Tuesday, 16 August 2011

'Understanding Media' - Marshall McLuhan's Catholicism

There was an interesting article on Marshall McLuhan's Catholicism in the Catholic Herald on 22nd July which I suspect is still available for website subscribers. (It's now available here. With thanks to Benjamin Robertson for letting me know.)

The authors, William Baker and Evan Leatherwood, point out that McLuhan was "a devout Catholic, who taught almost exclusively at Catholic universities and attended Mass nearly every day of his adult life."

They also point out that his Catholicism "underlay his thinking", though it is true that the impact of his faith on his work is highly complex. However, what is clear is that he was not averse to quoting Catholic authors approvingly in some of his most famous books.

Take Understanding Media, for instance. McLuhan was nothing if not eclectic and so a staggeringly wide range of authorities are referred to, including the Psalmist, Blessed John Henry Newman and, perhaps surprisingly for today's secular culture, Pope Pius XII, who said in 1950 that:

"It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of modern society and the stability of its inner life depend in large part on the maintenance of an equilibrium between the strength of the techniques of communication and the capacity of the individual's own reaction."

The conclusion that McLuhan draws from this is that "Pope Pius XII was deeply concerned that there be serious study of the media today."

Now this raises all sorts of questions which can't be dealt with in a short blog post but I do wonder if Catholics in education - and I include myself - need to do a little more thinking about the much-maligned Media Studies. Here's an interesting article which might provide a good starting point from the excellent Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong.


  1. The article has been re-posted more recently here:


    Glad to have found your blog!

  2. Thank you very much, Benjamin. I'm glad that the article is now available online. I'll amend my original post.