Catholic media’s mission: To teach and inform

| January 5, 2011 | 0 Comments
Archbishop Nienstedt

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

When Pope Benedict XVI recently commented to a journalist about condom use in AIDS prevention, there was widespread discussion and confusion about what the pope meant and whether it represented a change in church teaching.

To clarify that no change in church teaching had taken place, Archbishop John Nienstedt provided The Catholic Spirit with a guest column about the issue from John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

The archbishop, who is The Catholic Spirit’s publisher and who writes his own column titled “That They May All Be One” for each issue, said he views his column as well as other news and commentary in the newspaper as helpful aids in communicating with the people of God.

“The role of the archbishop is basically to build up the sense of communion in the church, and communion necessitates communication,” he said during a Dec. 16 interview with The Catholic Spirit.

“Being one person — even though I’ve now gotten around to 158 parishes so far — I can’t be everywhere at the same time,” he said. Having a forum, such as The Catholic Spirit, in which to write a column to address important issues or questions is “very, very helpful.”

Archbishop Nienstedt is an avid reader of a wide variety of Catholic media. Because of his busy schedule, he said he often sets a stack of newspapers and magazines aside until he can read them over a weekend. He might also read them during his lunch or while traveling.

In addition to The Catholic Spirit, among the publications on his regular reading list are L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper; America magazine; Catholic Health World (the archbishop has a background in bioethics); Origins, Catholic News Service’s documentary service; the Servant; publications produced by the archdiocese’s Catholic universities; and diocesan newspapers sent to him by fellow bishops in Minnesota and around the United States.

Regarding the role Catholic media should play in the life of the church, Archbishop Nienstedt points to a recent address by Pope Benedict to the Italian Federation of Catholic Weeklies.

The pope said a primary task of Catholic newspapers is to “give voice to a point of view that reflects Catholic thinking on all ethical and social questions.”

“I think, first and foremost, that’s what I look for in a Catholic paper,” Archbishop Nienstedt said. “I can use the secular press to get my news. But the Catholic viewpoint is what I really need. I think that’s so important.”

The pope said Catholic newspapers, in addition to conveying important information about the church and the world, have an “irreplaceable formative function” in helping develop Christian consciences — a role that Archbishop Nienstedt said is “terribly important.”

“I see the Catholic newspaper as I would see other forms of Catholic media: really helping my office to evangelize, to preach and teach the Gospel message, to catechize people, to form them in the faith,” he said.

Contemporary challenges

Catholic media today face numerous challenges. They must compete for Catholics’ attention with a vast array of other print, electronic and social media. And, Catholic newspapers in particular are searching for new ways to fund their ministries at a time when parishes and advertisers are facing difficult economic times.

The Catholic Spirit’s board of directors is in the midst of a strategic planning process to help guide the newspaper — both its print version and website — into the future so it can continue its mission “to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis” while resting on a firm financial footing.

If local Catholics truly want to stay informed about what is happening in the church and grow in their faith, they need to be regular consumers of Catholic media, including The Catholic Spirit, Archbishop Nienstedt said.

“My advice to people would be to leave time in their weekly schedule — an hour or two — where they can pick up a book or pick up a number of articles that they think would be of interest on a particular topic and then go into some depth with it,” he said. “I think that’s what we’re called to if we’re going to continue that ongoing adult formation of our faith. It can’t be just in quick sound bites.

“Sound bites can and should lead us to a more in-depth study of a particular issue.” But, Archbishop Nienstedt added, “I would say that it’s hard to explain the doctrine of transubstantiation in a sound bite. There are just some theological and philosophical concepts that take time and need some in-depth study as well as some time to reflect upon.”

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Category: 100 Years