The word propaganda has been perverted from its early association with the extension of the Catholic faith. Once it referred to the heroic effort of the Church to teach all things whatsoever Our Lord had told to his apostles. Now it is used to describe the efforts of parties, nations and races to impress their own ideas on mankind. The Holy Father remarked early in the war that the first casualty in such a conflict is truth. This has been amply proven by both sides in the attempt to whitewash the inhumanity of one’s own deeds, to proclaim the righteousness of one’s own cause and to completely blacken one’s enemies. This attempt has been called propaganda. It has been accomplished by spreading half-truths, by suppressing other truths, even by lies. Propaganda now relies upon emotion and passion, not upon reason and truth. The nations of the world have done a hideous disservice to humanity by deliberately dethroning truth and putting in its place expediency, emotion and passion. All mankind has been dishonored by the abdication of reason on the part of the modern propagandist.

While the word in modern jargon has been surrounded with suspicion, it is still a very cherished word among Catholics. In Rome we have a Congregation de Propaganda Fide (for the Propagation of the Faith) which directs the vast missionary work of the Church. There is also the College of Propaganda were young clerics learn not the tricks of modern publicity but prepare themselves for extending the faith throughout the world. The word for us is full of the deepest meaning: the love, heroism, the sacrifice, the labors, the martyrdoms of centuries on the part of those who have striven to reach the ends of the earth with the truths of Redemption and the Church. It calls forth the most stirring memories of monks, priests, brothers and sisters penetrating the deepest jungles, crossing the snowy wastes of the poles, treading the pathways of the world, riding across the seven seas with only one thing in mind – to give Christ and his Church to all men. It summons to our minds the vision of chapels, churches, schools, convents, monasteries, hospitals, orphanages, spreading slowly across the face of the earth and on top of each one the Cross, silently preaching the truth of God’s love and mercy for men. It rings with the echo of Our Lord’s words, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you. Go and teach and baptize.” It holds the wonderful history of 1900 years. For the Catholic the word propaganda is a soul-filling word portraying the indestructibility of the Church, the growth of the Kingdom of God, the universality of our faith, the catholicity of our life in Christ, the undying vitality and fertility of the Mystical Body of Christ. […]

The strength and energy with which the Church is able to extend itself across the world depend upon the knowledge and inspiration of the faithful. […]

There are always two movements in the Church; two directions to the life which fills the Body of Christ. One looks to the deepening and defense of the life of the Church where it is already established. The other looks to the growth of the life of the Church beyond its present frontiers to the ends of the earth. Catholic life in all its movements and expressions must be intelligent. The more intelligent it is, the more effective it will be.

Reverend Edward L. Murphy, S.J., “Propaganda: Catholic Word and Work” (The Medical Missionary, vol. XX, no. 2, 01-01-1946)


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