no. 4 october - december 2003
Publish or Perish: How the Church is Doing in the Media?
Catholic publishing is doing okay. But it should be doing a lot better, says an author and magazine co-founder according to a story distributed by the ZENIT news service.
Matt Pinto, founder and president of Ascension Press and co-founder of Envoy magazine and CatholicExchange.com, thinks that the Church could do more in the media, given the large numbers of the faithful.
Asked to evaluate the current state of Catholic publishing, Pinto said "Catholic print and internet publishers are having some small successes but far less than we should have at this point in Christian history. In the last five years, Catholic publishers have become clever in their title selections, marketing, and book packaging."
"I love Pope John Paul II’s words given on World Communications Day in the year 2000. He said, ‘Catholic communicators must be bold and creative in developing new media and methods of proclamation,’" reported Pinto. "There were times in the past when the Church led the way in supporting or even developing new technologies. Religious and laity alike were bold and creative. We have lost much of this spirit in the recent years."
Asked to identify some of the weaknesses in the Church publications, Pinto said "The first is a subconscious fear that many Catholic have toward using modern means of communication and secular marketing techniques. We sometimes think that … we are caving in to the culture or that these methods are not good enough for the Gospel. This suspicion … seriously limits our ability to share the Gospel with a world in desperate need. We need to learn how to be relevant without compromising the truths of the faith."
For Pinto it is clear. "We must trust that if we present Catholic teaching in its fullness—yet with love and in a way that the current age can understand—it will be compelling and attractive."
"In many ways, we are barely in the race. We have virtually no influence on the secular media. Our books rarely get reviewed in regional newspapers, let alone by the national press. We have only a handful of radio stations," points out Pinto.
However, there are some signs of what some creativity and effort can develop. One of the largest television networks in the world was started 20 years ago by cloistered nuns.
This is the title of the recently published reflection on the "New Age" phenomenon by the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Inter Religious Dialogue (Vatican Publications, 2003). It contains an introduction, six chapters, two appendices and a bibliography all in 90 pages.
The document recognises that the attraction of some New Age ideas is due to the fact that insufficient attention has been paid to certain important Catholic principles, for example the spiritual dimension of the human being and the integration of the spiritual into the whole of life. No pretence is made that this reflection is definitive; it seeks to stimulate further study and to clarify certain fundamental Christian ideas especially for those who are involved in preaching the Gospel and teaching the faith so that a real dialogue can take place with those who are influenced by New Age thinking.
The first chapter seeks to answer the question "Why publish such a reflection now?" The beginning of the third millennium is highly significant to astrologers. The New Age movement takes its name from the Age of Aquarius, which astrologers tell us is about to begin. The movement has affected many people and there is much confusion regarding certain ideas emanating from it. To call it a movement is not exactly correct, as it seems to be more a syncretic collection of ideas. The widespread acceptance of many of these ideas is a challenge to the Church. The document accepts that people attracted to New Age ideas are often motivated by the desire for a deeper spirituality.
The second chapter seeks to give an overall understanding of what is involved in New Age ideas. The document seeks to really understand in order not to present a caricature. New Age ideas are a witness to a cultural revolution, a complex reaction to the dominant values and ideas of the West. The succeeding chapters examine and contrast New Age ideas and Christian spirituality, recognising that the term "New Age" does not mean much in itself. What is truly important is the relationship of the individual, the group, the practice or the product with the central principles of Christianity.
The appendices present some of the fundamental New Age ideas in short formulas along with a helpful glossary of terms. This document is very useful for whose who would like to know a little more about New Age ideas and who are concerned about how these can or cannot be included in a Christian vision of life.
by Joseph Chalmers, O. Carm.
Complete text ofJesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the "New Age"