I recently had the pleasure of attending Sean McAfee’s class on the Social Media Magisterium. Among the readings was Pope Paul VI’s 1972 Message for the World Social Communications Day. The theme that year was “The Media of Social Communications at the Service of Truth”. At the beginning of the message, he tells us that “(e)very fact has its own truth… ” and grasping that truth depends on “the combined diligence and the combined sincerity of the person who communicates the fact and the person to whom it is communicated…”
If we’re to be “at the service of truth”, we need to know that there are at least four ways that the truth might not be communicated:
1) The person communicating isn’t being diligent
We may share what we think is the truth without checking our sources correctly, or overstating our position. We may say that something is “Church teaching” when it may be a theological opinion or the method of a particular saint. We may, likewise, say something is optional without checking if it truly is. We’re warned in Scripture not to judge the state of anyone’s soul, because only God can know that for certain.
2) The person communicating isn’t being sincere
We may, intentionally or subconsciously, skew the facts in our favor. Some may try to spread lies or personal agendas, rather than seeking what Jesus has said and the Church has taught.
3) The person seeking isn’t being diligent
Through laziness or apathy or, perhaps, fear of having to change, we may do less than our best in searching out the truth. We may simply not know what’s out there – what alternatives there are to our point of view. We may have been taught a caricature of the truth, rejected it, and never investigated further.
4) The person seeking isn’t being sincere
We may simply not want to know the truth. If I know the truth, then I should conform my life to it. If the Church is right, then I have to change. Better, then, if I just remain happily ignorant and do as I like.
Conversely, this tells us things we must work toward in order to successfully communicate the truth. We must make sure, first, of our own diligence. We can do this with relative ease, especially now with so much technological support. The Bible and Catechism are searchable online, as are collections of tracts and articles by reputable (and well-cited) sources. (To get you started, I keep my own list of research links at one of my sites.) We must be sincere, as well. Whether we’re debating, writing, or speaking, we should ask ourselves why? Are we seeking to spread the Gospel, or are we after our own ends alone? These are not only what we owe to our faith, but what we owe to the people to whom we’re communicating. This is how we’re called to be at the service of truth.
Copyright 2015, Joe Wetterling