What's a Catholic magazine to do?
Catholic journalists are gathering in New Orleans this week for our annual Catholic media convention. On the docket is a first-of-its-kind panel discussion with five bishops about the role of the Catholic media. Possible answers vary: On one side are those who say the church needs a completely free press to promote trust, transparency, and disclosure. On the other are those who say that the press should be at the service of the bishops, and that the diocesan newspaper especially should serve as his mouthpiece. (There are now diocesan newspapers that no longer even accept letters to the editor because the views expressed might diverge from the bishop-publisher's.)
As the basis of our conversation, though, is a 1994 essay by the late Cardinal Avery Dulles, written well before the explosion of online and social media--blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and so forth--which have made the Catholic media landscape even more complicated--and much harder for anyone to control.
I for one think a Catholic press who could have reported freely on issues such as the sex abuse crisis and other institutional challenges would in the end be a far better service to the church than any communications tool. I would much rather hear the bad news from the Catholic press that can tell the story fully, than the Boston Globe or The New York Times, which never seems to get it quite right.
So what would you say to the bishops if you were in the room?