F O R E W O R D
1. THE UNITY AND ADVANCEMENT of men living in society: these are the chief aims
of social communication and of all the means it uses. These means include the
press, the cinema, radio and television. The constant improvement in the media
puts them at the disposal of more and more people who in their daily lives make
increasing use of them. More than ever before, the way men live and think is
profoundly affected by the means of communication.
2. The Church sees these media as "gifts of God" 1 which, in accordance with His
providential design, unite men in brotherhood and so help them to cooperate with
His plan for their salvation. A deeper and more penetrating understanding of
social communication and of the contribution which the media it uses can make to
modern society, can be derived from a number of documents issued by the Second
Vatican Council. These are, notably the Constitution on "The Church in the
World Today", 2
the Decree on "Ecumenism", 3 the Declaration
on "Religious Freedom",
the Decree on "The Missionary Activity of the Church", 5 and
the Decree on "The Pastoral Duties of Bishops". 6 And, of course, there is a
Decree that is wholly devoted to a discussion of "The Media of Social
The deeper understanding based on the teaching and spirit of
this Council will now guide Christians in their attitudes to the media and will
make them the more eager to commit themselves in this field.
3. This Pastoral Instruction which is being published at the
direction of the Second Vatican Council
sets out basic doctrinal principles and general pastoral guidelines. It
carefully refrains from going into minute details on a subject which is
continually changing and developing and which varies so much according to time
4. It will therefore be the task of Bishops and their
conferences and, equally, of the Synods of the Eastern Churches, to consult
experts and their diocesan, national and international councils. This should be
done not only to implement this Instruction efficiently and in a spirit of
collegiality, but also to discover the best way of explaining it and suiting it,
as precisely as possible, to the needs of the people in their care. And while
they do this, they will keep in mind the unity of the Church.
In this task Episcopal Conferences will lean upon the
professional assistance which priests, religious and laity can offer. For a
proper use of the media of social communication is the responsibility of the
entire People of God.
5. This Instruction, it is hoped, will be well received by all
those who are professionally involved in the field of communications and,
indeed, by all who, from good will, seek the progress of mankind. So, as a
result of exchanges of views and cooperation with such men, the vast potential
that lies in the means of social communication will be made good and this for
the advancement of all.
THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF THE MEANS
OF SOCIAL COMMUNICATION:
BASIC POINTS OF DOCTRINE
6. The channels of social communication, even though they are addressed to
individuals, reach and affect the whole of society.9 They inform a vast public about what goes
on in the world and about contemporary attitudes and they do it swiftly. That is
why they are indispensable to the smooth functioning of modern society with its
complex and ever changing needs, and the continual and often close consultations
all this involves. This exactly coincides with the Christian conception of how
men should live together. These technical advances have the high purpose of
bringing men into closer contact with one another. By passing on knowledge of
their common fears and hopes they help men to resolve them. A Christian estimate
of the contribution that the media make to the well-being of mankind is rooted
in this fundamental principle.
7. All over the world, men are at work on improving the conditions for human
living and the latest scientific wonders and technical achievements play their
part in this. The Christian vision of man, of his motives and of his history,
sees in this development a response - though usually an unconscious one - to the
divine command to "possess and master the world". 10 It also sees
it as an act of cooperation in the divine work of creation and conservation.11
It is within this vision that the means of social communication fall into
their proper place. They help men share their knowledge and unify their creative
work. Indeed, by creating man in His own image, God has given him a share in His
creative power. And so man is summoned to cooperate with his fellow man in
building the earthly city.12
8. Social communications tend to multiply contacts within society and to
deepen social consciousness. As a result the individual is bound more closely to
his fellow men and can play his part in the unfolding of history as if led by
the hand of God.13 In the Christian faith, the
unity and brotherhood of man are the chief aims of all communication and these
find their source and model in the central mystery of the eternal communion
between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who live a single divine life.
9. The media of social communication can contribute a great deal to human
unity. If, however, men's minds and hearts are ill disposed, if good will is not
there, this outpouring of technology may produce an opposite effect so that
there is less understanding and more discord and, as a result, evils are
multiplied. Too often, we have to watch social communications used to contradict
or corrupt the fundamental values of human life. The Christian considers these
evils evidence of man's need to be redeemed and freed from that sin which
entered human history with man's first fall.14
10. When, by his own fault, man turned away from his Creator, chaos succeeded
crime and man became embroiled in discord and deadly fraternal strife.15 He was no longer able to
communicate with his fellow men. But for all that, God's love for man persisted,
despite its rejection by man. It was He who made the first move to make contact
with mankind 16 at the start of the history of
salvation. In the fullness of time, he communicated His very self to man 17 and "the Word was made flesh ".
When, by His death and resurrection, Christ the Incarnate Son, the Word and
Image of the invisible God,
set the human race free, He shared with everyone the truth and the life of God.
And He did this more richly and lavishly than ever before. As the only mediator,
between the Father and mankind He made peace between God and man and laid the
foundations of unity among men themselves.20
From that moment, communication among men found its highest ideal and supreme
example in God who had become Man and Brother. He ordered His disciples, always
and everywhere,21 to
spread the Good Tidings "in the light of day" and "from the roof tops".22
11. While He was on earth Christ revealed Himself as the Perfect
Communicator. Through His "incarnation", He utterly identified Himself with
those who were to receive His communication and He gave His message not only in
words but in the whole manner of His life. He spoke from within, that is to say,
from out of the press of His people. He preached the Divine message without fear
or compromise. He adjusted to His people's way of talking and to their patterns
of thought. And He spoke out of the predicament of their time.
Communication is more than the expression of ideas and the indication of
emotion. At its most profound level it is the giving of self in love. Christ's
communication was, in fact, spirit and life.23
In the institution of the Holy Eucharist, Christ gave us the most perfect and
most intimate form of communion between God and man possible in this life, and,
out of this, the deepest possible unity between men. Further, Christ
communicated to us His life-giving Spirit, who brings all men together in unity.24 The Church is Christ's Mystical Body, the
hidden completion of Christ Glorified who "fills the whole creation".25 As a result we move, within the
Church and with the help of the word and the sacraments, towards the hope of
that last unity where "God will be all in all". 26
12. So, "among the wonderful technical inventions" 27 which foster communication
among human beings, Christians find means that have been devised under God's
Providence for the encouragement of social relations during their pilgrimage on
earth. These means, in fact, serve to build new relationships and to fashion a
new language which permits men to know themselves better and to understand one
another more easily. By this, men are led to a mutual understanding and shared
ambition. And this, in turn, inclines them to justice and peace, to good will
and active charity, to mutual help, to love and, in the end, to communion. The
tools of communication, then, provide some of the most effective means for the
cultivation of that charity among men which is at once the cause and the
expression of fellowship.
13. All men of good will, then, are impelled to work together to ensure that
the media of communication do in fact contribute to the pursuit of truth and the
speeding up of progress. The Christian will find in his faith an added incentive
to do this. And the message of the Gospel thus spread will promote this idea
which is the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God.
Contact and cooperation among men depend, in the last resort, on man's free
choice which, in its turn, is affected by psychological, sociological and
technical factors. And so the importance and ultimate significance of the media
of communication depend upon the working of man's free choice in their use.
14. Since it is man himself who decides how the available means of
communication shall be used, the moral principles at issue here are those based
on a true interpretation of the dignity of man. And man, it should be recalled,
must be accounted a member of the family of the adopted children of God. At the
same time, these principles derive from the essential character of social
communication and the innate qualities of the medium in question. This also
follows from what is said in Gaudium et spes: "By the very fact of their
having been created, all things are endowed with their own stability, truth,
goodness, proper laws and order which man must respect...". 28
15. Whoever wants to see the media take their allotted place in the history
of Creation, in the Incarnation and Redemption, and to consider the morality
that governs their use, must have a full and proper understanding of man. He
must also have a sound knowledge both of the true nature of social communication
and of the tools at its service. "Communicators" are all those who actively
employ the media. These have a duty in conscience to make themselves competent
in the art of social communication in order to be effective in their work.29
And as a man's influence on the process of communication grows, so does this
duty. All this applies even more to those who have to instruct the tastes and
judgements of others. It applies to those who have to teach the young or the
uneducated. And it applies to all who can in any way enrich or impoverish man's
nature, whether that man be a man alone or a man engulfed in a crowd.
"Recipients" are those who, for their own purpose, read, listen to or view
the various media. Everything possible should be done to enable these to know
about the media. So they will be able to interpret their message accurately, to
reap their benefit in full and play their part in the life of society. Only if
this is done will the media function in the best possible way.
16. The total output of the media in any given area should be judged by the
contribution it makes to the common good.30 Its news, culture and entertainment
should meet the growing needs of society. The news of something that has
happened must be given and so too must the background of the event so that
people can understand society's problems and work for their solution. A proper
balance must be kept, not only between hard news, educational material and
entertainment but also between the light and the more serious forms of that
17. Every communication must comply with certain essential requirements and
these are sincerity, honesty and truthfulness. Good intentions and a clear
conscience do not thereby make a communication sound and reliable. A
communication must state the truth. It must accurately reflect the situation
with all its implications. The moral worth and validity of any communication
does not lie solely in its theme or intellectual content. The way in which it is
presented, the way in which it is spoken and treated and even the audience for
which it is designed - all these factors must be taken into account.31
18. A deeper understanding and a greater sympathy between men, as well as
fruitful cooperation in creative work, these are the marvellous benefits that
should come from social communication. Those are ideals which are completely in
tune with the aims of the People of God. Indeed they are strengthened and
reinforced by them. "For the promotion of unity belongs to the innermost nature
of the Church," since she is "by her relationship with Christ, both a
sacramental sign and an instrument of intimate union with God, and of the unity
of all mankind". 32
THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE COMMUNICATIONS MEDIA
THE WORK OF THE MEDIA IN HUMAN SOCIETY
19. The modern media of social communication offer men of today
a great round table. At this they are able to participate in a world-wide
exchange in search of brotherhood and cooperation. It is not surprising that
this should be so, for the media are at the disposal of all and are channels for
that very dialogue which they themselves stimulate. The torrent of information
and opinion pouring through these channels makes every man a partner in the
business of the human race. This interchange creates the proper conditions for
that mutual and sympathetic understanding which leads to universal progress.
20. The swift advances of the means of social communication tear down the
barriers that time and space have erected between men. They can make for greater
understanding and closer unity. A mass of information is continually on the move
to and from all parts of the world and, as a result, men can learn what goes on
and how other men live. Teaching at all levels has benefited by the use of these
aids. These media play their part in eliminating illiteracy and in providing
both basic and further education. They can, very effectively, help people in
developing countries to achieve progress and freedom. They can establish a
measure of universal equality in which all men, whatever their place in society
can enjoy the delights of culture and leisure. They enrich men's minds. They
help them to keep in touch with reality by providing the sights and sounds which
are the very stuff of life. They bring far away times and places within their
grasp. And when illiteracy is rife - and this is not in any way to question the
validity of traditional cultures - citizens can quickly be brought in touch with
recent developments in modern ways of life.
21. In the light of these advantages, the communications media can be seen as
powerful instruments for progress. It is true they present difficulties but
these must be faced and overcome. Both the communicators and the recipients
ought to be aware of their inherent dangers and difficulties. For instance, how
can we ensure that this swift and haphazard and endless stream of news is
properly evaluated and understood? The media are bound to seek a mass audience
and so they often adopt a neutral stance in order to avoid giving offence to any
section of their audience. How, in a society that is committed to the rights of
dissent, is the distinction between right and wrong, and true and false, to be
How in the face of competition to capture a large popular audience are the
media to be prevented from appealing to and inflaming the less admirable
tendencies in human nature? How can one avoid the concentration of the power to
communicate in too few hands so that any real dialogue is killed? How can one
avoid allowing communications made indirectly and through machinery to weaken
direct human contact - especially when these communications take the form of
pictures and images? When the media invite men to escape into fantasy, what can
be done to bring them back to present reality? How can one stop the media
encouraging mental idleness and passivity? And how can one be certain that the
incessant appeal to emotion does not sap reason?
22. It is obvious that there has been a decline in moral standards in many
areas of life today and this decline is the cause of profound concern to all
honest men. It is easy to find evidence of this decline in all the means of
social communication. But how far these means must be blamed for the decline is
open to question. Many responsible men hold that these means are only a
reflection of what already exists in society. Others hold that they increase and
spread those tendencies and that, by making them commonplace, lead to their
gradual acceptance. And still others would put most of the blame squarely upon
the means of social communication. What is certainly true is that the weakness
lies in society itself and that the attempt to restore standards must involve
the whole of society, its parents, teachers, pastors and all who care about the
common good. In this attempt the means of social communication have no small
part to play. It is however impossible to put the means of social communication
into a quite separate category from that of the everyday life and attitudes of
23. In order that the benefits offered to society by social communications
can be better understood and used to the full and the incidental difficulties
they present set aside, the chief aspects of the working of the media among men
must be investigated.
1. PUBLIC OPINION
24. The means of social communication are a public forum where
every man may exchange ideas. The public expression and the confrontation of
different opinions that occur within this dialogue influence and enrich the
development of society and further its progress.
25. Public opinion is an essential expression of human nature organized in a
society. This opinion is formed in the following way. In everyone there is an
innate disposition to give vent to opinions, attitudes and emotions in order to
reach a general acceptance on convictions and customs. Pius XII describes public
opinion as "the natural echo of actual events and situations as reflected more
or less spontaneously in the minds and judgements of men".
So freedom of speech is a normal factor in the growth of public opinion which
expresses the ideas and reactions of the more influential circles in a society
defined by geography, culture and history.
26. If public opinion is to emerge in the proper manner, it is absolutely
essential that there be freedom to express ideas and attitudes. In accordance
with the express teaching of the Second Vatican Council it is necessary
unequivocally to declare that freedom of speech for individuals and groups must
be permitted so long as the common good and public morality be not endangered. 34 In order that men may usefully cooperate
and further improve the life of the community, there must be freedom to assess
and compare differing views which seem to have weight and validity. Within this
free interplay of opinion, there exists a process of give and take, of
acceptance or rejection, of compromise or compilation. And within this same
process, the more valid ideas can gain ground so that a consensus that will lead
to common action becomes possible.
27. Communicators have, therefore, a most important part to play in forming
public opinion. They have to gather up different views and compare them and
transmit them so that people can understand and make a proper decision.
28. Every citizen is expected to play his part in the formation of public
opinion. If needs be, he must do this through representatives who reflect his
Those who exert influence because of the office they hold or because of their
natural talent or for any other reason, have an important part to play in
forming public opinion: they help to do so whenever they express their views.
The greater their quality of leadership, the greater is their responsibility to
exert it in this way.
29. The process of promoting - in what is sometimes referred to as a
"propaganda campaign"- with a view to influencing public opinion is justified
only when it serves the truth and its objectives and methods accord with the
dignity of man and when it promotes causes that are in the public interest.
These causes may concern either individuals or groups, one's own country or the
world at large.
30. Some types of propaganda are inadmissable. These include those that harm
the public interest or allow of no public reply. Any propaganda that
deliberately misrepresents the real situation, or that distorts men's minds with
half-truths, selective reporting or serious omissions, that diminishes man's
legitimate freedom of decision, this propaganda should be rejected. It is
necessary to stress this because the power of propaganda is increasing. And its
power is being augmented by the growth of behavioural sciences like that of
psychology and of the technical resources at the disposal of the communications
31. Not every opinion that is given publicity should be taken as a true
expression of that public opinion which is held by a significant number of
people. A number of differing opinions can flourish at the same time in the same
area, though, usually, one has a greater following than the others. The opinion
of the majority, however, is not necessarily the best or the closest to the
Public opinion, moreover, changes often. The same idea sometimes gains and
sometimes loses hold of the public. Because of this, it is prudent to maintain a
certain detachment toward the opinions currently in public vogue. There may well
be good reasons that require one to oppose them.
32. However views openly and commonly expressed which reflect the aspirations
of the people should always be carefully considered. This is especially binding
on those in authority, whether civil or religious.
2. THE RIGHT TO BE INFORMED AND TO INFORM
33. If public opinion is to be formed in a proper manner, it is
necessary that, right from the start, the public be given free access both to
the sources and channels of information and be allowed freely to express its own
views. Freedom of opinion and the right to be informed go hand in hand. Pope
John XXIII,36 Pope
Paul VI 37 and
the Second Vatican Council
have all stressed this right to information which today is essential for the
individual and for society in general.
a) Access to the Sources and Channels of
34. Modern man cannot do without information that is full,
consistent, accurate and true. Without it, he cannot understand the perpetually
changing world in which he lives nor be able to adapt himself to the real
situation. This adaptation calls for frequent decisions that should be made with
a full knowledge of events. Only in this way can he assume a responsible and
active role in his community and be a part of its economic, political, cultural
and religious life.
With the right to be informed goes the duty to seek information.
Information does not simply occur; it has to be sought. On the other hand, in
order to get it, the man who wants information must have access to the varied
means of social communication. In this way he can freely choose whatever means
best suit his needs both personal and social. It is futile to talk about the
right to information if a variety of the sources for it are not made available.
35. Society, at all levels, requires information if it is to
choose the right course. The community requires well-informed citizens. The
right to information is not merely the prerogative of the individual, it is
essential to the public interest.
36. Those whose job it is to give news have a most difficult and
responsible role to play. They face formidable obstacles and these obstacles
will sometimes include persons interested in concealing the truth. This is
especially the case for reporters who give close-up impressions of the news and
who, in order to do this, often travel to the four corners of the earth in order
to witness events as they actually happen.39 At
times they risk their lives and indeed a number of them have been killed in this
line of duty.40 The
safety of such correspondents should be ensured in every possible way because of
the service they render to man's right to know about what is happening. This is
particularly true in the case of wars which involve and concern the whole human
race. So the Church utterly condemns the use of violence against newsmen or
against anyone in any way involved in the passing on of news. For these persons
vindicate and practice the right of finding out what is happening and of passing
on this information to others.
37. It is hard for anyone to learn the whole truth and to pass
this on to others, but newsmen face an additional problem. Of its nature, news
is about what is new. So journalists deal with what has just happened and with
what is of present interest. More than that, out of a mass of material, they
must select what they judge to be the significant facts that will concern their
audience. So it can happen that the news reported is only a part of the whole
and does not convey what is of real importance.
38. Communicators must give news that is quick, complete and comprehensible.
So more and more they have to seek out competent men for comments, background
briefing and discussion. Often these comments are required immediately,
sometimes even before the expected event has happened. Men of trust, especially
when they are in a position of responsibility or authority, are rightly
reluctant to make hasty or unprepared comments before they have had a chance to
study a situation and its context. And so because the media are impelled to
demand quick comment, the initiative often passes to men who are less
responsible and less well-informed but who are more willing to oblige. Those
acquainted with a given situation should try to prevent this happening. As far
as they can, they should keep themselves up to date so that they themselves can
reply and ensure that the public is properly informed.
39. Then there is another problem. Those who have to keep the public informed
must give the news quickly if it is to appear fresh and interesting. Competition
also obliges them to do this and speed is often won at the price of accuracy.
The communicator has also to know the tastes and cultural level of his public
and to take into account its known preferences. And when he comes to present the
news, it is in the face of such hazards that a communicator must remain faithful
to the truth.
40. But as well as these problems which are inherent in the nature of the
news and communications media, there is another. Communicators must hold the
wandering attention of a harried and hurried public by vivid reporting. And yet
they must not give way to the temptation of making the news sensational in such
a way that they risk distorting it by taking it out of context or by
exaggerating it out of all proportion.
41.The recipients who piece together the news that comes to them in fragments
may well end up with an unbalanced or distorted idea of the whole picture. To a
certain extent, accuracy can be restored by the continuity of the flow from
different sources, which must always be carefully assessed. The recipients of
information should have a clear conception of the predicament of those that
purvey information. They should not look for a superhuman perfection in the
communicators. What they do have a right and duty to expect, however, is that a
rapid and clear correction should follow any mistake or misrepresentation that
has found its way into a report. They are to protest whenever omissions or
distortions occur. They are to protest whenever events have been reported out of
context or in a biased manner. They are to protest whenever the significance of
events has been wildly exaggerated or underplayed. This right should be
guaranteed for recipients by agreement among the communicators themselves and,
if this cannot be got, then by national law or international convention.
42. But the right to information is not limitless. It has to be reconciled
with other existing rights. There is the right of privacy, which protects the
private life of families and individuals.41
There is the right of secrecy, which obtains if necessity or professional duty
or the common good itself requires it. Indeed, whenever public good is at stake,
discretion and discrimination and careful judgement should be used in the
preparation of news.
43. The reporting of violence and brutality demands a special care and tact.
There is no denying that human life is debased by violence and savagery and that
such things happen in our own time and perhaps more now than ever before. It is
possible to delineate all this violence and savagery so that men will recoil
from it. But if these bloody events are too realistically described or too
frequently dwelt upon, there is a danger of perverting the image of human life.
It is also possible that such descriptions generate an attitude of mind and,
according to many experts, a psychosis which escapes the control of the very
forces that unleashed it. All this may leave violence and savagery as the
accepted way of resolving conflict.
b) Freedom of communication
44. This right to information is inseparable from freedom of
communication. Social life depends on a continual interchange, both individual
and collective, between people. This is necessary for mutual understanding and
for cooperative creativity. When social intercourse makes use of the mass media,
a new dimension is added. Then vast numbers of people get the chance to share in
the life and progress of the community.
45. Because man is social by nature, he feels the need to express himself
freely and to compare his views with those of other people. This applies today
more than ever before now that man's intellect and genius are often enough
served more by teamwork than by individual effort. So the result is that when
people follow their natural inclination to exchange ideas and declare their
opinions, they are not merely making use of a right. They are also performing a
46. Those societies which tolerate diverse component groups and are called
"pluralist", can well understand the importance of the free flow of information
and opinion that enables the citizens to play an active part in the community.
Laws have been passed in such countries to guard this freedom. Moreover, the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights has proclaimed this freedom to be
fundamental and thereby implies that the same freedom is essential in the use of
the means of social communication.
47. This freedom of communication also implies that individuals and groups
must be free to seek out and spread information. It also means that they should
have free access to the media. On the other hand, freedom of communication would
be more to the benefit of those who communicate news rather than for the good of
those who receive it, if this freedom existed without proper limits and without
thought of those real and public needs upon which the right to information is
3. EDUCATION, CULTURE AND LEISURE
48. The means of social communication have an ever growing role
to play in the vast field of human education. In many places audiovisual aids,
the new video cassettes and the regular use of radio and television have become
accepted teaching instruments. They make the work of experts in different fields
accessible to more and more people. Elsewhere the means of social communication
are used to complement the established ways of teaching. They also give
opportunities for further education to adolescents and adults. In places where
the educational facilities are inadequate, they can provide religious
instruction and basic education and fight illiteracy. They are useful
instruments for instructing people in agriculture, medicine, hygiene and many
forms of community development. As far as possible, this use of the media for
education should have a creative quality and elicit an active response. In this
way, the pupil is not only led to knowledge but learns to express himself by
using the media.
49. Moreover in a manner that is unique, the media, which are
already a conspicuous element in daily life, bring artistic and cultural
achievements within the orbit of a great part of the human race. And soon,
perhaps, they will do the same for the whole of it. This is as authentic a mark
of social progress as is the removal of economic and social inequality.
50. The media can deepen and enrich contemporary culture and
communicators should recognize that everyone has a right to this enrichment.
They should not hesitate therefore to take the chance offered by the so-called
"mass media" to reach great numbers of people. The media also make it possible
to cater for differing needs and interests since, in a professional and
attractive manner, they can produce the fruits of every type of artistic
People, then, will find no difficulty in using the media to
deepen and refine their cultural life as long as they supplement this use with
the exercise of personal reflection and an exchange of views with others.
51. An example of the cultural potential of the media can be
found in their service to the traditional folk arts of countries where stories,
plays, song and dance still express an ancient national inheritance. Because of
their modern techniques, the media can make these achievements known more
widely. They can record them so that they can be seen and heard again and again
and make them accessible even in districts where the old traditions have
vanished. In this way, the media help to impress on a nation a proper sense of
its cultural identity and by expressing this, delight and enrich other cultures
and countries as well.
52. It should be recalled that many great works recognized as
the products of genius, particularly in music, drama and literature, were first
presented to the public as entertainment. So entertainment need not lack
cultural validity. 42
Today, through the media, the noblest forms of artistic
expression offer true recreation - in the fullest sense of that word - to more
and more people. And there is more and more call for this in our complex
society. Simple entertainment, too, has a value of its own. It lightens the
burden of daily problems and it occupies men's leisure. The wide variety of
productions that the media offer for these hours of leisure is in fact a
remarkable service to mankind. But recipients should exercise self-control. They
must not allow themselves to be so beguiled by the charms of the media's
products or by the curiosity that these arouse that they neglect urgent duties
or simply waste time.
53. The media are themselves new factors in contemporary
culture, serving as they do large numbers of people at the same time. But as
well as enriching culture, they can occasionally degrade it. They often play for
the applause of the lowest cultural levels of their audience. And because they
take so much of modern man's time, they can easily divert him from higher and
more profitable cultural pursuits.
An unrelieved diet of productions geared to the lowest cultural
level within a population would tend to debase the taste of those who have
already attained a higher level. These dangers can be avoided if communicators
really care about the well-being of culture and buttress their good intentions
with a sound knowledge of the science of education. Moreover, it will be
recalled that the media are perfectly capable of productions on the highest
artistic level, and these are not necessarily the most difficult to follow and
to enjoy for the great majority.
4. FORMS OF ARTISTIC EXPRESSION
54. The media of social communication do more than present the
traditional forms of artistic expression; they themselves create new ones. And
now that the media cover the whole earth and multiply the opportunities for
international cultural cooperation, especially in co-productions using the
talents of artists from many nations, it is only right that both communicators
and recipients should seek to acquire a truly catholic taste, one that includes
both the traditional and the latest forms of artistic expression, one that
appreciates and understands the production of all nations, of all cultures and
of all sub-cultures within the same areas of civilization.
55. Artistic expression both for its own excellence and for what
it does for man should be highly appreciated. Of itself, beauty ennobles the
mind that contemplates it. The work of the artist can also penetrate and
illumine the deepest recesses of the human spirit. It can make spiritual reality
immediate by expressing it in a way that the senses can comprehend. And as a
result of this expression man comes to know himself better. This is not only a
cultural benefit but a moral and religious one as well. "It is a fact that when
you writers and artists are able to reveal in the human condition, however lowly
or sad it may be, a spark of goodness, at that very instant a glow of beauty
pervades your whole work. We are not asking of you that you should play the part
of moralists. We are only asking you to have confidence in your mysterious power
of opening up the glorious regions of light that lie behind the mystery of man's
56. Those who would truly understand the spirit of another age have to study
not only its history, but also its literature and artefacts. And this is so
because, in a very precise and lucid way, the creative arts are more revealing
than conceptual descriptions of the character of people, of their aspirations,
emotions and thoughts. Even when the artist takes flight from the tangible and
solid world and pursues his creative fantasies, he can give priceless insight
into the human condition. Stories fashioned out of imagination in which the
artist creates characters that live and evolve in a world of fiction, these too
communicate their special truth. Even though they are not real, they are
realistic; for they are made of the very stuff of human life. They even affect
those deep causes that rouse men to blaze with life.44 For, in the light they throw on these
causes, the sensitive man may know them for what they are. And with this
knowledge he can begin to foresee the direction that humanity will take.
57. Pope Pius XII taught that human life "certainly cannot be understood, at
least when considering violent and serious conflicts, if one deliberately turns
one eyes from the crimes and evils from which they often have their origin. How
then, can ideal films take this as their subject? The greatest poets and writers
of all times have occupied themselves with this difficult and rough matter, and
they will continue to do so in the future... When the conflict with evil, not
excluding cases when evil prevails for a while, is treated within the context of
a work as a whole, in an effort to understand life better, to see how it should
be ordered, or to show how man should conduct himself, how he should think and
act with more consistency, then, in such cases, such matter can be chosen as an
integral part of the development of the whole film".45 Such a work would contribute to
moral progress. Even though they are quite distinct, genuine artistic values do
not clash with moral standards. Each in fact confirms the validity of the other.
58. Moral problems may at times arise in productions that deal with evil. For
instance, these may occur when the audience is unable to grasp, as it should,
the full implications of evil, either because its members are young or
undeveloped or because their education is inadequate. The artist is faced with
life in its entirety, with its good as well as its bad aspects. Good sense and
judgement are therefore called for when a work is destined for a large audience
with different backgrounds. This is especially true when the subject is man
confronted by evil.
59. The importance of advertising is steadily on the increase in
modern society. It makes its presence felt everywhere; its influence is
unavoidable. It offers real social benefits. It tells buyers of the goods and
services available. It thus encourages the widest distribution of products and,
in doing this, it helps industry to develop and benefit the population. All this
is to the good so long as there is respect for the buyer's liberty of choice,
even though in trying to sell some particular objects appeal is made to a
person's basic need. Advertising too must respect the truth, taking into account
accepted advertising conventions.
60. If harmful or utterly useless goods are touted to the public, if false
assertions are made about the goods for sale, if less admirable human tendencies
are exploited, those responsible for such advertising harm society and forfeit
their good name and credibility. More than this, unremitting pressure to buy
articles of luxury can arouse false wants that hurt both individuals and
families by making them ignore what they really need. And those forms of
advertising which, without shame, exploit the sexual instincts simply to make
money or which seek to penetrate into the subconscious recesses of the mind in a
way that threatens the freedom of the individual, those forms of advertising
must be shunned. It is therefore desirable that advertisers make definite rules
for themselves lest their sales methods affront human dignity or harm the
61. It is true that a judicious use of advertising can stimulate developing
countries to improve their standard of living. But serious harm can be done them
if advertising and commercial pressure become so irresponsible that communities
that seek to rise from poverty to a reasonable standard of living are persuaded
to seek this progress by satisfying wants that have been created artificially.
The result of this is that they waste their resources and neglect their real
needs and genuine development falls behind.
62. In fact the vast sums of money spent in advertising threaten the very
foundations of the mass media. People can get the impression that the
instruments of communication exist solely to stimulate men's appetites so that
these can be satisfied later by the acquisition of the things that have been
advertised. Moreover, because of economic demands and pressures, the essential
freedom of the media is at stake. Since advertising revenue is vital for these
media, only those can ultimately survive which receive the greatest share of
advertising outlays. Consequently, the door is open for monopolies to develop in
the media which may impede the right to receive and give information and inhibit
the exchange of views within the community. A variety of independent means of
social communication must therefore be carefully safeguarded even if this
requires legislative action. This will ensure that there is an equitable
distribution of advertising revenue among the most deserving media of
communication and prevent the lion's share from going to those that are already
the most powerful.
THE BEST CONDITIONS FOR THEIR PROPER WORKING
63. If the media of social communication are to give their best
service to mankind, the importance of the human element must be recognized. This
element plays a more decisive role than the most marvellous electronic and
mechanical instruments by themselves. For the proper functioning of the media in
society does not occur of its own accord. Both communicators and recipients,
each according to his own requirements, need a suitable grounding if full
advantage is to be taken of the opportunities offered by these instruments. All
should know what their particular role requires of them and then proceed to play
it, both as individuals and members of society. Civil authorities, as well as
religious leaders and educators, should play their part too in order that the
rich promise of the media be effectively realized for the good of society.
64. A training that grounds a man in the basic principles
governing the working of the media in human society, as explained above, is
nowadays clearly necessary for all. The means of communication genuinely enrich
men's minds if their character and function is understood. On the other hand,
men who do not sufficiently appreciate their importance, may find their liberty
diminished. Training should include a practical consideration of the special
nature of each medium and of its status in the local community and how it can
best be utilized. And this should be done with special reference to man and
a) The Recipients
65. Recipients need some basic training if they are to benefit
to the full from what the instruments of social communication have to offer.
This training is not merely for their personal advantage, but it should help
them to make their contribution to the give and take of society as well as to
the constructive work of the community. Such a training will also help them to
discover the best way of achieving these ends. It will help them to play their
part in the process of striving for justice among nations and for the
elimination of glaring inequalities between the richer and poorer countries.
66. For this they require a knowledge of the media that will
keep pace with their maturing. And the processs of education, which should be
available to all, does not come to an end. It is to be supplemented continually
by lectures and discussions, by special courses and study sessions that make use
of the help of professionals in this field.
67. It is never too early to start encouraging in children
artistic taste, a keen critical faculty and a sense of personal responsibility
that is based on sound morality. They need all these so that they can use
discrimination in choosing from the publications, films and broadcasts that are
set before them. This is necessary because the young are naturally vulnerable,
but this self-discipline acquired in childhood will richly serve the adult too.
Generosity and idealism are admirable qualities in young people, so are their
frankness and sincerity. But these qualities, along with self-discipline, will
only survive if they are guarded and fostered from an early age. This is why
parents and teachers should urge children to make their own choice even if the
educators should reserve at times the final decision to themselves. And if they
find themselves forced to disapprove of the way their children are using some
aspect of the media, they must clearly explain the reasons for their objections.
Persuasion works better than prohibition and this is especially true in
education. Adults should realize that the psychology of children differs from
that of adults. Because of this, programmes that seem meaningless to them may be
useful to children and even to teenagers.
Young people can, without doubt, influence one another for the
better when it comes to culture. Their very years serve as a passport to the new
forms it takes and gives them an entrance to their own circle. There is ample
evidence to prove how effective they can be.
68. It is useful for educators to take note of some of the
broadcasts, films and publications that most interest the young in their care.
They can then discuss them together and this helps to develop the child's
critical powers. As for the more difficult or even controversial artistic
productions, here the parent should, at the right moment, help his young to
discover the human values in the production and to interpret its details within
the context of the work as a whole.
69. This sort of training must be given a regular place in
school curricula. It must be given, and systematically, at every stage of
education. In this way, young people can be helped gradually to develop a new
perception in their interpretation of what is offered them by the press, the
other media and the literary publishing houses. All this should be taught in
study courses planned to include special sessions where the teacher can call on
the help of professional communicators for lectures and for practical exercises.
70. It is obvious that parents and other educators cannot meet
these obligations unless they themselves are reasonably well grounded in an
understanding of the media. Here it must be remembered that parents who have not
grown up to be at home with the media often find it harder to comprehend the
language used than do the young people of today. Often parents are disturbed by
the frankness with which the media treat every question and these include the
problems that face both the civil government and the Church. Naturally they wish
their children to use the media in a proper manner. Nevertheless, let them trust
the young because these have been born and have grown up in a different kind of
society. Because of this, they are better forewarned and better forearmed to
meet the pressures that come from every side.
b) The Communicators
71. Many are the communicators who handle well the tools of
their profession, but lack a deep understanding of the art of communicating with
all it implies. It is obvious that the communicators in the media who wish to
excel, need a serious and specialized training in every aspect of their work.
The growing trend to found faculties of social communication in institutions of
higher learning, and these with authority to confer degrees, is a welcome
development. For if communicators are to meet their professional obligations,
they must have sound knowledge as well as experience.
72. In the training of a communicator human qualities as well as
professional competence should be developed. Since the media of social
comunication are for mankind, communicators should be consumed by the desire to
serve men. They can only achieve this if they really do know and love their
fellow man. The more communicators remember that beyond the lifeless instruments
which pass on their words and images are countless men and women alive, the more
satisfaction they will get from their work and the better they will help others.
The more they get to know their audience, the more they understand it and
appreciate it, the more they will suit what they communicate to those who
receive it. If they do this, they help to make the process of communication a
communion of the spirit.
2. OPPORTUNITIES AND OBLIGATIONS
a) Of Communicators
73. Communicators breathe life into the dialogue that happens
within the family of man. It is they who preside while the exchange proceeds
around the vast "round table" that the media have made. Their vocation is nobly
to promote the purpose of social communication. This purpose is to accelerate
every sort of human progress and to increase cooperation among men until there
exists a genuine communion among them.
74. When they come to choose the subjects for their productions,
communicators will attempt to match all the needs of their public. They will be
scrupulous in seeing that every relevant group is fairly represented. To do
this, they have to try to foresee the kind of audience they serve. There should,
accordingly, be close cooperation between communicators and recipients. Only in
this way can these social communications set up a working and workable dialogue
between free and adequately prepared people. And this dialogue must not ignore
the age, culture and social background of the participants. The media of social
communication are the right instruments for the propagation of this sort of
interchange between men.
75. Pope Paul said of communicators that they are obliged to pay
continual attention to and to carry on an uninterrupted observation of the
external world: "You must continually stand at the window, open to the world;
you are obliged to study the facts, the events, the opinions, the current
interests, the thought of the surrounding environment".46
Because factual information provides a public service, not only must news
reporting keep to the facts, and bear down upon the most important of these but
the meaning of what it reports should be brought out by explanation. The real
bearing of one item of news upon another should be pointed out especially when
different items reach the recipient without evidence of any discernible pattern.
In this way the recipient will be able to use this information as a basis for
his judgement and decision in matters affecting the community.
76. Communicators should not allow themselves to forget that the
nature of the mass media makes their audience a vast one. While they must keep
faith with their artistic integrity, they will remember at the same time both
their power and the grave responsibilities that it brings with it. For they have
been given a rare chance to promote the happiness and progress of men. In their
productions justice and integrity of judgement will impel artists to be
concerned both with the needs of minorities as well as of larger and more
numerous groups.And if some of the means of social communication, whether by law
or local practice, in fact enjoy a monopoly, then a scrupulous impartiality must
be sought since, in such a situation, the danger is that monologue may replace
77. Communicators who debase their skills and their work for
money or for easy popularity and passing acclaim are not only failing their
public. In the end, they are demeaning their profession.
78. Critics have a commanding role in getting communicators to
maintain the highest standards of integrity and service and continually to make
progress. As they themselves are also communicators, they provide the
self-criticism within the profession and in this way they are able to protect
creative artists from external pressures. They must be convinced that integrity
and incorruptibility are the essence of their profession. They will be inspired
by fidelity to truth and a passion for justice. In a cool and objective way,
they should try to display both the strength and the weakness of the work under
review so that the public can make its own fair judgement. The importance of
their own creative art should not be underrated, especially when through their
wide knowledge and their penetrating judgement they are able to discover in
works of art meaning and riches that may have escaped even the artists
themselves. Yet they should not attract all attention to themselves at the
expense of the work under study.
79. The founding of professional associations for communicators
is most valuable. They are very useful as places where opinions and experiences
can be exchanged. They form a basis for organized cooperation. They help in
coping with the sort of difficulties that are inherent in the communicator's
task. These associations can draw up codes of ethics on a basis of principle and
experience. Through the guidance they offer, these codes can help in producing
work that meets the needs of social communication. Fundamentally, the codes of
these associations ought to be positive. They should not be wholly preoccupied
with forbidding; rather they should concentrate on how to improve what can be
done for the communicators' fellow men.
80. In order to survive and to expand, the means of social
communication require reliable financial backing. It therefore happens that
communicators must at times, either directly or indirectly, seek funds from
public or private sources. The men who provide these funds can powerfully
influence the quality of the product. But they must be discerning in choosing
which enterprises to support and desire the good of mankind rather than
financial advantage. As long as they bear in mind that the means of social
communication are more than commercial enterprises, are, in fact, at one and the
same time, cultural and social services, these investors will not exercise any
undue pressure that might distort the proper liberty of the communicators, the
artists or what we have called the recipients.
81. The recipients can do more to improve the quality of the
media than is generally realized; so their responsibility to do this is all the
greater. Whether or not the media can set up an authentic dialogue with society
depends very largely upon these recipients. If they do not insist on expressing
their views, if they are content with a merely passive role, all the efforts of
the communicators to establish an uninhibited dialogue will be useless.
82. Recipients can be described as active when they know how to
interpret communications accurately and can judge them in the light of their
origin, background and total content. They will be active when they make their
selection judiciously and critically, when they fill out incomplete information
that comes their way with more news which they themselves have obtained from
other sources, and finally, when they are ready to make their views heard in
public, whether they agree, or partly agree or totally disagree.
83. There is the obvious objection that there is little a man
can do alone at the receiving end. This is necessarily pessimistic. Recipients
can find strength in unity. There exists no reason why they should not work
closely together. They can band themselves into associations, just as
communicators have been advised to do. Their organizations need not be set up
with the single end of giving expression to what the man in the street feels
about the products of the media. They could just as well avail themselves of
organizations that already exist and which have a wider scope but compatible
3. COOPERATION BETWEEN:
a) Citizens and the Civil Authorities
84. The media are there for the good of everyone and to serve
everyone. So, at once, they concern both citizens and public authorities These
authorities have the essential duty of maintaining freedom of speech and of
seeing that the right conditions exist for it Every individual must have the
chance of following his informed judgement. Human dignity must be fully
respected. The good of the country and the interests of international
cooperation must both be given due consideration.
85. The well-being of society requires absolutely that
individuals and groups be free to exercise initiative. It also requires that
citizens exercise responsibility and self-control both as communicators and as
recipients. With this end in view, voluntary associations may not only be
desirable, they may even be essential.
86. The role of the civil authorities in this matter is
essentially a positive one. Their chief task is not to create difficulties or to
suppress, though, at times, corrective measures may become necessary. The Second
Vatican Council explained that man's freedom is to be respected as far as
possible, and curtailed only when and in so far as necessary.47
Censorship therefore should only be used in the very last extremity. Moreover
the civil authorities should respect the principle of subsidiarity which has
often been affirmed in the official teaching of the Church the gist of which is:
"Let them not undertake to do themselves what can be done just as well, or even
better, by individuals or private groups".
87. Therefore it is right that, in the light of these
principles, freedom of communication and the right to be informed be established
in law and guarded from excessive economic, political and ideological pressures
that might weaken them. There should be legislation to guarantee to citizens the
right to criticise the actual working of the communications media. This is
particularly desirable where the media are conducted as a monopoly. This is all
the more necessary if the monopoly is exercised by the civil authorities
themselves.It is undoubtedly the task of the lawmakers to legislate about the
media. In fact the media must have the support of law so that they can survive,
and survive in a sufficient variety and independence in the face of the
encroachment of economic interests that make for harmful concentration. Again,
the good name of the private citizen and of minority groups needs the protection
of the law. Cultural and human values require protection. Religious liberty in
the use of the media should be guaranteed.
88. It is highly recommended that professionals in the media or
their institutions set up councils on their own account. These will have their
own statutes and will be concerned with all aspects of social communication.
Representatives of the different sections of the populations should be invited
to sit on these councils. This, it is hoped, will eliminate the wrong sort of
interference from state or economic interests. It will strengthen cooperation
and fellow feeling between communicators and that will be to the benefit of the
whole community. In some cases, however, the state may have to intervene in
order to set up these advisory boards to supervise the media. In these cases,
the boards should be, by law, representative of all shades of opinion within the
89. As far as possible, the law should protect the young from
what can do them permanent psychological or moral harm. It is the task of
legislation in this field to give the necessary support to the family and the
school in the task of educating the young.
90. Legislation should be encouraged to provide financial
support to initiatives in the use of communications that clearly serve the
general good. These would include organizations that provide information,
specialist educational publications, films and broadcasts, particularly when
these are made for children. This support is more desirable when the initiatives
have little hope of financial success. This encouragement also applies to
feature films of high artistic quality and to publications and performances
which are destined for a restricted public and which are therefore unlikely to
pay their way.
91. The responsibility of civil authorities over the means of
social communication now covers the world, for they have to guarantee the
development of social communication for the good of all mankind, and this
without selection or discrimination. This development can be secured by the use
of international agreements including those that touch on the use of space
satellites. In this way, all nations will be guaranteed a fair place within the
dialogue and interplay of mankind.
92. Those forms of aid which emerging nations need to develop
their own means of social communication are of great importance among the many
forms of international effort which the media demand. The lack of proper means
of social communication is, in fact, a sign of slow development in a community,
as well as being one of the causes of it. Without the use of modern techniques
of social communication no country can provide its citizens with necessary
information or proper education. This inability endangers political, social and
93. "Progress", said Pope Paul VI, "is the new term for peace". 48
Countries that are well equipped should provide technical assistance to those
which are not. This is as true in the field of social communication as in any
other. The developed countries are to help in the training of professionals and
provide the necessary equipment. Their responsibilities for the common good do
not end at their national frontiers. They extend to the whole of mankind. This
requirement is all the more pressing now that developments in the field are
progressing so swiftly. Developing countries should be helped with training
centres for social communication set up within their own boundaries. Otherwise
the trainees may be forced wastefully to leave their own country. Such centres
will prevent a "brain drain" from the developing countries.
94. It goes without saying that the aid given to developing
countries can never be at the expense of their own cherished traditions, of
their culture and art forms, for these are rich in human significance. Cultural
cooperation is not the giving of alms. It is an exchange that is mutually
95. In developing countries, particularly in those where
illiteracy hinders progress, audiovisual means are very effective in spreading
knowledge. These means can help to improve agriculture, industry, commerce,
hygiene and public health. They can serve to develop the individual's
personality, to strengthen family life, social relations and civic
responsibility. It is virtually impossible to do such works at a profit. It is
therefore necessary to appeal to the generosity of private citizens and of
private organizations in the richer countries as well as to the support of
c) All Christians, all believers and all Men
of Good Will
96. The means of social communication are not likely to achieve
their purpose - which is actively to further human progress - unless they face
the formidable problems that beset modern man and strengthen his hopes and lead
to a concerted effort on the part of all who believe in the living God. This is
especially true in the case of those who are united in the sacrament of Baptism.
So teaches the Second Council in the documents on Ecumenism and non-Christian
97. As a result of the work of the communications media,
Christians are better able to understand the state of contemporary world
society, a society which is frequently alienated from God. Dramatists and
journalists describe this alienation in significant terms asserting human
liberty with all the force of their genius and with all the depth of their
thought. Their creative power and descriptive skill have our admiration and
98. When their faith gives them real inspiration, people of
different religions can render notable service to social communications. This
will do more than further human progress both social and cultural. It can under
Divine Providence institute a universal dialogue on the highest level that can
lead man to cherish and foster in his daily life his common brotherhood under
the One Eternal God, the Father of All.
99. There is almost no end to the opportunities for such
collaboration. Some are obvious: joint programmes on radio and television;
educational projects and services especially for parents and young people;
meetings and discussions between professionals that may be on an international
level; recognition of achievement in these fields by annual awards; cooperation
in research in the media, especially in professional training and education. All
these can help towards the fair and equal advancement of all peoples.
100. To make practical the possibilities that are inherent in
the media there should be a joint programme of action. Resources will have to be
made available for this. As a practical step the Vatican Council suggested the
establishment of World Communications Day. Every man who believes in God is
invited to spend one particular day every year to pray and think about the
future and the problems of the media. They are also invited to friendly meetings
with the different sorts of professionals. In this way it should be possible to
explore what projects can be started and what initiatives encouraged whereby the
media can be used to further the progress of mankind. The people of God (both
pastors and laymen) commits itself, in the fulfilment of these duties, to give
support to the initiatives of men of good will everywhere so that the means of
social communication may be used for justice, peace, freedom and human progress.
THE COMMITMENT OF CATHOLICS IN THE MEDIA
101. Catholics have been asked by the Second Vatican Council to
consider still more carefully and in the light of the Faith what new work and
responsibility the modern means of social communication place upon them. In the
first part of this Instruction, we have suggested how the history of salvation
implied a vital role for social communications in God's creative and redeeming
work among men. In interpreting her responsibilities in this, the Church tries
to give a coherent vision that will embrace both the faith and the practical
working of social communication. It is in this light that she will fulfill her
divine mission, which is the object of all her pastoral activity and which has
the dual aspects of helping men and of announcing the Good News. The aspect of
human progress by the media has been generally discussed in the second part of
this document. The specifically Christian and Catholic contribution to human
advancement will be dealt with briefly in the following chapter of this third
part which is concerned with the role of the media in the life of Catholics.
THE CONTRIBUTION OF CATHOLICS TO SOCIAL COMMUNICATION
102. If Catholics are to be of service to the means of social
communication and to act so that these may serve humanity's ends, it goes
without saying that it is in the spiritual sphere that the Church can best help.
The Church hopes that, as a result of her spiritual contribution, the basic
nature of social communication will be more clearly appreciated. The Church
hopes, too, that the dignity of the human person, both communicator and
recipient, will be better understood and respected. In this way this social
interplay that makes neighbours of men can lead to true communion.
103. Therefore the active cooperation of Christians who are professionally
competent in this field is a major service to social communication. The
excellence which they bring to their professional duty is itself a powerful
testimony to Christianity. Moreover, as members of companies or organizations
without religious affiliations, they will bring to the fore a Christian point of
view on all questions that exercise men in society. They can help news editors
and newscasters not to overlook news items about religious life which will
interest their audience. They can give the religious dimension to human life. It
goes without saying that they are not at this work in order to dominate the
media with their viewpoint. Rather they aim to give a service which will earn
the sympathy of their colleagues simply by its quality.
104. It is a source of strength for Catholic commumicators that they receive
from the Church spiritual help to meet the needs of their important and
105. Fully aware of the importance of their profession and of the special
difficulties it involves, the Church is very willing to undertake a dialogue
with all communicators of every religious persuasion. She would do this so that
she may contribute to a common effort to solve the problems inherent in their
task and do what is best for the benefit of man.
106. As representatives of the Church, bishops, priests, religious and laity
are increasingly asked to write in the press or appear on radio and television
or to collaborate in filming. They are warmly urged to undertake this work,
which has consequences that are far more important than is usually imagined. But
the complexity of the media requires a sound knowledge of their work, of their
impact and of the best way to use them. It is therefore the task of the national
centres and of the specialized organizations to make certain that those who have
to use the media receive sufficient and timely training.
107. The Church considers it to be one of her most urgent tasks to provide
the means for training recipients in Christian principles. This also is a
service to social communication. The well-trained recipient will be able to take
part in the dialogue promoted by the media and will demand high quality in
communications. Catholic schools and organizations cannot ignore the urgent duty
they have in this field. These schools and institutions will take care to teach
young people not only to be good Christians when they are recipients but also to
be active in using all the aids to communication that lie within the media, now
called the "total language". So, young people will be true citizens of that age
of social communication which has already begun.
108. The whole question of social communications deserves attention from
theologians particularly in the areas of moral and pastoral theology. Religious
education too, ought to include instruction on the modern media and their
principal implications. This will be more readily achieved when theologians have
studied the suggestions in the First Part of this Instruction and enriched them
with their research and insight.
109. Parents, educators, priests and Christian organizations should encourage
young people with the right qualities to take up a career in social
communication. To do this and to provide properly trained candidates, funds are
necessary. In developing areas, the national hierarchies should get financial
help for the training of local candidates both in theory and practice.
110. Bishops, priests, religious and laity, all in their own ways, have a
clear duty to contribute to Christian education in this field. They must make
this contribution with the social teaching of the Church in mind. They will of
their own accord keep in touch with the latest developments in communications so
as to be well informed themselves. Otherwise they will lack that familiarity
with the media which their actual use requires. Working with professional
communicators, they will be wise to go more deeply into the problems presented
by communicating through the media and to exchange their experiences and ideas.
111. If students for the priesthood and religious in training wish to be part
of modern life and also to be at all effective in their apostolate, they should
know how the media work upon the fabric of society and the technique of their
use. This knowledge should be an integral part of their ordinary education.
Indeed without this knowledge an effective apostolate is impossible in a society
which is increasingly conditioned by the media.51 It
is also desirable that priests and religious understand how public opinion and
popular attitudes come into being so that they can suit both the situation and
the people of their time. They can find the media of great help in their effort
to announce the Word of God to modern men. Students who show a special gift in
the handling of the media should be given higher training.
112. Reviews of radio and television broadcasts, of films and illustrated
magazines can be of help in cultural and religious education. They will also
help those who wish to make a wise choice of what the media have to offer,
particularly for the family. In this connection, particular attention should be
paid to reviews that have real competence. These include assessment of the
worth, the morality and the Christian value of films, broadcasts and writings
issued under the pastoral care of bishops in different regions by specially
113. Catholic universities and educational institutions should be more
assiduous in the promotion of scientific studies and research on social
communications. They will try to collate all the findings of research,
themselves play a part in this research, and make all of it available to the
service of Christian education. While they will need financial help from others
for these projects, they too will readily cooperate with other institutions.
THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE COMMUNICATIONS MEDIA TO CATHOLICS
1. PUBLIC OPINION AND A CLOSER
COMMUNICATION IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH
114. The Church looks for ways of multiplying and strengthening
the bonds of union between her members. For this reason, communication and
dialogue among Catholics are indispensable. The Church lives her life in the
midst of the whole community of man. She must therefore maintain contacts and
lines of communication in order to keep a relationship with the whole human
race. This is done both by giving information and by listening carefully to
public opinion inside and outside the Church. Finally, by holding a continuous
discussion with the contemporary world, she tries to help in solving the
problems that men face at the present time.
a) Dialogue within the Church
115. Since the Church is a living body, she needs public opinion in order to
sustain a giving and taking between her members Without this, she cannot advance
in thought and action. " Something would be lacking in her life if she had no
public opinion. Both pastors of souls and lay people would be to blame for
116. Catholics should be fully aware of the real freedom to speak their minds
which stems from a "feeling for the faith" and from love. It stems from that
feeling for the faith which is aroused and nourished by the spirit of truth in
order that, under the guidance of the teaching Church which they accept with
reverence, the People of God may cling unswervingly to the faith given to the
early Church, with true judgement penetrate its meaning more deeply, and apply
it more fully in their lives.53 This
freedom also stems from love. For it is with love that the liberty of the People
of God are raised to an intimate sharing in the freedom of Christ Himself, who
cleansed us from our sins, in order that we might be able freely to make
judgements in accordance with the will of God. Those who exercise authority in
the Church will take care to ensure that there is responsible exchange of freely
held and expressed opinion among the People of God. More that this, they will
set up norms and conditions for this to take place.54
117. There is an enormous area where members of the Church can express their
views on domestic issues. It must be taken that the truths of the faith express
the essence of the Church and therefore do not leave room for arbitrary
interpretations. Nonetheless, the Church moves with the movement of man. She
therefore has to adapt herself to the special circumstances that arise out of
time and place. She has to consider how the truths of the faith may be explained
in different times and cultures. She has to reach a multitude of decisions while
adjusting her actions to the changes around her. While the individual Catholic
follows the Magisterium, he can and should engage in free research so that he
may better understand revealed truths or explain them to a society subject to
This free dialogue within the Church does no injury to her unity and
solidarity. It nurtures concord and the meeting of minds by permitting the free
play of the variations of public opinion. But in order that this dialogue may go
in the right direction it is essential that charity is in command even when
there are differing views. Everyone in this dialogue should be animated by the
desire to serve and to consolidate unity and cooperation. There should be a
desire to build not to destroy. There should be a deep love for the Church and a
compelling desire for its unity. Christ made love the sign by which men can
recognize His true Church and therefore His true followers.55
118. For this reason, distinction must be born in mind between, on the one
hand, the area that is devoted to scientific investigation and and on the other
the area that concerns the teaching of the faithful. In the first, experts enjoy
the freedom required by their work and are free to comunicate to others in books
and commentaries the fruits of their research. In the second, only those
doctrines may be attributed to the Church which are declared to be such by her
authentic Magisterium. These last, obviously, can be aired in public without
fear of giving scandal. It sometimes happens, however, because of the very
nature of social communication that new opinions circulating among theologians,
at times, circulate too soon and in the wrong places. Such opinions, which must
not be confused with the authentic doctrine of the Church, should be examined
critically. It must also be remembered that the real significance of such
theories is often badly distorted by popularization and by the style of
presentation used in the media..
119. Since the development of public opinion within the Church is essential,
individual Catholics have the right to all the information they need to play
their active role in the life of the Church. In practice this means that
communications media must be available for the task. These should not only exist
in sufficient number but also reach all the People of God. Where necessary, they
may even be owned by the Church as long as they truly fulfil their purpose.
120. The normal flow of life and the smooth functioning of government within
the Church require a steady two-way flow of information between the
ecclesiastical authorities at all levels and the faithful as individuals and as
organized groups. This applies to the whole world. To make this possible various
institutions are required. These might include news agencies, official
spokesmen, meeting facilities, pastoral councils, all properly financed.
121. On those occasions when the affairs of the Church require secrecy, the
rules normal in civil affairs equally apply. On the other hand, the spiritual
riches which are an essential attribute of the Church demand that the news she
gives out of her intentions as well as of her works be distinguished by
integrity, truth and openness. When ecclesiastical authorities are unwilling to
give information or are unable to do so, then rumour is unloosed and rumour is
not a bearer of the truth but carries dangerous half-truths. Secrecy should
therefore be restricted to matters that involve the good name of individuals or
that touch upon the rights of people whether singly or collectively.
b) Dialogue between the Church and the World
122. The Church does not speak and listen to her own members alone; her
dialogue is with the whole world. By virtue of a divine command 56and by the right to knowledge
possessed by the people whose lot she shares on earth, the Church is in duty
bound publicly to communicate her belief and her way of life. Moreover, as the
Second Vatican Council teaches, she is " to read the signs of the times", for
these too reveal the message of God and indicate the unfolding of the history of
salvation under Divine Providence. This is another reason why the Church needs
to know contemporary reactions to ideas and events, whether they be Catholic or
not. The greater the extent to which the means of social communication reflect
these reactions, the more do they contribute towards this knowledge required by
123. It is the mission of those with responsible positions in the Church to
announce without fail or pause the full truth by the means of social
communication, so as to give a true picture of the Church and her life. Since
the media are often the only channels of information that exist between the
Church and the world, a failure to use them amounts to "burying the talent given
by God". The Church naturally expects of the news agencies that they give
religious news, with all the care and attention that the subject demands. On her
part, the Church is consequently bound in duty to give complete and ertirely
accurate information to the news agencies so that they, in their turn, can carry
out their task.
124. What was contained above 57 where commentaries on the news were
discussed retains its full force here where Church news is under consideration.
Responsible leaders in the Church then should try in advance to be ready to deal
with a difficult situation and should not abandon the initiative. Further, it is
wise to see that important decisions and statements be made available in
advance, using time embargo on publication. In this way, arrangements could be
made in the interests of the Church for proper explanation and discussion.
125. The means of social communication help Catholics in three ways. They
help the Church reveal herself to the modern world. They foster dialogue within
the Church. They make clear to the Church contemporary opinions and attitudes.
For the Church has been ordered by God to give men the message of salvation in a
language they can understand and to concern herself with the concerns of man.
2. THE USE OF THE MEDIA FOR GIVING THE
126. Christ commanded the Apostles and their successors to
"teach all nations"
58, to be "the light of the world"59 and to announce the Good News in all
places at all times. During His life on earth, Christ showed himself to be the
perfect Communicator, while the Apostles used what means of social communication
were available in their time. It is now necessary that the same message be
carried by the means of social communication that are available today. Indeed it
would be difficult to suggest that Christ's command was being obeyed unless all
the opportunities offered by the modern media to extend to vast numbers of
people the announcement of his Good News were being used. Therefore the Second
Vatican Council invited the people of God "to use effectively and at once the
means of social communication, zealously availing themselves of them for
127. The necessity for doing this is quite obvious once it is realized that
modern men are immersed in the tide of social communication when they are
forming their profound convictions and adopting their attitudes. This is as true
of religious convictions and attitudes as it is of any other sort.
128. The modern media offer new ways of confronting people with the message
of the Gospel, of allowing Christians even when they are far away to share in
sacred rites, worship and ecclesiastical functions. In this way they can bind
the Christian community closer together and invite everyone to participate in
the intimate life of the Church. Of course the mode of presentation has to suit
the special nature of the medium being used. The media are not the same as a
church pulpit. It cannot be overstressed that the standard of such presentations
must at least equal in quality the other productions of the media.
129. The media are invaluable helps for Christian education. They can call on
the services of the greatest specialists in religious teaching as well as of
experts on all the questions that arise. The media have at their command all the
technical facilities required for attractive and contemporary presentation. They
can back up most effectively the personal work of the daily teacher. Their
resources make possible the radical changes that are required in the whole style
of religious instruction today.
Since the instruments of social communication are the usual channels for
giving the news and voicing contemporary man's attitudes and views, they offer
marvellous opportunities to all for considering the deeper implications of their
religious convictions through the discussion of events and problems of the day.
The Christian can then apply these deepened convictions to his daily life.
130. People today have grown so used to the entertaining style and skilful
presentation of communications by the media that they are intolerant of what is
obviously inferior in any public presentation. It makes no difference if this be
a religious occasion, such as, for example, a liturgical ceremony, a sermon or
131. In order to make the teaching of Christianity more interesting and
effective the media should be used as much as possible. Every effort should be
made to use the most appropriate technique and style in fitting a communication
to its medium.
132. The Church can use means of communication that are not under her control
but which, under agreed conditions, are offered for her use. Where it is
necessary, she may also herself own and administer means of communication. No
hard and fast rules can here be laid down; the situation varies from place to
place. Religious authorities will advise those who are involved in this
apostolate what to do within the differing conditions of different countries.
They should give this advice when they have consulted the local experts and, if
it should be necessary, after seeking international advice.
133. Considerable financial resources are required if Catholics are to meet
their different commitments to further human progress in the light of the Gospel
both by making their proper contribution to social communication and by using
these God-given methods themselves. Catholics are called upon to ponder their
responsibilities in this field and to meet them with generosity "... as it would
ill become the faithful to suffer the word of salvation to be confined and
134. In view of the mounting importance of the means of social communication
- to the life of mankind in general and of the Church in particular - the media
should receive a great deal more emphasis than they presently get in the overall
plans for pastoral action made by episcopal conferences. These plans should make
the necessary funds available for use in the areas under their jurisdiction.
Funds should also be made available for international cooperation.
THE ACTIVE COMMITMENT OF CATHOLICS IN THE DIFFERENT MEDIA
135. We have considered what should be the right approach of
dedicated Catholic communicators towards their work, 62 an approach shared by colleagues,
whatever the nature of their beliefs. For the Catholic, his faith provides an
Then we dealt with the special duties of communicators who work as Catholics.
In this we confined ourselves to general discussion, without dealing with the
media one by one.63 Here
we deal with the duties of Catholic communicators in each separate medium of
social communication. These are duties that affect anyone who appears in the
name of the Church, whether he appears in media that are officially Catholic or
as a spokesman in some uncommitted institution that opens its facilities to the
expression of a Catholic point of view.
1. THE PRINTED WORD
136. The Press, of its power and nature, is of towering
importance. Because of its adaptability, because of its variety and of the
number of its publications, it can go into detail when reporting the news. It
can also comment on the news and, without boring the reader, interpret it in a
way that makes him think for himself. It is a most useful complement to the
audio-visual means of communication. It is a most effective means of stimulating
men's critical faculties and of helping them form their own opinions. Since it
is able to deal with such a variety of material and since it can so admirably
encourage men to think, it has prime place in the promotion of social dialogue.
Moreover, today all the classics of religious literature are
available to everybody in the form of paperbacks, booklets and every sort of
leaflet. So also are the accepted masterpieces of every nation, scientific works
and every sort of light reading that can provide pleasant relaxation. "Comics"
and illustrated stories are not to be despised. They can for instance be used to
illustrate the Sacred Scriptures and the lives of the saints. All these
productions of the printing press deserve our interest and support.
137. The Catholic press - and this includes reviews, magazines and
periodicals - can be marvellously effective in bringing a knowledge of the
Church to the world and a knowledge of the world to the Church. It does this by
imparting information and by stimulating those processes by which public opinion
is formed. There is, however, no advantage in founding new publications if
quantity is achieved at the cost of quality and if the new injure the old.
138. That part of the Catholic press which is of general interest publishes
news and opinions and background articles about all the facets and problems and
worries of modern life. This it does in the light of Christian principles. It is
the task of the Catholic press to balance, to complete and, if necessary, to
correct the news and comments about religion and the Christian life. At one and
the same time it will be a glass that reflects the world and a light to show it
the way. It will be a forum, a meeting place for the exchange of views. This
press needs talented men and funds if its professional competence is to be above
139. The Catholic press must be able to acquire suitable offices and the
proper facilities for obtaining news reports and features. Otherwise, a
Catholic-run press cannot effectively promote dialogue inside the Church and
between the Church and the outside world. It must also achieve professional
standards in printing up-to-date, accurate and comprehensive news about the life
of the Church. In the collecting, collating and passing on of the news
throughout the world there is need for cooperation at the international level.
140. Catholics are encouraged to read Catholic publications regularly.
Naturally these must deserve the name of being Catholic. It is hard to see how
people can keep in touch with what is happening in the Church without the
Catholic press. Neither can people keep a Catholic attitude towards what happens
in the world without the help of commentaries on the news written in the light
of Christian principles. This is certainly not intended as an interference in
the individual's right to read what he chooses. Still less is it intended as an
interference with the freedom of expression of writers with different
convictions nor is it intended to discourage diversity, ordinarily taken for
granted in a particular area. It is self-evident that Catholic writers must earn
their popularity and following by the high standard of their work.
141. When the events of the day raise questions that touch fundamental
Christian principles the Catholic press will try to interpret these in
accordance with the Magisterium of the Church. Apart from this, clergy and laity
will encourage a free expression of opinion and a wide variety of publications
and points of view. They should do this because it will satisfy the different
interests and concerns of readers and because it contributes to the formation of
public opinion in the Church and the world. 64
Those Catholic newspapers which are recognized as the official organs of the
various authorities and institutions of the Church will always, in accordance
with usual press practice, try to explain fully the thinking of the organization
for which they are accepted as public spokesmen. In these newspapers, an
unrestricted liberty of expression will be maintained in those pages where it is
made quite clear that the editors are not committing themselves in a particular
question that is still under discussion.
142. The Cinema is part of contemparary life. It exerts a strong
influence on education, knowledge, culture and leisure. The artist finds in film
a very effective means for expressing his interpretation of life and one that
well suits his times. The improvement of techniques that increase audience
participation and the general availability at low cost of filming and projecting
equipment, presage an even wider use of films in the future. Because of all
this, it is possible to derive a deeper appreciation and a richer cultural
dividend from the film and filming.
143. These developments should be carefully studied in pastoral planning, for
there are many openings for a greater use of this medium in pastoral action.
There has been a growth of international cooperation in this field. And it is
easier now to produce films that are completely adapted to various needs and
circumstances and to project these, not only in large cinemas, but also in small
halls and even in homes.
144. Many films have compellingly treated subjects that concern human
progress or spiritual values. Such works deserve everyone's praise and support.
The Catholic organizations specializing in films should be among the first to
support them. They should also promote these films in an organized manner. In
this connection, it will be recalled that among films which have been widely
accepted as classics, many have dealt with specifically religious themes. This
not only proves that the cinema is a proper vehicle for such noble themes, but
it is a strong encouragement to produce films of this kind.
145. Catholic organizations for the cinema will collaborate with their
counterparts in the other media in endeavours to plan, produce, distribute and
exhibit films imbued with religious principles. With discrimination they should
also use for religious teaching all the new developments in this field which
make inexpensive productions possible. These include gramophone records, audio
and video tape recorders, videocassettes and all the machines that record and
playback either sound or static or moving images.
146. In regions where there is illiteracy films can make a very effective
contribution to the provision of basic education. The illiterate are profoundly
affected by images and can readily grasp the facts and ideas presented through
them. The media should be used effectively in the effort to promote human and
religious progress. But, of course, the films chosen for use must be suited to
the cultural traditions of the local population.
147. Since professional film-makers have to face many difficulties in the
course of their creative work, all Catholics, but especially Catholic film
organizations, should be ready and anxious to engage in dialogue with them.
Based, as they will be, on a shared belief in the good that the cinema can do
for man, these contacts will bear witness to the nobility of the vocation of
those involved in film production.
3. RADIO AND TELEVISION
148. Radio and television have given society new patterns of
communication. They have changed ways of life. Broadcasting stretches out,
further and further, towards every corner of the earth. Instantaneous
transmissions break through political and cultural barriers. What they have to
say reaches men in their own homes. Broadcasters have access to the minds and
hearts of everyone. Rapid technological advances, especially those that involve
satellite transmissions and the recording and storage of programmes, have done
still more to free the media from the restrictions of time and space and these
promise still more effectiveness and influence. For the listener and viewer,
radio and television open up the whole world of events, of culture and of
entertainment. Television, especially, brings individuals and events before the
general public, as though the viewers were actually present. And besides the
established forms of artistic expression, broadcasters have created art forms of
their own which can affect man in new ways.
149. The religious aspects of human life will find a place in
daily broadcasting, both on radio and television.
150. Religious programmes that utilize all the resources of
radio and television enrich people's religious life and create new bonds between
the faithful. They help in religious education and in the Church's active
commitment in the world. They are bonds of union for those who cannot share
physically in the life of the Church because of their sickness or old age. In
addition they create new relationships between the faithful and those people -
and today they are legion - who have no affiliation with any Church and yet
subconsciouly seek spiritual nourishment. They carry the message of the Gospel
to countries where the Church is not. The Church cannot afford to ignore such
opportunities. On the contrary, she will make the fullest use of any fresh
opportunities that the improvement of those instruments may disclose.
151. The transmission of the Mass and of other sacred rites is
to be included in religious broadcasting. Both in their technical and in their
religious aspects, such transmissions must be carefully prepared in advance. The
vastness of the audience must be considered and, if transmissions cross national
frontiers, so too must the religious sensitivities and conditions of other
nations. How often such programmes are transmitted and how long they should last
must be decided upon in the light of the popular demand.
152. Sermons and homilies must be adapted to the nature of the
medium that is used. Those who are given the task of preaching in this way,
should, therefore, be carefully chosen from among those who have a sound
practical knowledge of the technique of broadcasting.
153. Religious broadcasts, such as newscasts, commentaries,
reports and discussions, can contribute a great deal towards education and
dialogue. What has already been said about the Catholic commitment in the Press,
applies here too. And here, also, the general rules for giving a fair hearing to
different points of view are equally valid, especially when the medium in
question enjoys, in practice, a monopoly in a given region.
154. Well known Catholics who go on the air, whether they are
clerical or lay, are automatically regarded as spokesmen of the Church. They
must keep this in mind and try to avoid any confusion arising therefrom. Even so
they will be conscious of their responsibility when they express their views,
when they decide on the style of their broadcast and, indeed, on their whole
manner of behaviour. If they can do so in time, they will consult with competent
ecclesiastical authorities for whatever counsel and advice they feel they need.
155. Listeners and viewers will contribute to the betterment of
religious programmes by making their reactions known.
156. If the active presence of the Church in general in
religious programmes is to be ensured, then a close collaboration based on
mutual trust must be established between the responsible Catholic authorities
and the broadcasting companies.
157. In those countries where the Church is forbidden the use of
the media of social communication, listening to foreign religious broadcasts may
be the only way the faithful can learn about the life of the Universal Church
and hear the Word of God. In the name of Christian solidarity, such a situation
puts a grave obligation upon the Catholics of other countries. It is necessary
to organize religious broadcasts that are specially suited to the needs of
fellow Christians who suffer this sort of deprivation.
4. THE THEATRE
158. The theatre is one of the most ancient and lively forms of
human expression and communication. Still, today, it commands a large audience,
not only of those who go to plays, but also of those who follow drama on radio
and television. Moreover, many plays have been adapted for films.
159. The partnership of the theatre with the mass media of communication has
brought about forms of dramatic expression that, aptly, have been called
"multi-media", adding something of their own to the traditional theatre. These,
using their different resources, have created a kind of synthesis of the
potentials of each of the media of communication.
160. Finally and most significantly, the contemporary theatre is, without
doubt, an experimental workshop for the expression of new, daring and
challenging ideas about modern man and his predicament. The impact of all this
goes far beyond the audience attending a particular play, which may be quite
small. Ultimately it extends to all the media of communication.
161. The Church has always shown considerable interest in the theatre which,
in its origins, was closely connected with manifestations of religion. This
ancient interest in the theatre should be maintained by Christians today and
full use be made of its possibilities. Playwrights should be encouraged and
helped to set man's religious preoccupation on the platform of the public stage.
This is often the first step in a much wider diffusion made possible by the
EQUIPMENT, PERSONNEL AND ORGANIZATION
162. The place of the instruments of social communication in
human destiny, the opportunities and the problems that they set before the
Christian conscience: all this makes it essential that a way be found for a
pastoral approach to this field. Trained and experienced men must be found for
this work. The proper pastoral structures, with all the necessary funding,
rights and resources should also be set up. Finally, special organizations
should be devoted to the apostolate of each of the media.
163. This modern mission of the Church will mean a great deal to
the faithful. They will offer their prayers and support so that she will be
adequately equipped to fulfill it. The latest media of social communication are
indispensable means for evangelization, and enlightening the minds and heart of
men. They also contribute towards cooperation in furthering human progress by a
Christian leavening of the social order.
164. The official Catholic organizations and enterprises that work in social
communications with a pastoral end in view, should be able to call upon trained
personnel. The training of laymen, priests and religious is to be given a high
priority by those responsible for this work in the Church.
165. A careful appraisal of the entire range of the communications media, a
prudent and well-informed planning for pastoral work and in every apostolic
enterprise, all this is the rightful province of the ecclesiastical authorities.
They, in their turn, should depend upon the advice of experienced experts in the
different branches of communication. According to the ground rules laid down in
Inter Mirifica this duty devolves upon every Bishops in every diocese,65 upon a special commission of Bishops or a
Bishop-Delegate in each country
and, for the Universal Church, upon the Pontifical Commission for Social
166. The different sorts of projects and organizations for the specialized
apostolate in social communications should everywhere be promoted and
coordinated one with another.68 The
ecclesiastical authorities should encourage the free flowering of Catholic
initiative in this, but they should retain guidance over those works which
properly belong to the priestly ministry, and over those which - according to
the circumstances of time and place - demand a commitment on the part of the
hierarchy on behalf of the faithful.
167. The competent ecclesiastical authorities at all levels (mentioned in
para. 165) will lend their full support to the preparation and celebration of
World Communications Day. This day has been designed specially to honour the
professionals in the media and to encourage their cooperation.69
The ecclesiastical authorities will present regularly to the episcopal
conferences projects for financing pastoral activity in the field of social
168. The local hierarchies will take a keen interest in the apostolate of
social communications. They will seek the advice of their priests and laity.
Wherever possible, diocesan, or at least, interdiocesan offices will be set up.
One of the chief tasks of these is to organize this pastoral apostolate within
the diocese, penetrating right down to parish level. Another task is to prepare
for the celebration of World Communications Day mentioned above within the
169. A national office for the communications media should be set up in every
country. It can be divided into specialized and reasonably autonomous
departments for each of the separate media. Or it can have separate offices for
the press, motion pictures and broadcasting that work closely together.70 In any case, the whole of this apostolate
should be placed under a single, overall direction.
170. It is the mission of the national and diocesan offices to stimulate,
promote and harmonize Catholic activities in the field of social communications.
They will take particular pains about the training of the faithful, clerical and
lay, by means of organized courses, conferences, study sessions and critical
assessments prepared by their experts. So, the public will be enabled to make
wise decisions. The Offices will also be ready to give advice to producers
engaged on films, performance or broadcasts that concern religious subjects.
171. The National and Diocesan Offices will maintain these contacts with the
professional world of social communications. They will furnish the documentary
material, the advice and the pastoral assistance that professional communicators
may require. They also are to organize World Communications Day on the national
level and organize the collection of funds that the Decree of the Council
suggests should be made on that day.71
172. The national espiscopal commission for social communications or the
delegated bishop are in charge of the direction of all the activities of the
national offices. They are to lay down general guidelines for the development of
the apostolate of social communications on the national level. They will keep in
touch with the other national episcopal commissions and collaborate with the
Pontifical Commission for Social Communications. The status of this Commission
is described in the Conciliar Decree, Inter Mirifica
and in the Apostolic Letter, In Fructibus multis.73
173. On continents or in regions where an episcopal conference exists that
embraces several countries, this episcopal conference will have an office for
social communications under the overall direction of a bishop or a number of
174. Every bishop, all episcopal conferences or bishops' assemblies and the
Holy See itself should each have their own official and permanent spokesman or
press officer to issue the news and give clear explanations of the documents of
the Church so that people can grasp precisely what is intended. These spokesmen
will give, in full and without delay, information on the life and work of the
Church in that area for which they are responsible. It is highly recommended
that individual dioceses and the more weighty Catholic organizations also have
their own permanent spokesmen with the sort of duties explained above. All these
officials and, indeed, all those who are identified with the Church in the mind
of the public, should take into account the principles of public relations. They
should consider the sort of audience they are, at various times, addressing and
establish a relationship that is based on mutual trust and understanding. This
can only be maintained as long as people have a genuine regard and consideration
for one another and a scrupulous respect for the truth.
175. It is not enough to have a public spokesman. There must be a continual
two-way flow of news and information. On the one hand, this aims to present a
true image of the Church in a way that makes it visible to all. On the other,
this exchange reveals to the ecclesiastical authorities the surges, currents and
ideas that stir the world of men. Clearly this calls for the cultivation of
friendly relations based on mutual reverence between the Church, people and
groups. In this way continual exchanges can be fostered, with each side both
giving and receiving.74
176. To make sure of an effective dialogue, both within the Church and with
the outside world, on the subject of recent events and their religious
significance, official news bulletins are indispensable. These will publicize
relevant news items as quickly as possible. The public, in this way, will get
their information in good time. Needless to say, all the necessary means are to
be used to make these bulletins absolutely accurate and so avoid the necessity
for subsequent corrections. News flashes, telex, all the latest techniques will
be used to convey precise meanings in the most dependable way.
177. Religious orders and congregations will give thought to the many
pressing tasks of the Church in the field of social communications and consider
what they themselves can do to fulfill them under their constitutions. Their own
specialized institutions for social communications will collaborate with one
another and they will keep abreast of the overall pastoral planning of the
diocesan offices, and of the national, continental or regional offices since
these are, usually, the competent bodies for the aspostolate of social
178. The national offices75
and the corresponding central offices of the religious congregations will
cooperate with the international organizations for the press, (U.C.I.P.), for
motion pictures, (O.C.I.C.), and for radio and television, (UNDA). This will be
done in accord with the statutes of these international organizations as
approved by the Holy See.76
179. These international Catholic organizations for social communications -
each in its own sphere and in a way that fits its statutes - will help
professionals and the national professional bodies of Catholics who have given
themselves to these tasks. The way to do this is to keep abreast of research and
development in the media. They will foster mutual aid and international
cooperation. They will keep themselves informed on Catholic activity in the
field. They will prepare the coordination of international programmes and
projects. They will continually seek advice on the best ways to help developing
countries. They will encourage fresh initiatives. They will produce and
distribute films and recorded broadcasts and every sort of audiovisual material,
including the printed word. They will do all this for the advancement of social
progress and for the betterment of Catholic life. These international Catholic
organizations are exhorted to undertake and to coordinate research for the
solution of their common problems.
180. The episcopal conferences, through their specialized offices, and the
Catholic professional associations, will assure for the international catholic
organization the funds necessary for doing this work.
181. The question is posed whether we are on the threshold of an
utterly new sort of era in social communications or whether we face merely a
change in degree and not in kind. There is no easy answer to this question and
it continually increases in complexity. What is certain is that soon, due to the
latest technical developments, especially those that concern communication
satellites, sounds, images and the messages that they bear will soon be reaching
men, simultaneously, all over the world. It will be possible to record these and
play them back at will - either for entertainment or instruction. So it will be
possible for all peoples to learn more of each other as a result of this real
dialogue. They can then work together for the unity of mankind and the
establishment of peace.
182. Suddenly and in proportion with these changes, the
responsibilities of the People of God will enormously increase. Never before
will they have been offered such opportunities. It will be possible to ensure
that the media promote the advance of the whole human race and the development
of those countries in what is called the " third world". It will be possible to
strengthen the brotherhood of man. And then the Good News can be given
everywhere, bearing witness to Christ, the Saviour.
183. This Pastoral Instruction lays down some guidelines chosen
after considering the general situation that prevails in social communications.
As things stand at present, it would not be reasonable to try be more precise
and detailed. The Christian outlook is based on certain immutable principles
that are founded on that message of love which is the Gospel's Good News and
upon the dignity of man who has been called to be an adopted son of God. It is
obvious that directions and practical applications, as well as pastoral
guidelines, will have to be adapted to the different conditions that obtain in
different places - depending on their degree of technical progress and their
social situation. They will change too with the changing conditions of the media
and of their inherent laws, and the future is certain to bring changes in this
area of social communications. In so fluid a situation, it is clear that those
who are responsible for pastoral planning must stay flexible and be always
willing to try to keep pace with new discoveries in this field.
184. Even today there is a great deal that must still be learnt
about the present media and how the fullest use can be made of them, in
education particularly and indeed at every level. There is room for study, in
much greater depth, of the effects of social communications on different
cultural environments and on different types of people.In order to be able to
understand the functioning of the media of social communication within the
family of man, and to comprehend both their potential and present performance,
to reach a better assessment of their varying psychological and cultural
effects, it is necessary to concentrate on a rigorous programme of scientific
research. Indeed, a much greater effort than that now being made is required of
all the concerned parties in furthering this research.
Universities, whether of new or ancient foundation, have an open
field before them. The problems they face are not only urgent, they are also
fully consonant with the dignity of the traditional disciplines. For her part,
the Church wishes to let researchers know how eager she is to learn from their
work in all these areas and to follow out its practical conclusions. Thus she
herself may the better serve the process of social communication and use its
means to the best advantage of all men.
185. In this connection, it appears necessary to discover
through scientific research the true effectiveness of the Church in the field of
social communications. It will then be possible to deploy her resources so that
they suit the importance of the tasks she faces throughout the world. Catholics
will then find it easier to start new projects that match the ever growing
importance of the media.
186. In the meantime, faced by the most urgent need for making
closer contact with the professional world of social communication, for engaging
these men in dialogue, for making her contribution in this field and for urging
all men to use the media to serve both the progress of man and the glory of God,
the Church could no longer delay this Pastoral Instruction. The Pontifical
Commission for Social Communications issues this Instruction in accordance with
the mandate from the Second Vatican Council but only after intensive
consultations on a worldwide basis. It is hoped that this publication marks not
so much the end of a phase as the start of a new one.
187. The People of God walk in history. As they, who are,
essentially, both communicators and recipients, advance with their times, they
look forward with confidence and even with enthusiasm to whatever the
development of communications in a space age may have to offer.
His Holiness, Pope Paul VI has graciously approved in its
entirety this Pastoral Instruction on the Means of Social Communication, and
confirmed it with His authority. He ordered it to be published so that it can be
put into effect by all concerned, anything to the contrary notwithstanding.
Given in Rome on the twenty-third day of May, in the year of
the Lord nineteen seventy-one, being the Fifth World Communications Day.
|MARTIN J. O CONNOR, Tit. Archbishop of Laodicea
in Syria, President
|AUGUSTINE FERRARI-TONIOLO, Tit. Bishop of Tarasa
in Byzacena, Pro-President
||Andrew M. Deskur, Secretary
||Miranda Prorsus A.A.S., XXIV (1957), p. 765.
||Gaudium et Spes, A.A.S., LVIII (1966), pp. 1025-1120.
||Unitatis Redintegratio, A.A.S., LVII (1965), pp. 90-112.
||Dignitatis Humanae, A.A.S., LVIII (1966), pp. 929-946.
||Ad Gentes, A.A.S., LVIII (1966), pp. 947-990.
||Christus Dominus, A.A.S., LVIII (1966), pp. 673-696.
||Inter Mirifica, A.A.S., LVI (1964), pp. 145-157.
||Inter Mirifica, 1.
||Gen 1:26-28; cf. Gen 9:2-3; Wis 9:2-3; Gaudium
et Spes, 34.
||Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 34.
||Cf . ibid., 57.
||Cf . Gaudium et Spes, 36; The Encyclical by Pope John XXIII,
Pacem in Terris, A.A.S., LV (1963), p. 257 and passim
||Cf . Rom 5:12-14.
||Cf. Gen 4:1-16; 11:1-9.
||Cf. Gen 3:15; 9:1-17; 12:1-3.
||Cf . Heb 1:1-2.
||Col 1:15; II Cor 4:4.
||Cf . Ad Gentes, 3.
||Mt 10:27; Lk 12:3.
||Cf . Lumen Gentium, A.A.S., LVII (1965), no. 9, p. 14.
||Eph 1:23; 4:10.
||I Cor 15:28.
||Inter Mirifica, 1.
||Gaudium et spes, 36.
||Cf . ibid., 43.
||The "Common Good" is defined in the Encylical by Pope John XXIII,
Mater et Magistra as the "sum of those conditions of social life by
which men can attain their perfection more fully and with greater ease".
A.A.S., LIII (1961), p. 417. See also Pacem in Terris, A.A.S., LV
(1963), pp. 272-274; Dignitatis Humanae, 6; Gaudium et Spes,
26 and 74.
||Cf Cf. Inter Mirifica, 4.
||Gaudium et Spes, 42; Lumen Gentium, 1.
||In his Allocution to Catholic Journalists on February 17, 195O.
A.A.S., XLII (l950), p. 251. See also Gaudium et Spes, 59; Pacem
in Terris, A.A.S., LV (1963), p. 283.
||Gaudium et Spes, 59.
||Cf . Inter Mirifica, 8.
||Cf . Pacem in Terris, A.A.S., LV (1963), p. 260
||Cf. Allocution given on April 17, 1964 to "Seminaire des
Nations Unies sur la liberté de l'information", A.A.S., LVI (1964), pp.
||Cf . Inter Mirifica, 5.
||Pius XII in an address given to American journalists on July 21, 1945.
L'Osservatore Romano, July 22, 1945.
||An address to a similar group on April 27, 1946. L'Osservatore Romano,
April 28, 1946.
||"The manner of the [communication] should be honorable and appropriate,
namely, one which keeps sacred the laws of morality and the legitimate
rights and dignity of man in reporting the news". Inter Mirifica,
||Cf . Miranda Prorsus, A.A.S., XLIX (1957), p. 765.
||Paul VI: Allocution given on May 6, 1967 to a large number of those who
devote themselves to the theatre, the cinema, radio and television, and
other media of social communication. A.A.S., LIX (1967), p. 509.
||Pius XII: Allocution given on June 21, 1955 to the patrons of the art of
the cinema in Italy meeting in Rome. A.A.S., XLVI (1955), p. 509. Roma, 21
giugno 1955, in AAS, XLVII (1955), p. 509.
||Pius XII: Allocution given on October 28, 1955 to the patrons of the art
of the cinema gathered in Rome for their International Convention. A.A.S.
XLVII (1955), pp. 822-823.
||Paul VI: Allocution given on January 24, 1969 to the Officers of the
Catholic Association of Italian Journalists (U.C.S.I.). L'Osservatore
Romano, January 24, 1969.
||Cf. Dignitatis Humanae, 7.
||Paul VI: Letter to the Honorable U Thant, Secretary General of the
United Nations. A.A.S., LVIII (1966), p. 480. See also the Holy Father's
Allocution to the delegates present at Milan for the second meeting of the
Administrative Council of the United Nations' Programme for Development.
A.A.S., LVIII (1966), p. 589.
||Cf . Unitatis Redintegratio, A.A.S., LVII (1965), pp. 90-112. See
also Nostra Aetate, A.A.S., LVIII (1966), pp. 740-744.
||This was expressed by the World Council of Churches in their "
Instruction" issued at Upsala in 1968, p 381.
||Cf . The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, " The
Fundamental Characteristic of Priestly Education ". A.A.S. XLII (1970),
pp. 321-384. See especially para. 4 and no. 68.
||Pius XII: Allocution given on February 17, 1950 to those who were in
Rome to participate in the International Congress for Editors of Catholic
Periodicals. A.A.S., XVIII (1950), p. 256.
||Cf . Lumen Gentium, 12.
||Cf . "Réflexions et suggestions concernant le dialogue
oecuménique, L'Osservatore Romano, September 21-22, 1970.
||Cf . Jn 17: 21.
||Cf . Mt 28:19.
||Cf. paragraph 38 above.
||Inter Mirifica, 13.
||Cf. paragraphs 102-113 above.
||Cf. paragraphs 126-134 above.
||Cf. paragraphs 114-121 above, where dialogue in the Church is discussed.
Cf. Paul VI: Ecclesiam Suam. See also the outline of the principles
for ecumenical dialogue in document "Réflexions et suggestions concernant le
dialogue oecuménique ", especially nos. IV, 4, b and IV, 5. L'Osservatore
Romano, September 21-22, 1970.
||Cf . Inter Mirifica, 20.
||Cf . ibid., 21.
||Cf . ibid., 19.
||Cf . Apostolicam Actuositatem, 19 and 21.
||Cf Inter Mirifica, 18.
||Cf . ibid., 21.
||Cf . ibid., 18.
||Cf . ibid., 19.
||Cf In Fructibus Multis. A.A.S., LVI (1964), pp. 289-292.
||Cf. paragraphs 138-141 above.
||Cf. paragraph 169 above.
||Cf . Inter Mirifica, 22.