The announcement early in May 2022 that Catholic News Service would cease operations in the United States at the end of the year took many by surprise. I was flabbergasted and saddened. I still am.
For many years, I have been an avid reader of CNS’ good quality articles, news analyses and columns. For more than five years, I have written this award-winning column via CNS.
Many are the appellatives associated with this news and media service sponsored by the Catholic bishops of the United States. One that has always caught my attention is “balanced.”
What is balance in the Catholic Church in the United States these days? I don’t want to enter into controversies about what groups or perspectives are “more Catholic” or “less Catholic” than others. I find that type of argumentation exhausting.
Let me define balance in simple ways: that which invites into a deeper, critical and yet faithful understanding of one’s Catholic identity in the here and now of one’s reality, both as individuals and as members of larger communities.
Balance for Catholics is an invitation into engaged discipleship. Balance is the acceptance that reality is rarely either/or but rather both/and most of the time. Balance is naming that which is of value to us as people of faith without falling into ideological partisanship.
Being balanced does not necessarily mean being perfect. However, balanced Catholic media should always be at the service of communion while nurturing the souls of those who access it.
Many Catholic diocesan papers and news venues have closed or merged in recent decades. Many served local communities providing precisely a balanced reading of what was happening.
The loss of local sources of news and analysis is a phenomenon that has also affected nonreligious venues. The vacuum created by this loss is being filled by a mixture of media emporia that often appear as serving particular ideological and partisanship interests, and the unrestricted universe of opinion that finds its way through the internet and social media.
The loss of balanced Catholic sources of news and analysis is a loss for everyone. In particular, the disappearance of such sources is a major loss for immigrant Catholic communities.
About 20.4% of Catholics in the United States are immigrants. In 2006, that percentage was 29.7%, according to a consultation I did with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The percentage may rise again.
Catholic immigrants are largely concerned about finding communities to belong, adjusting to the new realities in which we live and meeting basic needs: jobs, education for our children, safe spaces. The culture wars of the larger society are not our immediate priority.
As Catholic immigrants settle in our society and in our churches, we need to be informed. We seek sound analysis that helps us with our own lives and our own faith.
We also need venues to discuss our most urgent questions without fear of politicization (e.g., immigration policies, access to basic services). We want spaces to share our own voices.
I remember once publishing an article favoring immigration reform that promotes family reunification and creates pathways to regularize the status of undocumented immigrants. I received several letters from what I surmise were upset Catholics.
Some interlocutors accused me of being “too conservative” for tying my argument to family values. Others accused me of being “too liberal” for speaking in favor of humane treatment of undocumented immigrants.
To both I answered that I am neither. I am just Catholic. Hence the need for balanced venues in the world of Catholic news and analysis to have authentically Catholic conversations.
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Ospino is professor of theology and religious education at Boston College.