The Tightrope

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                                                The Tightrope
                         Loyalty,	Independence	&	the	Catholic	Press
                                                                           John Wilkins

                      n the Catholic media today, it is becoming                            Sadly, this never goes down well. Pluralism? All that is really
                                                                                         just relativism, they think in Rome.
                      harder all the time to keep a free space                              My dear editor, I will always defend you. But, as that great
                      for public opinion inside the church. A                            general of the Jesuits Pedro Arrupe once said to his men, please
                 fictional letter from a hierarch may help to                            make it easier for me to defend you. For in this independence of
                                                                                         yours lies a temptation to which you sometimes succumb. In the
                 illustrate the pressures. He is writing to the                          secular world, the independent media, in the hunt for custom-
                 editor of an independent Catholic journal,                              ers, specialize in scandal, scoops, sensationalism, gossip. But the
                                                                                         Christian media cannot do the same without losing their justifica-
                 with which he is not entirely pleased.                                  tion. They have to observe a higher rule. They must avoid being
                                                                                         contaminated by the world’s values. I was, I confess, somewhat
                 Dear Editor,                                                            disappointed when you told me that, as a journalist, of course you
                                                                                         would want scoops.
                 I was glad to have the chance of a full and frank exchange about           There is always tension, of course, between faith and life. This
                 the policies of your journal when you came to see me. Let me now        tension in my opinion is at a very high level when the Christian in
                 write to follow up on our discussion.                                   the world is a Christian editor or journalist running a Christian
                    Your journal is independent. The church does not pay for you and     journal. Yet we Catholics have the benefit of the magisterium as
                 the church does not authorize you. Like the free media everywhere,      our guide. Why did you seem to have reservations when I said
                 therefore, you live by the marketplace. If people buy your journal,
                 it prospers. If they don’t, you go out of business, unless you can
                 find a patron to subsidize you. You pride yourself on this—you are
                 free, you say, you are not controlled, you are not a puppet, you
                 are not in the business of public relations, you can speak truth to
                 the authorities without fear or favor.
                    I keep trying to explain this to Rome. Part of the trouble is that
                 they think all Catholic media are owned by local bishops and are
                 their mouthpieces. For the Roman curia, therefore, I am held to
                 be at fault if you seem to step out of line. You must be reflecting
                 my real views, they say to themselves. If not, why don’t I rein
                 you in?
                    I tell them that in the Anglo-Saxon world we value free speech.
                 We welcome a pluralism of voices. I argue that this pluralism is
                                                                                                                                                               Commonweal . November 6, 2009

                 evidence of the rich variety, the tapestry, of Catholic thought. If
                 I decide to wax theological, I add that the essence of the Catholic
                 approach is by way of “both...and,” not as with our separated
                 brothers and sisters in the Protestant churches, by way of “either...
                 or.” Unlike them, I point out, we Catholics are pluralistic and
                 inclusive. We have a big tent.

                 John	Wilkins was editor of the London Tablet from 1982 to 2003.
grant gallicho

                 This essay is adapted from the keynote address given at a conference
                 on the Catholic media convened by the Catholic Studies Program
                 at Fairfield University.

                                that? Catholic truth is not reached, as the secular media think,       of the ways between Tom Burns, the editor at the time, and
                                through selection in the supermarket of ideas. It is presented to us   his predecessor Douglas Woodruff. The Tablet was never the
                                by the magisterium for acceptance.                                     same again. At stake were crucial issues about conscience,
                                   As you know, I have been greatly influenced by that great pope,     about the magisterium, about public opinion within the church
                                surely a saint, John Paul II. I have been reading a new sympo-         and how Catholic papers should reflect it.
                                sium about him. I was struck by something wri
Description: With my affectionate blessing and prayers, +Archbishop Ecclesiasticus Some editors of independent Catholic media - the ones who are not always the flavor of the month in Rome - will hear echoes of their own experience in this fictional letter. The Tablet was never the same again.\n When the Tablet called for Archbishop Ward to take the retirement that was his due, his acting press officer accused the paper of running "a vicious and totally wrong campaign against him." Here, independent Catholic media that are critically loyal have an indispensible role to play provided their approach is founded on knowledge, research, love of the church, humility, self-discipline, self-examination, and readiness to accept correction.
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