication resources of the Church in the United States conducted in the course of developing the plan demonstrated convincingly that the Church brings a wealth of resources to its communication efforts, including people, structures, finances and programming. Thousands of Catholics in the United States work in communication-related areas, including many who work directly for the Church's communications efforts. Among them are diocesan and state directors of communication, Catholic press and media officers, members of religious communities that promote or sponsor communication activities, and employees of Catholic publishers and production companies.
At the same time, the plan gives a realistic acknowledgment that Catholic communications also faces challenges and limitations. For example, while the Church is of great interest to some in the media, for others it is but one voice among many. In addition to those who directly attack the Church, still others in the media see it as a stereotype of the large institution, to be treated with the skepticism afforded to all such institutions.
Moreover, financial limitations make it difficult to compete in the expensive world of the American media, the plan said, noting that even the CCC can provide funding for only a handful of projects.
But in adopting the plan presented to them today, the Bishops made it clear they think they have pointed the direction in which the U.S. Church must move if it is to make maximum use of the communications media in the service of evangelization.
"The whole Church desires to hear the Gospel and is called to share it with others," the bishops said. "Recalling the Church's teaching that 'Communication in and by the Church is essentially communication of the Good News of Jesus Christ,' (Aetatis Novae #9), and within the framework of the goals...we affirm the urgency of this task."