- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 2004

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope John Paul II criticized the media yesterday, saying they often give a positive depiction of extramarital sex, contraception, abortion and homosexuality that is harmful to society.

The pontiff, in a statement issued ahead of the church’s World Communications Day in May, urged the media to promote traditional family life.

“All communication has a moral dimension,” his statement said. “People grow or diminish in moral stature by the words which they speak and the messages which they choose to hear.”

But the pontiff, whose theme was “The Media and the Family: A Risk and a Richness” also had some positive words on the media.

“On the one hand, marriage and family life are frequently depicted in a sensitive manner, realistic but also sympathetic, that celebrates virtues like love, fidelity, forgiveness and generous self-giving for others,” he said.

“On the other hand, the family and family life are all too often inadequately portrayed in the media,” John Paul added.

“Infidelity, sexual activity outside of marriage and the absence of a moral and spiritual vision of the marriage covenant are depicted uncritically, while positive support is at times given to divorce, contraception, abortion and homosexuality. Such portrayals, by promoting causes inimical to marriage and the family, are detrimental to the common good of society.”

The pope urged “responsible communicators” to resist commercial pressure and secular ideologies. He also called for regulations to stop the media from acting against “the good of the family,” although he rejected censorship.

Parents, too, have an important role in controlling the quantity and nature of media use in the home, John Paul said.

“Even very young children can be taught important lessons about the media: that they are produced by people anxious to communicate messages; that these are often messages to do something — to buy a product, to engage in dubious behavior — that is not in the child’s best interests or in accord with moral truth; that children should not uncritically accept or imitate what they find in the media.”

The pontiff has frequently spoken out about the challenges created by new technology and has called for greater responsibility by the media. He also praises the potential of mass communications.

John Paul himself has avidly used the media to get his message out and has presided over a technological revolution at the Vatican. This includes the 1995 start of its Web site and the recent introduction of papal messages sent to mobile phones.

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