Pope Francis declared “fake news” to be a very serious sin
During his December 16th address to members of the Italian Periodical Press Union and the Italian Federation of Catholic Weeklies, Pope Francis said that “fake news” is a sin. Although the pontiff did not use the exact term “fake news” — a term which gained popularity in the U.S. during President Trump’s election — he greatly stressed the importance of correct, unbiased reporting.
"There is an urgent need for news communicated with serenity, precision and completeness, with a calm language, so as to favor a fruitful reflection; carefully weighted and clear words, which reject the inflation of allusive, strident and ambiguous speech," the Pope stated during his address.
Pope Francis explained that reporters have a mission to correctly inform constituents of their democratic societies. Their job is to “make complex problems accessible to a wide audience,” he said, so that exchanges of ideas between any and all members of that community are based on accurate facts.
"In our time, often dominated by the anxiety of speed, by the drive for sensationalism to the detriment of precision and completeness, by the calculated overheating of emotion rather than thoughtful reflection," the Pope continued, "there is an urgent need for reliable information, with verified data and news, which does not aim to amaze and excite, but rather to make readers develop a healthy critical sense, enabling them to ask themselves appropriate questions and reach justified conclusions."
By reporting accurate facts, and refraining from shock tactics, journalists and their respective outlets are less likely to be accused of perpetuating “fake news.” Pope Francis stated,
"We must not fall prey to the “sins of communication: disinformation – that is, giving just one side of the argument – slander, which is sensationalistic, or defamation, looking for outdated and old things, and bringing them to light today; they are very grave sins, which damage the heart of the journalist and harm people."
Most people would agree with Pope Francis’s condemnation of fake news. But unfortunately, especially here in the currently divided U.S., the argument about which news is fake news seems never-ending.
If all news sources on each side of the debate fully commit to Pope Francis’s call to action, our country could shift toward a less volatile state.
The Pope should not have to provide warning about the dangers of false reporting — reporters and citizens alike should be versed in those dangers by now. But perhaps now that he has, the issue of fake news will be taken more seriously.
You can read Pope Francis’s full address right here.