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Consultor of the Pontifical Commission for Motion Pictures, Radio and Television

Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters



On May 24, 1844, the art of human communication after centuries of effort finally broke through the space-time barrier with its first instantaneously recorded message. That message was sent from the Capitol in Washington to the city of Baltimore. The sender of the message was one of America's outstanding scientists. The message was brief: "What hath God wrought?" In those simple words Samuel F. B. Morse announced to a waiting world that the first telegraph line was a success. It was a happy omen that this first telegram was a tribute, not to the cleverness of man, but to the power and wisdom of god. It was indeed an act of adoration. Who will say that this message did not call down God's blessing on man's ceaseless efforts to communicate with his fellow men. Two decades passed, and the new world and the old were linked by the magic strands of the Atlantic cable. More decades came and went, and the human voice, and then the human eye, was able to span the thousands of miles that separated the continents of the globe. The whole world, it is said, has become a neighborhood, but is has not yet become a neighborhood of Samaritans. Radio, television, the cinema - not to speak of the airplane - have conquered the physical distances that in the past separated the members of the human family. However, there is another kind of distance that separates, not nations and continents, but the hearts and minds of men. Ignorance, misunderstanding, suspicion have created chasms of segregation between differing races, classes, and religions. Physical separation has yielded to the wizardry of science, but physical proximity does not of itself cement union of hearts and minds and wills. The arts of communication are among the choicest blessings bestowed on us by Almighty God. But, as with all gifts, the bounty of the Giver can be thwarted by the folly of the recipient. Radio, television, the cinema, and journalism are supremely adapted to achieve their God-given purpose of perfecting and uniting men intellectually, spiritually, socially, artistically. Used wisely, they lead men to share as brothers in the highest and best human values. Yet, these same arts, if prostituted to the service of Mammon, become channels of corruption, dishonesty, and anarchy. The Catholic Church, alert equally to the advantages and to the dangers of these magical arts, urges her sons and daughters to exploit to the fullest the contribution which these arts can make to the service of God and of humanity, and to guard most zealously against their degradation. Tonight the University of Detroit wishes to pay honor to four ever-growing groups of men and women who have dedicated themselves to the spreading of Christian truth through the use, the advancement, and the refinement of the communication arts. These four groups are eloquently represented at the commencement by four men whose brilliant work in their respective fields has not only attracted nationwide attention but has stimulated great numbers of admirers to emulate them in their glorious apostolate. [The four men honored are Monsignor Thomas H. Little, S.T.L, Rev. Louis A Gales, Monsignor John J. Dougherty, Most Reverend Fulton J. Sheen. The citation for each honoree is found alphabetically by his last name.] It is sometimes thought that men who have given themselves to scholarship and research have little understanding of the interests and the needs of the generality of men, and must depend upon popularizers to disseminate the results of their research. Msgr. John J. Dougherty, for many years professor of Sacred Scripture and recently appointed President of Seton Hall University, is not only a profound biblical scholar, but a lecturer who has made his scholarly knowledge available in understandable and popular language to wide radio and television audiences. It was, moreover, his creative genius which gave to the world a few years ago that masterpiece of television art, "Rome Eternal," which thrilled millions of viewers and brought Christians of widely divergent persuasions to contemplate together the majestic panorama of their common heritage. Reverend President, I present Right Reverend Msgr. John J. Dougherty, biblical authority, teacher, university president, producer, widely acclaimed telecaster, for the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. Commencement, University of Detroit, June 16, 1960.

University of Detroit

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