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Opinions of Thursday, 4 June 2020

Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah

CAMP-G and propaganda fide: Another Ghana matter

Individual members of the Catholic Association of Media Practitioners-Ghana (CAMP-G) have bared their fangs in response to our article titled “The Silence on Ghana’s Roman Catholic Front”.

While none of them have disputed any of the facts and questions/issues raised in the article, there are insistent concerns about what the motive of the article is.

Sadly, some have demeaned themselves by hurling a baseless charge of “hatred” of the church.

Does the Catholic church in ghana not complain about National Health Insurance Scheme arrears, comprehensive sexuality education, etc, etc?

So, if there is a trending global sex abuse scandal, and you have an Apostolic Nuncio to Ghana, the National Catholic Secretariat, the Catholic Association of Media Practitioners-Ghana (CAMP-G), the Department of Social Communications (DEPSOCOM), and Guild of Catholic Lawyers, among such other well organised professional groups that have sworn to defend the church and their faith, why then are they all silent; can they not provide guidance and teaching to the public?

In public relations you do not wish truth away- it will fail.

But we are not surprised: it is another ghana matter; just another regular day at mediocrity central.

Need we remind the aforementioned groups that first, it is in crisis times like this that their public relations functions become most relevant; second, the Catholic church has a rich history of propaganda that they must learn from; and third, that the Counter-Reformation started within the Catholic church itself?

The American Historical Association has this account:

“The term ‘propaganda’ apparently first came into common use in Europe as a result of the missionary activities of the Catholic church. In 1622 Pope Gregory XV created in Rome the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.

This was a commission of cardinals charged with spreading the faith and regulating church affairs in heathen lands.

A College of Propaganda was set up under Pope Urban VIII to train priests for the missions.

In its origins “propaganda” is an ancient and honourable word.

Religious activities which were associated with propaganda commanded the respectful attention of mankind.

It was in later times that the word came to have a selfish, dishonest, or subversive association.”

It is sad that all the professionals who have sworn to defend their church do not appear to understand their role in any sophisticated or nuanced manner.

The ugly virus of fundamentalism and intolerance does not seem to be too far beneath their thin veneer of forced civility and formal religiosity.

Clearly, their knowledge and understanding of the work of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda Fide) also appears far less than exemplary.

It is also evident to us that the generality of the Ghanaian media is not interested in discussing this matter.

Is it because CAMP-G members are well-positioned within the mainstream media as gatekeepers, providing informal censorship?

Suddenly those who accuse professional groups such as Ghana Bar Association, Institute of Public Relations-Ghana, etc, of “silence is complicity”, when faced with the exact same charge respond with accusations of “hatred”. What a world!

Public opinion and crude peer pressure have never swayed us: virtue and science are our watchwords, and we are always willing to learn.

The Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference and their propaganda machinery should as a matter of urgency tell us that none of those under the pervasive clerical sex abuse investigations is on secondment to this country, for example.

It is not enough for anonymous commentators to tell us that in ghana the scandal is about priests and consenting adult women.

Of what use is that kind of statement?

The tired Ghanaian admonition to come and talk to officialdom before we publish, a la Paul Adom-Otchere and other chancers, should only be proffered when addressing half baked amateurs; it does not wash.

The goal of public relations is to seek public understanding on “a two-way symmetrical street”, in a mutually respectful manner, and it should not be any different with CAMP-G.

We remain committed to independent journalism, and remain firm to watching the public space in this country while we continuously do our bit by raising the standards of public discourse.

Indeed, we are encouraged by a cleric who quietly messaged “…… gone are the days when ‘Father knows it all and would act appropriately’. We need advice and timely prompting from people like you. Believe me……. our leaders put more weight on the input of people like you than those of us inside.”

To those who say we did not offer practical/pragmatic solutions in the aforementioned article, we simply say, please read again; read slowly and carefully and make sure you have your moral compass fully activated.

“What is more pragmatic than speaking the truth and adhering to the law,” my mentor will charge.

Still, have issues about motive?

It is our retrogressive attitudes that have contributed immensely to the rot in our country.

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