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9-NEWSPAPER-REPORTS

God’s love is in your daily headlines

We have and need our Catholic press, but the secular media is not an enemy of the Church, writes KEVIN McKENNA

BEING World Communications Day this Sunday, journalists and broadcasters get to emerge from underneath our ‘stones’ and ‘crawl’ slowly into the light. On this day, those of us who are professional journalists and who retain a patina of religious belief dutifully attend our church services and listen to an episcopal letter reminding us all of our Christian responsibility to bring the light of Jesus’ Gospel to the world. There will also be a passage on how the development of global, mass communications can be a wondrous way to spread God’s word but a terrible curse if used to destroy and deceive.
The feeling still persists though, among too many connected with the Church that the secular press is something to be avoided because it promotes a world without God and one where instant gratification is paramount. Worse, it seems actively to reject all ideas of faith and adopt a hostile and aggressive attitude to belief. These though, are empty and baseless observations deployed mainly by those among our brethren who are simply too lazy to discover the real truth. It can also mask our own shortcomings in spreading the word of God. It’s easier to blame all this Godlessness in our wicked society on the vile, secular press.
Our society though, is not wicked or vile and nor is it Godless.

We have and need our Catholic press, however some in our secular press and among broadcasters also promote God’s love and goodness, in word and deed, every single day throughout the world. In Scotland we are blessed with having a vibrant press and broadcasting sector which reach a gold standard in journalism in very difficult circumstances. They have no obligation to promote Christianity but do so in column inches often disproportionate to the waning influence of the Church in the daily life of the nation.
In recent weeks there has been no finer example of this than the three-year battle of a group of parents in Milngavie to save St Joseph’s primary school. St Joseph’s, the only Catholic primary school among four in the town, is nonetheless the only one marked for closure. Local Labour councillors are still insisting that the closure of this 140-year-old primary school goes ahead. The parents though, have fought a fantastic campaign, in which they have taken their message to all of the main party leaders. In this they have been aided by a hugely sympathetic secular press to get their message across. For the time being, St Joseph’s remains alive and kicking, which is more than you can say for the Labour Party in East Dunbartonshire Council. They were trounced into third place at the General Election and it’s doubtful if any of the eight Labour councillors will survive next year’s council elections, especially in light of their behaviour over St Joseph’s.

Last Tuesday the Scotsman, still one of the jewels in Scotland’s newspaper publishing crown carried an opinion piece by Paisley’s Bishop John Keenan in which he argued that science and religion are not exclusive. This was an excellent article by the bishop and included some memorable and elegant observations about the relationship between faith and reason.
“The criticism of science counterbalances religion’s all too easy temptation to fall into credulity, as if nothing could happen just by chance and even the most absurd bad luck is somehow all ‘meant’ by God. Faith, on the other hand, saves reason from futility,” the bishop writes. “For, in a world without some transcendent Truth and Good, where everything is just chance, how can any small part of it have any meaning at all?”
In many other ways, the secular press carry God’s word even though editors and journalists may not immediately be aware of it. Every day the pages of our local and daily newspapers carry stories in which little acts of human compassion and kindness have made a difference to the lives of those encountering pain, torment and loss. Some of the best journalism that I’ve read this year has highlighted the plight of the Mediterranean boat people and the inhumanity of affluent western governments in failing to construct a human response. The earthquakes that have struck the poor people of Nepal have also brought forth journalism, particularly among our broadcasters, which has been characterised by love and humanity for the suffering being endured by the Nepalese.

In other instances the sheer, raw courage of foreign correspondents charting the un-distilled evil of ISIS in Syria and its surrounding territories and the horrors of war and famine in other third world countries deserves our admiration and respect. In Scotland, we are fortunate indeed to have in our midst David Pratt, a proud son of Lanarkshire and recognised as one of the world’s top war correspondents. I am blessed to count him as a friend. I do not know if Mr Pratt professes to any great extent one faith or another, but I defy anyone to read his vivid accounts of the horrors he has witnessed and not believe that God is present in them in the way that Mr Pratt describes little acts of goodness and heroism amongst the evil. It is almost as if he is saying: “These are places where evil seems to have conquered all, but it will never fully extinguish the light so long as ordinary people continue to performing extraordinarily heroic deeds.”

In a letter to be read at all of Scotland’s Catholic parishes this Communications Sunday Archbishops Tartaglia says: “It is at the heart of the family that we learn communication has a religious dimension in the form of prayer. The children who learn to listen, respect and share at home will become what Pope Francis calls a ‘force for dialogue and reconciliation in society.’”
In nurturing the ways of the faith among our children though, it would also be a good idea to show them that the Word of God shines brightly even in the darkest corners of the world. Like many of our journalists it is simply a case of opening our eyes and our ears. In these places and in some nearer to home God’s grace is evident all around us and His love and mercy is there for all to see in the pages of our newspapers, Catholic and others. Buy one today and you’ll see what I mean.

— Kevin McKenna writes for the London-based Sunday Observer

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