VII. Religion

By Biernatzki, W. E. | Communication Research Trends, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

VII. Religion


Biernatzki, W. E., Communication Research Trends


Why Discuss Religion?

The Centre for the Study of Communication and Culture and Communication Research Trends were founded for religious purposes: to help the Church better understand the developing world of communication as illuminated by research in the social and behavioral sciences, and to apply that understanding to the needs of the Church. In fulfilling that mandate, the Centre and the journal have by no means confined themselves to strictly religious topics, and those cannot even be said to be the primary focus of interest. Instead, effort was directed towards understanding the communicative world within which church-related communication activities had to work, with the aim of making their work more functional in terms of that world and thereby more efficient. Also, although working within and for the Roman Catholic Church, CSCC and Trends always have been open to working with and assisting other Christian denominations as well as other religions in their own parallel communication efforts.

From time to time, Trends has addressed religious questions more directly. At first special religious supplements were published and circulated with the main section. Although this practice started with a supplement for each issue, it soon declined to two or three a year, and finally the religious supplement was abandoned, on the grounds that insufficient new religious communication research was being done to fill each supplement. Instead, the editor began to write an "Afterword" in each issue, in which he tried to explicate the meaning contents of the issue held for religious communicators.

An example of the difficulty of finding enough research for a separate religious supplement can be seen in the supplement to Trends second issue (White 1980: i-iv), on "The Church and the New International Information Order." The first line of that supplement read:

   The Church has made little or no explicit
   contribution to the international discussions
   leading toward the proposals for a New
   International Information Order. Nor is
   there much evidence that the proposals for
   the NIIO have had much influence on the
   Church's concerns in communication. (ibid.:
   i).

The supplement went on to report on a seminar on "Liberation Media," sponsored by the U.S. National Sisters Communication Service as part of the National Religious Communication Conference, in May 1980. Then it summarized some of the recommendations of the Third General Conference of the Latin American Bishops at Puebla, Mexico--calling for media training and education of both clergy and laity, for greater use of alternative media, for the Church's media to become "the voice of the dispossessed," and for the Church to support the social right to information--and a commentary on the Puebla Conference by the Venezuelan Catholic journal, Comunicacion. That journal noted that the journalists reporting on the Conference were ill-prepared to deal knowledgeably with religious affairs. It then showed how the Conference had been reported by the secular media in ways that were both sensationalistic and skewed to favor the ideological positions of the journalists.

Manuel Olivera, S.J., Secretary for Communications to the Jesuit Superior General, in Rome, commented in the same issue of Comunicacion, on the document itself, noting that it "largely ignored ten years of intense activity in Latin America regarding communication policies," as well as omitting references to the work of UNESCO and to "NIIO" (i.e., NWICO). The same issue reported on the publication of two books--on the use of group media in basic Christian communities and on advertising in Venezuela--by Jose Martinez Terrero, SJ, and on research on the Church and social issues being done by the Latin American Institute for Transnational Studies (ILET), in Mexico City (ibid., p. ii). The supplement closed with a page on "communication in pastoral studies," asking, "How can pastoral and apostolic workers be trained to communicate the Gospel to modern man in whatever ministry they undertake?

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VII. Religion
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