The Synod on the Family currently underway in Rome is sparking sounds bites from the media. There are a number of very important concerns being discussed in Rome. We need to be careful about media misguidance that comes down to catchy phrases and dramatic sound bites.
Our rich Catholic tradition and the doctrinal teachings of the Catholic Church cannot be reduced to phrases and sound bites. The magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church is not up for grabs. Pope Francis is trying to create a more pastoral and welcoming approach to persons who seek to live the Christian life. We are all sinners. We all fall short of perfection. At present it seems to me that the members of the Synod are in dialogue with how to assist people on this Christian journey to live with integrity as they strive to grow in Christian witness faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Understandably there will be differences of opinion. Speaking the truth in love involves holding together both the truth as we proclaim it and the persons we value as members of the Christian community. Neither disregarding Church teaching nor excluding people through judgment serves the mission of the Church in the world today. I dare say that even the categories of liberal and conservative do not help in fostering a heathy Christian community.
In this age of openness there have been reports given to the media about the work of the Synod. This is fine but it is risky. It leaves the Synod vulnerable to misguidance by the media. We need to allow the Synod to do its work and not latch on to every sound bite that emanates from the media. People tend to give credence to what is on the internet, television or in print. Let us be astute about the limitations of the media.
First, the media loves a sound bite. But sound bites do not allow for context and the foundation and history of a given statement, no less the meaning of a synod. Second, whether it be progressives or conservatives, the media love to give their own spin on things rather than simply report the news. The same exact quote can be used to make a point via one’s ideology. This is not helpful. In addition, too often condescension and prejudice mark the tone of the speaker’s remarks.
If you want to receive comprehensive information about the Synod (and news about the Church) I encourage you to turn to Telecare, our Diocesan Television station which is now available on more platforms than ever before. Telecare is available on Cablevision, Channel 29 (Nassau and Suffolk) and Channel 137 (elsewhere), Verizon Fios, Channel 296 and Time Warner Cable, Channel 471. Telecare is also available on line at TelecareTV.org. The Long Island Catholic Magazine comes out monthly and they also have a website that is rich in Catholic teaching and news: www.licatholic.org.
In today’s world and in today’s Church we have lost the art of respectful conversation. As the Synod members continue their work, our best stance is one of prayer to the Holy Spirit for guidance and inspiration. This Synod is meant to be a preparation for the Synod of 2015. So we have ample time and opportunity for prayer and to gather together as one in the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and around the table of the Lord where we are privileged to hear the Word of God and to receive the Body and Blood of Christ as we sinners seek to become saints.
May the Lord give you peace.
Rev. James M. McNamara