CONFUSING THE FAITHFUL: CATHOLICISM'S STRUGGLE WITH MASS MEDIA
A small percentage of American journalists are religious, even fewer Catholic, and yet Catholic news stories have appeared in the news quite often in recent years. Catholic media is widespread, although obviously not as widely disseminated as mass media. This thesis seeks to answer the question: Are American Catholics receiving different messages from the mainstream media and Catholic media about Catholic issues? The dichotomy of uneducated mass media versus educated Catholic media results in misinformation and a confused Catholic population. If Catholics hear news one way in Church or in Church-sponsored media, and another way through the ever-present mainstream media, a crisis of faith is inevitable. This will result in a confused, not confident, Catholic who cannot articulate the views of his Church and cannot decipher which candidates or issues he should support. However personally confusing this multi-message media consumption may be, it has even greater, widespread implications. If all Catholics are experiencing the same onslaught of varying messages, the result would be critical to their power as a voting bloc. Ultimately, the Catholic (and non-Catholic audience, if they read both) are receiving two different interpretations of Catholic issues. Mainstream media uses different tones, language and explanations to describe Catholic issues like the death of Pope John Paul II, Terri Schiavo and John Kerry receiving communion as a pro-choice politician. Ultimately, the Catholic press stays true to the tenets of the Catholic faith, but does not utilize all possible options for reaching the faithful and addressing these issues in their own, unique voice. The mainstream press ran more negative material, but did consult more Catholic sources and doctrine. The sexual abuse scandal was mentioned by both types of outlets. None of this signals the often-written about anti-Catholic media bias. If media are misconstruing or misrepresenting the Catholic faith, however, it has connotations in the political and social realms, not just the religious realm.
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