Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Monday, April 23, 2018

Bill Dunn

Recently, Pope Francis made an interesting comment. (Well, obviously that’s not a news flash. Pope Francis always is making interesting comments, which invariably cause part of the Catholic world to gush, “Yippee, he’s abolishing all the rules!” and another part of the Catholic world to ask, in all seriousness, “Is the pope Catholic?!”)

Recently, Pope Francis made an interesting comment. (Well, obviously that’s not a news flash. Pope Francis always is making interesting comments, which invariably cause part of the Catholic world to gush, “Yippee, he’s abolishing all the rules!” and another part of the Catholic world to ask, in all seriousness, “Is the pope Catholic?!”) 

The interesting comment I’m referring to was made by Pope Francis in late January during a speech marking World Communication Day. He said the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was caused by “fake news.” I guess it depends on how you define that popular term. In recent years, the expression “fake news” has been used to describe journalists who frequently twist and distort details of a story in order to promote a particular political or social agenda. It is also used to describe certain yuge public figures who are acquainted only marginally with the concept of honesty and who have spent their entire lives as tall tale-telling hucksters. 

In a broader sense, fake news can be defined as any distortion of the truth — or especially an outright lie — for the intended purpose of manipulating others. Using this definition, the fall in the Garden of Eden was indeed prompted by fake news. If you remember from the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve had a really sweet gig. They had dominion over the entire garden, and Scripture tells us that somehow,  in those early days manual labor was actually enjoyable. Can you imagine?

Anyway, the only restriction concerned the tree in the middle of the garden; Adam and Eve were not allowed to touch it. So naturally, like most humans, this prohibition made Adam and Eve downright obsessed with that one tree. One day, the serpent came along. He didn’t outright lie to Adam and Eve at first. He instead caused them to doubt what they knew to be true. He said, “Did God really say you cannot eat from any tree?” This caused them to question the Word of God. (Something that is the root of many of our problems today, if you ask me.)

Then Satan shifted to an outright lie. He said, “Surely you will not die. When you eat of it, you will be like God!  

And we all know how that ultimately turned out.

When you think about it, almost everyone who has ever walked the face of the earth has been guilty of spreading “fake news.” We often are tempted to twist the facts, or leave out key details, or even outright lie, to persuade others to do or think what we want. For example, my fulltime job is in sales. Um, enough said.

In his speech, Pope Francis said that disinformation and “manipulative use of social networks” can have “dire consequences.” He said fake news ultimately leads to the “spread of arrogance and hatred.” If we look at the various discourses taking place in our culture today — whether political, social, economic, or religious — the level of anger and hatred is frightening.

The main theme of the pope’s speech came right from Jesus’ lips: “The truth shall set you free.” And don’t forget, Jesus also identified himself as “the way, the truth, and the life.”So, if we cling to Jesus, we are embracing the truth, with a capital “T.” And if we strive to make truth-telling a major facet of our lives, we’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how much our spirits will be set free. Oh sure, we may not be able to manipulate others quite as easily as we once did, and we may not close that sale quite so quickly (hello, mirror!), but the peace of mind that we’re doing God’s will will more than make up for it.

Give truth a try. Avoiding the spread of “fake news” will be yuge.

There’s been a big emphasis lately on Catholic evangelization. However, telling other people about our faith in Christ is not something most American Catholics feel comfortable doing. So, despite the recent emphasis, the vast majority of us choose to keep silent and leave that job to the professionals: priests, deacons, nuns, etc.

In recent months, the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford implemented its pastoral planning process, which resulted in many parishes' being closed or merged. This unprecedented restructuring has produced a lot of upheaval in the lives of area Catholics. It also has produced a slew of letters to the editor in local newspapers.

Christmas Day is coming soon, so it’s time to prepare for those “visitors from the east.” No, I don’t mean the Magi, the mysterious visitors who “traversed afar” over “field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star,” to pay homage to the child Jesus. (How often do you get to use the words traversed, moor and yonder in the same sentence? Thank God for traditional carols and hymns, without which our modern day vocabulary would be reduced by now to nothing but grunts and screeches.)

World War II documentaries are fascinating. When the documentaries describe a bleak time during the war, say, the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor or the relentless bombing of London, my heart goes out for the people involved. At that moment in time, they did not know how things ultimately would turn out. Maybe Imperial Japan would conquer the entire Pacific, including California. Maybe the Nazis would reduce London to rubble and invade Great Britain.

Over the years, when people asked me to pray for them, I usually would, but within a few days I’d forget about it until the next time I saw them. And then, of course, I’d feel guilty about forgetting. So last year I finally decided to start a prayer notebook. I write down a person’s name and the reason he or she needs prayer. The vast majority of people in my notebook need prayer for healing. When you get to be my age, there is no shortage of friends and loved ones with health issues. I’m soon going to need a second notebook.