Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday praised the mass media for helping to spread democracy and knowledge around the world, but lamented that it also tended to hype violence, vulgarity and consumer products.
Benedict suggested there might be a need for an "info-ethics" field in the media, just as there is a bioethics field in medicine and science, to guarantee that human dignity is respected.
Benedict's message, issued nearly four months before the May 4 observance of the Catholic Church's social communications day, has the theme: "The Media: At the Crossroads between Self-Promotion and Service."
In the message, Benedict said the media had played a "decisive" role in spreading literacy, democracy and dialogue among peoples, and should continue to be used for promoting justice.
But, he said the media can also subject its users to the "dominant interests of the day."
"This is what happens when communication is used for ideological purposes or for the aggressive advertising of consumer products," he said. "Moreover, in order to attract listeners and increase the size of audiences, it does not hesitate at times to have recourse to vulgarity and violence, and to overstep the mark."
Benedict also accused the media of legitimizing what he said were "distorted" models of family and social life. He did not elaborate, but the Vatican has been criticizing attempts to legitimize same-sex unions.