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Legatus Magazine

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Matthew A. Rarey | author
Mar 03, 2011
Filed under Engaging the Faith
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The media: A gift to mankind

Pius XII says the first aim of movies, radio and television should be to serve truth and virtue. . . .

Matthew A. Rarey

Matthew A. Rarey

In 1957, Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical on the mass media, which even then played a vital role for good and ill in society. Although the types of media have multiplied since his encyclical was published, the principles he set forth for the proper production and appreciation of the media stand the test of time.

There are advantages in the tremendous technical advances in motion picture, radio and television production, the Pope said in Miranda Prorsus (On The Communications Field: Motion Pictures, Radio, Television). Likewise, there are tremendous dangers in consuming media indiscriminately. Programming — whether it be online, television, radio or film — powerfully influences our minds. It can flood them with light and raise us to nobility, and conversely, it can degrade the human soul.

Much more powerful than through the printed page, the Pope said, broadcast media provide opportunities for men to meet and unite in common effort. And since this purpose is essentially connected with the advancement of the civilization of all peoples, the Catholic Church desires to use it to bring the human race to Jesus Christ. Indeed, he wrote, the first aim of motion pictures, radio and television should be to serve truth and virtue.

Actors bear a great responsibility for the outcome of productions they’re involved in, Pius wrote. “Indeed, remembering their dignity as human beings and as experienced artists, they are not permitted to lend their talents to parts which are contrary to sound morals. But an actor, having gained a famous name by his talent and skill, ought to use that renown which he has justly won in such a way that he inspires the mind of the public with noble sentiments; in particular, he should remember to give a notable example of virtue to others in his private life.”

Warning actors about the danger of pride, Pius said: “Everyone can see that, in the presence of a throng of people listening open-mouthed to your words, applauding and shouting, your own feelings are stirred and filled with a certain joy and exaltation. But if it can be said that someone is fully justified in feeling these emotions, yet it does not follow that Christian actors may accept from their audience expressions of praise which savor of a type of idolatry.”

Rather, the Pope noted that Christian performers must heed the words of Jesus in this regard: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus Magazine’s editorial assistant.

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