Pope Francis has condemned disinformation as "probably the greatest damage that the media can do".
His comments come amid warnings of a "fake news" crisis in online media following last month's US elections.
Social media platforms and search engines were widely criticised in the poll's aftermath for failing to prevent the spread of fabricated stories.
The Pope himself fell victim to a fake news story, which falsely reported his endorsement of Donald Trump.
In a frank interview with Belgian Catholic weekly Tertio, the pontiff said the media's obsession with scandal was akin to "coprophilia", an abnormal interest in excrement.
This preyed on people's "tendency towards the sickness of coprophagia", the eating of excrement, he added, extending the analogy to apply it to the public's consumption of such coverage.
People could not be expected to make "a serious judgment" about any situation if the media provided "only a part of the truth, and not the rest", he said.
The issue of balance has been at the heart of the debate about changes in the way people access information in today's world.
Beyond the rapid and far-reaching spread of fake news, analysts have also criticised social media platforms like Facebook for enabling an "echo chamber" to be created, in which people are far less likely to be exposed to both sides of an argument.