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Monday, 28 April 2008

Let your media be our message, says Catholic wannabe censor

Anyone who still cannot believe that religion wants to control, with creepy Orwellian malevolence, what we can read and maybe even think should look no further than Bishop Philip Tartaglia. He wants media folk to reflect the same view of humanity as "those of us who believe in God".

This control freak believes that, when it comes to the media, there is a "fundamental disconnection between the provider and the consumer". In a nutshell, he says there are more religious believers among the population, proportionately speaking, than among workers in the media, but those in the media don't reflect that in their dealings with the world.

And he wants to avoid the spread of "a secular and humanistic agenda". Yes, I know, it's barely believable – but you have to take into account that he is a Catholic.

In his capacity of president of the National Communications Commission of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland, Tartgalia says that "mass communications can fairly be charged with losing the ethical underpinning that once existed [in them]".

The Ekklesia story linked to above points out that some have "argued that while the nimonal [sic] number of Christians in the country is high, those actually prcaticing [sic] are smaller in number". Given the woeful ignorance of matters biblical we see cited in news stories from time to time, it's hardly surprising there are fewer than claimed; that there are those who just put "Christian" or "C of E" or "RC" on a census form or other document without really thinking about what qualifies them to claim they are any of those.

However, be that as it may, this prattling prelate echoes Pope Ratzinger's call for something called "info-ethics", on a par with bioethics (I know, you couldn't make it up, could you?). In a message sent to all of Scotland's 500 Catholic parishes for (and here's the killing irony) the 42nd World Communications Day (which will be read out in churches on Sunday), he says this, as quoted by Ekklesia:

"Analysing the ethical implications of how information is transmitted would help the media avoid becoming spokespersons for a secular and humanistic agenda", [the letter] claims.

"It is crucial that those who work in this field seek to understand the moral and ethical view of humanity shared by those of us who believe in God," says the bishop.

"Today, mass communications can fairly be charged with losing the ethical underpinning that once existed. It is a sad reality that those involved in the production and dissemination of much of our media content do not themselves share the religious or moral perspectives of their audience. There has occurred a fundamental disconnection between the provider and the consumer."

Perhaps the media do have a looser sense of ethics than they once did, but that requires a more detailed examination, which cannot be conclusive because ethics is hard to pin down and is largely subjective. And there may, indeed, be some disconnection between the provider and the consumer. That, too, is open to further scrutiny.

Can either be said to have occurred – if, indeed, either has – because more people in the general population than among media people have ticked a religion box on a form at some time, or scratched their heads and vaguely mumbled, "Hmm, yes, I suppose so, sort of, maybe, you know . . ." to a pollster? And, a more crucial question and one that is argued over fiercely, where is the automatic connection between religion and ethics (in spite of the fact that the BBC lumps those two words together under one departmental heading)?

Does believing in a sky fairy and a number of physically impossible phenomena make you a better person? Or is it just that some sky-fairyists happen to be nice people and put that down to their sky-fairyism, and that some non-sky-fairyists happen to be utter bastards, and the sky-fairyists put that down to their not being sky-fairyists?

How do the sky-fairy believers account for the utter shits among their own number? Could that be put down to their being sky-fairyists (oh, God, no, of course not, perish the thought!), or have they merely strayed from the path of righteousness in a moment of weakness?

Searching questions.

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