Bishop Finn says Catholic press should be true, not 'fair'
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
JEFFERSON CITY - In an era of "hyper-communications," it is vital that church leaders deliver the message of Christ's redemptive power using all means of mass communications at their disposal, Kansas City-St. Joseph Coadjutor Bishop Robert W. Finn said Oct. 2.
Kevin Kelly/Key photo
Kansas City-St. Joseph Coadjutor Bishop Robert W. Finn speaks with Kathy Baker, left, and Elizabeth Dietrich, both of Kansas City, before his Oct. 2 workshop on the role of the Catholic press.
Speaking at a workshop entitled "The Catholic Press as a Tool for the New Evangelization" during the annual Missouri Catholic Conference Assembly, Bishop Finn said it is important for the Catholic press, particularly diocesan newspapers, to become a medium that Catholics can trust as a source of honest news.
"You and I are bombarded" by hundreds of choices in media, Bishop Finn told workshop participants.
"We choose our favorites," he said. "We look for what we trust as dependable and worthy of our time."
A former editor of The St. Louis Review archdiocesan newspaper until his appointment to Kansas City-St. Joseph last spring, Bishop Finn said, "The diocesan newspaper has to earn the trust of readers."
"It has to take what it does and put it into a concise format on a limited number of pages," he said.
"We have a very specific mission and it is radically different from the commercial media," Bishop Finn said. "Their bottom line is money. The Catholic press is a means the church employs to transmit the Gospel. The Catholic press is an arm of the church. It exists to affirm the teachings of the church and to assist the bishop in his mandate to teach."
Bishop Finn decried the practice of secular media of presenting two opposing sides of issues at the expense of the truth in order to be "fair and balanced."
"We (the Catholic press) are not obliged to give equal time to points of view that are not relevant to the Gospel message," Bishop Finn said.
"This is a real problem that causes confusion among Catholics," he said. "What if we dilute the Christian message in order to appeal to all kinds of Catholics? It matters little if we reach more people if, in the end, we reach them with untruth."
Bishop Finn said a good diocesan newspaper will present a "good representation of news" from the diocese, from the nation, and from the world.
It also must cover church news in more context and in greater depth than the "commercial press," and that news must be well-grounded in theology and church teaching.
The diocesan newspaper must also present stories of Catholics putting their faith into action, he said.
Bishop Finn also said that while the church does have its own means of communications, it must also use all other means effectively.
"For many Catholics and for all other consumers, the first source of information about what the church is teaching might be what they see on TV or read in a two-column story in the (secular) print media," he said. "The use of these means are not entirely optional on our part. We do not have a choice but to learn how to use the mass media in a way that protects the message and the truth."