The Media and the Mediatrix
A mediator is someone who is situated between two parties and seeks to bring them into accord. The mediator does have a particular position of his own but operates in a completely unselfish manner. A medium, in the sense of a psychic, refers to one who establishes contact with the supernatural world. All three senses refer to a middle through which two things are brought into contact with each other.
In Catholic Mariology, Mary is given the title “Mediatrix” to indicate that she, as Mother of God, is the medium through which flow all God’s graces. The Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentium, 61-2) states that “she cooperated in the work of the Savior, in an altogether singular way, by obedience, faith, hope, and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls. As a result she is our Mother in the order of grace.”
It may be said that Mary is a mediatrix of grace in three ways: first, as the Mother of God, through whom Christ came into the world; second, as the Immaculate Conception who was a sinless model for all to imitate; and, third, after her assumption through her apparitions and constant prayers interceding for all her children. Nathaniel Hawthorne had a sense of the intermediary efficacy of Mary when he wrote the following words: “I have always envied Catholics their faith in that sweet, sacred, Virgin Mother who stands between them and the Deity, intercepting somewhat His awful splendor, but permitting His love to stream more intelligibly to human comprehension through the medium of a woman’s tenderness.”
The contrast between the mass media, that delivers news, and the Mediatrix who transmits grace is of special importance for our contemporary world. News can be a vehicle for ideological propaganda. In this case, the term “media” is misleading since the mass media is not particularly concerned with bringing reality into harmony with the consumer. On the other hand, the grace transmitted through Mary as Mediatrix is reliable and without a taint of deception.
The American journalist Walter Lippmann began his 1922 classic Public Opinion by asserting that “the world outside and the pictures in our heads” are not necessarily the same. He was careful to distinguish between news and truth, suggesting that the two could coincide only in a few limited areas, such as the box score. The media had the ability, according to Lippmann, of making molehills out of mountains and mountains out of molehills.
The practice of twisting or distorting the news to serve propaganda interests is commonly referred to as “spinning.” Edward Louis James Bernays, an Austrian immigrant who combined the ideas of Gustave Le Bon on mob psychology with the psychoanalytic ideas of his uncle, Sigmund Freud, is regarded as “The Father of Spin.” In his 1928 book, Propaganda, he states the following: “If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it? The recent practice of propaganda has proved that it is possible, at least up to a certain point and within certain limits.” Bernays was proud of his work and is given credit for helping to make the use of tobacco and alcohol more socially acceptable to Americans in the twentieth century.
The media has gone far beyond making tobacco and alcohol more acceptable. Pornography is now “adult entertainment.” Abortion is merely a “choice,” while the abortionist is a “health care provider.” Adultery is “serial monogamy” and same-sex marriage is “equal” to traditional marriages. Euthanasia is “death with dignity” or MAiD (Medically Assistance in Dying). Those who have reasonable objections to such activities are dismissed as “conservative,” “rigid,” “judgmental,” or worse.
As economist Thomas Sowell has written, “If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.” Saint John Paul II was very much aware of this problem. “The question confronting the Church today,” he stated, “is not any longer whether the man in the street can grasp a religious message, but how to employ the communications media so as to let him have the full impact of the Gospel message.”
”Spinning,” therefore, is a form of propaganda achieved through providing a biased interpretation of the news, an idea, or an event. Putting a “spin” on things implies a tactic that is deceptive and assuredly less than truthful. Currently, it is a tactic that no candidate for a high political office can do without. Spinwars by Bill Fox and Spin Cycle by Howard Kurtz provide ample evidence for this contention. We now have “spin rooms” and “spin doctors” that give a certain breadth as well as urgency to this dubious practice. Last month, Joe Biden stated that 150 million Americans have been killed by guns since 2007. This contention out-spins even the most flagrant of the spin-masters. Who could possibly believe, with just a moment’s reflection, that more than 58,000 fatalities per day result from gun violence? Those who are more diligent about facts report that Biden was off by 149.9 million.
The opposition between news that defrauds and grace that is food for our souls is far from a mere academic distinction. Simon & Schuster is distributing a novella entitled The Testament of Mary which depicts the Mother of God fleeing from the scene of her son’s death in fear of her own life, threatening the Gospel writers with a knife, living as a bandit, and stealing in order to survive.
We must be most careful about the news we read. But we should have no such trepidation with regard to God’s grace that is transmitted through Mary, the Mediatrix of grace. The present moment calls for a return to God. The Mother of God may be needed now more than ever before.
Image: The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin by Jan van Eyck
Donald DeMarco is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University and adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College & Seminary. He’s a regular contributor to the St. Austin Review.