Time for the Truth

Iobserve [Springfield MA]
Downloaded February 20, 2004

Like parishioners throughout the Springfield Diocese, Catholic Communications staff members were stunned and saddened last week by the resignation of and the subsequent abuse allegations against our now-former Bishop Thomas L. Dupre. Our anguish is compounded, however, by our roles as Catholic media professionals – and, perhaps more importantly, as members of the organization at the center of this evolving news story.

Not only are we reporters, editors, producers, photographers, videographers and graphic designers; most of us are also practicing Catholics in local parishes. As we record the history of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, we find ourselves standing in the glare of our own spotlights and in the sharp focus of a camera lens.

Caught in the web of a national clergy abuse scandal, we must be clear about our responsibilities and goals as Catholic journalists. The first mandate, for both secular and religious media, is to seek and report, as fairly as possible, the truth. For us, that frequently involves interviewing the people who sign our paychecks, and those whose financial calculations may eliminate some of our jobs in the future.

We must be honest. When we present our publications and programs to the public, we are both privileged by and limited by our relationships with our employers. Likewise, secular reporters and editors are also beholden to their publishers, whose beliefs and biases may influence the content of their products.

Catholic journalists, though, must also use the framework of faith to interpret the people and events in our diocese. When considering the words and actions of our subjects, we need to ask ourselves how they measure up to the values we hold as Catholics.

Do our parishioners, teachers, diocesan employees, religious brothers and sisters, pastors and, yes, our bishops, respect the dignity of each individual? Do they – and we – pursue the preferential option for the poor? Do we promote social and economic justice? Do we seek peace and reconciliation?

And, as a people of God and followers of Jesus Christ, do we separate sins from sinners and do we forgive?

We applaud Msgr. Richard Sniezyk, our newly appointed diocesan administrator, for acknowledging publicly in last week’s press conference that in the early days of his priesthood, an “old boys’ network” of priests protected clergy suspected of illicit behavior with minors. He said the church must “come clean” about past failings in order to establish trust and confidence in the future.

Speaking to reporters on Feb. 13, Msgr. Sniezyk also reminded us that “the church is a means to direct people to God, not an end in itself. We have to distinguish between the human and divine element.”

For those of us who report on the daily intermingling of the human and divine, telling the truth is the first step in the long journey of healing.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.