EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo reacts to comments about coverage of the Papal Visit

EWTN has posted something about their coverage.  Since WDTPRS spoke of it many times, I think it only fair to include what Raymond Arroyo postedwith my emphases and comments.

THE AFTERGLOW: HANDICAPPING OUR COVERAGE
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
________________________________________
We are still receiving hundreds of e-mails to our papal visit box every hour and I am delighted. The vast majority of correspondents were ecstatic about our coverage of the Papal visit. [And with good reason, I think.]  Below is just one of the thousands of kudos that I think captures the spirit of what we were trying to accomplish with our broadcasts:

"Raymond, I want to thank you, and EWTN for bringing our Catholic family this wonderful coverage of the Holy Father’s Journey to the USA. Listening to you, Father Neuhaus, Carl Anderson, and Joan Lewis was lovely. I felt like I was enjoying a great big family reunion. The family was gathered. The uncles were telling stories and the children were listening with rapt attention, soaking up every detail of each story. There were prayerful moments, musical moments, poignant moments, anxious moments, moments of good natured joking and serene moments of ineffable joy and thanksgiving as together our family celebrated the most marvelous event any family could hope to celebrate with their beloved Papa. "

Still there were those irked by some of our commentary, particularly during the Masses. Since I can’t possibly respond to every cranky e-mail (some of them downright nasty) I will do so here.   [If those e-mails were anything like the nastiness sent to me by the habitually sour, then I am in great sympathy.]

Firstly, there are obligations that BROADCASTS make upon us. One of those is narrating for our international and domestic radio audience for whom silence is not golden, but death. Many radio listeners wrote to us wondering "what was happening" when long areas of silence prevailed. So that explains some of the "scene setting" that we at times engaged in.  [That is a tough tight rope to walk and this deserves our comprehension.  At the same time, would it not be wonderful to have access to an audio feed that was just that?  Just the feed?  But I digress...]

Regarding commentary: our job is to put these papal events in context. That means evaluating them and explaining them in the context of Magisterial teaching and the writings of the Holy Father. Other broadcasters this past week imposed their pop culture perspectives on the visit (focusing on the need to ordain women, the Pope’s fashion, and polls which found that no one believes what they should believe to be considered believers). I think for the general public (even the average Catholic) there is great lack of understanding. Few have had time to read the Pope’s writings with any attention and even fewer have had occasions to watch him with any frequency. What we tried to do, delicately I think, was to reveal the thinking behind this or that speech (or event), connecting it to what has gone before.  [I think they did very well with this!  The content was good.]

Commentary was inserted into pockets of events consciously avoiding stepping on the key parts of the Mass etc. Still some felt we should be entirely silent during the Masses–a papal C-Span. So we made a decision to say NOTHING during the St. Patrick’s Mass, and in flooded a torrent of viewer protest. "What happened to your commentary?" "Please don’t stop commenting. It’s like being left alone," our e-mail screamed. I have learned my lesson, we will continue to split the difference with due deference to the sacrality of the events we are covering, but we shant be silent.  [They took the risk to be silent and they got feedback.  I suppose this will help them make decisions for coverage in the future.  Frankly, I think their coverage has improved over the years.]

It is important for all of us to realize that what EWTN offers is a BROADCAST of the papal Mass, not the Mass itself. [Yes. This is true.] This does not fulfill a Catholic’s Sunday obligation and should not be viewed as a liturgy substitute. [Though I am sure shut-ins see it slightly differently, but...] It is a televised representation of the Mass with inherent challenges and professional requirements. For those who were annoyed, I am sorry. But for millions of viewers, the commentary helped them make sense of what they were watching and sort through the reactions they were experiencing. And that’s what we were trying to do.

Thank you all for being with us for this truly amazing visit, and I hope you’ll watch the World Over this Friday for more analysis of the trip… Gratefully, Raymond
 

I am very glad that Raymond Arroyo posted this.  He is a stand-up guy for that.  I do get the sense, nevertheless, that the negative e-mail got under his skin a little…. but it will sometimes do that. 

I am among those who like to hear the live sounds without people talking over them.  This is why I hope someday that there can be a raw feed.  I also fully understand the need to comment… that is why they are there and the comments are very helpful, nay rather, critical for 95% of the viewers.  Still, perhaps there may be ways in the future to improve the timing of the commentary.

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26 Responses to EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo reacts to comments about coverage of the Papal Visit

  1. Thomas Francis says:

    Thanks for posting this Father Z. I actually enjoyed the coverage by EWTN. I thought they did an excellent job overall. I agree there were moments when silence would have been appropriate, but when I am watching something like this I prefer to have some commentary and context during gap moments. And Father Neuhaus and Raymond were a great tandem; I loved some of the sarcasm and chiding. even though I could see where some people had problems with the coverage, that’s no excuse for nastyness. They provide a great service to the Church and if you don’t like their approach then watch something else. Let me just say, thank you EWTN and Raymond and co.

  2. Thomas L. says:

    Thanks for posting this Father Z. I actually enjoyed the coverage by EWTN. I thought they did an excellent job overall. I agree there were moments when silence would have been appropriate, but when I am watching something like this I prefer to have some commentary and context during gap moments. And Father Neuhaus and Raymond were a great tandem; I loved some of the sarcasm and chiding. even though I could see where some people had problems with the coverage, that’s no excuse for nastyness. They provide a great service to the Church and if you don’t like their approach then watch something else. Let me just say, thank you EWTN and Raymond and co.

  3. Matt Q says:

    Dear Father:

    It’s great you posted Arroyo’s summary reply to the e-mails he has been receiving. I do understand the difficult predicament EWTN find itself in when broadcasting for television and radio. This though brings up a point.

    It should not be the same host commenting for both mediums. There is an entirely different approach and style needed for the two as they are mutually exclusive in presentation and form.

    A second point is what they believe they need to comment on. In the first place, EWTN is a Catholic channel, not secular, whose majority audience is Catholic. While not all Catholics are informed of their Faith, of course, there is a certain presumption a host needs to make regarding generalities of trivia needing commenting. Pointing out who’s who when they happen to pop up on the screen, fine, but a whole dissertation of what’s what with that individual is needless chatter and annoying. It is not necessary, as Raymond said, to comment on the context or history of a Papal homily, or perhaps why the Holy Father is giving it. Let the Holy Father speak and what one gleans from it is it.

    Overall, EWTN is to be greatly appreciated and supported to the best of one’s abilities. EWTN is such a treasure to the Church and the world that it cannot be let go of. I am hesitant to criticize EWTN for anything but still aware could do some fine tuning every now and then, but that’s all. :)

  4. Geoffrey says:

    I loved the idea of a “Papal CSPAN”! CTV is kind of like that, except during the USA visit… there was Italian commentary throughout.

  5. Dob says:

    I thought EWTN did a fine job.

  6. John says:

    I was following along with the comments from the New Liturgical Movement website. We wanted to hear the music and in some cases they cut to commentary when there were things we wanted to listen to, though at the Yankees Stadium Mass this was a plus and a minus so it was even.

    We thought the lack of commentary at St Patrick’s was great and thank God the Vespers service was left intact.

    I can see comments for those listening to a Mass on a radio but anyone who would want to list on radio should know what’s happening. That was a Kyrie, it must be time for the Gloria. How wonderful, they are doing Tomas Luis de Victoria…

  7. Vox Cantor says:

    I love EWTN and Mother Angelica and I appreciate Raymond and all the personalities. Like Matt above, I am hesitant to criticize except for the interuption just before the conclusion of Palestrina’s Sicut Cervus was concluded (sounds trivial, I know). On the other hand, the interruptiosn during the Washington Mass were great and perhaps reflected the emails which they were receiving.

    I wonder if there is something more here though as alluded to by John above…the Mass at St. Patrick’s and Vespers at the Shrine Crypt were without commentary; could that simply have something to do with the fact that they were clearly SOLEMN and CATHOLIC?

    I for one would like to see WYD in Sydney as the last of these vast Papal Masses…and for that matter those in St. Peter’s Square too for the obvious reason noted above.

  8. Mathew Lu says:

    Last I looked most televisions have volume controls…

  9. RichR says:

    EWTN coverage was as good as one could expect given the broad range of audiences they had to reach. I think people out there need to lighten up and realize that it is amazing that we even have a Catholic TV station. Do you see the Mormon Channel, or the Methodist Channel out there?

    Raymond, if you are reading this, your commentary with Fr. Neuhaus was very well done. Don’t make it a goal to please everyone – you’ll drive yourself crazy.

  10. Fr Z,

    I appreciate very greatly that thus far in the three Masses EWTN has broadcast in the Extraordinary Form — none have had commentary. I understand that 99% of the Catholic population has had little to no exposure on the Extraordinary Form…but I believe there are enough written materials to educate them thoroughly.

  11. magdalen says:

    I laughed out loud at some of Fr. Richard’s comments! The multicultural, lets
    celebrate our diversity stuff was WAY over the top! I think Father and
    Raymond were flabbergasted as were many over the poor judgements on the
    music and multicultural aspects. A mishmash for sure and if anyone
    had read the Holy Father’s writings on the liturgy (start with Spirit
    of the Liturgy) they should have known better. But many of us in the pews
    put up with ‘lets celebrate ourselves and how wonderful we are at this
    gathering of the assembly’ at what is to be HOLY Mass with Christ at the center.
    He simply is NOT.

    I could not watch any more coverage after that episode for a while but
    I saw the reception at the seminary and some of the Mass in NY and that was
    much better.

  12. magdalen says:

    I laughed out loud at some of Fr. Richard\’s comments! The multicultural, lets
    celebrate our diversity stuff was WAY over the top! I think Father and
    Raymond were flabbergasted as were many over the poor judgements on the
    music and multicultural aspects. A mishmash for sure and if anyone
    had read the Holy Father\’s writings on the liturgy (start with Spirit
    of the Liturgy) they should have known better. But many of us in the pews
    put up with ‘lets celebrate ourselves and how wonderful we are at this
    gathering of the assembly’ at what is to be HOLY Mass with Christ at the center.
    He simply is NOT.

    I could not watch any more coverage after that episode for a while but
    I saw the reception at the seminary and some of the Mass in NY and that was
    much better.

  13. Maureen says:

    The other thing to remember is that EWTN, Vatican Radio, et al are evangelistic Catholic broadcast networks. Their audience is not all Catholic, or even all Christian or theist. They cast their network over the whole ocean of listeners, and catch more than just Catholics. Also, many lapsed Catholics never got adequate catechesis, or haven’t attended Mass since before the Ordinary Form came in.

    I have a friend from an evangelical church who watches EWTN fairly regularly, and has attended Mass with me, and has heard me explain it many times. She still does not understand the Order of the Mass, and is pretty easily confused by any shifts between Latin and English. Now, I think some of this is her denomination (determinedly vs. tradition, to the extent that they actually try to change their order of service every month — though in reality they are apparently deeply tradition-bound except in the tiniest externals, and would freak if they ever confronted real, weird change). Some of it is also a sort of mental block, I think. But some of it is that we do, genuinely, present a lot of material all at once, during the Mass, and it can easily overwhelm people. They badly want a guide.

    I really wish EWTN would provide subtitles or a crawl at the bottom to provide some of this info to the TV audience. A separate audio feed/commentary for their radio listeners would also help.

    Of course, all this means money. Is there a donor in the house? :)

  14. TJM says:

    Raymond is a nice guy. What might help, is that during the intro of a Papal Mass or other major event, he explain when they will comment generally and when they won’t.
    Just a thought. Tom

  15. TNCath says:

    I thought Raymond Arroyo and Fr. Neuhaus did a much better job at keeping their comments to a minimum during the ceremony itself, although they did lapse a couple of times during some of the musical selections. I would have liked to have seen more commentary afterwards, perhaps with a larger panel that gave some initial reactions to the ceremonies.

    Someone good naturedly referred to Raymond and Fr. Neuhaus as “The Bickersons.” I found their bandiage entertaining as well.

  16. Eilis ni Mhurchu says:

    Dear Father Zuhlsdorf,

    I sent an email to EWTN thanking them for the coverage and telling them that it was
    great to have an alternative to the, what I thought was awful, commentary
    on CNN. The commentary was cringe-making in my opinion, the little I heard
    before going back to EWTN. My only criticism, and I added a disclaimer saying
    that it probably wasn’t something they could control, was that I would much
    prefer to hear the prayers in the language of those reading to hearing
    English voice overs and why couldn’t they have shown the printed text in English
    if they felt they had to provide a translation. I didn’t say this but it all
    pointed up the fact that if the whole thing had been in the language of the
    Church there would have been no need of all the divisive use of different
    languages which of necessity left out many of the languages spoken by Catholics
    worldwide.

    E. Murphy

  17. Jamie says:

    Frankly, it is the novus ordo – what is a bit of extra chatter to the babel Mass anyway? They might as well join in with everyone else.

  18. mike says:

    I thought Arroyo and Neuhaus were great together. We need to remember that a lot of protestants view the channel too, and they need some guidance. They seem to appreciate it too, as can be seen when Arroyo reads viewer questions. We should cut them some slack; they were as quiet as they could reasonably be.

  19. Julia says:

    Two comments:

    1) EWTN was great, but I really wanted to hear the Beethoven’s 9th Choral part – I could see people’s mouths agape and it was faintly coming through. What a perfect gift for our German papa. Look it up on Wikipedia and see what the words are – references to there must be a god, the brotherhood of man, the joys of human life, the joys of the spiritual domain. How appropriate for a man whose favorite word is “Joy”. Hearing it shake Yankee stadium would have been a phenominal experience and nobody even mentioned it, much less its significance.

    2) I tried to flip around and see if another chanell was allowing the choral 9th to be heard – no luck at all. On FOX, Shepard Smith was asking their 2 priest experts if FOX now owed it to the Jews and Protestants to give them so much free publicity! I think that is a more appropriate question for their employer, don’t you? The Pope can’t command TV coverage of his doings. FOX wouldnh’t have covered it if the Pope’s visit wasn’t news and had no interested viewers.

    Thanks for the recipes and wine list. That might fun to duplicate – I atatended a gala dinner party some years ago where we re-produced “Babette’s Feast”!

  20. Julia says:

    I meant to say – I think that is a more appropriate question for Shepard’s employer, don’t you?

  21. Tzard says:

    The television set volume control also removes the audio feed from the event. What many television shows now have are “second” audio channels on their television feed (usually Spanish or some other language). With a second audio channel you can have the pure Vatican feed without the commentary (or perhaps the Latin without the translation someday!).

    I don’t know if EWTN has the technology to do that, but it might be useful consider such a solution, and if it’ll take some extra cost in terms of technology at EWTN, I think some of us would be willing to donate specifically for it.

  22. Forrest says:

    Hello Father Z!

    Raymond brought out a very good point I thought you could tackle: a local parish school watched the DC Mass on TV and followed the rubrics (standing, kneeling, etc), and during Communion, the pastor vested and brought out consecrated Hosts for all the children (of age of course), parents, and teachers. Is this permissible? Can the Blessed Sacrament be given outside of Mass? There was no indication that this was a Mass, but I found it odd that the Eucharist could be used this way.

    Thanks!

    Forrest.

  23. MSusa says:

    I didn’t like the coverage and I may be one of the
    quotes he was referring to, then again, maybe not.

    Oh well, for what it is worth, I like his show anyway and think
    he does a really good job at it.

    Could he soften up his tone a bit though?

  24. C says:

    I’ve watched EWTN for many years, and traveled great distances to hear
    Fr. Neuhaus. During coverage of the Papal visit, however, I am sad to say
    that I found the banter between Arroyo and Neuhaus unbearable. I watched
    the streaming video available on the USCCB site which was much less
    pompous and trite. I agree that the Mass in Washington was a travesty
    and that New York represented a significant improvement. Still, what
    impression would a first time viewer have of Catholic media and the Catholic
    Church, whether they be Catholic or not?

    They were disappointing and uncharitable.

  25. Julie says:

    +

    I love EWTN and have always been a huge fan of Mr. Arroyo and Fr. Neuhaus. In fact, I recommended parishioners and a number of new Catholics tune-in to their coverage during the Papal visit. I was so surprised when I tuned-in myself -daily. Large portions were unprofessional, Fr. Neuhaus seemed very, very negative -which I haven’t witnessed before- and Raymond seemed so irritated by Father’s negativity he couldn’t eve hide it. Father kept interrupting Raymond with petty and silly little comments about things. I was disappointed. I’m not sure what accounts for it. I don’t think the Rome coverage was that way, although, I was in Rome at the time, not watching on TV. I actually found myself saying “Oh, shut-up Father Neuhaus” twice! Which is a phrase I don’t use! So, I’m glad for Fr. Z’s kind compliments of the programming -I hope most people enjoyed it. I experienced it much, much differently and unfortunately, so did most of the people with whom I’ve spoken. I actually almost sent-out an e-mail of retraction I was so embarrassed by the thought that I had recommended such poor coverage and embarrassing behaviour among prominent members of our Church.

  26. nasman2 says:

    To be honest, there was much to comment about with the Mass in Washington. One had to empathize with the Pope for having to sit through all that ‘preening’. I think it was disrespectful to the Pope, since he’s written so much about how the liturgy should be approached. As far as the commentary goes, Fr. Neuhaus was spot on, I just worried about the politcal backlash that might ensue. I caught the Mass at St. Patrick’s after it started and made the rash assumption that due to the commentary about the Washington Mass that Mr. Arroyo and Fr. Neuhaus were being censored. I learned later that wasn’t the case. I also watched the Mass at Yankee Stadium and there was many positives to comment on.

    I think this bears consideration. The way each of those Masses were handled had a direct bearing on ones disposition while viewing, not unlike Masses the faithful are expected to attend. The Masses at St. Patrick’s and Yankee Stadium more fully represented the ‘typical’ Mass that the faithful should expect. What the coverage did was shed light on the vast range in interpretation as to how the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass should be done. I take no exception with someone pointing out the obvious distractions that many of us still see in the pews today. Of course this can be mitigated greatly by attending the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

    So kudos to Fr. Neuhaus and Mr. Arroyo for their fine coverage. I hope they won’t hesitate to ‘shake things up’ to try something new like they did for the Mass at St. Patrick’s.

    I’m very grateful the Pope came to the United States. I’m also grateful for the coverage EWTN provided.