The Irish media are "being managed to serve distorted and sometimes questionable ends, which are calculated to deprive us of our critical faculties", the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary, has declared.
In a sharply worded criticism, he said “forces are endeavouring to reshape our values, fears and dreams in ways that are quite literally opposed to the joy of the Gospel”.
The archbishop's remarks were made at Mass in Westport last Saturday night, which would normally have heralded the annual climb of Croagh Patrick on the last Sunday of July, "Reek Sunday".
“It is not uncommon to find the coverage of religion per se and religious affairs generally viewed through a political prism and treated in political terms,” he told his congregation.
“The great organs of news and information in society are, it seems, being managed to serve distorted and sometimes questionable ends, which are calculated to deprive us of our critical faculties. Forces are endeavouring to reshape our values, fears and dreams in ways that are quite literally opposed to the joy of the Gospel,” he said.
“In a competitive world, the media will tend to focus on the dramatic or even sensational as extreme positions vie with each other. Consensus and collaboration are frequently overlooked. This has an impact on the way in which religion is presented,” the archbishop said.
“Of its very nature, religion is intended to bind people together and to God, rather than to divide and conquer. Religion as a countercultural force has today become marginalised,” he added.
It had “become standard today to adopt and embrace a form of ‘group-think’ which allows some to believe they can determine our outlook and reactions to various situations and realities, and not least, our attitude to religion and matters of faith and morals,” he said.
‘Uninformed and prejudicial’
“While the sins and shortcomings of people of faith have been legitimately highlighted, and the wrongs of the church have been justly exposed, it is convenient to be dismissive of the church and faith in a rather uninformed and prejudicial manner. For people to whom faith is important and who have a great love for and appreciation of the church – in spite of its shortcomings – this is a very challenging time.”
In a society “enslaved by the tyranny of ‘relevance’, the truth of the Gospel can easily be dismissed” or be perceived as “unsuitable in an open, modern and progressive society. People may generally fear to voice public support for a perceived unpopular opinion so it requires great courage to uphold a contrary view,” he said.
Meanwhile, the new extended format of the Croagh Patrick climb throughout the month of July will conclude this week from Wednesday to Saturday. The format was introduced this year to replace the traditional focus of pilgrims on Reek Sunday, cancelled completely last year because of the pandemic.