No Picture
News Briefs

Conference addresses Catholic journalism, fake news, and a ‘post-truth’ era

January 31, 2018 CNA Daily News 3

Lourdes, France, Feb 1, 2018 / 12:08 am (CNA).- Last week, hundreds of Catholic media experts from all over the world gathered to discuss the problem of “fake news” and the challenge of reporting in what has been dubbed by some as the “post-truth” era.

With the advent of the internet and a sharp rise in the number of media outlets going online, competition to be the first to report a story is becoming more and more fierce.

The result is often a mass production and consumption of information with few adequate systems of checks and balances to verify what is being published. Pressure is high to compromise fact-checking for the sake of staying on top of a rapidly changing news cycle. Some entities intentionally offer misleading information to promote a certain agenda or sway public opinion.

Fake news can be hard to recognize because it often contains elements of truth, but is mixed with inaccurate or partial facts. This has led to confusion and a mistrust of information and the institutions providing it, experts say.

An analysis of this malady and proposals for a possible remedy were precisely the topic of discussion during this year’s Saint Francis de Sales Days conference, which took place Jan. 24-26 in Lourdes.

The conference, titled “Media and Truth,” was co-organized by the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications and French organization the Federation of Catholic Media (FMC). Other entities, including nonprofit media organization SIGNIS and the French bishops conference, also participated.

Speakers at the conference, who hold various positions in Catholic media, discussed the topic from philosophical, theological, political, economic and journalistic points of view.

Typically an event for French speaking media, this year the conference was open to international media and coincided with the Jan. 24 publication of Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of Social Communications, which was dedicated to the topic of fake news.

In comments to CNA, Msgr. Dario Edoardo Vigano, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, said talking about fake news right now “is central because the panorama of media has changed.”

With traditional newspapers in crisis, he said, news is increasingly being spread by “a plethora of people who think of themselves as authoritative interpreters of contemporary life on the internet.”

This phenomenon, he said, “confuses presence, at times very widespread, with pertinence.” Because of this, addressing the problem of fake news “means having the journalistic profession at heart.”

Natasa Govekar, director of the Pastoral Theological Department of the Secretariat for Communications, said that while technology may appear to make communication easier than in past generations, “in reality it’s harder… because we are inundated with images, but without an education on images.”

“We don’t realize the power that they have and we perceive them as if there were just illustrations that accompany a text to make it more interesting,” she told CNA. “We don’t realize that they arrive much faster and much more directly than words,” and often words aren’t able “to ‘correct’ the choice of a mistaken image.”

Govekar, who spoke on the second day of the conference about the impact of images in communication, said Pope Francis is a prime example of how a picture can communicate more clearly than words.

She said whenever she looks at the Pope’s social media accounts, particularly his Instagram “Franciscus” profile, the comments always say things like “I willingly listen to your words because of how you said them,” or “I like to see your comments or a minute of your video because you always have this smile that captivates,” or “Even if I don’t understand your language, just the tone of your voice is consoling for me.”

“Even before understanding what he is saying and what he is inviting us to, we see it. The image, the gesture, speaks before the words arrive,” Govekar said, explaining that people don’t need to conduct a study on the image to understand what’s being communicated.

Helen Osman, president of SIGNIS, echoed Govekar’s sentiments. With the rise of digital media, she said, information can be spread more quickly than ever before, but “the challenge is to provide quality material that people find useful and helpful in their lives.”

Osman spoke to the conference about state of both secular and Catholic media in the United States, highlighting a decrease of trust in journalists. This, she said, is largely due to the fact that journalists are perceived to be out of touch with their audiences, and can also be attributed to social media being used to promote “yellow journalism.”

“There’s this growing acceptance or reference for conspiracy theories or concepts that aren’t even factually accurate,” Osman said, explaining that in her experience, she finds that this trend is often due to fear.

As Catholic journalists, “we know what answers those fears,” she said, so “why are we not presenting that in a way that makes sense to people and helps them sort through this?”

Other speakers also noted that the Catholic media have not been exempt from the troubling trends plaguing modern journalism.

In his opening speech, Vigano observed that Catholic media are not only victims of fake news, “but we are also authors,” even if unintentionally.

And sometimes, fake news is spread intentionally, when worldliness and the search for honor becomes a motivation, he said. “Fake news is often used to eliminate an enemy or, on the contrary but no worse, to valorize a person who may not have any human or professional maturity.”

In her comments to CNA, Govekar warned that digital platforms can be a new and effective way to share the Gospel, but can also be misused to promote agendas under the guise of evangelization.

Likewise, Osman – who in her speech said Catholic media in the U.S. at times tend to be overly apologetic and defensive in tone – said Catholic media can also fall victim to fake news and conspiracies.

“We’re human, so yes we struggle with that,” she said, adding that “it’s not easy, it’s not easy to hear someone say things or demonstrate beliefs that are in direct opposition to my beliefs.”

She cautioned against the assumption that “anyone who disagrees with the Church is to be demonized or cast out, or at the very least not heard.”

Pointing to the Pope’s message for the World Day of Communications, Osman said Francis continues to challenge Catholics in this area, particularly on the need to listen and dialogue with others.

Communications, she said, “is about listening and about trying to understand the other person. So perhaps we can take off the lens that ‘this is an attack on me’ and instead focus on the other person and say, help me understand why you think this way.”

To avoid fake news, “the first step is to lean in more, to listen more, and instead of feeling like we’ve got to counter every position or every new development.”

“It’s not a debate for me to win,” she said, but “it’s a moment for me to understand who you are.”

Similarly, Msgr. Vigano, in his opening speech Jan. 24, also highlighted dialogue and listening as the remedy to fake news.

“The most radical antidote is to allow oneself to be (purified) by the truth” and to have “the ability to listen,” which involves actively trying to understanding their perspective.

Communications, he said, “isn’t just a transmission of facts,” but a reciprocal exchange with others. Ultimately, it’s “an occasion to build bridges of peace.”

In his comments to CNA, Vigano said that to fight against fake news, Catholics can first of all avoid sharing news that is unfounded and unverified.

He stressed that problem of truth “is in all of society, not just among Catholics,” and said that members of the Church, “we have a greater responsibility” than non-believers to work for truth.

For her part, Govekar said sharing information and working in teams is an effective tool to avoid fake news. She noted that Pope Francis, in his message for communications day, invites journalists “to be guardians of the news.”

Communion and teamwork help with this, she said, because involving multiple people creates feedback and fosters dialogue.

To recognize fake news, Osman urged readers to “come at all information with a critical eye: who’s writing it, what is their motive, why is this important to me, how does it stack up against my experience?”

“I think it’s a matter of not reading something and saying ‘oh, obviously this is true,’ but to…verify everything. In other words, don’t assume that this person or this material is bad, but verify everything.”


No Picture
News Briefs

Portuguese priest who fathered child will remain in ministry

January 31, 2018 CNA Daily News 2

Funchal, Portugal, Jan 31, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Portuguese Diocese of Funchal has said that a priest who fathered a child has resigned his duties as a pastor but will be able to continue his pastoral ministry.

In November 2017, Fr. Giselo Andrade, then pastor of  Our Lady of the Hill church, acknowledged his paternity of a girl born in August.

After investigating the case, the Diocese of Funchal stated that “the Church is a place of mercy and God forgives everything, but a double life is unacceptable.”

The diocese said that it is providing pastoral guidance in “the situation, respecting the delicateness of the case, the dignity of persons and the consequences it has in the parish itself and the other Christian communities.”

They also stated that “the priest himself had to discern, in dialogue with the bishop, if he intended to exercise the pastoral ministry according the requirements and norms of the Church or instead would embrace another vocation.”
In the Jan 28 notice, the diocese said that the decision that Fr. Andrade wouldd resign from his functions as pastor was made “after dialogue with the priest himself.”

The diocesan notice stated that the priest “will be able to continue the exercise of his pastoral ministry through some activities that were already entrusted to him in the area of communications and others that eventually may be assigned to him.”

The statement said that it was the priest himself who “expressed his desire to continue to exercise his priestly ministry under the conditions required by the Church.”

“Of course the need for clear discernment was seen, for a responsibly undertaken choice matured in reflection and prayer, a discernment made with serenity and free of pressure,” under the pastoral guidance of Bishop  António José Cavaco Carrilho of the diocese, the diocese said.

The notice also emphasized that by assuming the paternity of his daughter, Fr. Andrade demonstrated his commitment to the responsibilities inherent to this situation.

“This entire situation created an opportunity for debate and reflection in the news media and social media,” on the discipline of celibacy in the Church, considering that the Church “is not static but dynamic and has a history that allows it to recognize and evaluate its values and its faults.” he said.

The Diocese of Fuchal stressed that “Catholic priests accept and commit themselves in complete freedom, to live the gift of celibacy in their ministry of service to the People of God, in fuller conformity to Christ the Shepherd, with abundant fruits for the Church, including the sacrifice of some expressions and joys of family life.”

In a May 2017, interview, discussing the shortage of priests, Pope Francis said that “optional celibacy is not the solution.”

In November 2017, when Fr. Andrade acknowledged he was the father of a girl, the President of the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Manuel Clemente, defended celibacy and rejected the possibility that it be abandoned or “softened.”

In a Nov 16 press conference at the end of the plenary assembly of bishops, the cardinal also commented that situations similar to Fr. Andrade’s also occur with romantic affairs involving priests.

According to the  Portuguese news agency Ecclesia, the cardinal, who is also the Patriarch of Lisbon, said that in cases of romantic affairs “responsibilities have to be assumed” and that priestly or conjugal life continues when there is the “will to repent going forward and do things more conscientiously and responsibly.”

As for celibacy, the cardinal said that “the priest is a living sign of Christ by choosing to not have a family in order to be family to everyone.”

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.



No Picture
News Briefs

O’Malley and Chaput make a Super Bowl wager

January 31, 2018 CNA Daily News 2

Minneapolis, Minn., Jan 31, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday, the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles will go head-to-head in Super Bowl LII, facing off to claim the Lombardi Trophy at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. &nbsp… […]

No Picture
News Briefs

Philippine bill would recognize Catholic annulments

January 31, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Manila, Philippines, Jan 31, 2018 / 12:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Philippines’ House of Representatives passed a bill that would legally recognize church-decreed declarations of nullity, or annulments.

The legislation was approved on Jan. 29. Out of 293 representatives 203 voted in favor of the bill. Representative Yedda Marie Kittilstvedt-Romualdez the bill’s author and principal sponsor.

The law would “remove the burden of undergoing the civil annulment process,” and couples “will have the benefit of a more efficient and affordable procedure,” she told UCA News.

Filipino Muslims may divorce under the Code of Muslim Personal Law. Divorces are not an option for non-Muslims in The Philippines, though civil annulments are available through a costly judicial processes.

The proposed law says that “whenever a marriage, duly and legally solemnized by a priest, minister, rabbi or presiding elder of any church or religious sect in The Philippines is subsequently annulled in accordance with the canons or precepts of the church or religious sect, the said annulment shall have the same effect as a decree of annulment issued by a competent court.”

An ecclesiastical decree of nullity would need to be registered with the Filipino government before a citizen was eligible to be remarried.

Catholic ecclesiastical tribunals consider the validity of marriages according to several criteria: whether a marriage was celebrated according to ceremonial requirements, whether parties to the marriage had the psychological capacity to make an act of consent, and whether the parties withheld some essential good or property of marriage from their consent, among others. A marriage can not be judged invalid solely because of acts of infidelity, the use of contraception, or because of a premarital pregnancy.

Romualdez said she was influenced by Pope Francis to provide Catholics a simpler and more efficient means to resolve “irreparable marriages.”

“While he reaffirmed traditional teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, he streamlined annulment procedures which many considered cumbersome, lengthy, outdated and expensive to make it affordable and accessible to Catholics.”

Rep. Romualdez and House Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia sponsored the bill. The law was also endorsed by House Committee on Population and Family Relations and co-authored by the committee’s head Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones. The bill will now be considered by the Philippine Senate.

Romualdez expressed gratitude for the bill’s passage, which she said provided a more efficient annulment process for Filipinos, while respecting the sanctity of marriage.

“From the bottom of my heart, I thank my colleagues for the swift passage of the bill without jeopardizing the indissolubility of marriage.”



No Picture
News Briefs

How this app could steal your face to make porn

January 31, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Denver, Colo., Jan 31, 2018 / 11:31 am (CNA).- A new app allows users to digitally alter pornography videos, placing the faces of celebrities onto the bodies of porn stars.  

Called FakeApp, the program uses neural network technology to replace t… […]

No Picture
News Briefs

Pope’s Lenten spiritual exercises to focus on the ‘Thirst of Christ’

January 31, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jan 31, 2018 / 10:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The annual Lenten retreat for the Pope and members of the Roman Curia will this year focus on the theme, “Praise of Thirst.”

Themes of meditation during the week-long spiritual exercises include: Apprentices of Amazement, the Science of Thirst, The thirst of Jesus, and Listen to the Thirst of the Peripheries.

Held this year Feb. 18-23, the retreat will be led by Fr. José Tolentino de Mendonça, a Portuguese priest, poet, and Biblical theologian, who was selected by Pope Francis to prepare and deliver meditations during the spiritual exercises.

De Mendonça is vice-rector of the Portuguese Catholic University in Lisbon and has been a consultant of the Pontifical Council for Culture since 2011.

Ordained a priest in 1990, he completed his Master’s degree in Biblical Studies in Rome, before obtaining his doctorate in Biblical Theology from the Portuguese Catholic University, where he later taught as an assistant professor.

From 2011-2012 he was a Straus Fellow at New York University studying the topic of “Religion and Public Space.”

His books, well-known in Portugal, are beginning to be translated into other languages. De Mendonça is also an award-winning poet and essayist. In 2015, he won the Italian Res Magnae Literary Prize for his book, “A Mística do Instante” (The Mystique of the Instant).

The program for the spiritual exercises will begin Sunday evening with adoration and the recitation of vespers, also called Night Prayer. The remaining days will each follow a basic schedule of Mass at 7:30 a.m., followed by the first meditation of the day.

In the afternoon will be a second meditation, again ending with adoration and vespers. The final day will have only a morning meditation.

The week of prayer and meditation will take place at the Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia, a town just 16 miles outside of Rome.

Located on Lake Albano, the retreat house is just a short way from the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. It will be the fifth consecutive year the Pope and members of the Curia have held their Lenten retreat at the house in Ariccia.

While the practice of the Roman Pontiff going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries each Lent began some 80 years ago, it had been customary for them to follow the spiritual exercises on Vatican ground. Beginning in Lent 2014, Pope Francis chose to hold the retreat outside of Rome.



No Picture
News Briefs

Find good readers for Mass, Pope Francis says

January 31, 2018 CNA Daily News 2

Vatican City, Jan 31, 2018 / 05:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis spoke about the importance of the Liturgy of the Word, and therefore, also the importance of having lectors who can proclaim the readings and the Responsorial Psalm well…. […]