In these days of information overload, image bombardment, and ever-present social media, Catholics and non-Catholics alike can quickly become overwhelmed, distracted, offended, and even exhausted by the massive amounts of data thrown at them everyday. In Inter Mirifica or Decree on the Means of Social Communication, the Vatican II Fathers offer important insights and instruction on the proper use of the “means of social communication,” including the press, movies, radio, and television. The principles of the document can easily extend to the Internet, smart phone applications, and other modern channels of communication.
Here's a sampling of the topics and ideas you'll find in Inter Mirifica.
* With God's help, human beings have created wonders in technology and many “new avenues of easy communication” that reach a global audience and affect “the whole of human society.”
* These means of social communication can benefit humankind greatly if they are used properly. They can enrich humanity and spread the Kingdom of God.
* These means of social communication can also be misused and cause great harm to humanity.
* The Church has the right and responsibility to use the means of social communication to spread the Gospel.
* The Church also has the right and responsibility to educate people on the proper use of the means of social communication.
* Lay people in the Church have the special task of animating these media “with a Christian and human spirit.”
* In order to use media correctly, Catholics must know the absolute moral principles and “apply them faithfully in this domain.” Catholics must carefully consider the subject matter of the media and the circumstances and manner in which it is used.
* The Church reaffirms people's right to information, which must contribute to the common good. The distribution and use of information must be governed by the moral law and concern for the “legitimate rights and dignity of man.”
* With regard to works of art, “all must accept the absolute primacy of the objective moral order.” Art has power to harmonize human activity and raise people's minds to God.
* Moral laws must be observed when moral evil is depicted.
* Public opinion must be formed according to “the demands of justice and charity.”
* People who are receivers of the means of social communication must select media in accord with the moral law. All people must properly form their consciences in order to “more readily resist less wholesome influences and profit more fully from the good.”
* Parents must teach their children the proper use of media and instill “moderation and discipline” in them.
* Those who create and transmit media must recognize the influence they have and work according to the moral law.
* Civil authorities are responsible for promoting and protecting the common good and social morality and must regulate media accordingly.
* Every member of the Church must strive to use the means of social communication to promote the Church's mission. Every member must also work against media that is morally harmful.
* Catholic newspapers ought to be founded and fostered so that the faithful may be better able to analyze current events from a Catholic viewpoint.
* Movies, radio and television programs, and theater productions should promote family values and moral entertainment.
* Priests, religious, and laypeople all need to be trained in the proper production and use of media.
* Catholics must support Catholic media that they may help spread and defend the truth and permeate society with Christian values.
* Proper authorities must be established to regulate Catholic media and oversee the formation for all Catholics in using media.
* The means of social communication must be used only for “the good of humanity.” They have great potential to “add savor to the earth and light to the world” if they are employed to glorify the Lord.
The full text of Inter Mirifica is available online at the Vatican website.