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Secret, silence, sacred. The Communicational Trinity of the Catholic Church

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Article

French

ID: <10670/1.j13emg>

Abstract

International audience If the Catholic Church experiences difficulties in today’s world of ‘hyper-communication’ and 24/7 media pressure, esoteric religious language or generalised misuse of the media may not be the only factors to blame. This paper is based on the hypothesis that the reasons run more deeply into the communications ethos of the Catholic Church itself. More precisely, the paper contends that the Church’s communication in the social sphere cannot totally escape the principle of secrecy. This is not to say that there is one particular secret which the Church wishes to keep, rather that the whole Catholic tradition is marked by a culture and practice of secrecy, as shown through such examples as the Seven Seals of The Apocalypse, the Holy Secret of Confession, the Three Secrets of Fatima, meetings held systematically behind closed doors, etc. This contribution will analyse this communicational ethos based on the value of secrecy and on its corollary: mystery, through acts of enunciation involving texts, actors’ strategies, semiotically-charged scenes and everything which helps set the “stage” for a typical instance of religious communication.This cult of secrecy, as far as it can be identified, enters inevitably into conflict with the value of transparency. The dialectical relationship between secrecy and transparency leads us to focus our analysis on the tension between the Church’s desire to respect secrecy, to retain information and to remain silent, and the demands of visibility immediacy and openness we associate with information-based society.

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