Church communications must help build culture of truth

Catholic Church communications should be more proactive and help promote a culture of transparency, openness and co-responsibility. It can help with a greater commitment to communication that follows the Gospel way, marked by listening, dialogue, compassion, tenderness and accompaniment.

All people yearn for truth and justice, speakers at a panel discussion in Rome said last week.

The discussion followed the presentation of a new book “Transparency and Secrecy in the Catholic Church” written by two of the panelists, Fr Jordi Pujol Solerand and Fr Rolando Montes de Oca. The third panelist was Archbishop Charles Scicluna, from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Information and secrecy are both forms of power that can be abused, the authors say. There is a growing desire for greater transparency in Church communications to end “absurd and useless secrets,” while protecting needed privacy, confidentiality and the sacred sacrament of confession.

Safeguarding reforms, laws and procedures are part of a larger call for conversion for the entire church.

Pope Francis’s most recent reforms concerning safeguarding and church leaders’ greater accountability show the connection between canon law and communication.

Pujol pointed out the two types of tribunal to understand and handle appropriately: courts of justice, which demand facts and evidence to promote justice; and the court of public opinion, which depends on facts. It is coloured and driven by emotions and immediate perceptions.

It can be frustrating to see facts ignored or distorted in the court of public opinion, but “you need to monitor people’s perceptions” and address them in a proactive, constructive way, he says.

Montes pointed out that media move and respond quickly to events. Those working in Church communications must also ensure timeliness is guided by “respect for human dignity, the common good and prudence.”

Catholic communicators can help reporters in the secular media understand this and the need to use terminology correctly and truthfully, Pujol says.

There is a long history of church teaching to guide communications, which is an integral part of the church’s identity as an institution dedicated to the truth and being trustworthy.

“We all agree on the principles: we want a church that is open, that listens, that does not see victims as a threat or a problem, that promotes the laity and women and fosters co-responsibility.”

To be credible and relevant today the Church has to be itself, to continue to awaken in others the amazement, the astonishment of God and humanity.

The panel agreed that historic abuse allegation reports must be done by top experts in a professional, honest, humble and impartial manner to understand what really happened.

The aim is not to “inflict self-harm,” but to learn from the past and grow in a desire to do things better, Scicluna says.

Only journeying together in a truly synodal way can the truth be safeguarded and justice promoted, in a process of gathering information, listening and dialogue in the “Gospel-way” with compassion, tenderness and closeness.


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News category: World.

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