by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
On line media is in constant competition for viewership. Catholic online media is the same. That is simply a fact of the medium.
But what most Catholics perhaps are not sensitive too, is that when seeking information about the Catholic Faith or the Catholic Church the verity of the source of the information is just as important as the information. Some websites and Media operations are just not worthy of trust. Many use the name ‘Catholic’ but are not worthy of it.
What does “Catholic” mean?
As a word, “catholic” is derived from the Greek adjective meaning universal, that is, that which pertains to everywhere, every place. It was in the second century, A. D., at Antioch, in the Roman Province of Syria, where this Greek word was first used in reference to the Church founded by Jesus Christ. The meaning of the term in reference to the Church has always been the same: the institution which wherever it is in the world, holds the same faith of Christ. (“Faith of Christ”‘ is the traditional term for the Catholic Faith; in which ”of” does not refer to the faith of the person but the Faith taught by the person).
But today I am going to use the term “‘Catholic” in a slightly different sense, because online “Catholic’ media are not part of the Catholic Church, though some of these outlets are official works or apostolates of certain Dioceses of the Catholic Church.
Instead, here I will use the term “Catholic”‘ in the common and popular sense used in American English, to refer to the orthodoxy of the information presented. Here I used the term “orthodoxy” not in reference to the Greek schismatics, but in its proper etymological sense of ‘right teaching’.
To be Catholic a Media site has to meet certain criteria
First, a Catholic site must meet certain criteria to be worthy of being judged “Catholic”. As I just said, I am not using the term, “Catholic”, in reference to whether the website is sponsored or approved by an ecclesiastical institution or diocese. I am using it in reference to right teaching in matters of faith or morals etc.
By “criteria”, which is the plural of “criterion”, I mean rules or principles by which a thing is judged to be what it is or claims to be. It is only sane an rational, that if something is to be judged it be judged by objective norms, not by opinion, not by claims, not by emotions etc.. Is the website or journalist you read for information about the Catholic Faith or the Catholic Church (here I used “Catholic” in the original sense at it was used at Antioch in Syrian in the second century A. D.) truly Catholic (here I use “Catholic” in the sense of conforming to right teaching or orthodoxy)?
Because if it is not truly Catholic, but is seeking your attention and or financial support, then you are being defrauded. Now, no one can insist you not let yourself be defrauded, but common sense tells us that we should not let ourselves be defrauded, because self-preservation, the fundamental moral principle of all human action, demands that we protect ourselves from fraud and from being defrauded.
This consideration is raised to the level of the infinite, when we consider that if we let ourselves be defrauded or mislead in regard to the Catholic Faith or to what the Church teaches or as regards how as Catholics we should act in regard to God, His Church, or any other matter, then we risk consenting to our eternal damnation by accepting lies in place of truth, lies which turn us away from saving truth, lies which confirm us in error and vice, lies which, when accepted, merit for us eternal damnation, because it is a mortal sin to knowingly accept a lie, and it is a mortal sin of imprudence to put yourself in constant danger of accepting lies.
There is a moral obligation then, to use discernment
Discernment is the act whereby we apply what we know is true or just to a matter which needs to be judged as to whether it conforms to the proper truth or justice to be had in a particular matter or affair.
For example: at the supermarket, you discern whether to buy a product or not based on its apparent quality and whether the price is proportionate to that and your need for the product. Yes, there are individuals who go to the supermarket and just buy anything they see for no reason at all. They have no discernment, and some of them have a psychological disorder known as the compulsive buyer.
I suppose there may be a disorder called the compulsive reader or listener syndrome, but I have never heard of it. Reading and listening should be an activity which employs more discernment than shopping for food. Not only because the act itself must be undertaken with understanding, which is an act of the intellect, the power of judging, but also because what is read or listened to — here I am not speaking of music or simply video per se — should be the truth or at least a true criticism of error or a true presentation of facts.
Just as one may be occasionally fooled by street corner hustlers, who say one thing, simply to get something from us, and what they say is nearly always entirely a lie, so we should be cautious in matters of our Catholic Faith, because we live in an age of hucksters and false apostles and calculated and contrived deceit of the most nefarious kind.
So if you are to protect yourself, you need to use discernment. And if you have any true charity for those in your family or who know you and might follow your example in anything, then keeping yourself free from error, by not allowing yourself to be deceived, is essential to protecting them too from error and lies which could lead them astray.
A Reputation is founded upon facts and deeds
Here we must keep in mind that it is one thing to make a claim and another to exhibit the comportment or behavior which is consonant with that claim. Many websites do not actually claim to be “catholic’ in any sense of the word, but nevertheless constantly publish information about the Catholic Faith or the Catholic Church.
Before Vatican II, it was the Catholic Clergy who directed or ran nearly all Catholic media. That is what it meant for it to be Catholic. Being trained in institutions which were Catholic in both senses of the word, the clergy who ran them were competent to execute the duty entrusted to them.
Nowadays, however, very few media outlets are run by clergy. Moreover, since Vatican II, the anti-Church forces in the Church have nearly entirely destroyed the formation process of the Catholic clergy, to such an extent that it is a rare priest and bishop who knows the Catholic Faith well enough to be even able to speak as a Catholic at all times, let alone think as one, or run a Catholic media outlet.
Having self-proclaimed Catholic journalists or apostolates take over what these Catholic Clergy used to accomplish is obviously not the best solution nor even a solution. It puts the important apostolate of spreading the truth of the Gospel in the hands of men who were never trained or examined or proven to be worthy of that trust. And it makes the Catholic Faith appear to be something like the Anglican church, that is, a collection opinions which are up for grabs.
There is also a lot of deep pride and egoism in men and women who were never in a formation program and never learned what it means to mortify your ego and live for Christ Christ and obey His Church in the proper sense of those words. And not a few websites exhibit this. Egoism is a form of idolatry, so everyone needs to beware of this disorder, since it makes a person subject to being taunted this way or that, as the Devil may want them to do, to achieve his greater plans against souls and the Church.
So you should pay attention to what is being said and whether it conforms to the Catholic Faith. And when a source of information habitually deviates from the Catholic Faith on any point, you need to take care not to be led astray. Some Catholics have the intellectual gifts and preparation that they can discern this and avoid the error while plucking a few grapes of truth from a source of information which is thus vitiated. But most Catholics do not have this ability. We need to be honest and confess this.
This is even more true, when we recognize that as human beings, we are wont to trust in others, and that in the present crisis in the Church our habit of trusting in others can be and is being abused by unscrupulous men, clergy and lay alike.
The duty of Catholics who publish
Catholic websites and media outlets have a graver duty to publish the truth than anyone else, because to publish a lie which is read by thousands is to commit a mortal sin in regard to each and every person who reads what is published. Catholic journalism and Catholic social media apostolates, therefore, are a fast track to hell if run by those without discernment and zeal for the truth. This is why not a few of them are patently diabolic, because while they are capable of knowing the truth, and have been presented with the truth, they fail to publish it or even worse attack it.
The Devil in Social Media…
I recall the example of a Catholic Diocesan Newspaper which was asked by a humanitarian organization to run an advertisement on behalf of defending and helping Catholics being persecuted in the Mid-East by ISIS. The director of advertising refused, because he said it would create confusion about the Gospel message of forgiveness. A more diabolically contrived response was never had.
You see, there is a global effort now underway to undermine everyone’s grasp on reality and on real religion, because reality itself is seen as the enemy of the agenda which needs to be pushed. The ones pushing such a diabolic conspiracy have oodles of money and are willing to spend it to control Catholic Social Media sites, so they print and publish lies and stop printing and publishing the truth.
Catholic media which are run by organizations or corporations are directly vulnerable, because it is sufficient that the enemies of the Faith gain control of the organization or corporation to direct or control the information they put out. EWTN is a classic example. Before Mother Angelica had her stroke, the station was solidly catholic. After she had her stroke, laymen took control and these laymen were then suborned by unfaithful Bishops to alter the kind of information put out. EWTN then began to purchase other Catholic media outlets and the same kind of control of information spread. When asked in 2016 to run advertisements to help persecuted Christians, EWTN refused because they said it would have disastrous consequences to their apostolate world wide. I guess they mean by apostolate, their sources of funding or control.
Catholic media which are run by individuals are vulnerable inasmuch as the funding they seek or receive is controlled or not by those who want error promoted and truth suppressed.
You can easily know if a source of information about the Church or the Faith is compromised by simply compare what they are saying with the documents which are published by the Church or in ages past.
A classic example of fraud, today, is that which is perpetrated by those who promote the opinion of universal acceptance of a papal election. They boldly share images of the text in question, of the Thomistic author they cite as an authority, which text clearly uses the word “canonically” in reference to elected, and then proceed to apply the principle to the case of the present crisis in the Church as if the word “canonically” was not in the text.
When confronted with the documents of the Church which say that a pope resigns when he renounces his munus, they ignore the word munus, and place a X in its place, which they will replace with whatever word they like as it suits them for that day, and claim that a resignation is valid, whenever a pope says the word “renounce” X.
These are just two current examples of fraud which show clearly that such individuals or sites are not Catholic and that in reading them you are being defrauded of the truth and led astray. It is not just a question of intellectual dishonestly, it is dishonesty which intentionally misrepresents the truth of Church teaching or history. And as a Franciscan hermit, I can tell you that such a habitual practice of deceiving in matters of religion is no small vice. It is deeply evil, and there is something behind it more than just egoism.
So I exhort one and all, use discernment when you go online to learn more about the Catholic Faith or the Catholic Church. Look for sites which quote documents and are faithful in their reading and application of the truth which the Church has always taught.
CREDITS: The Featured Image is a photo taken by Br. Bugnolo of the Papal Throne at the Basilica of Saint Lawrence, Rome. Just as the throne is at the center of the Sanctuary, so should we put the truth at the center of our minds and love of it at the center of our hearts.
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