Archbishop of Armagh, Catholic Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin
You can keep us out of this.
“Over the past year or so, in my role as chair of the Council for Communications of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, I have heard a variety of views on the relationship between the Church and the media in Ireland. These views were garnered from professionals working inside and outside of Church structures, and they ranged from the negative to the optimistic.
In my view it is now time for us to build afresh mutual respect and trust between the Church and the media in Ireland, not in any fawning or deferential manner, but in recognition of the fact that we share similar goals – to seek out the truth, to highlight injustice. In many ways we have a common mission – vocation even – to interact with society and the world in order to promote truth, ask hard questions, multiply goodness, enhance beauty and to serve the common good.
I recognise that coverage of the child abuse scandals in the Church has fundamentally shifted our relationship with the media. We are a long way from the 31 December 1961 when my predecessor Cardinal D’Alton broadcast a live message of blessing and goodwill from Armagh to the newly established RTÉ television station. It is true that we in the Church have sometimes reacted defensively or in denial to legitimate criticism in the media – it is also true that some commentators, particularly on social media, seem at times to have lost the ability to objectively question a story, running instead with their consensus caricature of the Church.
Most now accept that “the media” has played a vitally important role in Ireland and around the world, in lifting the lid on a terrible and shameful chapter of our history; giving a voice to those who for years had been carrying a lonely trauma. Media attention of these issues has accelerated the development and implementation of best practice in safeguarding, both in the Church and throughout society.
There is, of course, a legitimate interest in reporting bad as well as good news about the Church. What Radharc [long-running RTÉ Catholic documentary strand] did so well, however, was to present the beautiful, edifying and spiritually-inspiring lives of people of faith in ways which reflected the beauty and goodness of God. I believe that today, when so many people are tempted to despair, we need to rediscover the Radharc vision and lift people up, giving them, as Saint Peter put it, “a reason for the hope that lies within us.” With so much conflict, hatred and division in the world, it would do all our hearts good to witness the commitment of people of faith to peace and justice, to love and understanding.”
Archbishop Eamon Martin