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Can We Really Trust the Media?

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Apr. 29, 2013


In 2001, Avery Dulles did an interview with famed television talk show host and journalist Charlie Rose.  Most of you probably don’t know who Avery Dulles was.  A little background on him helps illustrate the magnitude of the interview. Dulles was raised in the Presbyterian Church, became an agnostic by the time he attended Harvard, and in his early twenties converted to Catholicism.  He then matriculated into Harvard Law School, but entered the Navy before graduating.  Upon being discharged from the Navy, Dulles became a Jesuit.  He eventually was ordained a priest, became a prolific writer, teacher, and theologian, and was appointed Cardinal by Pope John Paul II.  He was a very educated man with a diverse background and made a 180-degree change intellectually and spiritually.  He experienced both sides of the fence, which makes his comments to Charlie Rose all the more powerful.

At one point in the interview, Charlie Rose asked Cardinal Dulles what Dulles thought was the biggest problem facing the American Catholic Church.  With the daring of a saint, Cardinal Dulles calmly replied that Charlie Rose was the problem.  Charlie Rose was shocked.  Even-tempered, Dulles asked Rose if he had any personal issues with the Catholic Church.  Charlie Rose admitted that he did.  Dulles then asked Rose if Rose portrayed news and issues regarding the Catholic Church with his bias to viewers.  Charlie Rose admitted that he did.  After all, it is his show.  Cardinal Dulles further explained that the largest problem the American Catholic Church faces is that most American Catholics doctrinal formation comes from the media.  The mass media, with all of its biases, has somehow become the most influential teacher of all things Catholic to the detriment of everyone.

It’s staggering how many people speak incorrectly with prejudice and hostility towards the Catholic faith, which in turn breeds further animosity and misunderstanding toward the Church.  The inaccurate reporting and biases against the Catholic Church have caused mass confusion, among Catholics and non-Catholics, as to what the Church teaches and stands for.  It’s led some to become apathetic, others to hate, and many to leave a church they don’t even know.  Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said, “There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.” 

Now that we have identified what we are up against, what is the answer to this dilemma?  You are!  If you really want to know the truth about our faith, you are going to have to do some work.

While we might live in a time when it seems difficult to know the truth about anything, we also live in a world with amazing resources at our fingertips.  You can access the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Bible, documents by the early Church fathers and popes, and Catholic encyclopedias online.  Notice, I didn’t mention Wikipedia.  Check out the Vatican’s and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ websites, too.  Both are great resources with documents from popes, councils, and bishops. 

Get serious about reading the Bible.  St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” The Catechism reads, “The Church, ‘forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful. . .to learn ‘the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ,’ by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures.’ ”[1] Come to know Christ!

Get involved at your Newman Center.  Newman Centers usually have programs throughout the year regarding learning more about the faith.  If your Newman Center doesn’t have something like this, talk to your priest about starting a program.

Get together with a group of friends and start a formation circle.  Make sure you are reading good books.  Ask a priest’s recommendation for theologically correct books.  Discuss it with your friends and family.  Whatever you do, never stop learning more about Catholicism.

About the Author

Jeremiah Doyle is a freelance correspondent for Newman Connection.

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 133