Where do you get your news? It’s funny how the answer to a seemingly innocent question can reveal so much about the person we’re talking to. Whether you read Vox, The Atlantic, or National Review; watch MSNBC, CNN, or Fox; or read the National Catholic Reporter, Catholic News Agency, or LifeSite News, revealing what sources you turn to can be like opening up a window into the soul.  

In some ways, the media companies like it this way.  Media companies have an interest in cultivating not just a broad base of consumers who are somewhat interested in their products but also a dedicated cadre of core consumers that are kept engaged through emotive appeals to particular fears and the need for community with like-minded people.    

This article isn’t a criticism of media companies, though. What’s important here is that as much as media personalities insist they remain unbiased and objective, there is no standard to judge whether they have actually achieved their aims.

Objectivity in the news is a practical impossibility. One cannot possibly state with certainty all the facts that are necessary for understanding any given event or fact. In legal settings, we know that two similarly situated witnesses can come away with two completely different interpretations of the same event.  Even if one had perfect knowledge of an event, the choices one makes regarding which facts to present and which to exclude within the limits of a news report are inevitably based on inherent (and often unconscious) biases and assumptions that are impossible to completely overcome. What one person finds relevant, another person might find extraneous. Who is to say which one is correct? This is why asserting that any media company has it completely right is so revealing, because what one is really saying is, “I agree with the biases expressed here.”

In his annual messages given on the celebration of World Communications Day, Pope Francis often reflects on the nature of information and how it is communicated. His comments range from deeply theological and philosophical to the eminently practical. In 2017, Pope Francis tackles the problem of objectivity described above. He said:

In and of itself, reality has no one clear meaning. Everything depends on the way we look at things, on the lens we use to view them. If we change that lens, reality itself appears different.

This isn’t an embrace of relativism but a frank acknowledgement of the human condition. Due in part to our human frailty and in part due to the authentic diversity in the Spirit of God, it is highly unlikely that two people will ever perfectly agree on how to interpret anything of significance. As Pope Francis asks, then, “How can we begin to ‘read’ reality through the right lens?”

Francis responds,

For us Christians, that lens can only be the good news, beginning with the Good News par excellence: “the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God” (Mk 1:1). With these words, Saint Mark opens his Gospel not by relating “good news” about Jesus, but rather the good news that is Jesus himself.

All of our individual stories, facts, and life events take place in the context of a much larger and more significant story: the mercy and love of God. There is nothing that takes place on earth that isn’t part of this “main drama” or related to it. Francis writes that faith, the experience of seeing reality with the eyes of Christ, “penetrates to the core of our human experience” (Cf. Lumen Fidei).

In Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis describes relativism as a philosophy that proposes a reality shaped entirely by the human condition. Without an eternal, transcendent truth, the only “truth” available to us is our own convictions and feelings, whatever it is that we ourselves, however sinful we may be, find meaningful in this life. The truth of God’s mercy and love breaks us free of our myopia: “[F]aith is… a light coming from the future and opening before us vast horizons which guide us beyond our isolated selves towards the breadth of communion.” In Laudato Si’, Francis shows how relativism makes “everything… irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests.” Relativism is opposed to love.

Because truth is Christ himself, who created and united man to himself in love, what is true is also loving and whatever is of love is true. This relationship between love and truth is explored at the beginning of Pope Benedict’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate and is worth reading in full. Pope Francis, in his 2018 World Communications Day address, provides this practical insight:

An impeccable argument can indeed rest on undeniable facts, but if it is used to hurt another and to discredit that person in the eyes of others, however correct it may appear, it is not truthful. We can recognize the truth of statements from their fruits: whether they provoke quarrels, foment division, encourage resignation; or, on the other hand, they promote informed and mature reflection leading to constructive dialogue and fruitful results.

This has important ramifications for Catholic media professionals in particular. Any Catholic news outlet must understand that their mission is not the pursuit of a stark, cold truth. The truth they seek in their journalism and writing is Christ himself in his act of redeeming mankind. Accordingly, their coverage must be written in the light of faith and with love. Journalism, especially the coverage of the darker sides of humanity, such as sexual abuse by clergy, can reveal the deep suffering of others and in this way open the eyes of the Church so that the Church can find its way to greater humility and holiness before the Lord. But there are too many examples today in Catholic media of journalism gone wrong–stories that may contain some factual information, but are written with an intent to “provoke quarrels” and “foment division.”   

For example, articles that willfully seek to interpret Pope Francis in a way that is contrary to Scripture and Tradition frequently cause the faithful to become skeptical about the pope’s authority to preach on faith and morals. To the extent that the faithful are led away from the Magisterium and taught to trust in their own convictions and emotions, these articles are “provoking quarrels” and “fomenting divisions.” They are, by the standard set by Francis, false.  

Assuming that there are plenty of division-fometing websites and media companies that are not going away any time soon, what is the way forward?  Francis encourages the faithful to practice discernment and not to absorb information without giving it a second thought:

We are living in an information-driven society which bombards us indiscriminately with data – all treated as being of equal importance – and which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment. In response, we need to provide an education which teaches critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values.

In an address in celebration of the World Day of Peace in 2016, Francis describes how the sheer volume of information can dull our senses if we’re not careful. There are those who are simply immersed in information but have no compassion for others. Francis writes, “Theirs is the attitude of those who know, but keep their gaze, their thoughts and their actions focused on themselves.”

It’s certainly laudable to want to be informed so that we can be better citizens and more conscious of our neighbor in need. However, there are many dangers associated with being “in the know.”  What are some things we can do to read the news more responsibly? Below are two possible solutions.

The first is to approach all news sources with caution and discernment, even those that we generally trust and believe to be reliable. As I described above, all media expresses some inherent bias. It is therefore important for readers who want to understand the truth to understand any potential biases of their sources.   Reading multiple articles from different sources will typically allow the reader to gain a fuller understanding of a particular subject or issue. Some sources will seek to present all relevant information “objectively” while others expressly make their opinions and biases known. Between these two, the latter is frequently a more honest approach, and it removes some burden on the reader to try to independently assess the biases of the author.  

Also, as Pope Francis warns, there is a danger that we can become complacent with the news and simply take all information at face value. Francis is especially cognizant of the fact–as he discusses in Christus Vivit and elsewhere–that people can have the bad habit of seeking out information “which only confirms their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests.” This is especially problematic on social media because of the way those platforms are designed.

The second solution is to stop following the news so much. In a recent article in The Guardian entitled, “How the news took over reality,” Oliver Burkeman, describes the extraordinary volume of information that we receive on a daily basis. Burkeman reviews the history of the news and its rapid development from an occasional, community-building exercise to today. Burkeman writes,

It’s not simply that we spend too many hours glued to screens. It’s that for some of us, at least, they have altered our way of being in the world such that the news is no longer one aspect of the backdrop to our lives, but the main drama.

Whereas media companies once had to compete to simply get into our lives at all and information travelled slowly, now information travels nearly instantaneously and media companies have to compete, not for physical space, but mind space–in other words, for our attention (and for ad revenue). This has potentially disastrous consequences for anyone who wants the non-sensationalized, non-click-grabbing version of an important story. Burkeman concludes, “Far from it being our moral duty to care so much about the news, it may in fact be our duty to start caring somewhat less.”

Pope Francis teaches that the quantity of information we receive, while increasing awareness of an issue, might actually have an inverse correlation with virtue. Francis writes, “Indeed, the information glut can numb people’s sensibilities and to some degree downplay the gravity of the problems.” We might be well-read, but if we’re not willing to do something about it, then what’s the point? It is better, therefore, to read less, read well, and engage with virtue.

Biases in media are inevitable and unavoidable, but readers can do something about it. On the one hand, it is important to read the news responsibly, cognizant of any biases. On the other hand, there are some media companies whose entire mission is opposed to truth and love and should be altogether avoided. By engaging with the news in a virtuous way, there is less risk that the “main drama” of Jesus Christ’s plan of salvation, which includes the Church and its Magisterium, will be upstaged by the increasingly shortened and sensationalized news cycle.  

101 Shares

14 Responses

  1. Avatar ONG says:

    Pope Francis also wrote:

    “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”

    87. This Beatitude makes us think of the many endless situations of war in our world. Yet we ourselves are often a cause of conflict or at least of misunderstanding. For example, I may hear something about someone and I go off and repeat it. I may even embellish it the second time around and keep spreading it… And the more harm it does, the more satisfaction I seem to derive from it. The world of gossip, inhabited by negative and destructive people, does not bring peace. Such people are really the enemies of peace; in no way are they “blessed”.[73]
    ___________________
    [73] Detraction and calumny are acts of terrorism: a bomb is thrown, it explodes and the attacker walks away calm and contented. This is completely different from the nobility of those who speak to others face to face, serenely and frankly, out of genuine concern for their good.

  2. Avatar Peter says:

    What an extraordinarily informative article. Rarely do I read an article with which I totally agree; but this is an exception. It encapsulates the significance of understanding critical journalism and encourages a positive and responsible approach to today’s dilemma of information overload.
    Congratulations, Daniel. I will forward your article to my friends and associates, who will undoubtedly appreciate your contribution to this modern challenging phenomenon.

  3. Avatar jong says:

    There is only one solution if we don’t want to be poison by “fake news” as the mainstream media and social media personalities can be deceive by Satan and even can be used by Satan as his instruments and cohorts to spread his lies & deceptions to sow confusions and divisions.

    Pope Francis reminded all the media personalities on their duty as the rise of fake news is now the trend in media reporting. Pope Francis reminded us who is the originator of “fake news”, it can be traced back to the old serpent who uttered the first “fake news” to Eve by twisting the command of God, and this is the “snake tactics” of all the Rad Trads as they synchronize their attack continuously on the Church Hierarchy loyal to Pope and esp. to Pope Francis.

    What can we do about fake news? Pope Francis gave us the powerful answer, seek the Gift of Wisdom.

    The Gift of Wisdom: Pope Francis Begins Series of Talks on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit;https://www.catholic.org/news/international/europe/story.php?id=54889

    1 . The first gift of the Holy Spirit, according to this traditional list, is wisdom. It is not merely human wisdom, no, the fruit of knowledge and experience. In the Bible we are told that, at the time of his coronation as king of Israel , God asked Solomon what gift he wanted to receive. Solomon did not ask for wealth, success, fame , or a long and happy life, instead he asked for “an understanding heart that knows how to distinguish good from evil” ( 1 Kings 3:9).

    This is wisdom: it is the grace of being able to see everything with the eyes of God. It is simply this: Seeing the world.situations, conjunctures, problems, everything with God’s eyes. This is wisdom. Often we see things as we want to see them or according to our heart, with love, with hate, with envy. no this is not God’s eyes. Wisdom is what the Holy Spirit does within us so that we can see everything with God’s eyes. This is the gift of wisdom.

    2 . Obviously this gift comes from intimacy with God. For our intimate relationship with God. From our relationship as children with a Father. And the Holy Spirit – when we have this relationship – gives us the gift of wisdom. When we are in communion with the Lord , it is as if the Spirit transfigures our heart and helps it to perceive all his warmth and predilection.

    3 . The Holy Spirit also makes the Christian “wise”. This is, however , not in the sense that he or she has an answer for everything, or knows everything, but in the sense that he or she “knows” of God, how God acts, they know when something is of God and when it is not.

    In closing, Pope Francis quoted Dostoevsky’s observation on what will happen to those who lived a life reporting fake news;

    Constant contamination by deceptive language can end up darkening our interior life. Dostoevsky’s observation is illuminating: “People who lie to themselves and listen to their own lie come to such a pass that they cannot distinguish the truth within them, or around them, and so lose all respect for themselves and for others. And having no respect, they cease to love, and in order to occupy and distract themselves without love they give way to passions and to coarse pleasures, and sink to bestiality in their vices, all from continual lying to others and to themselves.” (The Brothers Karamazov, II, 2).

    Also Pope Francis gave a good explanation on the Fake News here’s the link;http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/communications/documents/papa-francesco_20180124_messaggio-comunicazioni-sociali.html

  4. Avatar carn says:

    What Daniel Amiri writes makes to a large part sense.

    What Pope Francis writes/says not so much:

    “We can recognize the truth of statements from their fruits: whether they provoke quarrels, foment division, encourage resignation; or, on the other hand, they promote informed and mature reflection leading to constructive dialogue and fruitful results.”

    So when a journalist finds out that some politician was bribed and reports this and this results in a public outcry, calls for the politician to quit his positions and/or calls to bring him to court – so in other words “provokes quarrels” – we can then conclude that the journalist reporting is not truthful?

    I know, Pope Francis cannot mean a thing such dumb. But that is what his words says.

    Many excellent journalistic work provoke quarrels – think of Watergate.

    Yet, Pope Francis seems to suggest – and in reading his entire speech i did not find something contrary – that if something “provokes quarrels” then this is an indication that it is untrue.

    Probably he means something intelligent and wise here; but i cannot see it in his words.

    Daniel Amirir tries here to read that it is not meant that news that provoke quarrels are meant – although that is the wording of the Poe – but just news/stories “written with an intent to “provoke quarrels” and “foment division.””.

    That helps little, cause:

    1. One can only guess intent behing some reporting. So we would still not so much evaluate intent but effect. The only thing we really see for sure is whether something provokes quarrel, while the intent is up tu guess.

    2. When Watergate reporters published their stuff i guess that was intent to “provoke quarrels” and “foment division.”, namely quarrel about whether the President was doing a good job and division in that his allies in congress might rethink that based on the new information. What is wrong about intent to cause the political quarrel and divisions necessary to either cause a corrupt politician to correct course or to step down?

    I know, i know, total unfair reading of the words of the Pope. But that is how i understand this words when i read them; and i see no other better understanding, excpt presuming that the words “quarrel” etc. have some meaning rather different from how i understand them. So that for example the whole process of Nixon and Watergate was somehow not “quarrel” and “division”; which wouldn’t fit my definitions of these words.

    • Avatar Peter says:

      “We can recognize the truth of statements from their fruits: whether they provoke quarrels, foment division, encourage resignation; or, on the other hand, they promote informed and mature reflection leading to constructive dialogue and fruitful results.”
      So when a journalist finds out that some politician was bribed and reports this and this results in a public outcry, calls for the politician to quit his positions and/or calls to bring him to court – so in other words “provokes quarrels” – we can then conclude that the journalist reporting is not truthful?

      No. We conclude that the journalist reporting has arrived at “FRUITFUL RESULTS”, just as the Pope stated!

      • Avatar carn says:

        So quarrels are sometimes “quarrels” and sometimes aren’t “quarrels” but only “fruitful results”?

        Doesn’t fit the dictionaries i use. And besides would make the whole wording meaningsless in my view.

    • Avatar Mary Angelica says:

      Carn, I can sympathize, but I do think that that passage must be understood at least in light of the paragraphs that preceded it. I think the issue isn’t so much what is or isn’t a quarrel, but rather what he means by bring “truthful”.

      “Constant contamination by deceptive language can end up darkening our interior life. Dostoevsky’s observation is illuminating: “People who lie to themselves and listen to their own lie come to such a pass that they cannot distinguish the truth within them, or around them, and so lose all respect for themselves and for others. And having no respect, they cease to love, and in order to occupy and distract themselves without love they give way to passions and to coarse pleasures, and sink to bestiality in their vices, all from continual lying to others and to themselves.” (The Brothers Karamazov, II, 2).

      So how do we defend ourselves? The most radical antidote to the virus of falsehood is purification by the truth. In Christianity, truth is not just a conceptual reality that regards how we judge things, defining them as true or false. The truth is not just bringing to light things that are concealed, “revealing reality”, as the ancient Greek term aletheia (from a-lethès, “not hidden”) might lead us to believe. Truth involves our whole life. In the Bible, it carries with it the sense of support, solidity, and trust, as implied by the root ‘aman, the source of our liturgical expression Amen. Truth is something you can lean on, so as not to fall. In this relational sense, the only truly reliable and trustworthy One – the One on whom we can count – is the living God. Hence, Jesus can say: “I am the truth” (Jn 14:6). We discover and rediscover the truth when we experience it within ourselves in the loyalty and trustworthiness of the One who loves us. This alone can liberate us: “The truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32).

      Freedom from falsehood and the search for relationship: these two ingredients cannot be lacking if our words and gestures are to be true, authentic, and trustworthy. To discern the truth, we need to discern everything that encourages communion and promotes goodness from whatever instead tends to isolate, divide, and oppose. Truth, therefore, is not really grasped when it is imposed from without as something impersonal, but only when it flows from free relationships between persons, from listening to one another. Nor can we ever stop seeking the truth, because falsehood can always creep in, even when we state things that are true. An impeccable argument can indeed rest on undeniable facts, but if it is used to hurt another and to discredit that person in the eyes of others, however correct it may appear, it is not truthful. We can recognize the truth of statements from their fruits: whether they provoke quarrels, foment division, encourage resignation; or, on the other hand, they promote informed and mature reflection leading to constructive dialogue and fruitful results.”

      Pope Francis seems to be using a more robust meaning of the word “truthful” than just fidelity to the facts being reported and the correctness of said facts. It also involves fidelity to the correct outlook and approach to how these facts are to be understood. To be “truthful” isn’t just to be right, it is also to be honest about your motives and your actions with others. It’s not just about correctness, but about “trust” (which is etymologically similar to truth). Intention does form a part of this, and bad intentions can screw up the correctness of a work, but I think he is saying something more, namely, that truth cannot be opposed to goodness, and when there is evil in the journalistic work (by this I do not mean that the work discusses evil things, but rather that the work itself as an act was in part evil), there is a lack of truth in some respect. This is a pretty traditional teaching, when you consider the scholastic understanding of the transcendentals of goodness, truth, beauty, and unity.

      For one, if an author writes with an ulterior motive, but couches his intentions with “just stating the facts”, he is deceiving people about the purpose of his work, and he is not to be trusted, because he is being guided by something other than exposition of the facts in themselves. When you run into such people who are motivated by things other than the truth, it doesn’t mean that what they say is always wrong, but rather that you must, as an act of prudence, verify what they said. Furthermore, such people, being guided by motives rather than goodness (and thus truth), will, as human beings, be more likely to distort what they report. It might be through the omission of facts, the use of loaded terms eliciting a response, not of seeking justice, but of fomenting the same hatred. These people may not even realize they are doing it, because they themselves are deceived by their own falsehood. This is why Pope Francis says that we should never stop prioritizing seeking the truth, both within ourselves and in our relations with others via honesty. In large part, as fallen creatures, even if we have attained it to a large extent, as soon as we act with priorities other than this, we lower our guard against error and falsehood.

      The problem is that journalists have a sort of social advantage in that the public is generally trusting of them and who do not have the resources or the power to verify their claims, so if the journalists are not being truthful, as defined above they can get away with it. (though this maybe getting harder to do as of late,) People who read the news, however wrong they may be, are expecting journalists to write things in good faith. The thing is, by breaking our trust, they threaten the main ways we have of receiving the truth to begin with, which is relational. By being weary of provocative content, Pope Francis isn’t promotimg a sort of mass ad hominem fallacy, but he is giving a (I think quite wise) heuristic which we can use to prevent ourselves by being trapped into an ideological vortex.

  5. Avatar Peter says:

    I really think you have missed the point.

    My reading of the Pope’s statement is concerned with the ‘intention’ of journalists, that is, whether their aim is to “provoke quarrels, foment division, encourage resignation” for their own sake. This can be seen in many unscrupulous articles.

    But, if journalists “provoke quarrels, foment division, encourage resignation”, which lead to “informed and mature reflection leading to constructive dialogue and fruitful results”, then those journalists have done their job!

    It is all in the reading of the statement as a whole rather than a hypercritical assessment of individual words. The Pope’s words must be read in context.

    Thanks for the chat. I’m off to bed as it is just after midnight here in Sydney. Cheers.

    • Avatar carn says:

      “This can be seen in many unscrupulous articles.”

      No, it can’t be seen.

      Cause what i can see at first is only whether some reporting provokes quarrels.

      Whether that quarrel leads to fruitful results or not can usually not be estimated shortly after some report went public.

      E.g. Watergate:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Watergate_scandal

      “June 20, 1972: Reportedly based on a tip from Deep Throat (associate director of the FBI, Mark Felt), Bob Woodward reports in the Washington Post that one of the burglars had E. Howard Hunt in his address book and possessed checks signed by Hunt, and that Hunt was connected to Charles Colson.”

      “August 9, 1974: Nixon resigns from office. Gerald Ford becomes president.”

      Thats more than two years between the first relevant report which provoked quarrel and the – if one were to say so – major fruitful result. On June 21, 1972 nobody could say for certain, whether there would be fruitful results or not.

      Take the since three years of and on reports about meddling between Russia and Trump or aides of him; those reports produced a lot of quarrel i guess; “fruitful results” so far absent as far as i can tell (Mueller report is claimed by both sides of the quarrel as a win, so no real fruitful result).

      We cannot estimate the truth of a report shortly after it being published on its results, cause the results might be far off in the future.

      Accordingly, the criteria “fruitful results” is – at least as you understand it – mostly useless in assessing fake news, cause whether something is fake news or not should be decided shortly after the news is published.

      • Avatar jong says:

        carn
        Pardon me for saying this, but have it ever cross your mind that Pope Francis is an Anointed Servant of God whose wisdom in shepherding and feeding Christ Flock is guided by the charisma of the Holy Spirit and protected by the Blue Mantle of Our Lady and back-up by 2000 years Tradition. Have you come across the fate of Ananaias & Sapphira who was struck dead immediately by God by uttering lies to the Pope?(Acts5:3-ff)
        If one use the gift of prudence, which one will I choose to believe and put my trust & obedience?….your critical mind like the rest of those Cardinal still in Dubia and the rest of the dissenters still embracing confusions up to now and the usual prelates & Rad Trads channels proudly embracing & promoting the evil attitude of “recognize and resist the Pope” that continually voicing their opposition taking the adversarial role or will I simply choose the Wisdom of the Supreme Interpreter & Guarantor of Faith ?
        Luke10:16 and Luke22:32 comes to my mind and especially Matthew16:19.
        Where does the Dubia and Dissenters standing on? who is their infallible interpreter of Tradition & Church Doctrines?
        Did Jesus gave any Duplicate Keys to Cardinal Burke, Bishop Schneider,etc..?
        Did Tradition said to put our obedience to this opposing bishops rather than the Pope?
        I don’t think so…Unam Sanctam is very clear.
        “Obedience to the Pope is absolutely necessary for salvation”
        And worst this opposing bishops are leading their confused followers with the help of all the Rad Trads channel who synchronized their evil agenda of poisoning the mind of all their viewers by spreading the “snake tactics” of reporting Fake News twisting every words of Pope Francis..

  6. Avatar M. says:

    carn I really think you are worrying too much about these kinds of things. You surely are intelligent enough to realize that the pope is not saying that if something leads to a quarrel therefore the reporting was not true. He is speaking in generalities, as he is prone to doing. You may wish that he would talk that way, all you want to, however all your wishing and frustration at his speaking in a general and not absolutely perfect, specific speech, will not make it happen the way you want it to happen. The pope speaks the way he speaks, and just as your own words can be misinterpreted to mean something you did not intend, so can the pope’s, whether you like it that way or not. I personally suspect that if you are going to find any peace, you are just going to have to learn how to live with the fact that language itself does not always conform in everyone else’s mind to exactly the way you yourself perceive it. To me, the pope is quite clear- he is saying that you can discern the truth of things by their fruits, and leaving us to figure out that, on a case-by-case basis. You know darn well when something excites and provokes gossip, division, quarrels and vice. You do know it. You don’t need to pope to point it out to you, clearly so that every single word of his can only be interpreted on one, clear construct. That’s not possible anyway, carn, nobody can talk that way and still have a personal “style.” You don’t like the pope’s style, I guess, as indicated by your many comments, ok. fair enough, but it doesn’t seem to be worth all this angst.

  7. Avatar Christopher Lake says:

    This article reminds me, yet again, how important it is to read Pope Francis’s “controversial” isolated statements carefully, patiently, in their greater context, and with a spirit of charity. I will freely admit that when when I first read the Pope’s words, “In and of itself, reality has no one clear meaning. Everything depends on the way we look at things, on the lens we use to view them. If we change that lens, reality itself appears different,” I was unsettled and concerned, because *when read in isolation*, the words sound very much like the “meta-narrative-denying” statements of the postmodern literary critics whom I read (and did not often agree with) in my university years.

    The contention of those literary critics was/is that there is no definite, over-arching meaning, either in literary texts, or, apparently, they believe, in life itself. That philosophy was, quite seriously, the bane of my existence in my twenties and even into my thirties. I encountered it just after I came to faith in Christ, and for a long time, that kind of postmodern relativism haunted me, robbed me of my once-innocent joy in reading literature, and ultimately led to severe, reoccurring crises of faith at the most existential levels. These crises only, finally became less severe, fairly recently, in my forties. (Ideas matter so much to me, because they matter, objectively, in life. They can help to give life, and they can “help” in killing one’s hope and love for life.)

    Anyway, back to Pope Francis– when I first read his words about reality itself having no one clear meaning, I was worried, because, again, they sounded so much like those postmodern literary critics and professors who literally drove me to despair (!) as a young (and, later, not-so-young!) Christian. However, I then read the words from the Pope which followed:

    “How can we begin to ‘read’ reality through the right lens?…. For us Christians, that lens can only be the good news, beginning with the Good News par excellence: “the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God” (Mk 1:1). With these words, Saint Mark opens his Gospel not by relating “good news” about Jesus, but rather the good news that is Jesus himself.”

    This shows me, yet again, how important it is to read the Pope *in the greater context of what he is truly saying, and not just in isolated statements*, especially when I am unsettled or perplexed by one of those statements. It is very clear, here, in context, that Francis is *not saying* that there is no objective meaning to life and to ultimate reality. His meaning becomes clear when he goes on to speak of finding *the right* lens. For radical literary postmodernists, there either is no right lens with which to interpret texts (and life itself!), or, that “right” lens is simply one of different identity groups fighting it out– usually, in the postmodern jargon, “the oppressed and the oppressor(s).” The Pope clearly believes differently than the postmodernists though, because his “reading lens” involves metaphysical realities which *involve but also transcend the finite and human*. Jesus Christ, and His life, death, and resurrection, are the ultimate answers to the postmodern assertion that there is no over-arching meaning to life. They are also the ultimate answers to anyone who believes that the only “objective human reality” is that of the oppressed and the oppressors in a perpetual struggle in this world.

    Pope Francis is really pointing all of us to the true Answer to our deepest existential questions, and, also, to the ultimate Answer to our struggles, fragmentation, and polarization, not only in current Western society but around the world. That Answer is not simply a theory or philosophy, but a person (and not just any person)– Jesus Christ, the Incarnation, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Thanks be to God for the Pope for pointing us all to the right “lens”– the One– which (Whom!) makes sense of an often-seemingly-fragmented and confused reality in this life!

  8. Avatar Lazursus says:

    I am a millenial. I believe that the best way to foster critical thinking is to study the trivium. I started learning it when I went through a traditonalist phase. I don’t know with certainty why high schools do not teach logic anymore, but without knowing how to think logically it is very possible to be deceived by ideologies like scientism, start believing in whatever dots a conspiracy theorist happens to correct as the best possible answer or to be more swayed by emotion than reason. Even the educated seem to be unprepared to deal with this.

  9. Avatar Peter Aiello says:

    Those who have the Holy Spirit, have a spiritual discernment that others do not have (1Corinthians 2:9-16). It is called the mind of Christ. It is not the product of accumulated knowledge. It is a product of Christ’s presence within us. This is why it is called the mind of Christ.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *