THE MEDIA Alan McElwain in Sydney Australia's Catholic bishops have recommended a thorough study of mass media—press, radio, television and films --not only in Catholic schools, but in all schools throughout Australia.
The bishops, in a statement issued by the Australian Catholic Episcopal Conference, meeting in Sydney, set out a definitive "charter" to implement the Second Vatican Council's Decree on Mass Media of Social Communications.
The Council gave a warning that the very fate of human society. was coming to depend more each day on the wise use of the mass media, and stressed the need of education at all levels to meet this contemporary problem.
The Council stated: "The wise use of the mass media of social communications, which are so accessible to all ages and levels of culture, depends on proper habits of i4ading, listening and viewing being taught to different categories of users.
"Hence, methods of media education, especially when designed for young people, should be encouraged, developed and oriented according to Christian moral principles. This should be done in Catholic schools at all levels. in seminaries and in lay-apostolate groups."
Last year. with Pope Paul's approval, the Pontifical Commission for Social Cornmunications issued from Rome a pastoral instruction on the Council's decree. In this, it stressed that bishops, priests, members of religious orders and the laity, all in their own ways, had a clear duty to contribute to Christian education in this field. "Catholics in universities and other higher educational institutions should be more assiduous in the promotion of scientific studies and research on social communications", the instruction said. "They should try to collate all the findings of research. play a part themselves. in such research and make all of it available to Christian education."
This sort of training was to be given a regular place in school curricula, systematically and at every stage of education.
In Sydney, the 35 bishops taking part in the Australian Episcopal Conference, under the presidency of Archbishop James Freeman of Sydney, said: I. Media-education curricula recently introduced into Catholic primary schools in some States must be extended to all primary schools in Australia; and similar gradated courses must be prepared for all secondary Catholic schools of the Commonwealth and become a regular part of the curriculum.
This will be a primary duty of the Diocesan Education Offices, acting in unison, and engaging the very best services of experts in the field, both from the Religious and the laity, so that the optimum syllabus may be prepared for all levels. (The bishops will expect the prepared syllabus to be ready for their next meeting in January.)
The bishops also urged that "appreciation of the mass media" become at least an elective subject for public examinations in secondary schools. This would serve for the benefit of Australia and should readily be adopted by Ministers of Education in all States.
2. The bishops earnestly requested Catholics and all Christians engaged in tertiary studies at universities and
colleges to undertake and publish research on the mass media and their influence in Australian society.
"Their services in this field will be of tremendous benefit and most gratefully received", the bishops said. "They have so much to offer to all our people. We beg them to use their talents in this direction on an everincreasing scale."
3. The bishops strongly
recommended the establishment of mass media study
groups in the various lay organisations, and urged them to unite in this effort.
It was also evident that it would now be necessary to establish new lay apostolic groups to study the mass media in depth and exert "a trul■,, Christian influence" upon them. "Look-Listen Groups", "Press Groups", "Film Groups" and the like were recommended.
4. The bishops instructed all Superiors of Catholic seminaries to introduce immediately an adequate course of training in the mass media; and to single out students with par-. ticular talents in this field, who will "intelligently and humbly prepare themselves for this important field of the Church's apostolate".
Most importantly, the bishops called upon Catholic parents, the primary and indispensable educators of their children, to assume seriously their responsibilities over the reading, viewing, listening and formation of their families.
"Give your children your time and interest," the bishops said. "Read, view, listen and discuss with them, Communicate with them. Educate them to a responsible, active, Christian approach to the mass media in all aspects, and help them to become articulate in expressing their informed judgements."
The bishops "heartily commended" such programmes of media education, at every level, to the earnest consideration of all their fellow-citizens, especially parents and educators in all fields.
"We invite all Australians of good will to be intent on making the powerful media of social communications serve only the good of our Australian society in all its aspects", they said.
It was necessary to learn how the media functioned; who were the communicators; what was their background; how to judge the truth of the message; how to abstract the message from the particular medium which had its own characteristics; how to distinguish between fantasy and reality, between apparent fact and reality.
"We must learn to distinguish good from evil, the truly beautiful from the pseudoartistic presentation," the bishops said. "In a word, we must become truth-seekers, for it is only the truth that will set us free. We must never allow the powerful media to dull us or enchain us. We must be active in every field of the mass media."
Pointing out that there were nearly four million Australians under the age of 15, the bishops said none of them could recall a world without television. There was evidence that they were becoming inbred mass-Media addicts, lacking a positive, critical, Christian approach to "these powerful influences in the world of reality, truth, morality and entertainment".
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