In May last year, Impact Magazine bannered a story about the state of the media apostolate of the Catholic Church. “Has the Catholic Media Failed?”, it asked. A media summit held in March this year of those in catholic media work in southeastern Mindanao posed the same question. From the cursory looks of it, not much rhyme or reason is needed to concede. More so when one sees it comparatively with other religious denominations that boast of a fleet of TV or radio stations or aggressive block-time programming.
The inventory, however, of Catholic Media Network, or the Philippine Federation of Catholic Broadcasters which is its more realistic nametag, lists of about 50 or so AM and FM Catholic radio stations nationwide—albeit, admittedly, some are more concerned with basic survival than pride. Immediately, the quantity is appalling. But it feels like worrying about NEDA or the present Malacañang that routinely trumpets about economic success behind the facts where more and more people are getting hungrier and economically depleted.
Without being too simplistic, media work is not just a matter of putting up media facilities and leaving them to rot with time. Sustainability is one of the key issues. If the medium is the message, and Herbert Marshall Mcluhan insisted it is, then some dying catholic media facilities are messages enough. But why is it that when lay entrepreneurs put up, say, a small community paper, a printing press or a 1 kilowatt radio station they are most likely to sustain, while Church initiatives, which habitually scoops grants from foreign funding agencies, do not?
The bigger scenario is ecclesiological. Despite the alarming “shadows” painted by PCP II, the Church in the Philippine is operating on a pastoral that is built on the comfort that 85% of Filipinos are Catholics. A priest doesn’t have to work for his church to get filled up on a Sunday mass. You seldom hear a priest, if ever, looking for church-goers on a Sunday as is done in mission countries. The opposite is true—people look for priests, hopefully not in golf courses!
In a church that is not missionary, media work is an accessory. At the present order of things, a radio station or a diocesan paper is not an exigency and, therefore, can be done even without. So a diocesan media director is left to fend for himself with his hi-tech equipment in tow, while the rest of the world continue dispensing the sacraments.
Who needs the media when Quiapo Church, for instance, is still brimming with people? The only rub is, the children of today that calls a day abnormal without a TV or an MP3 or a PC might not be around in the next parish fiesta or house blessing.