“Multinational companies like Twitter and Google have their headquarters in Ireland and they supported the ‘Yes’ campaign.” —Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, in an interview yesterday with Vatican Insider on the outcome of the Irish vote approving same-gender “marriage” in Ireland
“So what happened? First, foreigners spent a lot of money to get this passed. Both sides have accused each other of relying on outside cash, but nothing could really match the scale of that poured into a ‘Yes’ vote. Second, the Irish were told that saying ‘No’ might damage their economy.” —Tim Stanley, writing in England’s The Telegraph on May 23 on the reasons the Irish voted as they did, in favor of legalizing same-gender “marriage”
The Irish referendum Friday on marriage (62% of the Irish are said to have voted “Yes,” to allow same-gender marriage) continues to spark comment and reaction in Catholic circles.
But there is a lesson to be learned about this referendum which goes beyond the question of marriage itself, and beyond the question of sexuality and sexual immorality. For the cultural shift we are observing is occurring so rapidly, and so universally, that it seems clear that something else is happening on an even deeper level, something which is changing the very fabric of human consciousness, and — as a consequence — is changing moral judgments and societal organization. And it is this deeper level that we must struggle to understand more clearly, a level which includes the drive toward “transhumanism” (the develop of enhanced human-computer hybrids, and the “improvement” of the human being through genetic manipulation).
In other words, once again, what is at stake is not the “obvious” (legalization of same-gender marriage) but something even deeper (the nature of man, the nature of the human being, the extent to which this nature is “plastic,” malleable, indeterminate, evanescent, detached from any “eternal” standard of being or behaving, or the extent to which it is linked to — or in the image of — some eternal, transcendent reality or being).
Along this line, of course, we will arrive at the questions of the existence of God, or the transcendent, and of the soul, and of the holy, which in a secularized and secularizing society are by definition completely meaningless questions — meaningless because unrelated in any way to what is considered “real.”
So we will finally arrive at the problem of rendering “meaningful” questions which have become meaningless to entire swathes of modern society — and, if the truth be told, to wide swathes also of the community of the faith.
And so the task of evangelization becomes the task of filling with meaning words and concepts that have been emptied of meaning.
The proliferation of global “social media” seems to offer a way for isolated people in small towns to escape the “narrow confines” of their “traditional views.” People in Peoria, Illinois, participate in global forums, join international chatboards, initiate friendships in Poland and Peru. It seems like freedom.
But this “global conversation,” by some strange alchemy, ends up introducing every participant, to a greater or lesser degree, to a certain “politically correct group think.” Ideas and opinions which seemingly float in no particular place “on the net” begin to structure thought, to organize limits to belief. The chains which grip the mind are invisible, but inescapable. What emerges from a project ostensibly promoting individual expression is the most hive-like, non-individualistic global vision imaginable. The promise of freedom is broken in fact, and the media grind down dogmas and doctrines and traditions into a sort of minestrone of bytes and bits.
Concerning the Irish vote, three themes emerge:
(1) First, abuse cases, Church hypocrisy, and moral authority. The numerous cases of physical and sexual abuse of minors by Irish Catholic priests and nuns during the past half century — trumpeted by a gleeful secular media, but also often underestimated and even denied by Church authorities and by many faithful Catholics who simply could not believe such things could happen — effectively destroyed the once almost unquestioned high moral authority of the Church.
(2) Second, the influence of money. A flood of money from abroad, as well as concerns over the future economic consequences of the vote for Ireland — that is, a fear for the economic consequences of being “out of step” with the global LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) agenda — evidently had a profound influence impelling the Irish to vote “Yes” and so to approve same-gender “marriage.”
(3) Third, modern communications technology, and the underlying message and meaning of this technology in relationship to traditional moral teaching, and to the words which comprise that teaching.
Unprecedented technological changes in human communications technology during the past 200 years (from telegraph to Twitter) mean that individuals around the world — including in Ireland — are almost instantaneously subjected to, or influenced by, many new global “media” — news, videos, films, radio, popular music, internet, Twitter, Facebook, etc. — which did not even exist 100 or 50 or even 10 years ago.
Somewhere along the interface between these media and the human beings they are used by and affect, there are clues as to why human beings worldwide are changing their judgment so rapidly on many traditional moral teachings which, before this generation, were held universally for thousands of years.
Clearly, the traditional “transmission vectors” of ideas and beliefs — fathers and mothers speaking to their children, grandparents and uncles and aunts speaking in family gatherings, “village elders” speaking in community gatherings, and, yes, priests and nuns and evangelists speaking at Sunday Masses and in catechism classes — have been “short-circuited” and overwhelmed by these new “media.”
And it will be important in this context to reflect on the deep meaning of Marshall McLuhan’s words, when the great Canadian philosopher of communication theory (he lived from 1911 to 1980, and was a Catholic believer), told us that “the medium is the message” or even (a phrase he himself preferred) “the medium is the massage,” in the sense that the mind is “massaged” by the medium until it relaxes and accepts the “message” of the medium.
Here are three perhaps useful articles, and a fourth comment, to help put what happened in Ireland in context:
— Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin speaks out on the vote in an interview published May 23 by Vatican Insider, the website founded by Andrea Tornielli for La Stampa of Turin, a paper backed by the FIAT automobile money of the late Gianni Agnelli (link);
–British writer Tim Stanley analyzes the vote for The Telegraph of England on May 23 (link);
–Canadian intellectual Mark Federman, Chief Strategist at the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto, on “What is the Meaning of ‘The Medium is the Message’?”
–Dr. Samuel Nigro, a medical doctor in Cleveland, Ohio, and a longtime reader of the magazine, who sent me his reflection this morning.
Same-gender marriage: “The outcome of the referendum is the result of a cultural revolution”
Interview with the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, on the victory of the “yes” campaigners in the Irish same-gender marriage referendum
By Giacomo Galeazzi and Andrea Tornielli
“What we witnessed was not just the result of a “yes” or “no” campaign, it is the sign of a phenomenon which goes much deeper, a cultural revolution.” The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, a prelate with a background in Vatican diplomacy who is well versed in the workings of international diplomacy, fought a tough battle against those who wanted to cover up child abuse in the Church when he was appointed head of the Irish capital’s diocese. Mgr. Martin offers some spur of the moment comments on the outcome of the referendum and the overwhelming victory of the “yes” campaigners in the vote on same-gender marriage. He doesn’t play the victim but admits there is a substantial divide between Irish society and the Catholic Church.
Did you expect a flood of “yes” votes on same-gender marriage?
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: I knew the “yes” campaigners had won when I saw the high turnout for “yes” votes. There were people queuing outside polling stations even before the doors opened. Many young people working outside Ireland came back especially to vote. The “yes” campaign was backed by all political parties, very few politicians personally expressed themselves against. The Prime Minister and all leaders joined the “yes” campaign in the streets and in gay bars.
Conservative Catholics have accused you of not doing enough for the “no” cause. What do you have to say to this?
Martin: Even proponents of the referendum were shocked at the scale of the “yes” vote. The health minister said it was not a referendum but a cultural revolution. The Church needs to ask itself when this cultural revolution began and why some of its members refused to see this change. There also needs to be a review of youth pastoral care: the referendum was won with young people’s votes and 90% of young people who voted “yes” to the motion, attended Catholic schools.
What will you do now?
Martin: This majority cannot be put down to a conspiracy. The vote reflects the current situation in Irish culture: What we witnessed was not just the result of a “yes” or “no” campaign, it is the sign of a phenomenon which goes much deeper. When I went on my visit ad limina to Pope Benedict XVI, the first thing he asked me was this: where are the intersecting points between the Catholic Church and the centers where the Irish culture of today is formed? Ratzinger’s question was correct and an answer needs to be found, because we are facing a cultural revolution.
What changes now?
Martin: It is a significant change with unforeseeable concrete consequences. The Catholic Prime Minister has given his assurance that Churches will not be affected, the courts will be responsible for implementing the law. Religious marriage is also a civil marriage and same-gender couples who are turned away by their parish priest, could turn to judges, accusing us of discrimination if lawmakers do not set certain limits. In Catholic schools, civic education teachers will be obliged to say that marriage is also the union between people of the same gender. All of this will create problems.
Could the Church have done more?
Martin: No. There wasn’t even a Parliamentary debate on this. Multinational companies like Twitter and Google have their headquarters in Ireland and they supported the “yes” campaign. People were afraid that a “no” victory would have isolated and harmed the country economically. The legislative framework is now in motion, starting with artificial insemination. Singles can now adopt children and this is what same-gender couples did: one of the partners in the couple would adopt.
What has brought about this historic turning point?
Martin: An individualistic idea of the family prevails. The concept of marriage as a fundamental element of social cohesion has been lost. A reasoning based on respect for the rights of the individual is more successful than one based on social ethics.
Ireland has said “Yes” to gay marriage and “No” to Catholicism
The Irish referendum on gay marriage was about more than just gay marriage. It was a politically trendy, media backed, well financed howl of rage against Catholicism
By Tim Stanley
23 May 2015
Whatever happened to Ireland?
Its people used to be relied upon to reject social change – in previous referenda they have said no to liberalized divorce and abortion.
But now, in the year of our Lord 2015, early returns indicate that the land of St. Patrick has said Yes to gay marriage.
And it’s the first country in the entire world to do so by popular vote.
So what happened?
First, foreigners spent a lot of money to get this passed. Both sides have accused each other of relying on outside cash, but nothing could really match the scale of that poured into a Yes vote.
Second, the Irish were told that saying No might damage their economy.
Third, almost the entire Irish political establishment rallied around the gay marriage issue: it enjoyed the backing of politicians in Fine Gael, Labor and Fianna Fail.
Finally, the press was biased. One election-eve study found that Irish papers had carried three times more Yes articles than No articles.
Why were the forces behind Yes so overwhelming?
Well, it could just be that the case for gay marriage is so strong – that the siren call of equality was irresistible.
It could also be that the No side’s arguments were out of touch with how the West now views not only gay rights but the institution of marriage itself.
No campaigners kept on talking about the importance of parenthood – as though marriage was still a legal contract entered into with the express purpose or hope of raising children.
But this traditional understanding of marriage has long since passed away. It’s about love, children are not necessarily a priority, and religion is window dressing. Given this tectonic shift in attitudes towards marriage, it’s going to be harder and harder to insist that it be limited to just a man and a woman – or even just to two people.
But this referendum was about more than just the right to marry. Much, much more. It was the manifestation of a social revolution that’s been simmering away in Ireland for some time.
It used to be that Irishness was defined by affection for the Catholic Church and resistance to European liberal trends. So stubborn was this identity that the country took longer than the rest of Western Europe to embrace secularism.
But the paedophile revelations of the 1990s rightly rocked faith in the Church as an institution, while a series of recent scandals shook faith in its actual theology. The latter set of outrages were, frankly, distortions of the facts. It was wrongly claimed that a woman had been allowed to die because Catholic doctors would not give her a life saving abortion (no such thing even exists). It was falsely charged that a Catholic children’s home had dumped the bodies of hundreds of unwanted babies into a septic tank.
Never mind that both stories crumbled under scrutiny – the popularity of them spoke to a growing sense that everything wrong with Ireland was due to the imported tyranny of Catholicism. Shake off the last remnants of traditional religious authority, it was reasoned, and Ireland could finally join the 21st century. Au revoir, Father Ted.
To emphasize, the Yes vote was undoubtedly a reflection of growing tolerance towards gays and lesbians.
But it was also a politically trendy, media backed, well financed howl of rage against Catholicism.
How the Church survives this turn, is not clear. It’ll require a lot of hard work and prayers.
On “the Message” and Media by which the Message is Transmitted
All of this leads toward a reflection on the way the ideas we have, the principles we espouse, the votes we cast, are influenced by the modern media.
And the beginning of this reflection is that “the media are the message.”
But what does this mean?
The phrase “the medium is the message” was introduced in Marshall McLuhan’s most widely known book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964.
McLuhan says that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself.
McLuhan frequently punned on the word “message,” changing it to “mass age,” “mess age,” and “massage”; a later book, The Medium Is the Massage was originally to be titled The Medium is the Message, but McLuhan preferred the new title, which is said to have been a printing error.
McLuhan understood “medium” in a broad sense.
He identified the light bulb as a clear demonstration of the concept of “the medium is the message.” A light bulb does not have content in the way that a newspaper has articles or a television has programs, yet it is a medium that has a social effect; that is, a light bulb enables people to create spaces during night-time that would otherwise be enveloped by darkness. He describes the light bulb as a medium without any content. McLuhan states that “a light bulb creates an environment by its mere presence.”
Likewise, the message of a newscast about a heinous crime may be less about the individual news story itself — the content — and more about the change in public attitude towards crime that the newscast engenders by the fact that such crimes are in effect being brought into the home to watch over dinner.
It is in this sense that the question of “same-gender marriage” is less about the marriage of people of the same gender than it is about the meaning of gender itself, and of being a human being “of” a certain gender.
In other words, the debate about “same-gender marriage” is, at root, a debate about whether human beings have a “gender” at all that is a constitutive element of their “nature.”
And if the “gendered-ness” of human beings is brought into question, then other aspects of “humanness” can also be brought into question, paving the way for acceptance of fullscale “transhumanism” — human-computer hybrids, and new genetic forms of humanity.
In Understanding Media, McLuhan describes the “content” of a medium as a juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind.
This means that people tend to focus on the obvious, which is the content, to provide us valuable information, but in the process, we largely miss the structural changes in our affairs that are introduced subtly, or over long periods of time.
As society’s values, norms, and ways of doing things change because of the technology, we slowly come to realize the true social implications of the medium.
The following article goes further into these questions.
What is the Meaning of “The Medium is the Message”?
by Mark Federman, Chief Strategist, McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, University of Toronto, Canada
“In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium — that is, of any extension of ourselves — result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.” (McLuhan 7)
Thus begins the classic work of Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, in which he introduced the world to his enigmatic paradox, “The medium is the message.”
But what does it mean? How can the medium be its own message?
Of all the Internet searches that end up at the McLuhan Program website and weblog, the search for the meaning of the famous “McLuhan Equation” is the most frequent. Many people presume the conventional meaning for “medium” that refers to the mass-media of communications — radio, television, the press, the Internet. And most apply our conventional understanding of “message” as content or information.
Putting the two together allows people to jump to the mistaken conclusion that, somehow, the channel supersedes the content in importance, or that McLuhan was saying that the information content should be ignored as inconsequential. Often people will triumphantly hail that the medium is “no longer the message,” or flip it around to proclaim that the “message is the medium,” or some other such nonsense.
McLuhan meant what he said; unfortunately, his meaning is not at all obvious, and that is where we begin our journey to understanding.
Marshall McLuhan was concerned with the observation that we tend to focus on the obvious. In doing so, we largely miss the structural changes in our affairs that are introduced subtly, or over long periods of time.
Whenever we create a new innovation — be it an invention or a new idea — many of its properties are fairly obvious to us. We generally know what it will nominally do, or at least what it is intended to do, and what it might replace. We often know what its advantages and disadvantages might be.
But it is also often the case that, after a long period of time and experience with the new innovation, we look backward and realize that there were some effects of which we were entirely unaware at the outset. We sometimes call these effects “unintended consequences,” although “unanticipated consequences” might be a more accurate description.
Many of the unanticipated consequences stem from the fact that there are conditions in our society and culture that we just don’t take into consideration in our planning.
These range from cultural or religious issues and historical precedents, through interplay with existing conditions, to the secondary or tertiary effects in a cascade of interactions.
All of these dynamic processes that are entirely non-obvious comprise our ground or context.
They all work silently to influence the way in which we interact with one another, and with our society at large. In a word (or four), ground comprises everything we don’t notice.
If one thinks about it, there are far more dynamic processes occurring in the ground than comprise the actions of the figures, or things that we do notice. But when something changes, it often becomes noticeable. And noticing change is the key.
McLuhan tells us that a “message” is, “the change of scale or pace or pattern” that a new invention or innovation “introduces into human affairs.” (McLuhan 8) Note that it is not the content or use of the innovation, but the change in inter-personal dynamics that the innovation brings with it.
Thus, the message of theatrical production is not the musical or the play being produced, but perhaps the change in tourism that the production may encourage. In the case of a specific theatrical production, its message may be a change in attitude or action on the part of the audience that results from the medium of the play itself, which is quite distinct from the medium of theatrical production in general. Similarly, the message of a newscast are not the news stories themselves, but a change in the public attitude towards crime, or the creation of a climate of fear.
A McLuhan message always tells us to look beyond the obvious and seek the non-obvious changes or effects that are enabled, enhanced, accelerated or extended by the new thing.
McLuhan defines medium for us as well. Right at the beginning of Understanding Media, he tells us that a medium is “any extension of ourselves.” Classically, he suggests that a hammer extends our arm and that the wheel extends our legs and feet. Each enables us to do more than our bodies could do on their own. Similarly, the medium of language extends our thoughts from within our mind out to others. Indeed, since our thoughts are the result of our individual sensory experience, speech is an “outering” of our senses — we could consider it as a form of reversing senses — whereas usually our senses bring the world into our minds, speech takes our sensorially-shaped minds out to the world.
But McLuhan always thought of a medium in the sense of a growing medium, like the fertile potting soil into which a seed is planted, or the agar in a Petri dish. In other words, a medium — this extension of our body or senses or mind — is anything from which a change emerges. And since some sort of change emerges from everything we conceive or create, all of our inventions, innovations, ideas and ideals are McLuhan media.
Thus we have the meaning of “the medium is the message”: We can know the nature and characteristics of anything we conceive or create (medium) by virtue of the changes — often unnoticed and non-obvious changes — that they effect (message.)
McLuhan warns us that we are often distracted by the content of a medium (which, in almost all cases, is another distinct medium in itself.)
He writes, “it is only too typical that the “content” of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium.” (McLuhan 9)
And it is the character of the medium that is its potency or effect — its message.
In other words, “This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium — that is, of any extension of ourselves — result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.”
Why is this understanding of “the medium is the message” particularly useful?
We tend to notice changes — even slight changes (that unfortunately we often tend to discount in significance.) “The medium is the message” tells us that noticing change in our societal or cultural ground conditions indicates the presence of a new message, that is, the effects of a new medium.
With this early warning, we can set out to characterize and identify the new medium before it becomes obvious to everyone — a process that often takes years or even decades.
And if we discover that the new medium brings along effects that might be detrimental to our society or culture, we have the opportunity to influence the development and evolution of the new innovation before the effects becomes pervasive.
As McLuhan reminds us, “Control over change would seem to consist in moving not with it but ahead of it. Anticipation gives the power to deflect and control force.” (McLuhan 199)
Twelve Elementary Suggestions to Prevent Suggestibility
Dr. Samuel Nigro, a medical doctor in Cleveland, Ohio, and a longtime reader of the magazine, sent me this reflection this morning:
“Fifty years of information technology has overwhelmed the Church’s traditional role as the source of all that is true, good and beautiful.
“Therefore, original sin prevails, as humans have been proven to be gullible and suggestible about anything if it is packaged sensationally.
“Suggestibility Prevention Programs can help everyone understand ways to cope with antitranscendental messages flooding us…
“Problems today for the Roman Catholic Church devolve to one major sin of omission: the failure to adjust and cope with information technology, a problem first addressed in 1994 by my pamphlet “And Satan Turned Into An Angel Of Light.”
“The problem persists. One report says that one-third of raised Catholics do not remain in the Church, while the dearth of vocations to priesthood and religious life speaks for itself. And the reason is that the five-decade culture of information technology suggests (seduces to) other ways of thinking and living (‘Seduction’ is almost always equivalent to ‘suggestibility’ in this article). Indeed, with the flood of messages and suggestions from the world wide web, one hardly knows what to read much less what to believe.
“To counter this, I now offer a Suggestibility Prevention Program, not to stop suggestibility itself which would be impossible, but to help all learn to avoid being suggested to evil, i.e., to avoid being seduced to sensationalism, emotion, unreason, fantasy and non-being by the mass media of pretend-vision (television, movies and internet) and of liar-presses (the liberal press) all without allegiance to much more than disgust, death, sexuality, and evil (the pursuit of non-being)…
Twelve Elementary Suggestions to Prevent Suggestibility
Beginning in grade schools, calculated educational efforts and experiences need to be taught on a regular basis about “not being so suggestible or gullible.” Consistent with that, the following suggestions are made.
Suggestibility Prevention Commandments to be learned:
1. Do not be so impressionable.
2. Do not be so gullible.
3. Do not be a “monkey see, monkey do copycat” — you are not a monkey.
4. Celebrities are fakes. Actors are fakes. It takes them hours to look that way and they get paid to carry on like that. Consider none of it to be real. Be who you are. The seeking and promoting of non-being is evil unless known to be entertainment.
5. Believe nothing on television, in movies, on internet or in newspapers without two confirmations. The most you can usually hope for is to be entertained.
6. Do not believe, do anything, or imitate except what is true, one, good and beautiful no matter what is done, offered or believed by others.
7. The spirit life means that you are what you think and will become what you think and do… so think matter, identity, truth, oneness, good and beauty, and all will be well or better.
8. In the long run you will get for eternity (in heaven, purgatory or hell) whatever you have thought and done… so think and do what is true, one, good, and beautiful. You are what you think, and you will get forever in justice in an afterlife what you think and do on earth as a reward or punishment as the case may be — so do what is transcendental so you will get what is transcendental!
9. Boycott all antispiritual dehumanizing degrading anti-nature glitzy nonsense from the uncivilizing unreliable press and media. Do not spend your life doing, thinking, or promoting unreality or non-being.
10. Do not be suggestible. You are not missing a thing.
Note: For those who would like to travel with us on pilgrimage:
(1) In mid-July 2015, we will travel with a small group of Inside the Vatican readers on our annual “Urbi et Orbi” pilgrimage to Russia, Turkey and the Vatican, to visit eastern Orthodox leaders, shrines and monasteries, and to talk with Vatican officials about ecumenical relations between Catholics and Orthodox;
(2) On December 8, 2015, and again on November 20, 2016, we will be gathering in Rome to be present when Pope Francis opens the Holy Door to begin his Special Jubilee of Mercy, and when he closes the door to end the Jubilee Year. If you would like to join us on one or more of these pilgrimages, email now for more information…
We also often travel to Norcia.
We keep all of these pilgrimages small. Please contact us if you would like your name to be placed on a waiting list, to hold your spot.
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What is the glory of God?
“The glory of God is man alive; but the life of man is the vision of God.” —St. Irenaeus of Lyons, in the territory of France, in his great work Against All Heresies, written c. 180 A.D.