In terms of its moral prescriptions on the use of media, Inter Mirifica‘s orthodoxy and prudence both are unimpeachable. It cautions Catholics to be mindful of media’s potential to contribute to the common good and the good of the Church as well as to be a near occasion of sin. It exhorts them to patronize morally sound exercises of the arts while avoiding that which would scandalize them, it obliges the state to judiciously exercise censorship in maintenance of the moral consensus, and it lays the burden of the proper use of media primarily on producers, who are especially enjoined not to produce, subsidize, encourage, or otherwise be complicit in the publication of filth or lies, especially those that harm the Church.
But what Inter Mirifica recommended were things the Church was largely already doing. Take, for instance, the National Legion of Decency, which was about as spontaneous and organic and wholesome an initiative as anything produced since — a conspiracy (in the literal sense) of Catholics to organize and publicly refuse to patronize media that promote wickedness. It was even ecumenical, featuring not a few conservative-minded Protestants and Jews. It didn’t need Inter Mirifica to tell it to do what it was already doing. What it needed was a strong, healthy, distinctly Catholic culture to support and sustain it. That culture, that Catholic consensus, was precisely what the Council aimed to destroy, and did, in fact, destroy. Regrettably, one year after the Council’s conclusion, the Legion was absorbed into the administrative machinery of the American bishops’ conference, and mostly forgotten about, both to the detriment of the Church and the arts generally. And all this was due in no small part to the bishops’ resolve not to contradict the world or its values too forcefully, but instead to marshal the media in support of the political and cultural establishment’s pet causes — immigration reform, relief to Third World countries, disarmament, whatever — and, especially, to their own role in promoting them. Hence the Catholic media has withered alongside the Church.
So the state of media has deteriorated significantly since Inter Mirifica: the secular realm grows increasingly hostile, the Catholic realm increasingly schizophrenic, with a large part growing more secular and another large part degenerating into the sordid slavery of party-line flattery, while a tiny remnant of the faithful cling bitterly to their Scriptures and devotions in the teeth of resistance by the episcopate and their well-heeled laic toadies.
Ironically, the duty of media-users as outlined in Inter Mirifica has devolved largely upon those who are on the Church’s peripheries — of bloggers, like yours truly, who, while doctrinally orthodox, are repulsed to the point of nausea by modern ecclesial currents and fashions, including the baubles of liturgical innovators, the overweening “pastoral theology” that has filled the pews with a generation of recalcitrant and self-entitled Philistines, and the demented mania for evangelism that has compromised actual, practical fidelity to the Church’s teachings and traditions. Where do we go from here? Forward. Hold the line. What else is there to do?
- Introduction to Inter Mirifica
- Inter Mirifica § 1-4: Basic Principles
- Inter Mirifica § 5-11: The Proper Moral Outlook
- Inter Mirifica § 12: Did the Council Endorse Censorship?
- Inter Mirifica § 13-22: Pastoral Recommendations