PBS v. “Mass for Shut-Ins”?

Do they really want to go there? The Public Broadcasting Service’s board is to vote in June on a  recommendation to “strip the affiliation of any station that carries ‘sectarian’ content,” as the Washington Post account has it. And apparently “sectarian” can mean televised masses:

The proposal is already having local ramifications. In anticipation of the vote next month, WHUT, the public station operated by Howard University in the District, has notified the Archdiocese of Washington that it will cancel “Mass for Shut-Ins,” a Diocese-produced weekly program, if the PBS board adopts a strict interpretation. “Mass for Shut-Ins” has been carried on WHUT since 1996, and continuously on a Washington TV station for nearly 60 years.


“It’s kind of a shock to us,” said Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese. “They’ve been great partners of ours for a long time…The Mass is a very local programming that provides a community service. You’d think public television would be about engaging the community.”

Oscar the Grouch.jpgPBS, which is based in Crystal City, did not have an official tally of how many of its 356 member stations carry broadcasts of religious services, but the number is believed to be small.


Under bylaws enacted in 1985, PBS stations are required to present programs that are noncommercial, nonpartisan and nonsectarian. The rules were put in place to ensure balance and fairness among PBS-affiliated stations, which rely on government funding, private-sector grants and sponsorships, and contributions from viewers.

But the definition of “nonsectarian” programming has always been loosely interpreted, and the rule has never been strictly enforced, according to PBS officials. The issue came up for debate late last year as PBS stations began overhauling their membership rules for the transition to digital television.

Calling Oscar the Grouch.

But question: If they allow “Mass for Shut-Ins,” they’ll also have to allow content from other religions. You want a Scientology informercial? Still, it seems to call for reasonable accomodation. The spirit of the law versus the letter. But I’m sounding like a liberal…

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posted May 20, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Without a doubt, if PBS were broadcasting what happens at the local mosque for shut-ins, a lot of Christians would howl.

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Brett in Oregon

posted May 20, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Oh no! They might have to change the channel to EWTN or local public access. Those poor shut-ins – maybe the Church should help them pay for basic cable…

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posted May 20, 2009 at 3:58 pm

“Shut ins” are normally the sick,the weak and elderly. Why would the comments about this story be so hostile to these people?
I am constantly amazed at the number of “Haters” that read this blog. Why is that?

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posted May 20, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Saying that PBS would “have to allow content from other religions” is one way to look at it.
Another way to look at it is that PBS can (and perhaps should?) offer programming with a variety of religious content that might be of interest to many different people.
We all bear some responsibility for our perspectives.
If PBS gets a lot of donations from people who want or need a Mass for shut-ins then as a responsible local Public Broadcasting Service they should be allowed to air it. In another area or in addition to maybe they will get donations and requests for other programming.
This is a society with a great many different beliefs. And Public Broadcasting is, after all, supposed to be in the interest of “the public.”
Or at least that’s my opinion.

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Brett in Oregon

posted May 20, 2009 at 6:44 pm

For the record, I love the believer and hate the beliefs!
Besides shouldn’t the churches involved have a ministry to visit these people? If not, that says a lot about those churches…

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Little Bear

posted May 20, 2009 at 8:12 pm

Dear Brett,
Even if the parishes visit the shut-ins by bringing them Communion once every two weeks or every week (depending on how many shut-ins there are), the people would like to be at Mass. Seeing it on TV, makes them feel that they are there. And given their frail physical conditions—that can be counted as ‘attending Mass’ for them. I certainly agree with Cindy and her anaylsis.

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posted May 20, 2009 at 8:54 pm

that the Catholic Taliban has not blamed Obama for the Mass cancellation, I take it that after Notre Dame they are out of steam?
also the security thingy is the worst on the entire net!!!

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