STEUBENVILLE, OH—Father Jonathan Morris stood in St. Peter’s Square with his mother and father in late March 2005, joined by reporters from all over the world. Everyone awaited the Sunday appearance of the failing Pope John Paul II. Finally, the leader of the Catholic Church was wheeled to the window, and gazed out at the people. The pope’s hands trembled as he gripped the papers in his hands, Father Morris recalled. He desperately tried to speak, but could not. Finally, in a final attempt to communicate with his people, the pope softly pounded on the platform before him.
“That’s all he could do,” Father Morris recalled. “But he knew… that he couldn’t just push his wheelchair back and go back into the papal palaces. With that fist, he was saying, ‘I love you! I care about you! I know you! I want to communicate with you! But I can’t—but I can.’”
Father Morris, a FOX news analyst who regularly comments on diverse Church, state, and social issues, spoke on “Faith, Reason, and the Media” at Franciscan University of Steubenville on October 11, as part of the University’s Distinguished Speakers Series.
Both floors of the Gentile Gallery where his talk was held were packed with students who listened attentively to Father Morris’ presentation.
He said that the media is often portrayed as biased, and while this may sometimes be true, the media is also a business. Its biggest bias, he noted, is toward making money, which he hailed as a good thing. If knowledgeable Catholics produce truthful, compelling media, the consumer, who desperately searches for truth will buy it, said Father Morris, thus securing the media’s bottom line.
“As Catholics who are interested in the media, we have to find ways to present truth in a compelling way, and if we do it, I promise you the media will eat it up,” Father Morris said.
Father Morris shared stories from his work as an advisor on The Passion of the Christ. One involved an interaction between Jim Caviezel, the actor who portrayed Jesus, and Pietro Sarubbi, who played Barabbas. Like many people working on the film, Sarubbi was upset because the film seemed destined for failure, and he worried about the effect on his reputation as an actor. Consequently, in the scene where Barabbas insults and spits at Jesus, Sarubbi’s taunts toward Caviezel continued after the camera stopped rolling.
Caviezel turned to Father Morris and asked, “What do you think Jesus would have been thinking at this moment in salvation history?” They both agreed this scene was the turning point in salvation history, said Father Morris, when a choice was made between good and evil. Caviezel returned to the scene for another take, but this time, shot Barabbas a look of love as their eyes met.
That look shook Sarubbi to his core, Father Morris said. Sarubbi later reflected that it felt like an electric shock. From that moment on, Sarubbi’s life began to change because he felt he had encountered not Caviezel, but Christ.
Ultimately, Father Morris said, every human action must be motivated by love.
“In the end, it doesn’t matter whether we’re writing books. It doesn’t matter whether we’re working in the media. It doesn’t matter whether we’re a doctor, a lawyer. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing. In the end, it comes down to love.”
Father Morris studied business administration at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He later entered the seminary and was ordained a priest in 2002.
In addition to his duties at FOX News, Father Morris is director of the Catholic Channel on Sirius/XM satellite radio and is the parochial vicar of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in New York City.
Full audio and video of Father Morris’s talk can be found at the Father Jonathan Morris page at the Distinguished Speakers Series.
His talk was part of the Distinguished Speakers Series at Franciscan University, and was sponsored by the departments of Academic Affairs, Student Life, and Advancement. Through the Distinguished Speakers Series, Franciscan University hosts leaders who integrate their faith and public life and who inspire the next generation to be a transforming presence in the Church and society.