Saturday, May 01, 2010

Truth and Love

Francesco Hayez 1791-1882
Portrait of Alessandro Manzoni
Oil on canvas,
118 x 92 cm
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

The business of journalism is news.

Bloggers are involved in disseminating knowledge but in a very much smaller way.

What are the requirements incumbent on Catholic bloggers ?

Pope John XXIII considered the duties of Catholic journalists. He gave a talk to journalists on Monday 4th May 1959 when they were gathered for their Third National Convention in Rome.

It is also interesting for another matter. It was not Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI who began the attack on modern relativism. Here we have the Good Pope John dealing with the same issues.

He puts the issues in simple terms.

He talks of two responsibilities: that of Truth and that of Charity.

The Vatican website sets it out in Italian.

Here is a translation of some of the salient points:

"But because your apostolate is effective in the pursuit of the cause of God, the Church and of souls, it is necessary to always have in the forefront of one`s mind the purpose for which you use the tools of your profession.

They are primarily arma veritatis (weapons of truth).

The defection of part of modern thought from Philosophia perennis has caused many to disregard Holy Truth as if it was not the proper purpose of human intelligence. Modern relativist philosophy repeats the sceptical question asked by Pilate: "Quid est veritas ?"

But you well know that God is Truth itself: Christ is Truth: The Holy Sprit is the Spirit of Truth.

The reflection of this Divine Light, Dante would say "penetrates and shines throughout the universe more or less everywhere" but above all it suffuses into the most hidden part of the human soul which itself is made for the recognition of Truth and for the Love from which it derives. As St Augustine declares: "Quid anima desiderat nisi veritatem?" ("What does the soul desire but Truth ?")

Thus it is the duty of every man, more so of every Christian to bear witness to the Truth. In a very special way you journalists, out of your professional duty must be lovers of truth so that truth can prevail, that same truth which is so often trampled upon and betrayed by sections of the media.

Journalists, writers and other people who work in this industry are also called to an even higher responsibility. In fact their tools are not only in the service of Truth but also of Love: arma caritatis (weapons of Love). That is they are means the elevate minds, to do good and to irradiate Virtue into men`s souls. ...

[T]here is a certain type of journalism which sins gravely against the Truth and against Charity, lying to incite Hatred. It is a type of journalism which seems to have this one agenda: to doom simple souls, to daily misrepresent the Truth, to inaccurately represent each expression of the Magisterium of the Church and attack the Church to remove the love due to Christ, to fight Jesus Christ to attack God Himself. And this is often done under the false appearance of solving the problems which afflict those who work, the weak and the defenceless.

Therefore in what spirit should you use the tools of the Press ? "In omnibus sumentes" I`ll say with Saint Paul, "seutum fidei, in quo possitis omnia tela nequissimi ignea evtinguere. Et galeam salutis assumite, et gladium spiritus, quod est verbuin Dei". In the same Letter to the Ephesians St Paul gives the motto that can guide the steps of all, in this arduous journey " Veritatem facientes in caritate".

In Charity ! Charity in writing and in controversy does not weaken the Truth, rather it strengthens it, because it makes it more acceptable. "Interficete errores" said St Augustine, "diligite errantes". Without giving up any of the rights due to Truth, Charity in writing and in controversy makes the message more palatable. To quote a famous image of St Francis de Sales "Less vinegar and more honey !"

I would like to hold up to you, a great Italian layman, as a model of Christian writing who was in his writing an example of humility and charity - Alessandro Manzoni. In his "Observations on Catholic Ethics" he shows himself to the reader as "a weak but sincere apologist of a moral order whose purpose is Love". And even when he feels that he is under "a duty to speak the truth", always keeps his rhetoric under the breastplate of Charity

So also should you: be fearless defenders of the Truth but be loyal and generous towards opponents. Because always and everywhere "caritas Christi urget nos" ("The Love of Christ compels us to.")"

It was a theme which Pope John XXIII returned to in an Address to the Editors, Directors and Printers of the Catholic Daily published in Milan called "Italy" on the occasion of its Fiftieth year of its foundation

The talk was on Sunday, June 17, 1962 and is in Italian only on the Vatican website

Here is a translation of some of the speech.

He discusses the purpose of such a publication as "Italy" and then from the particular enlarges to the general theme of Catholic newspapers and journalists:

"The task which you were given at the start of the fifty years is worthy of admiration and all effort: that Catholics should help themselves to get to know each other and be at one. If this was always your purpose then at this present time it continues to be so even more so. The rapid dissemination of information, the contrasting positions taken by the instruments of forming public opinion , the increased opportunity always great of the press and the audiovisual media to form and distort consciences, place Catholic journalism at the front of a constant and continual effort of clarification, of enlightening and of orientation.

The innumerable problems of life require timely intervention so that of the many points of view being put out the only valid and just interpretation is put out: the interpretation of unchanging truth by which the human soul must adhere to its earthly pilgrimage.

The never ending questions of how to act morally in the political and social field require one voice that can give the Catholic reader of acting in accordance with justice, to have an enlightened mind which can judge and make decisions according to the dictates of a good conscience. The falsifications of the truth, made with careless lightness - and I can express it in no other way- require this continual effort: to report in a true light the reality of a situation to help the understanding of, the judgement of and the turning away from complicity or compromise.

The unsettling and confusing effects of a mindset which is always ready (and it is with great sorrow that I say it) more that which divides and shocks rather than reassures and comforts requires people who cooperate without hesitation in uniting, building, in communicating with firm certainty the common heritage of faith, which is is possessed and deepened,

This consistent attitude leads to a fruitful unity of thought in matters of substance, in strongholds which are to be defended at all costs, while allowing marginal differences, and the constructive engagement of discussion in controversial points. Recognise that it means to love: to be united in essential matters means that one can move forward and build. This exciting commitment, which now more than ever you are called today to carry out as part of your mission as journalists in Italy. ...

But above all the Church asks of you in this promising stage of your journey. It is the Pope who asks this of you, the humble Pope today. The Pope who, with trepidation and in a quick decision, chose the name of "John", nomen dulce, nomen suave, nomen solemne: recall your claim to love, to love always, to love all, to love in all circumstances even when the voice or the pen has a duty to condemn.

Finally this great precept of love is joined to the apostolate of truth at all costs. Together they are an incentive for you to sanctify your daily life. Yes, Yes: Veritas et Caritas. How beautiful, how noble, how exciting it is to fight under this double standard the peaceful battles for the Kingdom of God !

Talking to Catholics on 4th May 1959, I emphasised the duty of truth and of charity which should animate souls:

"It is the duty of every man, how much more so for a Christian, to bear witness to the Truth. In particular you giornalists, being conscious that you are lovers of the Truth, must ensure that Truth can prevail, even although truth is often trampled upon and betrayed by the media."

And Charity ? Its place is at the summit of each thought, of one`s mind, of each written word because it builds and consoles the inevitable hardships of the battles of everyday life, presents the Truth in the sweet light that attracts, and and removes those cutting insinuations which creep into hastily written articles.

In dubiis libertas in necessariis unitas, in omnibus caritas: the old motto, full of wisdom, is still full of precious directions for the Catholic journalist who wants to achieve - and you all want it - in his daily work a testimony to truth and charity ."

Such quotations remind us of what Pope Benedict XVI said in his Encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (29th June 2009):

"2... I am aware of the ways in which charity has been and continues to be misconstrued and emptied of meaning, with the consequent risk of being misinterpreted, detached from ethical living and, in any event, undervalued. In the social, juridical, cultural, political and economic fields — the contexts, in other words, that are most exposed to this danger — it is easily dismissed as irrelevant for interpreting and giving direction to moral responsibility.

Hence the need to link charity with truth not only in the sequence, pointed out by Saint Paul, of veritas in caritate (Eph 4:15), but also in the inverse and complementary sequence of caritas in veritate. Truth needs to be sought, found and expressed within the “economy” of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practised in the light of truth.

In this way, not only do we do a service to charity enlightened by truth, but we also help give credibility to truth, demonstrating its persuasive and authenticating power in the practical setting of social living. This is a matter of no small account today, in a social and cultural context which relativizes truth, often paying little heed to it and showing increasing reluctance to acknowledge its existence.

3. Through this close link with truth, charity can be recognized as an authentic expression of humanity and as an element of fundamental importance in human relations, including those of a public nature. Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived. Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity. That light is both the light of reason and the light of faith, through which the intellect attains to the natural and supernatural truth of charity: it grasps its meaning as gift, acceptance, and communion.

Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love. It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions, the word “love” is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite. Truth frees charity from the constraints of an emotionalism that deprives it of relational and social content, and of a fideism that deprives it of human and universal breathing-space. In the truth, charity reflects the personal yet public dimension of faith in the God of the Bible, who is both Agápe and Lógos: Charity and Truth, Love and Word.

4. Because it is filled with truth, charity can be understood in the abundance of its values, it can be shared and communicated. Truth, in fact, is lógos which creates diá-logos, and hence communication and communion. Truth, by enabling men and women to let go of their subjective opinions and impressions, allows them to move beyond cultural and historical limitations and to come together in the assessment of the value and substance of things.

Truth opens and unites our minds in the lógos of love: this is the Christian proclamation and testimony of charity. In the present social and cultural context, where there is a widespread tendency to relativize truth, practising charity in truth helps people to understand that adhering to the values of Christianity is not merely useful but essential for building a good society and for true integral human development. A Christianity of charity without truth would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance. In other words, there would no longer be any real place for God in the world. Without truth, charity is confined to a narrow field devoid of relations. It is excluded from the plans and processes of promoting human development of universal range, in dialogue between knowledge and praxis."