Pope laments the family crisis and distorted media coverage
BY C.S. MORRISSEY
“When I convoked the first synod, the great concern of the majority of the media was communion for the divorced and remarried, and, since I am not a saint, this bothered me, and then made me sad,” said Pope Francis as he expressed frustration with the media coverage of his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) on the two Synods on the Family convoked by him in 2014 and 2015.
“Because, thinking of those media who said, this, this and that, do you not realize that that is not the important problem? Don’t you realize that instead the family throughout the world is in crisis?” said the Pope on the papal plane as he travelled from the Greek island of Lesbos to Rome on Apr 16.
“Don’t we realize that the falling birth rate in Europe is enough to make one cry? And the family is the basis of society. Do you not realize that the youth don’t want to marry?” said Francis.
“Don’t you realize that the lack of work or the little work (available) means that a mother has to get two jobs and the children grow up alone? These are the big problems,” he lamented.
The Pope’s criticisms are right on target. The media finds it easier to ignore our big, shared problems. They prefer to simplify things by portraying religious conflicts.
Even reading the commentary on Amoris Laetitia by Catholic media commentators is a mostly depressing exercise. Almost everybody’s interpretation of the document is distorted by an initial reflex to take sides. Almost everybody plays along with the media’s game of viewing Church teaching through a lens of conflict.
The recent media fracas over Amoris Laetitia reminds me of Pope Francis’s homily on April 14, 2013, about how the Church isn’t meant to be a “babysitter” for us. Because of our baptism, he said, we need to wake up and stop acting like sleeping children who require a babysitter:
“I think of us, the baptized: do we really have this strength – and I wonder – do we really believe in this? Is baptism enough? Is it sufficient for evangelization? Or do we rather ‘hope’ that the priest should speak, that the bishop might speak,” said Francis.
“And what of us? Then, the grace of baptism is somewhat closed, and we are locked in our thoughts, in our concerns.”
First of all, the media is a lousy babysitter. It stirs up trouble in the household. And if we believe in the media obsession with factional struggles within the Church, we make those media narratives into ever-growing, self-fulfilling prophecies.
Second, the media does us no service by encouraging us to think of the Pope and bishops as our babysitters, as if we have to wait around for them to speak.
We should already be tapping into the power of our baptism. We shouldn’t be taking a nap, waiting around for the media to wake us up, telling us to fight each other.
Instead of choosing sides in a conflict the media frames, we should already be one step ahead of them. Let’s be already busy doing our Father’s work, showing love and mercy, instead of waiting around for the media to give us something that we can share or like on Facebook.
For me, that means focusing on, not the Catholic “inside baseball” over recent synods of bishops, but rather on what Pope Francis calls “the big problems”.
The family is in crisis, I agree. I also think part of the reason for that crisis is the way children are given absolutely no guidance in how to understand modern science and technology in relation to the ancient faith.
Science and religion exist in most people’s minds as a sharp dichotomy, and the media itself encourages this unhealthy mindset. This in itself is a gigantic problem: “The matter is urgent,” as St. John Paul II said in a famous 1988 letter to George V. Coyne, S.J., Director of the Vatican Observatory.
John Paul wrote “science and religion” urgently need “to understand one another.” When it comes to the latest theories of science, “theologians must understand them and test their value in bringing out from Christian belief some of the possibilities which have not yet been realized,” he urged.
For example, John Paul wrote, “Does an evolutionary perspective bring any light to bear upon theological anthropology, the meaning of the human person as the imago Dei, the problem of Christology – and even upon the development of doctrine itself?”
The joy of friendly dialogue on such topics is worth cultivating. Young Catholic professionals can experience this friendship in a relaxing, social atmosphere like Archdiocese of Vancouver’s “Catholic After Hours” at the Vancouver Art Gallery Café.