As a Catholic, the respect and consideration I owe the Spanish bishops lead me to describe as “unexpected” some recent statements by the seven bishops who make up the Commission of the Episcopal Conference for social communications as well as the intervention of Cardinal Ricardo Blázquez, former president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference and archbishop of Valladolid.
But calling the bishops’ interventions “unexpected” does not mean that future historians will be so kind in their assessment, as they will be obliged to tell the truth without reservations. Just as in previous Sunday articles, I wrote about bishops of past centuries who were good, ordinary, bad, and very bad out of fidelity to the truth. In the future, others will issue the historical judgment that the current Spanish bishops deserve for their behavior during the coronavirus pandemic.
For now, let me call “unexpected” the document published by the Episcopal Commission for Social Communications. It says that media companies are opening “a window to hope and the future” while retaining “the ability to entertain with humorous programs, cinema or music, which allow us to get out of a necessarily narrow daily routine, and can link us to the best of humanity, art, and culture.”
I call this “unexpected” because although this episcopal commission is formed by seven bishops with a priest secretary supposedly formed both in theology and journalism, what Catholics expect of our pastors is to open horizons to theological hope and provide somewhat more transcendent information than the media do in newspapers, radio, or television. My opinions are very opposed to those of their excellencies, and the only reason “journalists” do not hurt my hope, faith, charity, or other virtues is that I neither read nor listen to them.
When it comes to recognizing the episcopal commission’s ability to assess media prowess to entertain us with humorous programs and movies, I figure the bishops of the commission wax so enthusiastic. Their multiple “pastoral” occupations likely prevent them from entertaining themselves with such programs.
The commission’s technical secretary, a priest, says he has also studied journalism. As a journalist, he should be aware of what is being broadcast both because of his obligation as a priest and of what he learned at the university. Is there nothing against Christian doctrine, morality, or human dignity on TV programs and movies? Or is the moral integrity or informative content now measured by audience rates?
The icing on the cake of the episcopal commission’s statement is that all this “can link us to the best of humanity, art and culture.” The one who added this phrase to the commission’s statement undoubtedly gives himself away because he did a cut and paste, showing either laziness or inability to write something original.
I also describe as “unexpected” the intervention by the Archbishop of Valladolid, published on the official website of his archdiocese under the title “We Need to Renew the Spirit of Transition Because Only Together Will we Overcome the Epidemic.”…
We, baptized Christians, do not expect our bishops to devote their time to patting the media and politicians on the back. We do expect them to facilitate and defend our right as faithful to worship and receive the sacraments by adopting the specific measures necessary to exercise that right in this pandemic.
Many Catholics, I included, expect that our bishops provide the means and stand up to anyone to make worship possible and include it among essential activities such as buying and selling in pharmacies, supermarkets, and tobacco or pet stores.
We expect a bishop not to order the eviction of the few faithful who attend Easter services from the cathedral, but rather to defend their legitimate right to freedom of worship and denounce whoever ordered the police to intervene regardless if it was the Minister of the Interior himself.
We expect when passing in front of a church, its doors to be open, and the Blessed Sacrament exposed for us to adore. Just like a supermarket receipt serves as a justification to leave home and not be fined, with all the more reason should a voucher with our pastor’s signature show that we have been to church worshiping the Blessed Sacrament, receiving communion, confessing, or attending Holy Mass.
By now, you will have noticed that, led by a duty of conscience, I have ended the truce of silence. Hence, I close by asking that our bishops immediately stop issuing “unexpected” communications and instead follow the example of many heroic priests who are secretly doing all they can but are not doing all they should (which the circumstances demand) because they lack the support of their ecclesiastical superiors, who take refuge in an “unexpected” hiding place.”
Javier Paredes is a Chaired Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Alcalá.
Translated by the staff of Fatima Today.
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