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Editorial: Serving our readers means seeking the truth
We in Catholic media have a special affection for the month of February. Since the 1950s, this month has been Catholic Press Month, an opportunity for those of us fortunate enough to serve the Church in this special vocation to reflect upon what we do and why we do it.
Those of us at Our Sunday Visitor take delight in being heralds of the Gospel — those messengers who joyfully share the truth of the Church, the Truth who is Jesus Christ himself, with the world. And we have been blessed to do this in so many ways throughout our storied 110-year history, be it by upholding the sacredness and dignity of all human life, defending marriage, protecting immigrants, standing for religious liberty or working for peace. Depending on the moment in history, the emphasis may have changed, but the root mission is always the same: to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ at all times and to all people. In a more particular way in modern times, the editors of Our Sunday Visitor seek to speak the truth in charity, in a way that unites — a mission that is as challenging in 2022 as it is aspirational.
During this unique time of pandemic, Our Sunday Visitor felt compelled to raise its voice in the service of truth in the face of the overwhelming spread of disinformation, particularly about the COVID-19 vaccine. To do this, as we have mentioned several times, we joined a consortium of international Catholic media and world-renowned scientists to help dispel the fake news and misleading information that surrounds the vaccine.
In late January, several members of our team had the opportunity to travel to Rome where we joined other members of the consortium for a private audience with Pope Francis, during which he spoke on communications, the COVID-19 pandemic, the spread of misinformation and the role of Catholic media.
“You yourselves have set as a goal the unmasking of fake news and partial or misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines, and have begun to do so by networking different Catholic media and involving various experts,” the pope said. “Your initiative was born as a consortium that seeks to be together for the truth. Thank you, thank you for this.”
Pope Francis spoke of the importance of Catholic media working together, saying that “networking as Christian communicators is itself sending a message.” United with scientific research, this networking becomes especially powerful. “To be properly informed, to be helped to understand situations based on scientific data and not fake news, is a human right,” he said. “Correct information must be ensured above all to those who are less equipped, to the weakest and to those who are most vulnerable.”
He also emphasized the word “for” — that we should be working together against misleading information, what he called “injustices and lies” — but always in the service of individuals, keeping in mind the importance of meeting people where they are.
“Even if the purpose of your consortium is to combat disinformation, to refute fake news and the manipulation of more impressionable minds, the fundamental distinction between information and people must never be overlooked. Fake news has to be refuted, but individual persons must always be respected, for they believe it often without full awareness or responsibility,” he said. “A Christian communicator must be evangelical in style, a builder of bridges, a promoter of peace, also and above all, in the search for truth. His or her approach is not one of conflict, it is not marked by an attitude of superiority, and it does not simplify reality, so as not to fall into a kind of ‘fideism’ when it comes to science. Science itself is a constant process of advancing toward the solution of problems. Reality is always more complex than we think, and we must respect the doubts, the concerns and the questions that people raise, seeking to accompany them without ever dismissing them. A dialogue with those who have doubts.”
It was inspiring to be in the presence of fellow members of Catholic media who are seeking the same goals, and to be bolstered by the presence and the words of Pope Francis was both encouraging and energizing.
As we look ahead to our 110-year anniversary in May, we remain dedicated to proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ, together with our friends and partners in the Catholic press, and for each of you, our readers.
Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, Scott Warden, York Young