Vatican II’s Decree on Social Communications Fifty Years Later
December 4, 2013
Fifty years ago today (December 4, 1963) the Second Vatican Council released the document Inter mirifica, thereby consolidating for our modern age an orderly manifesto presenting what would become the Church’s approach to engaging the media of social communications. The first line of Inter mirifica reads, “Among the wonderful technological discoveries which men of talent, especially in the present era, have made with God’s help, the Church welcomes and promotes with special interest those which have a most direct relation to men’s minds and which have uncovered new avenues of communicating most readily news, views and teachings of every sort.” A far cry from the stereotypes which attempt to typecast the Church as anti-innovation, Inter mirifica offers a balanced consideration of what it would mean for the Church, particularly her priests and laity, to enter into the modern equivalent of the forums of ancient Rome. Although social communications has been greatly transformed since the time of the Council, particularly by the advent of the Internet age, many of the principles Inter mirifica sets out are perennial truths. Inter mirifica boldly claims, “By using these helps they will experience no harm and, like salt and light, they will give savor to the earth and brighten the world. Moreover, the Synod invites all men of good will, especially those who have charge of these media, to strive to turn them solely to the good of society, whose fate depends more and more on their proper use. Thus, as was the case with ancient works of art, the name of the Lord may be glorified by these new discoveries in accordance with those words of the Apostle: ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.’” The clarion call of the document may perhaps be summarized thus: since various forms of media are merely tools and can thus be used for good or ill, it remains the duty of the Church’s pastors and her faithful to employ these means to share with all the world the most important message of all, namely, that of the Gospel. Today, heeding the lasting words of Inter mirifica, the Dominican Friars of the Province of Saint Joseph have initiated several modest ventures as media apostolates. In fact, in light of Pope Benedict’s general encouragement for preaching in new media, the 2010 Chapter of the Province recommends that friars pursue ventures in a variety of media. Blackfriars Films (initially founded as Kindly Light Media) was established to produce films of professional quality to proclaim and elucidate the Catholic faith. Word to Life, a collaborative venture begun by Fr. Gabriel Gillen, O.P., is a weekly radio program broadcast on SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s The Catholic Channel. The Province continues to develop its Internet outreach by offering diverse content on the newly designed opeast.org, in addition to vocations promotion on opeast.org and general information on dominicanfriars.org. Additionally, the student friars launched the blog Dominicana in 2011 with the aim of hosting a renewed conversation between faith and culture, through daily posts featuring insightful commentary and striking artwork. Since its launch, Dominicana has also begun to produce simple audio and video content. The semi-annual physical journal Dominicana, a project of the Dominican Studium of the Province of St. Joseph, has also continued to grow in readership and scope; its newest issue will be released before Christmas. Inspired by the fearless example of the holy popes of the last half century and ever-mindful of our vocation as members of the Order of Preachers, we continue to reflect on and zealously pursue the ways in which God calls us to proclaim the saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.