A High Bar for Catholic Communicators


We can’t say this enough.

When speaking, writing, texting, tweeting or engaging in any other forms of communication, it’s best to take the high road. Shouts, insults, vulgar gestures or words, and real or implied threats have no place in civilized discourse.

And yet, that’s the tone of our times. Read the “comments” section of any online news story and you’ll see it: the anger, the insults, the cutting sarcasm, the threats.

Then there’s the cyberbullying on Twitter and other forms of social media, the hard-sell robo-calls pitching worthless products to vulnerable people, the casual use of four-letter words in movies and on TV.

Is it any wonder, then, that the anger, insults and vulgarity all around us has made its way into the presidential campaigns?

And we’re not just talking about the outrageous comments that seem to stream daily from the consciousness of the Republican Donald Trump. There are subliminal forces at work as well in the way the race is presented.

Consider, for example, has anyone ever seen a picture of the Democrat Bernie Sanders where he’s not scowling at a podium, mouth open as if yelling and jabbing a pointed finger in the air? It’s a picture of anger, that’s for sure.

Not even the Church is immune from the negativity.

As noted by Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vt., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Communications, in a recent speech to Catholic media professionals, “One of the most destructive activities in the Church today is the internecine fighting among people and groups who claim to be Catholic.”

The bishop is right about that. We’ve seen it, too, and we don’t like it either.

Bishop Coyne’s advice to the communicators was to be “more reflective and less reactive” because there’s already enough anger and coarseness out there.

“Let’s just not add to it,” he said.

That same message was delivered to another group of Catholic communicators—at a recent World Communications Day conference sponsored by DeSales Media Group of the Diocese of Brooklyn—by Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, CEO of Canada’s Salt and Light Media Foundation, who described Catholic online conversations as sometimes “more a culture of death than a culture of life.”

To counter that, he told the Catholic media professionals that every news story, video, blog post, tweet, email or response to an online comment can “become an opportunity to manifest God’s love.”

We certainly try to do that in these pages, and be assured that we’ll keep trying.

That is not to say that we’ll ignore bad news. It’s out there, and it’s our obligation to cover it as it relates to Catholics and the Church in New York. But we will not stoop to name-calling and vulgarities and, as important, will not sensationalize vulgarity out of proportion simply because it was carried out by a public figure.

Instead, we take seriously our responsibility as a media organization. We’ll continue trying, as Bishop Coyne suggests, to lift up good examples of humanity, charity and grace and to ask ourselves in our lives and in our work: “What can I say to make things better? What are the words that may impart grace to those who hear?”


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