Saturday, February 19, 2011

News you can believe in

I imagine it is much the same for many of you. When you read a news story that purports to cover something in which you are professionally or personally involved, you laugh at how far from the mark the story is. Whether you drive a snowplow, or work in a classified branch of one of our national security agencies, you can only chuckle at just how wrong it can be presented.

Most of the time, there is no reason to impute any ill intent on the part of the reporter or the media organization. It’s just hard to convey accurately something that involves a lot of time and experience -- which describes almost every aspect of human life. It is especially hard when that understanding and experience are limited to a small portion of the population.

If we have no experience of being a snowplow driver or a CIA analyst, we can take these stories at face value. We have no other insight or information against which to compare them, and are limited by our sources of information.

However, living in Washington, we have reason to be more skeptical. Here in our fair metropolitan area, people whom we know well are deeply involved in activities that many people like to speculate about, and are not very widely shared experiences. In addition to national security, there is national government, lobbying, the military, and federal law enforcement. This is the stuff that people not only talk and write about, but also make movies about – even if they don’t have any direct personal experience.

Because we have friends or neighbors who are involved everyday in just these things, we know how often those public portrayals are laughably – or maddeningly – wrong. Most often what we know is the mundane reality of what someone else is trying to make sound exciting – or sinister. We chuckle that insider’s chuckle, and are pleased what we know that other folks don’t.

So I hope that all of us here know better than to believe what these same media assert about the Church – what we believe, how we function, and yes, whether a particular situation is truly exciting – or sinister.

Do we bother to make sure that our knowledge of what the Church teaches and believes is on a level with what we know about our own profession, much less our favorite sport or team? Yes, we go to Mass, but if we haven’t learned or studied the content of our Faith since we finished parochial school, then we are hardly at the level of “fan”, much less “faithful.”
And when situations get controversial – situations with a real moral aspect, like many of the political and cultural questions we confront in our state and our country these days – do we truly take advantage of the great wealth of truth and wisdom that the Church possesses?

This is why it is worth it to put ourselves on the Archdiocesan email list, so we hear the truth from the one who has been charged by God with conveying to us that truth, our Archbishop. And if we are curious about a teaching of the Church about some moral question, rather than try to remember what our sophomore religion teacher said, we should read an official document published by the Church herself – like the Catechism, or one of the Pope’s or the Cardinal’s letters.

We all know how wrong these other stories can be that we read every day. Why let someone tell us something false about our holy Church?

Monsignor Smith

No comments: