Brandon's Notepad

August 21, 2019

Inter Mirifica

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Synopsis

Inter Mirifica is the Second Vatican Council’s decree on the media of social communications. It was the second document of the Council to be promulgated by Pope Paul VI (December 4, 1963) and the last for that year. The provisions of this document apply to almost everyone in today’s society, especially since media have surpassed unidirectional broadcasts and have become omnidirectional forums for social interaction.

Summary

INTRODUCTION

  1. The Church welcomes and promotes technological discoveries that can reach and influence the whole of human society, communicating most readily news, views and teachings of every sort.
  2. Media can be of great service (i.e. entertainment, instruction, etc.) if properly utilized, but may be used for evil as well; thus, it is a duty of this Synod to address concerns regarding social communication.

CHAPTER I: ON THE TEACHING OF THE CHURCH

  1. The Church has always been obliged to preach the Gospel, and considers it a duty to do so using the media of social communication and to instruct men in their proper use; thus, the Church has the right to have and employ these media as necessary/useful in Christian instruction (with assistance from Pastors and laity).
  2. Proper use of these media requires knowledge and conscientious practice of the norms of morality. The nature of what is communicated, the character of the media, and all circumstances/conditions under which communication takes place must be considered as the propriety of the message can be affected or changed. The influence of these media can be subtle, masking the real impact or need to reject.
  3. Ready access to news allows all to understand current events and contribute to the common good; thus, men have a right to this information (need-to-know basis), assuming it is true and complete (bounded by justice and charity) and its communication is proper and decent (respect for moral law and for rights and dignity of the individual).
  4. When it comes to the arts, the absolute primacy of the objective moral order must be upheld in light of controversies arising from false teachings about ethics and aesthetics.
  5. Depictions of moral evil can deepen our knowledge of humanity and, through drama, reveal and glorify truth and goodness, but should be subject to moral restraint, lest they harm instead of benefit souls (e.g. arouse base desires).
  6. Every member of society must fulfill the demands of justice and charity and thus strive to form and spread sound public opinion (which has great power today).
  7. Free-willed consumers of these media are obliged to favor options expressing moral goodness, knowledge, and technical merit, and to avoid those that lead to spiritual harm and evil. They may rely on the judgments of competent authorities and their instructed consciences.
  8. All such comsumers, but especially the young, should learn moderation and self-control, deepen their understanding of what they consume, discuss these matters with teachers and experts, and learn how to make sound judgements on them. Parents have a serious duty to guard againt communications that may be morally harmful, in the home or under other circumstances.
  9. All involved in the production and transmission of social communications have the primary responsibility for thier proper use. This is evident based on their influence. They should never put their agenda ahead of the common good, always respect morality, be mindful of the youth in thier audiences, and entrust religious content to experts.
  10. The public authority has special responsibilities to protect the common good: to safeguard true and just freedom of information (freedom of the press), to encourage spiritual values, culture and the fine arts, to guarantee the rights of consumers, to help fund projects (especially when they benefit children). and to enforce laws that protect public morals and the welfare of society.

CHAPTER II: ON THE PASTORAL ACTIVITY OF THE CHURCH

  1. All Catholics should unite immediately to make effective use of media in various apostolic endeavors as appropriate. Harmful developments should be expected, especially where urgent efforts to advance morality and religion are needed. Pastors should fulfill their duty in this respect as part of their ordinary preaching responsibility. The laity (who consume the media) should bear witness to Christ and help in the pastoral activity of the Church through their various talents.
  2. Regarding specific types of media:
    • A truly Catholic press should be set up (by Church or laymen) to instill a fully Christian spirit into readers, to form/support/advance public opinion in accord with natural law and Catholic teaching, and to disseminate/explain news concerning the life of the Church. The faithful should be advised to spread and read this press for the formulation of judgments.
    • Decent films should be effectively promoted (e.g. through involvement in production, critical approval and awards, patronizing theaters owned/managed by Catholics, etc.).
    • Catholic radio and television programs (family-oriented) should be promoted, inviting people to share in the life of the Church and learn religious truths. Catholic stations must maintain excellent standards in programming.
    • Drama should serve the cultural and moral betterment of audiences.
  3. Priests, religious, and laymen with the proper skills for adapting media to the objectives of the apostolate should be appointed. Laymen (including critics) should be provided technical, doctrinal, and moral training.
  4. Instructional programs in the use of media (tailored for audiences of different cultural backgrounds and ages) should be encouraged in Catholic schools, seminaries, and lay apostolates (with aid of catechetical manuals).
  5. Catholic organizations and individuals should support media both financially and with technical ability, so as not to let the message of salvation be delayed/impeded.
  6. Every diocese should (one day) annually instruct the faithful on their responsibilities and invite them to pray and contribute funds for this cause (funds to be dedicated to this area).
  7. The Pope has at hand a special office of the Holy See, and the Council Fathers request that he extend the duties and competence of this office (including all media including the press) with the aid of experts from various countries, including laymen.
  8. Bishops must watch over, promote, and guide the works and undertakings by apostolates in their own dioceses, including the exempt religious.
  9. National offices for affairs of the press, films, radio and television are to be established everywhere (under a Bishop or committee thereof) and given every aid for the purpose of instructing the consciences of the faithful and to foster and guide their work in media.
  10. Said national offices should co-operate on an international plane, working also with international Catholic associations legitimately approved by the Holy See alone.

APPENDICES

  1. The aforementioned special office of the Holy See (c.f. 19) is to issue a pastoral instruction expressing the general principles and norms of this sacred Synod.
  2. The Synod is confident that these instructions and norms will be accepted and religiously kept by all Catholics, and that by using them they will experience no harm as they brighten the world. All men of good will, especially those in charge of the media, are invited to turn them (by their proper use) solely to the good of society. As with ancient art, may these new discoveries glorify the name of the (unchanging) Lord.

Observations

  • It is uncanny how the theme of this document from 1963 is so relevant even today:
    • Social communication is highly-influential, and thus powerful.
    • It can be used for good or evil.
    • Its proper use must be taught and learned. Everyone has some responsibility.
    • The Church must take an active role in ensuring proper use.
  • The notion that depictions of moral evil can be beneficial (#7) is interesting. Did this mark a departure from prior Catholic thought?
  • The consumption of social communication should prompt discussion and understanding. (#10) Commentary is a built-in feature of most social-media platforms today — which is what makes them social. The problem is that the ability to comment does not ensure a response by teachers and experts, nor does it necessarily promote sound judgement. Indeed, commentary is often rude and insulting, and leads to arguments, and it promotes a basal judgement tenable to the parties involved in the discussion (which may or may not represent society or a part thereof in any meaningful way).
  • Note the responsibility assigned to parents in #10.
  • The entertainment industry as a whole has proven that it is not interested in taking on the responsibility of a moral authority (#11), but is completely motivated by profit and catering to whatever appeals to the masses in order to obtain it. As morality declines, the purity of the content follows.
  • Government (at least in the U.S.) shows little interest in protecting morality either. Might this be a result of the alleged “separation of church and state” or of the philosophy of personal freedom of the individual at all costs?
  • The Church has indeed leveraged media outlets for the betterment of Catholics everywhere. (#14) EWTN is a great example.
  • The diocese is supposed to dedicate one day annually to educating the faithful and raise funds for Catholic media. (#18) Does this actually happen? Is this just a second collection?

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