Formation Through the Media vs. Formation Through the Virtues

This article is an excerpt taken from the mini-series Education in Virtue and is part of the education materials published by Lumen Ecclesiae Press and used by over 500 schools around the world.

Teresa Tomeo

My name is Teresa Tomeo and I am a Catholic talk show host, author, and speaker. I host a nationally syndicated talk show called “Catholic Connection” on EWTN radio and a TV show on EWTN called the “Catholic View for Women.”  I spent most of my career in broadcasting, and I have been on the radio since I was 14-years-old. For me, being on the radio started out at a high school radio station; I knew from a very young age that I wanted to go into broadcasting. As a revert to the faith, I was always drawn by the love of truth. At a very early age, the Lord put on my heart that it was very important to speak the truth. For whatever reason, I had this desire and this love of Christ. Even though I fell away from the faith at one point, I still, even in my years away from the church, felt this desire for the truth. From a journalistic perspective, it was the facts. People have a right to know the facts and come up with their own ideas based on what they are seeing and in terms of their own understanding of it.

It is very important for me to talk about virtue, but even more important to talk about fairness, accuracy, and truth. This all goes back to truth. Pilate asked the question to Jesus, “What is truth?” Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” We’re still asking that question today. People are making up their own version of truth. What I try to do every single day on the radio, in my presentations, and in my TV show, is to speak the truth and remind people it really is basic catechesis. But it is necessary because the message is not getting out there in the culture; it is just the opposite of what the Catholic church is teaching where it says in Isaiah, “Woe to those who call good evil and evil good.” That sentiment of good in evil and evil in good is what we are seeing in our culture. Especially since Vatican II, in the last 50-60 years, we have not done a good job of evangelization and catechesis, and we’re seeing the resulting fallout.

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Unfortunately, a lot of Christians are being catechized by the culture and not by The Church because of how powerful the media is. If we can take this back a bit, look at the different virtues, and understand prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice, that makes an awful lot of sense in terms of the way the media are supposed to approach life. We are supposed to be putting an image out there of reality, and yet we are not. What the secular media are doing is making up reality according to what they want it to be. In order to educate in the cardinal virtues, we have to understand what reality is. We know as Christians that reality is God and that Christianity is reality because we are made in his image and likeness; everything goes back to that.

I look at different groups who have been researching media and its influence, whether it’s Columbia University or Stanford, and ask what these groups say. They are not coming at this from a religious perspective; they have no religious dog in the fight. These are researchers, and these are sociologists. What does this say about the way we are living our lives? Unfortunately, most people are living their lives by the way they have been formed, and they have been formed through the media.

The statistics show that young people today are consuming between 53 and 60 hours of media usage per week. Now I would like to think that they are all listening to us on Christian radio and TV, but in reality, that is not the case. If we look at the content on broadcast television, by the time children are 13 they are consuming at least 14,000 sexual messages and 100,000 violent acts in a year alone. That doubles to 200,000 by the time they are 18. And that’s just broadcast television.

Educating the young on virtues is imperative because it helps keep us as a society centered and focused. It is something that I do not think we hear enough about, certainly not in the media-saturated, post-Christian culture that we are living in. People are being pulled in all different directions and most of those directions are away from God. Therefore, getting back to the basics of the virtues can help us keep our priorities straight and live according to the natural law. Having an understanding that we are made in the image and likeness of God and knowing how all of that works throughout our lives is crucial because it gives us basic standards to live up to and to follow.

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