The Scourge of the Sound Bite

It has been widely reported in Catholic media in recent days that the now former head of the US Bishops’ Secretariat for Christian Doctrine, Fr Weinandy, has written an open letter to Pope Francis expressing concern over an alleged “chronic confusion” caused by the Pope’s words and actions since assuming the Chair of Peter.

Today, America magazine published an open letter from Fr Weinandy’s predecessor as head of the same Secretariat, responding to the concerns raised by Fr Weinandy. While those responses are interesting indeed, perhaps the most sage advice comes at the end of the letter:

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, urged that dissent from ordinary Magisterium should be disclosed privately to church authority—see Donum Veritatis (No. 30). In a world and even an ecclesial environment of sound bites and facile partisanship, that becomes even wiser advice.

In a world of public discourse that is geared more and more to argument by ‘sound bite’, the Church, and members of the Church, would be wise to avoid being drawn into the same mentality, and instead seek always to engage in charitable dialogue within the Church over areas where there may be disagreement or uncertainty, rather than resort t to the kind of actions exhibited by secular organisations and participants.