Family and Church must guard and guide the use of social communications media

From Pope St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (1981):

This very important category in modern life deserves a word of its own. It is well known that the means of social communication “affect, and often profoundly, the minds of those who use them, under the affective and intellectual aspect and also under the moral and religious aspect,” especially in the case of young people.171 They can thus exercise a beneficial influence on the life and habits of the family and on the education of children, but at the same time they also conceal “snares and dangers that cannot be ignored.”172 They could also become a vehicle—sometimes cleverly and systematically manipulated, as unfortunately happens in various countries of the world—for divisive ideologies and distorted ways of looking at life, the family, religion and morality, attitudes that lack respect for man’s true dignity and destiny.

This danger is all the more real inasmuch as “the modern life style—especially in the more industrialized nations—all too often causes families to abandon their responsibility to educate their children. Evasion of this duty is made easy for them by the presence of television and certain publications in the home, and in this way they keep their children’s time and energies occupied.”173 Hence “the duty . . . to protect the young from the forms of aggression they are subjected to by the mass media,” and to ensure that the use of the media in the family is carefully regulated. Families should also take care to seek for their children other forms of entertainment that are more wholesome, useful and physically, morally and spiritually formative, “to develop and use to advantage the free time of the young and direct their energies.”174

Furthermore, because the means of social communication, like the school and the environment, often have a notable influence on the formation of children, parents as recipients must actively ensure the moderate, critical, watchful and prudent use of the media, by discovering what effect they have on their children and by controlling the use of the media in such a way as to “train the conscience of their children to express calm and objective judgments, which will then guide them in the choice or rejection of programs available.”175

With equal commitment parents will endeavor to influence the selection and the preparation of the programs themselves, by keeping in contact-through suitable initiatives-with those in charge of the various phases of production and transmission. In this way they will ensure that the fundamental human values that form part of the true good of society are not ignored or deliberately attacked. Rather they will ensure the broadcasting of programs that present in the right light family problems and their proper solution. In this regard my venerated predecessor Paul VI wrote: “Producers must know and respect the needs of the family, and this sometimes presupposes in them true courage, and always a high sense of responsibility. In fact they are expected to avoid anything that could harm the family in its existence, its stability, its balance and its happiness. Every attack on the fundamental value of the family—meaning eroticism or violence, the defense of divorce or of antisocial attitudes among young people—is an attack on the true good of man.”176

I myself, on a similar occasion, pointed out that families “to a considerable extent need to be able to count on the good will, integrity and sense of responsibility of the media professionals—publishers writers, producers, directors, playwrights, newsmen, commentators and actors.”177 It is therefore also the duty of the Church to continue to devote every care to these categories, at the same time encouraging and supporting Catholics who feel the call and have the necessary talents, to take up this sensitive type of work.

171 Paul VI, Message for the Third Social Communications Day (April 7, 1969): Acta Apostolicæ Sedis [AAS] 61 (1969), 455.
172 John Paul II, Message for the 1980 World Social Communications Day (May 1, 1980): Insegnamenti III, 1 (1980), 1042.
173 John Paul II, Message for the 1981 World Social Communications Day (May 10, 1981), 5: L’Osservatore Romano, May 22, 1981.
174 Ibid.
175 Paul VI, Message for the Third Social Communications Day: AAS 61 (1969), 456.
176 Ibid.
177 John Paul II, Message for the 1980 World Social Communications Day, loc. cit., 1044.

Familiaris Consortio 76

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