DECREE ON THE MEANS OF SOCIAL COMMUNICATION
Vatican II Inter Mirifica - 4 December 1963
1. Man's genius with God's help produced marvellous technical inventions from creation, especially in our times. The Church,
our mother, is particularly interested in those which directly touch
man's spirit and which have opened up new avenues of easy communication of all kinds of news, of ideas and orientations. Chief among
them are those means of communication which of their nature can reach
and influence not merely single individuals but the very masses and
even the whole of human society. These are the press, the cinema,
radio, television and others of a like nature. These can rightly be
called "the means of social communication."
2. The Church, our mother, knows that if these media are
properly used they can be of considerable benefit to mankind. They
contribute greatly to the enlargement and enrichment of men's minds
and to the propagation and consolidation of the kingdom of God. But
the Church also knows that man can use them in ways that are contrary
to the Creator's design and damaging to himself. Indeed, she grieve
with a mother's sorrow at the harm all to often inflicted on society
by their misuse.
This Sacred Synod shares the solicitude of popes and bishops
in a matter of such importance and feels that it is its duty to treat
of the main problems posed by the means of social communication.
3. the Catholic Church was founded by Christ our Lord to
bring salvation to all men. It feels obliged, therefore, to preach
the gospel. In the same way, it believe that its task involves
employing the means of social communication to announce the good news
of salvation and to teach men how to use them properly.
It is the Church's birthright to use and own any of these
media which are necessary or useful for the formation of Christians
and for pastoral activity. Pastors of souls have the task of instructing and directing the faithful how to use these media in a way
that will ensure their own salvation and perfection and that of all
For the rest, it will be principally for laymen to animate
these media with a Christian and human spirit and to ensure that they
live up to humanity's hopes for them, in accordance with God's design.
4. If the media are to be correctly employed, it is essential that all who use them know the principles of the moral order and
apply them faithfully in this domain. They should take into account,
first of all, the subject-matter, or content, which each medium
communicates in its own way. They should also take account of the
circumstances in which the content is communicated --- the purpose,
that is to say, the people, the place, the time, etc. The circumstances can modify and even totally alter the morality of a production. In this regard, particular importance may attach to the manner
in which any given medium achieves its effect. Its impact may be such
that people, especially if they are insufficiently prepared, will only
with difficulty advert to it, control it, or, if need be, reject it.
5. It is essential that all those involved should form a
correct conscience on the use of the media, especially with regard to
certain issues which are particularly controversial today.
The first of these issues is information, or the search for
news and its publication. Because of the progress of modern society
and the increasing interdependence of its members on one another, it
is obvious that information is very useful and, for the most part,
essential. If news or facts and happenings is communicated publicly
and without delay, every individual will have permanent access to
sufficient information and thus will be enabled to contribute effectively to the common good. Further, all of them will more easily be
able to contribute in unison to the prosperity and the progress of
society as a whole.
There exists therefore in human society a right to information on the subjects that are of concern to men either as individuals
or as members of society, according to each man's circumstances. The
proper exercise of this right demands that the content of the communication be true and --- within the limits set by justice and
charity --- complete. Further, it should be communicated honestly and
properly. This means that in the gathering and in the publication of
news the moral law and the legitimate rights and dignity of man should
be upheld. All knowledge is not profitable, but on the other hand
"love builds" (1 Cor. 8:1).
6. The second question bears on the relation between the
rights of art --- to use a current expression --- and the moral law.
The controversies to which this problem increasingly gives rise
frequently trace their origin to an erroneous understanding either of
ethics of aesthetics. The Council proclaims that all must accept
the absolute primacy of the objective moral order. It alone is
superior to and is capable of harmonizing all forms of human activity,
not excepting art, no matter how noble in themselves. Only the moral
order touches man in the totality of his being as God's rational
creature, called to a supernatural destiny. If the moral order is
fully and faithfully observed, it leads man to full perfection and
7. Lastly, the chronicling, the description or the representation of moral evil can, with the help of the means of social
communication and with suitable dramatization, lead to a deeper
knowledge and analysis of man and to a manifestation of the true and
the good in all their splendour. If, however, this is to be more
profitable than harmful to souls, the moral law must be rigorously
observed, especially when dealing with matters deserving of respect or
with matters that lead all to easily to base desires in man wounded by
8. Public opinion exercises enormous influence nowadays
over the live, private or public, of all citizens, no matter what
their walk in life. It is therefore necessary that all members of
society meet the demands of justice and charity in this domain. They
should help, through the means of social communication, in the formation and diffusion of sound public opinion.
9. Those who receive the means of social communication ---
readers, viewers, audiences --- do so of their own free choice.
Special obligations rest on them in consequence. A properly motivated
selectivity would be wholly in favour of whatever excels in virtue,
culture and art. Likewise, it would avoid whatever might be a cause
or occasion of spiritual harm to the recipients or might be a source
of danger to others through bad example; it would avoid whatever might
hinder the communication of the good and facilitate the communication
of what is evil. This last usually occurs when financial help is
given to those who exploit the media solely for profit.
If they are to obey the moral law, those who use the media
ought to keep themselves informed in good time about assessments
arrived at by the authorities with competence in this sphere and to
conform to them as a right conscience would dictate. They should take
appropriate steps to direct and form their consciences so that they
may more readily resist less wholesome influences and profit more
fully from the good.
10. Those who are at the receiving end of the media, and
especially the young, should learn moderation and discipline in their
use of them. The should aim to understand fully what they see, hear
and read. The should discuss them with their teachers and with
experts in such matters and should learn to reach correct judgments.
Parents on their part should remember that it is their duty to see
that entertainments and publications which might endanger faith and
morals do not enter their houses and that their children are not
exposed to them elsewhere.
11. A special responsibility for the proper use of the
means of social communication rests on journalists, writers, actors,
designers, producers, exhibitors, distributors, operators, sellers
critics --- all those, in a word, who are involved in the making and
transmission of communications in any way whatever. It is clear that a
very great responsibility rests on all of these people in today's
world: they have the power to direct mankind along a good path or an
evil path by the information they impart and the pressure they exert.
It will be for them to regulate economic, political and
artistic values in a way that will not conflict with the common good.
To achieve this result more surely, they will do well to form professional
organizations capable of imposing on their members --- if
necessary by a formal pledge to observe a moral code --- a respect for
the moral law in the problems they encounter and in their activities.
They should always be mindful of the fact that a very large
proportion of their readership and audience are young people who are
in need of publication and entertainments for wholesome amusement and
inspiration. They should ensure that religious features are entrusted
to serious and competent persons and are handled with proper respect.
12. Civil authorities have particular responsibilities in
this field because of the common good, toward which these media are
oriented. It is for the civil authority, in its own domain, to defend
and safeguard --- especially in relation to the press --- a true and
just freedom of information, for the progress of modern society
The civil authority should foster religious, cultural and
artistic values. It should guarantee to those who use the media the
free exercise of their lawful rights. It is, further, the duty of the
civil authorities to give assistance to those projects which, although
very useful, especially for the young, could not succeed otherwise.
Finally, the civil authorities, which rightly regard the
well-being of the citizens as their concern, are also bound to ensure,
equitably and vigilantly, that public morality and social progress are
not gravely endangered through the misuse of the media. This they can
achieve by promulgating laws and tirelessly enforcing them. The
liberty of individuals and groups is not in the least compromised by
such vigilance, especially where serious guarantees cannot be given by
those who use these media professionally.
Special measures should be taken to protect adolescents from
publications and entertainments harmful to them.
13. All the members of the Church should make a concerted
effort to ensure that the means of communication are put at the
service of the multiple forms of the apostolate without delay and as
energetically as possible, where and when they are needed. They
should forestall projects likely to prove harmful, especially in those
regions where moral and religious progress would require their intervention more urgently.
Pastors of souls should be particularly zealous in this
field, since it is closely linked with their task of preaching the
Gospel. Laymen who work professionally in these media should endeavour
to bear witness to Christ: first of all, by doing their work competently and in an apostolic spirit, secondly by collaborating directly, each one according to his ability, in the pastoral activity of the
Church, making a technical, economic, cultural or artistic contribution.
14. Fist of all, a responsible press should be encourage.
If, however, one really wants to form readers in a truly Christian
spirit, an authentically Catholic press ought to be established and
supported. Such a press, whether it be established and directed by
the ecclesiastical authorities or by individual Catholics, would have
for its manifest purpose to form, to consolidate and to promote a
public opinion in conformity with the natural law and with Catholic
doctrines and directives. It would also publish news of the Church's
life and informed comment on it. The faithful should be reminded of
the need to read and circulate the Catholic press if they are to judge
all events from a Christian stand-point.
The production and screening of films which provide
wholesome entertainment and are worthwhile culturally and artistically
should be promoted and effectively guaranteed, especially films
destined for the young. This is best achieved by supporting and
co-ordinating productions and projects by serious producers and
distributors, by marking the launching of worthwhile films with
favourable criticism or the awarding of prizes, by supporting and
coordinating cinemas managed by Catholics and men of integrity.
Likewise, decent radio and television programs should be
effectively supported, especially those suited to the family. Ample
encouragement should be given to Catholic transmissions which invite
listeners and viewers to share in the life of the Church and which
convey religious truths. Catholic stations should be established
where it is opportune. Their transmissions, however, should excel by
technical perfection and by effectiveness.
The noble and ancient art of the theatre has been widely
popularized by the means of social communication. One should take
steps to ensure that it contributes to the human and moral formation
of its audiences.
15. Priests, religious and laity should be trained at once
to meet the needs described above. They should acquire the competence
needed to use these media for the apostolate
First, lay people must be given the necessary technical,
doctrinal and moral formation. To this end, schools, institutes or
faculties must be provided in sufficient number, where journalists,
writers for films, radio and television, and anyone else concerned,
may receive a complete formation, imbued with the Christian spirit and
especially with the Church's social teaching. Actors should also be
instructed and helped so that their gifts too can benefits society.
Lastly, literary critics and critics of films, radio, television and
the rest should be carefully prepared so that they will be fully
competent in their respective spheres and will be trained and encouraged to give due consideration to morality in their critiques.
16. Those who receive the means of social communication
differ in age and culture. Hence the need for instruction and practical experience tailored not merely to the character of each medium but
to the needs of each group. they need the instruction and practical
experience if they are to use the media properly. Projects designed
to effect this, especially among the young, should be encouraged and
multiplied in Catholic schools at all levels, in seminaries and lay
apostolate associations and should be directed in accordance with the
principles of Christian morality. For quicker results, Catholic
teaching and regulations in this matter should be given and explained
in the catechism.
17. It would be shameful if by their inactivity Catholics
allowed the word of God to be silenced or obstructed by the technical
difficulties which these media present and by their admittedly enormous cost. For this reason the Council reminds them that they have
the obligation to sustain and assist Catholic newspapers, periodicals,
film-projects, radio and television stations and programs. for the
main aim of all these is to propagate and defend the truth and to
secure the permeation of society by Christian values. At the same
time it earnestly invites groups or individuals who wiled influence in
technology or the economic field to give generously of their resources
and of their knowledge for the support of the media, provided they are
at the service of authentic culture and of the apostolate.
18. To make the Church's multiple apostolate in the filed
of social communication more effective, a day is to be set aside each
year in every diocese, at the bishop's discretion, on which the
faithful will be reminded of their duties in this domain. They should
be asked to pray for the success of the Church's apostolate in this
filed and to contribute toward it, their contributions to be
scrupulously employed for the support and the further development of
the projects which the church has initiated in view of the needs of
the entire Church.
19. A special office of the Holy See is at the disposal of
the Sovereign Pontiff in the exercise of his supreme pastoral responsibility for the means of social communication.
20. It is for bishops to oversee activities and projects of
this sort in their own dioceses, to promote and, where they touch the
public apostolate, to regulate them, including those under the control
of exempt religious.
21. An effective national apostolate requires acceptance of a
common objective and the unification of effort. This Council
therefore decides and ordains that national offices for the press, the
cinema, radio and television be established everywhere and be properly
supported. The main task of these offices will be for formation of a
right conscience in the faithful in their use of the media and to
encourage and regulate everything done by Catholics in this domain.
In each country, the direction of these offices is to be
entrusted to episcopal commissions or bishops appointed to do the
task. The offices should also have on their staffs laymen who are
qualified in Catholic teaching and technically.
22. The influence of the means of social communication
extends beyond national frontiers, making individuals citizens of the
world, as it were. National projects should, consequently, cooperate
with each other at international level. The offices mentioned in par.
21 should each collaborate closely with its corresponding international organization. These international organizations are approved by
the Holy See alone and are responsible to it.
23. The Council expressly directs the commission of the
Holy See referred to in par. 19 to publish a pastoral instruction,
with the help of experts from various countries, to ensure that all
the principles and rules of the Council on the means of social communication be put into effect.
1. The Council Fathers, however, willingly grant the wish of the
Secretariat for the Press and Entertainments and respectfully
request the Supreme Pontiff to extend the duties and
competence of this office to all the media of social
communications, including the press, and to appoint experts to
it, including laymen, from various countries. (Translator's
note: this secretariat is the "office" referred to in the
text. Pope Paul extended the competence of the secretariat as
requested on 2 April 1964, by means of the _Motu Proprio, In
Fructibus Multis_. The secretariat was renamed The Pontifical
Commission for the Means of Social Communication. It was this
body that published the instruction which follows the present
24. For the rest, the Council is confident that all the
sons of the Church will welcome the principles and regulations contained in this decree and will observe them faithfully. Thus, they
will not suffer damage as they use the media. Rather will the media,
like salt and light, add savour to the earth and light to the world.
Further, it invites all men of good will, especially those who control
the media, to use them solely for the good of humanity, for its fate
becomes more and more dependent on their right use. the name of the
Lord will thus be glorified by these modern inventions as it was in
former times by the masterpieces of art; as the apostle said: "Jesus
Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever" (Heb. 13:8).