Irish Hierarchy’s Statement on the Founding of Telefís Éireann
Posted by shane
The Irish hierarchy issued the following statement in 1961 at their October meeting in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth:
The forthcoming inauguration of Telefís Éireann [Irish national television service - Shane] is an event of great importance in our national life and we wish to avail ourselves of this opportunity to invoke the blessing of God on the new undertaking.
Television is a wonderful achievement of modern science. It has been described as a gift to man from the God Who is the Creator both of the laws of science and of the human minds which discover them. It has already proved itself a very powerful influence in human society. It is difficult to exaggerate its potentialities as a medium of healthy education, in the dissemination of truth, in the diffusion and encouragement of true cultural values and in the formation of high standards of public taste.
It can help to counteract the many influences in modern life which tend to take people away from the home and it can relieve the loneliness of those who are sick or who are bereft of the normal companionship of family life. As a source of mental recreation to everyone, its value is obvious. The Christian must be conscious that above all it can help in spreading the message of the Gospel and communicating the riches of the Church’s Liturgy.
But this same medium can also do great harm, not merely in the diffusion of the erroneous ideas of those who are lacking in deep or accurate knowledge of religious truth, but also in the broadcasting of programmes which offend all reasonable standards of morals and decency. You will be aware, dearly beloved brethren, that public opinion in other countries has frequently been vocal in this matter.
It is important to remember that television differs from the theatre and the cinema in that it penetrates the very sanctuary of the home, where anything which offends purity or modesty is particularly abhorrent, and where the innocent souls of children should be safe from poisonous influences.
This is a principle which even the pagans of ancient Rome recognised. One of them has written: “Let nothing unclean by way of sight or sound cross the threshold of the home…the greatest reverence is due to children”. For this reason the present Holy Father, like his predecessor Pope Pius XII, has stressed the fact that the normal vigilance exercised by public authorities over public entertainment is not sufficient in the case of television and that special standards should apply to it because the television image comes to the very fireside of the family.
We recall these facts now, not because of any lack of confidence that Telefís Éireann will respect true Christian values and standards but in order to remind all, and especially parents, of their responsibility with regard to all television programmes, whether Irish or not.
There are many radio and television programmes in the air around us, and in the future there will probably be many more. Most of these are healthy and good but some are poisonous, and it is the strict duty of parents to protect the souls of their children from the latter.
We hope, and are confident, that Telefís Éireann will set an example to the world of a television service which puts its high function in the health, formation of public opinion and taste before less worthy considerations. We know that it cannot succeed in doing this unless its efforts receive the support and encouragement of the viewing public and we trust that that support and encouragement will be forthcoming.
We hope also that the new service will be helped by an intelligent and articulate public opinion which by its appreciation, and if necessary by its criticism, will faithfully reflect the true spirit of the Irish people without ignoring its religious aspect.
Artistic criteria are important, but they do not provide the only standards. Too often the ordinary men and women of Ireland have remained silent and inactive in the formation of public opinion, while unrepresentative groups have been both active and articulate. Too often what is crude and ugly and exceptional has passed as the image of Irish life.
There is nothing to be ashamed of in being sensitive about this matter, particularly when our small country is reappearing on the stage of world history. The Irish television service will have everything to gain from welcoming, as we are confident it will, comments on its programmes, by letter or otherwise, from the people of Ireland generally.
The currency of unChristian ideas in other countries should not be regarded as a sufficient reason for presenting them to people who have no sympathy with them and who would rightly object to the use of a national service for their propagation. These are matters in which the various Catholic societies can help in forming proper and intelligent standards of criticism among their members.
We are confident also that Telefís Éireann will be a powerful influence in strengthening and deepening our traditional national culture in all its aspects. We are a people with a long history and noble traditions and the Irish television service can help, perhaps more than most other formative influences, to bind up and strengthen those links with our living past which may be imperiled or damaged but which are still unbroken.
We hope and pray that the image of our native land which the new service will present will be a true and faithful relection of the life and character of our country, and we ask the prayers of all that this new force in our national life may be protected and guided by the providence of God.
Given at Maynooth on 10th October, 1961.
Signed on behalf of the archbishops and bishops of Ireland.
Archbishop of Armagh,
Primate of All Ireland.
Bishop of Raphoe.
Bishop of Achonry.