By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Several leading lights among Catholic communicators, including the Vatican spokesperson and both the current and former heads of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, discuss the role and the future of Catholic media in a new program produced by Salt and Light TV, the national Catholic television network of Canada.
The program may be found on-line here: Salt and Light FOCUS
I make a brief cameo in the segment, but the more interesting contributions come from others. Ecclesiastical heavyweights include Cardinal John Foley, former head of the Council for Social Communications, and Foley’s successor, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli. Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson, is also featured.
Veteran Catholic journalists who appear include John Thavis, Rome bureau chief for the Catholic News Service, and Jesús Colina, founder of the Zenit news agency. The main voice for the segment belongs to Joseph Sinasac, publisher of the Catholic Register in Canada.
Sinasac said that he worked in the secular press for 17 years before coming to the Register, offering the potentially counter-intuitive insight that he feels more free to pursue his interests and publish what we wants with a church-run publication than he did in the employ of a secular outlet.
“They have their taskmasters too, who are the shareholders,” Sinasac said, “and what they care about are profits. We don’t face the same kind of pressure to be frivolous or celebrity-conscious.”
For my money, perhaps the most provocative observation came from Lombardi. In an era in which Catholic news organizations face competition from multiple new media outlets, and thus can be consumed by the pressure to keep pace, Lombardi said the fundamental problem is not technology but rather having something compelling to say.
“The technology is there, and intelligent Catholics are able to use it, I hope, to get information,” Lombardi said. “The real problem is, what can we say to the world in order to respond to the problems of today?”