Sunday, November 25, 2012

              -- Fifty Years Later 

               November 1962

Prophetic About Social Communications

                 Inter mirificaAmong the wonderful technological discoveries which men of talent, especially in the present era, have made with God's help, the Church welcomes and promotes with special interest those …which have uncovered new avenues of communicating most readily news, views and teachings of every sort.”

               During the first session of Vatican II – in late November, 1962 -- the Council Fathers began discussion of the schema on the modern means of social communications.  Over three days, more than 50 Council Fathers made interventions about the text prepared by the “Commission on the Apostolate of the Laity, the Press and Information Media.”  Additionally, proposals on the entertainment media had been drawn up by Archbishop Martin J. O’Connor, the rector of the North American College in Rome, who had served since the late 1940’s as president of the Pontifical Commission for Radio, Television and Motion Pictures.

               No previous Council had discussed such a topic.  Each Bishop received a copy of the proposed document, which consisted of four parts:
--- The Church’s doctrine on the subject
--- The media as a help to the apostolate

--- Disciplinary norms of the Church

--- Each of the major media: the press / cinema / radio and television

In their discussion, the Bishops spoke very favorably of the schema and the importance of the Church’s use, cooperation with – and, in some cases – regulation of the modern means of social communications.

               The Council Fathers agreed that these media could be of help in transmitting the Gospel message to all parts of the world;  ecumenical and inter-religious messages of peace, justice and human dignity could also be universally spread.  Nevertheless, the Church had a responsibility to see that “such a vast force will not be abandoned to evil.” 


               Among the suggestions was the institution of an office in the Vatican – or an expansion of Archbishop O’Connor’s  commission – which would “have the task of creating an official organization on an international, national, and diocesan basis for the communications media and for the purpose of forming and informing the public opinion.”


                Trained members of the Catholic laity had expertise in these fields.  Yet clergy and religious should also be given at least some training in the media, for as the Swiss Bishop Francois Charriere pointed out, Christianity is indeed a “revealed” religion.  By the time of the Council’s second session, the decree on social communications would be ready.                    

               In 1962, there was no Internet…no “emails” or “texting”…no “cable news”…no “blogs” or “instant messaging”… but the Council Fathers saw that new ways of communicating could be – for the Church and for the world -- a gift from God for the good of mankind. 


(Next Week: Observers)

-- Monsignor John T. Myler


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