Media coverage focus of 2009 Respect Life Dinner

Photo Caption: Father Bill Miller, IC, chairman of the diocese’s Respect Life Board, addresses a crowd of 200-plus at the Respect Life Dinner on Oct. 4.

By: By Tom Dermody

From biased reporting to sexual and violent content in programming, the media have an impact on life issues and those who promote the sanctity of life must stay informed and respond, according to the keynote speaker at Sunday evening’s Respect Life Dinner in Peoria.

“From the time we get up until the time we go to bed, we are bombarded with messages against the church and Jesus Christ,” said Teresa Tomeo, a veteran broadcast-journalist and former television news anchor in Detroit.

Speaking to more than 200 people who filled the banquet room at Cater Inn for the 27th annual fundraiser for the Family Resources Center, Tomeo gave several recent examples of what she claims was biased reporting in the secular media regarding pro-life issues.

Stories of last month’s murder of Michigan pro-lifer James Pouillon were “buried,” she said, compared to coverage afforded the May 31 slaying of late-term abortionist Dr. George Tiller in Kansas. And while Dr. Tiller was often cast in a heroic light, Tomeo said Pouillon — known as “the sign guy” for carrying graphic signs picturing abortion violence — was described as “a polarizing figure in the pro-life movement.”

Further, she noted the annual national March for Life in Washington D.C. is “virtually ignored” by the secular media, even though this year’s march drew a crowd estimated at 200,000.

“How do you ignore any event of 200,000 people?” asked Tomeo, who for the past decade has been involved in Catholic media, including as a radio talk show host and author. She lamented that a handful of pro-choice proponents attending the rally usually are given equal treatment in any coverage that does make the evening news or morning newspaper.

TOMEO AND other speakers did not ignore the supportive efforts of pro-lifers in the Diocese of Peoria, who in addition to attending the dinner on Respect Life Sunday also lined the streets by the hundreds bearing prayerful witness in numerous “life chains” in several communities.

Nearly 500 people took part in the Peoria life chain earlier in the day. In Galesburg, drivers who passed the crowd holding signs such as “Jesus Forgives and Heals” in that community “were more likely to slow down and read the signs, and were very respectful,” reported Father Bill Miller, IC, chairman of the Diocese of Peoria’s Respect Life Board.

Father Miller, who is pastor of Corpus Christi and St. Patrick’s parishes in Galesburg, and Sacred Heart, Abingdon, called the Respect Life Dinner “a reunion of friends in which we experience mutual up-building. And how much we need it.”

The dinner raised more than $2,500 for the Family Resources Center, a free-loan library in downtown Peoria dedicated to the defense of human life and the promotion of family values.

ONE ASPECT of the pro-life movement that speakers said is especially encouraging is the involvement of youth. When Charles Owens, master of ceremonies at the dinner, asked those who were under age 20 to stand, dozens did.

“We see a tremendously bright future,” said Owens.
Tomeo agreed.

“To the young people here I say, ‘God bless you,'” she said. “These kids are our future and they get it.”

Offering brief remarks at the dinner were Maureen Daly and Jameson Duggan, president and vice president of Peoria Notre Dame Teens for Life.

“As young Catholic men and women,” said Daly, “we feel it is our responsibility to educate students and young adults about the sanctity of life.”

Such is the mission of the Family Resources Center, said Pete Smith, husband of Jan Smith, the center’s founder and longtime director. “Education is still the key to truth,” he told the crowd. To that end, the “underutilized center” offers tens of thousands of books and audiovisuals “to help build a culture of life,” while 23,500 receive the quarterly newspaper, The Family Resources Center News. Smith also pointed to the success of efforts such as supplying realistic models of fetal development to schools.

While critical of the media, Tomeo encouraged Christian young people to consider careers in print and electronic journalism, and for everyone to “pray for the secular media.”

“Unless we pray for more solid Christian men and women to enter the field, nothing will change,” said Tomeo, pointing to studies that show half of those in the secular media have no religious affiliation. Some parents have become so disenchanted with the media they may actually discourage their children from pursuing that vocation, but that could be tragic it their children’s desire “is coming from God.”

In the worldview of many in today’s media and entertainment culture, said Tomeo, Christians and pro-lifers are in the minority or “unenlightened,” she said, but the truth is “we’re in the majority” and promoting the true teaching of Christ and the church.

Tomeo said families should examine their own media habits. Televisions and computers should be kept in living rooms so parents can monitor their children’s viewing, and often should be turned off. “God often comes to us in silence,” she reminded the group.

She urged support for Catholic and other Christian media outlets, and said to take advantage of the many positive aspects of today’s media technology, including the availability of Catholic teaching at one’s fingertips.

“If we can go on eBay and look for the perfect purse, then we certainly can go online to look for a church document and read it,” she said.

The dinner also featured a benediction prayer led by the Rev. A.J. Guyton and special music performed by Robert Eckert and Sally Jo Winek.

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