THE SINS CAUSED BY THE PRESSWhen the Pious Society of Saint Paul reflects on the nefarious outcome, on this veritable slaughter of souls, that the bad press effects and adds to when it is placed at the service of evil, it becomes a very powerful incentive for stirring up zeal in the apostle's heart. This is why it urges its members to reflect often on the nature and gravity of these sins and suggests practical ways to prevent them and to atone for them.
Here we will briefly set out the instructions and directives that are given to Pauline apostles in this regard.
Nature and seriousness
The bad press sets up a pulpit of lies over against the pulpit of Truth. A pulpit, in other words,
against the Father, who "in many and various ways spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, in these last days has spoken to us by a Son."1 Against the Son, who spent his time in this world to testify to the Truth and revealed God to us. Against the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth.
The bad press attempts to bring about a human being's spiritual ruin at source, because it poisons human thought.
The sins caused by the bad press thus contain actual malice, because they assail God's very Truth and, consequently, a human being's spiritual well being, because they poison his or her thinking.
Moreover, such sins are premeditated, cause grave scandal, are easily increased and are therefore severely punished by the Church.
They are premeditated. Writing, in general, is not the result of a surge of passion. It requires a lengthy, calm, cold-blooded preparation.
Actually, there is an army of writers that spends whole
days and nights, months and even years preparing pages of deadly poison destined to kill the greatest number of souls possible. They are driven either by money, or ambition, or hate, or even by diabolical corruption. Their backing comes from the great associations of a corrupt press. Let us not forget the newspaper organizations or establishments, the bookseller organizations and so on. To these can be added all the other private and individual enterprises.
They cause grave public scandal. Moral Theology2 lists among those who give more frequent and damaging scandal people who write, print, sell, lend, and distribute harmful books and papers. To these can be added painters, sculptors, photographers, zincographers and all those who, in private or worse, in public, display obscene figures.
They are easily multiplied. If the sins of scandal increase in proportion to the number of people scandalized, what are we to think of the sins caused by the bad press? We are not talking here of a speech given to a few people or of a talk to a limited number of pupils or of a conference where the audience exercises self-control.
We are talking here of a sin that increases in proportion to the number of copies, or rather, to the indeterminate number of people scandalized. It is thus a sin without limits; a graver sin than that of scandal caused by a single act or one talk. It is a sin that contains a twofold malice because it offends against faith or morals and against charity.
[Such sins] are severely punished by the Church. Canon Law takes into account some of the more serious forms of sins and scandals of the press. More specifically: the publishers of the works of apostates, heretics and schismatics that advocate apostasy, heresy or schism, incur excommunication "speciali modo" reserved to the Holy See from the moment these works are for public sale, as do those who defend or who knowingly, without due permission, read and keep the above books or those forbidden explicitly by the Holy See.
Authors and publishers who, without due permission, print books of the Holy Scripture, or biblical annotations or commentaries incur excommunication "nemini reservata".3
Atonement and prevention
The best way to atone for and to prevent sins caused by the press is to carry out the press apostolate in its negative and its positive aspect.
The negative part is to prevent such sins by convincing writers, publishers, booksellers, promoters, the great mass of readers and, when necessary the authorities, of the harm it does.
People need to understand what an immense responsibility falls on writers and on all those who lend their proximate cooperation (shareholders, managers, compositors, printers, proof readers...) or their remote cooperation (suppliers of ink, paper, electric power and the like, manufacturers, shippers, promoters...).
How many people, for example, fail to realize:
- that it is a serious sin to cooperate in the publicity of bad books, harmful medicines, dangerous entertainment, non-Catholic colleges and so on;
- that on no account is it lawful to cooperate in the work of a printing plant whose sole and main purpose is the propagation of evil and error and that those so employed are obliged to give up their job;
- that (this is the common teaching of theologians) although remote cooperators may be excused, the same cannot be said of proximate cooperators of a typography which, even if rarely and by chance, intentionally prints something that is erroneous and dangerous;
- that those
who subscribe to bad newspapers sin gravely, basically because their money is effectively contributing to keep such papers in circulation;
- that to put on sale, to sell, to give, to print, or to procure for one's employer obscene matter or books containing pernicious doctrine is a proximate cooperation in wrongdoing, from which only urgent necessity may excuse;
- that to procure a prohibited book for a person not furnished with due permission, is a sin;
- that without due permission, a person may not serve in a shop where books of all kinds are sold indiscriminately to anyone who comes in...
The positive part consists in the direct exercise of the press apostolate through action, prayer and sacrifice.
Leaving aside the positive role of action, since we have amply dealt with it throughout the book, we will concentrate here on prayer and on sacrifice.
Those persons who consecrate themselves to a life of prayer and sacrifice to atone for the sins of the bad press undertake something that is very pleasing to the Lord.
For these and for all those people who experience the need to console the Heart of Jesus for the offenses he receives through the press, we would suggest the following practices, [to be made] in a spirit of atonement:
1. Daily Mass and Communion;
2. private and public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament;
3. celebration of the first Sunday of the month in honor of the Divine Master, with a day of recollection, Confession, Communion of reparation and meditation on God's word;
4. daily reading of a passage of the Holy Gospel;
5. small sacrifices and voluntary self-denials;
6. recitation of the Divine Praises during the morning and evening prayers, and after Mass;
7. daily recitation of the prayer "For those who thirst for souls as does Jesus" as it is set out here:
"Lord, in union with all the priests who today celebrate the Holy Mass, I offer myself, a small victim, with Jesus the Divine Victim:
1. In atonement for the countless blasphemies, errors and obscenities that are printed in so many printing plants from which flows daily a putrid river of paper that floods the world.
2. To appeal to your mercy for the countless readers, perverse or innocent, that a scandalous press snatches from your fatherly Heart, so longing for souls.
3. For the conversion of those numerous writers and printers, blind ministers of Satan, false teachers, who have set their pulpits up against the Divine
Master, poisoning all teaching, human thinking and the sources of human activity.
4. To honor, love and listen to him alone, whom you, heavenly Father, in the excess of your love, have given to the world, proclaiming: 'This is my beloved Son, hear him.'
5. To grasp that Jesus alone is the consummate Teacher, for he is the Truth that enlightens, the Way or Model of all holiness, the soul's true Life, sanctifying grace.
6. For an increase in the world of priests and religious men and women who consecrate themselves to spread Christ's teaching by means of the press.
7. That the writers and workers in this field of the press be holy, full of wisdom and zeal for the glory of God and for souls.
8. To ask you that the Catholic press may thrive, spread, be helped and increase by raising its voice in such a way as to swamp the intoxicating and persuasive clamor of the wicked press.
9. That we all become mindful of our ignorance and wretchedness, of the need that we have to present ourselves before your holy tabernacle, O Lord, with imploring gaze and bowed head, invoking light, compassion and mercy."
1 Heb 1:1.
2 Cf. MARK, Institutiones morales alphonsianæ, t. I, par. 37.
3 * Obviously such sanctions, drafted by the 1917 Code of Canon Law, and other such analogous discipline referred to in the previous pages, have been extensively modified in the new Code (cf. canons 1311-1322).