The second chapter of Inter Mirifica is devoted to pastoral recommendations and guidelines for the implementation of its teachings regarding the use of social media. As these are not doctrinal in character, I won’t dwell on them too long. They are summarized below:
- “Pastors should hasten, therefore, to fulfill their duty in this respect, one which is intimately linked with their ordinary preaching responsibility” (§ 13). So pastors are, at a minimum, obliged to teach the faithful from the pulpit about the proper use of social media, both as consumers and producers thereof. Mark this down as a big fat failure. § 18 urges that a day be set aside in dioceses throughout the world where such training and education is explicitly offered. In light of this, the Vatican appointed January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales (patron saint of journalists), as “World Social Communications Day” and has been at least minimally faithful in following through. As far as bishops and pastors are concerned, on the other hand — nada.
- “First, a good press should be fostered. … [A] truly Catholic press should be set up and encouraged” which “should be edited with the clear purpose of forming, supporting and advancing public opinion in accord with natural law and Catholic teaching and precepts” as well as “disseminate and properly explain news concerning the life of the Church” (§ 14). This extends to include supporting explicitly Catholic or Catholic-friendly arts (such as the production of movies). The document goes on to urge that “care must be taken that [Catholic television and radio stations’] programs are outstanding for their standards of excellence and achievement.” This one’s a mixed bag. Some Catholic media is at least generally good — EWTN does good work, my occasional criticisms notwithstanding. Much of it is so-so: Catholic Answers does some good work in their apologetics which is more than swamped by the wickedness they promote and officially tolerate on their forums (often against Inter Mirifica‘s own recommendations). And, of course, some of it is irredeemably bad: think the National Catholic Reporter, a squalid hellhole of dissent and degeneracy. Bishops and pastors seem largely indifferent toward the first and second and timid about the third, which, unlike the orthodox-but-equally-combatative Michael Voris’ ChurchMilitant.tv, was never asked to remove “Catholic” from its title. As far as the arts are concerned, the institutional Church (in America, at least) has been worse than useless.
- § 15 calls for training in the use of media, and central coordination in promoting the use of media, to be instituted immediately. Nothing done on this front, sadly, perhaps due to the general technological incompetence of bishops, who are older than average; the result is that what Catholic media exists today has largely sprung up without their encouragement and often acts against their recommendations. § 17 calls for the laity and others to earnestly support Catholic media to the extent possible.
- § 16 similarly calls for steps to be taken to educate the young with respect to the proper use of social media, specifically identifying “catechetical manuals” of the sort that basically no longer exist and were explicitly rejected in the postconciliar age as a means of promoting such awareness. Another F.
- § 20 makes clear that the responsibility for overseeing and implementing these guidelines falls primarily on the bishops.